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sticky toffee pudding


A Festive Break in The Cotswolds

Last week, I took a relaxing jaunt to the Cotswolds for a girls trip filled with Christmas shopping, spa treatments and plenty of indulgence.  The Kings Head, in the Roman town of Cirencester, was our homely abode for two nights and to call it a high end pub hotel would be an understatement.

Opened in October last year, the Kings Head is a country-chic bolthole right in the centre of historic Cirencester.  It was once an ancient coach inn and more recently a tired old boozer, but now the hotel is a hot spot for well-heeled couples weekending in the Cotswold from London and afar.  It even won the Smith Hotel Award for Best Newcomer 2015, so you know it’s going to be special.

The Kings Head features an impressive 45 individually-designed rooms and boasts a fantastic restaurant, spa with treatments by Lubatti and a warren of stunning meeting and event spaces.

My Feature Space Suite on the second floor was an absolute dream and I immediately felt at home there.  A few stairs lead up to the most enormous room with a king-size bed, comfortable seating area, an executive desk, Samsung flat-screen TV and double wardrobe.  There’s even an outdoor terrace with decking and a bench, where you can enjoy breakfast al fresco in the warmer months.

I adored the rustic, natural colour palette of olive green and slate grey luxurious tweed and wool furnishings. Best of all was the plush bed covered in sumptuous linen and the thoughtful welcome gift of everything you need to make a cracking G&T – Sibling Triple Distilled Gin, Fever-Tree Tonic Water, little pots of green olives and pink grapefruit, plus a full bucket of ice.

Other generous features include a Nespresso machine with plenty of capsules, a kettle with a selection of Twinings teas, a minibar filled with fresh milk and complimentary mini bottles of San Pellegrino sparkling and still water and of course, free wifi.

The large bathroom is designed in the minimal, monochrome style you’d expect to find in a Lower East Side NYC hotel rather than the Cotswolds – and I loved it!  All of the facilities feel brand new and well-appointed – there’s a deep soaking tub, walk-in shower, double sink, cosy bathrobes, extra-wide towels and two full sets of Lubatti bathroom products.  What more could you want for a relaxing, luxury stay?

Dining at the Kings Head is a real delight for foodies.  On arrival, we enjoyed a Cotswolds Afternoon Tea around the fireplace in the elegant lounge.  We grazed on tasty sandwiches, warm scones with jam and clotted cream, followed by mini mince pies, spiced ginger cake and lemon posset verrines.

Dinner in The Restaurant was also memorable, with top notch food and a warm atmosphere.  The menu is a mix of comforting pub classics, innovative dishes and locally-sourced meats cooked on the robata grill.

On the first night, I enjoyed a juicy, smoky Cider and mustard pork chop, confit plum tomato, flat mushroom, focaccia and thyme crumb, chips and spiced apple chutney.  I followed with the most incredible dessert that must not be missed – Croissant and dark chocolate pudding, kumquat marmalade and Greek yoghurt ice cream.

On the second night, we were some of the first to try the new Christmas menu and almost all of us plumped for the Roasted Norfolk Bronze turkey with chestnut stuffing and braised leg with all of the trimmings.  It was the perfect start to the festive season, with Michael Bublé’s Christmas album on repeat, pretty Christmas trees and a full belly from the indulgent Sticky toffee pudding.

Breakfast is also a real treat, with a number of tempting dishes such as French toast, Eggs Benedict and double cream porridge on the menu.  The self-serve Continental breakfast is high quality and plentiful with croissants, cereal, yoghurt with granola, charcuterie and cheese, but it could be expanded to include some waffles, crepes, pancakes or a wider range of pastries.  I went light and healthy on the first morning, but indulged in a scrumptious Bacon sandwich before taking the train back to London.

Spending a few hours unwinding in the subterranean Vaulted Cellar Spa with its steam room and whirlpool is an absolute must.  A highlight of my stay was the glorious Lubatti Pure Luxury Indulgence body treatment (80 mins/£90).  It was a calming, holistic treatment, beginning with an effective back massage, followed by a facial cleanse, tone and massage, nourishing eye and lip treatment and hand and foot exfoliation using Lubatti caramel body polish, ending with a light body lotion.  I felt like I was floating on air and drifted off more than a few times.  Happily, we had an afternoon of free time, so I lounged in the Relaxation Room and rolled upstairs for a quick nap – pure bliss!

So, apart from eating and relaxing, what is there to do on a festive break in the Cotswolds?  Take a 30-minute journey out of town to see the Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt Arboretum.  Follow the trail through the arboretum to see the majestic trees illuminated in colourful lights, with disco balls, lights shows, installations and plenty of surprises.  It’s great for walking off that indulgent Cotswolds Afternoon Tea.

Cirencester is a treasure trove for finding unique Christmas gifts.  Next door to The Kings Head is the Corn Hall – a modern shopping arcade filled with designer shops including Sue Parkinson that stocks a well-edited selection of brands such as Mulberry, Anya Hindmarch and Neom.

It’s also home to the wonderful restaurant and deli, Made by Bob – a popular and cosmopolitan spot for a tasty lunch.  After exploring Cirencester, we visited for a quick refuel before our spa treatments.  I warmed up with the Sweet potato soup with harissa crème fraîche while the rest of the table went for the Heirloom tomato salad with burrata, rocket, pesto and grilled focaccia – so yummy!

Some of our favourite boutiques in Cirencester were m.a.d.e for hand-crafted lifestyle products by UK designers and Parlane for stylish homewares.  Also look out for Octavia Bookshop, Lola, Keith’s Coffee Shop and French Grey Interiors.

If you still have time after shopping, discover the history of Cirencester at the Corinium Museum with relics including mosaic floors, jewellery and ancient weapons, as well as some rather life-like models and interactive learning games.

My first visit to Cirencester at Christmas time was everything I could have hoped for and I highly recommend the Kings Head for a stylish weekend break.

Rooms at the Kings Head Cirencester start from £120 per room per night on a bed and breakfast basis.  For more information and booking, visit: 

Chérie City was a guest of Kings Head Cirencester

Photos by Chérie City and Kings Head Cirencester

Bars, Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, London, Restaurants

Dinner & Champagne at Bistro 51, St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel

St. James’ is a part of historic London that feels so elegant, refined and quintessentially English.  With the city developing so rapidly, a stroll through this neighbourhood reminds me of London’s dapper, old world charm.

Nestled on Buckingham Gate is the luxurious St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel.  Its exquisite Victorian architecture makes it one of London’s most attractive hotels and the lobby is just as welcoming with marble floors, warm wood panelling and plush seating.

We visited last week for dinner, courtesy of the lovely folk at Zomato, and on arrival we headed to The Hamptons Bar at the back of the lobby for a decadent Laurent-Perrier Champagne Flight with specially-paired canapés.  We had a cosy table overlooking the splendid courtyard and a live pianist provided a soothing soundtrack.

The Laurent-Perrier Champagne Flight certainly looked the part with three mini Champagne flutes ready to be filled on a special presentation tray.  The first fizz we tried was Laurent-Perrier Brut served with scallop and avocado tartare with lemon oil.  This light, easy to drink Champagne has prominent citrus notes and it went perfectly with the fresh scallop, creamy avocado and meyer lemon.

We then moved on to the Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé, paired with smoked salmon and prawn marie rose rolls.  Not only did they match in colour, but the sweet, tangy prawns and intense smoked salmon complemented the Champagne’s red and black fruit notes.  This Champagne’s attractive pink colour is achieved by using the saignée method of leaving the red grape skins on the wine for up to three days.

Our third tasting was Laurent-Perrier Vintage 2004, served with asparagus ratatouille crostini.  This was our favourite of the three, as it is was the most rounded with biscuity, vanilla notes.  The Chardonny 50% and Pinot Noir 50% Champagne went perfectly with the vegetable crostini, which was nicely marinated and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic glaze.

The Laurent-Perrier Champagne Flight is fantastic value at just £20 per person and feels like more of a ceremony than simply ordering a glass of Champagne.  It also makes a perfect after-work treat when you’re ready to be perked up with a few bites and bubbles.

Before getting too tipsy, we moved across the lobby to Bistro 51, the hotel’s modern European and Pan Asian restaurant.  The bright, contemporary restaurant has a calm atmosphere and there are a few different seating sections so it feels private and intimate.

We chose from the Chef’s Menu, which offers four options for each course.  After ordering, we were brought a selection of freshly-baked pumpkin seed rolls and carrot bread, accompanied by the most delicious creamy mushroom dip.  We tried not to overdo it with the bread, but it was just so tasty and moreish.

To start, I ordered Pan seared scallops, cauliflower puree and pancetta.  The dish looked appealing and was beautifully-presented.  The scallops were ever so fresh and lightly browned, though unfortunately too salty, as though they’d been seasoned twice.  They went well with the velvety smooth and subtle cauliflower puree and the flavoursome pancetta cooked two ways in a paper-thin strip and crunchy pieces.

I also liked the Brussels sprouts leaves, black olive crumble and dashes of olive oil that punctuated the dish.

Steven tried the Salmon and cucumber tartar with yuzu dressing.  The chunky, fresh salmon was marinated with strong flavours of cucumber, onion and dill, drizzled in a creamy, citrusy yuzu dressing and topped with high quality caviar.  The portion size was substantial and it was a light and enjoyable start to the meal.

I followed with the Cajun spiced chicken breast, new potatoes tossed with spinach, however as I wasn’t really in the mood for heat, I requested it without the Cajun spice (the friendly staff were happy to oblige).  The succulent, juicy chicken breast certainly didn’t miss the spice, as it was infused with the aromas of fresh thyme and herbs and had a light, golden skin.

I loved the slightly sweet new potatoes muddled with a light Parmesan cream sauce and wilted spinach and the most perfect long-stem asparagus.  The dish was finished with a rich, meaty jus and more of that yummy black olive crumble.

Steven tried the Masala fried fish, aloo and chickpea chaat.  The flaky, tender fish was lightly fried with an aromatic, crisp coating and was accompanied by piquant spiced potatoes, tasty spiced chickpeas and julienne vegetables.  It was a punchy dish with real depth of flavour and a combination of invigorating spices.

I finished with the Tonka bean crème brûlée with hazelnut biscotti.  The cool, creamy crème brûlée had just a hint of fragrant tonka bean and the caramelised crust was good but could’ve done with a little more time under the blowtorch to make it crunchier.

I loved the authentic, crunchy hazelnut biscotti and the unexpected joy of proper rum and raisin ice cream, finished with freeze-dried raspberry pieces.

Steven’s Sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream was a British classic at its very best.  The moist and airy sponge was sweetened with chopped dates and was drenched in a very indulgent, thick toffee sauce.  It was finished with a scoop of luxurious vanilla ice cream, biscuit crumble and a sugar spear.

We finished the meal with pots of Earl Grey tea and went back to the lobby to enjoy the piano music before leaving.

The warm atmosphere and kind hospitality at St. James’s Court really made our evening and our dining experience in the Hamptons Bar and Bistro 51 was very memorable.  The Laurent-Perrier Champagne Flight added that extra touch of decadence and I can’t recommend it enough.

For more information and booking, visit:  See the menu on Zomato.

Chérie City was invited by Zomato and St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel

Photos by Chérie City and St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel

Hotels, Hotels - Design, Restaurants

Salthouse Harbour Hotel, Suffolk

Salthouse Harbour Hotel is a contemporary boutique hotel with lots of character, nestled on the quayside of Ipswich Harbour.

It’s the perfect spot for a relaxing weekend getaway, located just over an hour away from London by train and five minutes from the train station in a taxi.  Beyond enjoying the tranquility of the marina, you can explore Suffolk’s rolling countryside and pretty beaches, as well as Ickworth House, St Edmundsbury Cathedral and retro Southwold Pier.

We visited Salthouse Harbour Hotel (part of Gough Hotels) on a sunny Saturday and the hotel was already busy with hotel guests and locals enjoying afternoon tea, lunch on the terrace and lazy drinks in the lounge.  The quayside was filled with people taking a weekend stroll in the sun or soaking up the sun on their boats.

On arrival, we were given a warm welcome and check-in was swift and friendly.  We were lucky enough to be assigned the Penthouse Suite, which was impressive and sophisticated with a slanted ceiling and floor-to-ceiling views of the marina.

The bright and homely suite is designed in neutral colours with vintage furniture and attractive fabrics.  The large living room features a gorgeous chaise-longue, leather armchair, coffee tables, stunning lamps made from driftwood, large working desk with a retro silver telephone and a flatscreen TV.

A lovely feature is the complimentary tea and coffee making facilities with fresh cafetiere coffee and cool mugs by graffiti artist Pure Evil.  We were even welcomed with a handwritten note and a box of retro gummy bears.

The open-plan bedroom is spacious yet cosy with a very comfortable king-size bed with crisp linen and plenty of cushions.  Other room features include a  Bose iPod dock, a spacious wardrobe, powerful air-conditioning and free wifi.

The large bathroom is simply designed with a small freestanding power shower and separate bath, plenty of fluffy towels, over-sized bathrobes and a full set of Temple Spa bathroom products.  The restrained white colour palette is offset with a lime green tiled floor flecked with silver glitter – an eccentric touch that is sure to be a talking point (I was mesmerised by it).

That evening we dined at the hotel’s lively all-day restaurant Eaterie.  It’s clearly a destination restaurant in Ipswich with a mix of hotel guests and dressed-up locals enjoying a Saturday night out.

The exposed brick restaurant has a lofty warehouse feel and has very comfy seating and quirky trinkets dotted around such as Chinese lucky cats and golden robots.

We were brought some fresh home-made bread and olive oil to graze on before our starters arrived.  My Spring chicken breast, leg and parma ham ballotine, prune and leek was beautifully-presented and ever so tasty.  The roasted chicken was perfectly cooked with golden skin and came with two pieces of meaty, flavoursome ballotine and a rich, sticky sauce.

Steven went for the Pork cheek and terrine wrapped in parma ham, with hazelnut praline, black pudding and fennel.  The slow-cooked, flaky pork was well-complimented by the cold, herby terrine and the accompaniments made it a very sophisticated dish.

My main dish of Roast duck with Boulangere potatoes, lardons and peas was French comfort food done exceedingly well.  The medium-cooked duck was succulent and tender with a crispy skin and I loved the addition of the buttery boulangere potatoes and roasted, caramelised carrots.

Steven went for a classic Hereford Long Horn rib eye steak with hand-cut chips and slow-roasted tomatoes.  The lean, juicy steak was cooked medium on a charcoal grill and had a delicious smoky taste.  The thick-cut chips were freshly cooked and well-seasoned, however the dish would have benefited from some béarnaise or peppercorn sauce.

For dessert, the Blackberry cake with mint granita and marscapone came highly recommended by our waiter.  The moist, home-baked blackberry sponge was accompanied by a small serving of refreshing, aromatic mint granita and the creamy mascarpone sorbet added an indulgent touch.

Steven’s Sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream was an enormous, decadent pudding that dwarfed my delicate little dessert.  It was as good as gets with a gooey, dense and spicy sponge doused in a generous amount of sweet, sticky toffee sauce.  This is the dessert to order if you have a seriously sweet tooth and plenty of room left.

We enjoyed our desserts with a pleasant glass of Sauternes, which was recommended on the dessert menu, and finished with a pot of fresh mint tea.  It was a fantastic meal and the staff were very friendly, although the service was at times a little wobbly and could be a bit more polished to really impress.

The hotel is well-positioned for a lovely evening walk around the marina after dinner, plus there are a number of bars if you want to make a night of it.

After a glorious night’s sleep, we headed back down to The Eaterie for a leisurely breakfast.  The menu includes tempting dishes such as Eggs Benedict, a Suffolk Grill and toasted bagel with smoked salmon and a poached egg.

We usually choose different breakfast dishes, but were both tempted by the American style buttermilk pancakes with berry compote and maple syrup.  There was a lengthy wait for the pancakes, but it was worth it as they were deliciously hot and fluffy with plenty of stewed berries and lovely maple syrup.

Salthouse Harbour Hotel is a real gem with lots of personality and a great location.  Being so close to London, it’s the perfect bolthole for a relaxing short break.

Stays at The Salthouse Harbour Hotel, Ipswich from £130 per room per night, based on two sharing on a B&B basis.  For more information and booking, visit: or call 01473 226789.

I travelled from London to Ipswich with Abellio Greater Anglia.  Advance purchase single tickets are available from £9 one way, for more information and booking, visit:  

Chérie City was a guest of Salthouse Harbour Hotel

All photos by Chérie City

London, Restaurants

Pizza and Salads at Rocket Bishopsgate

Rocket is a boutique group of restaurants in London and Nottingham that specialises in gourmet pizza and salads.

Tempted by the idea of a fresh, tasty salad, I recently visited Rocket Bishopsgate, which is located just moments from bustling Shoreditch, Spitalfields and Liverpool Street.

Whenever I have passed on my way home, Rocket has always been filled with the City after-work crowd enjoying cocktails and bites, however when we dined on the Tuesday after a bank holiday, it was understandably very, very quiet.  This didn’t bother us though, as it meant each course was perfectly timed and we could relax and hear ourselves speak (I’m not sure if it would be my scene on a boisterous Friday night).

The menu at Rocket is contemporary Mediterranean with Asian and American influences.  We started with a few cocktails while deciding what to order.  I chose a humorously-named Passionate Pigeon – Pink Pigeon rum, lychee juice, passion fruit syrup and fresh lime juice, shaken and topped up with ginger beer (£8.20).  It was sweet, strong, juicy and nicely presented with a fresh half passion fruit.

Steven tried a classic Dark ‘n Stormy – Mount Gay rum, lime juice and Agnostura bitters, topped up with ginger beer – which was punchy, zesty and refreshing.  Rocket runs a happy hour on classic cocktails during weekdays, making them a real steal for London.

I started with the Scallop and prawn brochette, flavoured with ginger and lime leaf, served with an apple and celeriac remoulade and drizzled with a chili syprup (£7.50).

The scallops and prawns were plump, fresh and nicely golden on the outside.  I loved the aromatic flavours from the lime and ginger and the chili syrup was sweet, punchy and tasted home-made.  I wasn’t so keen on the apple and celeriac remoulade, as it didn’t seem to go well and there was a lot of it on the plate.

Steven went for the Asian spiced chicken and lychee salad in a Thai spiced vinaigrette with crispy wontons (£6.50).  The chilled chicken was juicy and tender and mixed with colourful ribbons of carrot, cabbage and red chili, garnished with torn mint and coriander.  It was deliciously fresh and uplifting and the wontons, though a little oily, added an extra crunch.

For my main course, I opted for the Chicken Milanese served with a rocket, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and cherry tomato salad drizzled with a preserved lemon, capers and chili dressing (£13.75).  The large fillet of high quality chicken breast was flattened and coated in light and crispy golden breadcrumbs and seasoned well.

It was topped with peppery rocket, halved cherry tomatoes and a generous amount of tasty shaved Parmigiano Reggiano.  The highlight of the dish was the scrumptious preserved lemon, capers and chili dressing, which gave a rich, strong touch of zest.  The portion size was very large, but I somehow managed to finish it, as every mouthful was just heavenly.

Steven tried the Calzone filled with chorizo sausage, prawns, roasted tomatoes, olives, red onion, jalapeños, parsley, tomatoes and mozzarella (£13.50).  The calzone certainly looked the part when it arrived at the table – it was enormous and baked golden brown.

The fluffy, chewy dough was packed full of succulent chorizo sausage and prawns, a light tomato sauce and gooey mozzarella.  It had a very spicy kick from the jalapeños and was served with fresh rocket covered in a balsamic glaze.

I somehow found room for dessert and went for the Chocolate Brownie served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce (£5.50).  The rich, moist brownie was incredibly luxurious and tasty, filled with chocolate chunks and topped with fine, creamy vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

Steven went for a classic Sticky toffee pudding with a salted caramel ice cream (£5.50).  The dense, springy sponge was drenched in a sweet, buttery toffee sauce and finished with a biscuit crisp and high quality ice cream laced with liquid salted caramel.

Rocket is a great place for some tasty, well-executed comfort food and the salads are more indulgent than simply a diet option.  The location is convenient and I would definitely return to try the pizzas and the interesting-sounding Fish and chip salad.

For more information and booking, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of Rocket Bishopsgate

Photos by Chérie City

Rocket Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Bars, London, Music, Restaurants

Heliot At The Hippodrome – London

Leicester Square is possibly the last place I’d come to find excellent food in London, however Heliot at The Hippodrome is quite an unexpected gem.

Since opening in 1900, The Hippodrome has been a theatre, circus, music hall and nightclub.  Most notably, Charlie Chaplin made his stage debut there.  The venue closed for almost two years for extensive renovation and reopened last year as The Hippodrome Casino.

My first and only casino experience was at a soulless member’s only joint with mugshots at the door with heavy surveillance inside.  My French friend declared, ‘ugh, it is not like the casino in Monaco’ and we both left feeling decidedly unimpressed.  I had higher hopes for The Hippodrome and while it obviously doesn’t attract the glamorous crowd of the South of France gambling institutions, the building is quite spectacular and it buzzes quietly with the sound of fortunes being made (and broken).

Heliot takes its name from the formidale lion tamer Claire Heliot, who was known to feed raw meat to big cats on stage.  The bar and a few tables overlook the casino floor, but the main part of Heliot is tucked cosily behind a tier of seats.

The sleek restaurant is all black and red leather with rows of theatrical bright lights.  It feels cosy, intimate and private and the clientele ranges from the more well-heeled gamblers and businessmen to a teenage couple presumably on their first date.

Executive Chef Barry Vera’s menu is a mix of brasserie classics and ‘bling comfort food’.  After ordering, we were offered an basket of deliciously warm, freshly-baked bread rolls and a pot of fine butter.

With a nod to Heliot’s Chinatown location, I started with the Peking Duck Consommé and wontons (£9).  The rich yet light broth, poured into my bowl from a large teapot, was meaty and full of character, with a plum and hoisin flavour.  It was filled with plenty of enokitake mushrooms and fresh herbs, but the main feature was a large raviolo packed full of well-seasoned, lean, flaky (not minced) duck breast.

Steven’s French Onion Soup with Gruyère (£8) was a real winner.  It was the darkest, thickest onion soup we’ve ever seen, packed full of caramelised onions with a brick of Gruyère atop a toasted crouton.  The flavours were intense and rich and the soup had just the right amount of oiliness to feel comforting – quite a meal in itself.  It came served with a  thin slice of rye toast with an unusually brown-coloured covering, which we determined to be grilled cheese.

Heliot’s signature dish is Millionaires Mac & Cheese (£28, serves 2) with Gruyère and shaved black truffle.  To avoid ordering the same dish, I went for the equally high-rolling Lobster Fish Fingers, triple cooked chips and wasabi mayonnaise (£19).

The dish was larger than I expected, with three plump goujons of fresh, succulent lobster enrobed in crispy, golden panko-style breadcrumbs.  The triple cooked chunky chips were flavoursome, perfectly seasoned and meticulously presented, alongside a crunchy salad of julienne red, orange and yellow peppers in a light vinaigrette dressing and a deliciously punchy wasabi mayonnaise.

I loved how simple yet decadent this dish was and am confident I’ll be drawn back to Heliot for lobster fish finger cravings.

Steven tried the Twice Cooked Pork Belly with puy lentils and calvados sauce (£16.50).  The huge slab of belly was tender and juicy with a layer of soft fat and crispy crackling.  It was served with lightly braised puy lentils, a dash of smooth potato puree, a stick of crunchy crackling and a scrumptious calvados and meat juice sauce.

We accompanied our mains with side dishes of Glazed Chantenay Carrots (£3.50) and Cauliflower Gratin (£3.50).  I liked the fragrant flavour and the glaze of the carrots, but they were a little too raw and crunchy to enjoy fully.  The cauliflower gratin however, was baked to perfection, with a moreish cheese and cream sauce.  If the cauliflower gratin was this good, I can just imagine how decadent the Millionaire’s Mac & Cheese would be!

To finish, I was tempted by the Chocolate Mousse, brownie and crème fraiche sorbet (£7.25).  The thick slice of silky, thick chocolate mousse (can we really call it a mousse?) had a soft, moist brownie base and was topped with a row of home-made toffee popcorn.  The crème fraiche sorbet was a refreshing accompaniment and a welcome surprise was fresh blackberries and sticky blackberry coulis dotted around the plate.

Steven’s classic Sticky Toffee Pudding (£6.25) was dense, gooey and infused with a buttery toffee sauce.  Both desserts were deliciously decadent and a perfect end to the meal.

We ordered classic cocktails with dinner – I went for a Negroni (£9) and an Old Fashioned (£9) while Steven tried a Whisky Sour (£9) or two.  The cocktails were expertly-mixed and just the right strength.

After dinner, we moved on, with cocktails in hand, to The Matcham Room to end the night with a little live jazz by Jay Phelps Quartet.  The purpose-built venue has a capacity of 180, yet that evening it was set up as an intimate club with great acoustics and lighting, plus seamless table service.

Vancouver-born trumpeter Jay Phelps and his ultra cool band played two sets of pieces by jazz legends and compositions from Jay’s debut album.  Not only is Jay an incredible musician but he looks dapper in a suit and charms the audience with stories between songs.  Now based in London, Jay also hosts the monthly Jay’s Jitter Live swing night, where the venue becomes a dance hall.  The lure of live jazz and dancing, along with lobster fish fingers and Negronis is too good to resist!

Watch Jay Phelps Quartet in action…

For more information and booking, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of The Hippodrome

Photos by Chérie City and The Hippodrome

Heliot Restaurant, Bar and Lounge on Urbanspoon

London, Restaurants

The Grill On The Market – West Smithfield, London

Smithfield Market is one of my favourite foodie areas in London, as it has a real  ‘old world’ atmosphere with its cobbled streets and Victorian architecture.  I’ve had some great dinners in this neighbourhood, so expectations are always high when trying a new grill restaurant.

The Grill on the Market overlooks West Smithfield and is much larger than it appear from outside, with a large yet homely bar, two dining rooms and a private dining space.  Formerly the Smithfield Bar & Grill, it is now part of the Blackhouse group, which also has branches in Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds and Cheshire.

When we arrived, the place was already buzzing and filled with the mouth-watering aromas of grilled meat.  We were sat in an curved leather booth, which made it much more intimate and cosy than a regular face-to-face table.

The restaurant was very festive, with elegant garlands and baubles adorning the walls and live music from an excellent jazz pianist, singing a mix of swinging Christmas songs and old classics.  It really added to the warm atmosphere and I would love to see more live jazz in London restaurants…if it’s done well.

I started with the Baby Scallop, Garlic and Bacon Salad (£6.50).  The baby scallops were plump, soft and perfectly bite-size.  The mixed leaves with a garlic, herb and olive oil dressing and thin matchsticks of crispy bacon went perfectly with the scallops.  It was a light and tasty dish – perfect before an indulgent steak.

Steven went for the Salt and Pepper Chicken kebabs (£6.75).  The chicken was tender and well-marinated and came with a sweet chili ginger dipping sauce, topped with fresh chili and spring onions.

The cocktail list at The Grill on the Market is a tempting mix of classics with a twist and the restaurant’s own inventive concoctions.  My Ginger Sidecar (£7.50) – Martell VS, King’s Ginger Liqueur, Ginger puree, sweetened lemon juice and Bittertruth orange flower water – was absolutely delicious.  It was sweet, aromatic and packed full of potent ginger.

Steven ordered a Smoky Old Fashioned (£7.50) – Woodford Reserve, maple syrup, oak smoke and an ice ball.  The cocktail was served in a glass bottle filled with smoke and our waiter advised to swirl the liquid around the bottle for an extra smoky taste.  It tasted oaky, smooth, slightly sweet and was very easy to drink.

For the main course, it had to be the Fillet Steak (200g) (£22.50) with a skewer of garlic prawns (£6).  My medium-cooked steak was thick, tender, succulent and full of juice.  The garlic prawns were so fresh with a subtle garlic taste.  They went so well together, that regular steak will just never be the same.

The large portion of triple-cooked skin-on chips were perfectly cooked and the Béarnaise sauce was creamy, buttery and indulgent.  I couldn’t finish the entire bowl of chips, so I’d recommend sharing, if you both order steak.

Steven’s Traditional Fish and Chips (£13.50) was exceptionally good.  The two fillets of cod were fresh, succulent and covered in a crisp, golden batter that wasn’t too oily or heavy.  The smashed minted peas were more interesting than regular mushy peas and other extras were a tangy tartar sauce and a tiny jar of pickled onions.

My Red Velvet Cake with kumquat clotted cream (£5.95) was disappointing, as the flavours didn’t stand out after two courses including lots of garlic, however the texture was pleasant.  Unfortunately the cake had absorbed the aromas of the savory food in the kitchen, so it didn’t taste quite as it should.

I had serious envy of Steven’s Sticky Toffee Pudding with vanilla ice cream (£6), which was the best that a pudding can be.  It was light and spongy with tiny flecks of oats and a scrumptious, buttery toffee sauce – not at all stodgy or overly sweet.

We finished with another round of floral, fragrant coctkails.  My Mint and Violet Crush (£7) – Bacardi Superior, Briottet Violett, mint, sugar syrup and fresh lime juice topped with lemonade – tasted like a Parma Violet Mojito.  It was delicately perfumed and the floral aromas perfectly complimented the citrus zing of the lime.

Steven’s Rosewater Collins (£7) – Bacardi Superior, Briottet Rose, sweetened lemon juice, Bittertruth Rose flower water and soda – was just as refreshing, with lots of lemon and a pretty pink colour.  Both drinks would be particularly cooling and delicious in the summer.

The Grill on the Market is perfect for a fun, relaxed, unashamedly carnivorous evening, with friendly service in a comfortable setting.  It’s one of those places that you go with friends, family or your partner and while the steak with all the extras can push the main meal towards the £30 mark, the burgers and fish and chips are more affordable yet substantial options.

For more information and booking, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of The Grill on the Market

Photos by Chérie City and The Grill on the Market

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London, Restaurants

Dinner At The Angel & Crown, Covent Garden

Covent Garden is one of central London’s most up-and-coming areas, with new dozens of hot new openings, so of course, it needs its own gastropub.  The Angel & Crown opened earlier this year and is owned by Tom and Ed Martin – those clever chaps behind The Gun, The Botanist, The Cadogan Arms and latest opening, The Jugged Hare.

St Martin’s Lane is not exactly lacking when it comes to traditional English pubs, but they can be somewhat dreary and over-run with the after-work crowd.  The Angel & Crown is different – it’s a real hidden gem in a busy, ‘touristy’ part of Covent Garden.

Downstair feels like a friendly London boozer with a mix of office workers, hipsters, foodies and locals.  The design is ‘urban rustic’ with stags heads, taxidermy squirrels, silver tankards and pictures of animals.  I liked the typical bar features such as the leather bar stools, lacquered plaster ceiling and chandeliers.

Upstairs was much more tranquil and we were instantly transported to a cosy pub dining room that felt like it should be in the countryside, not in the middle of Theatreland!

The Angel & Crown serves a strictly seasonal British menu, with ingredients sourced from artisan producers, regional farmers and London’s own Billingsgate Market.  It offers a mix of classic pub dishes with a gourmet twist and more innovative contemporary dishes, with a nod to the current nose to tail trend.

We were shown to our table overlooking St Martin’s Lane by the warm, friendly staff and were quickly brought a basket of fresh, roughly sliced bread and chilled still water.

Knowing that my next course would be a bit of an Everest to work through, I went light and started with the White onion and cider soup (£6).  The soup was thick yet finely puréed, with a bold flavour of sharp onion and a hint of strong cheese.  It came with thinly-sliced, cider-infused onions at the bottom and topped with a drizzle of truffle oil and fresh parsley.

The only onion soup I’d previously tried was the rich, dark, slow-cooked French Onion Soup, but this white onion soup was refreshingly light and spring-like.

Steven started with the Dorset brown crab meat on toast (£8).  The crab meat was served as a pâté, thinly spread on sliced of toasted sourdough.  It had a full-bodied seafood taste and was smooth and simple – a delicious, light starter.

A gastropub burger is hard to beat, so I tried the 100% Dexter Beef Burger with smoked Cheddar, bacon and hand cut chips (£13).  What a glorious beast it was to get through!  The large beef patty was juicy, chargrilled and smothered in rich smoked cheddar and cubes of flavoursome lardons. I’m not a fan of too much burger garnish, as it can go limp quickly, so I was pleased to see that the Angel & Crown’s burger was finished with two slim slices of gherkin and a delicious tomato relish.

The hand-cut chips were particularly tasty – golden, well-seasoned and crispy yet soft and fluffy on the inside.  The portion size and the richness of the toppings made it a struggle to get through, but it was so good that it was hard to show restraint.

Steven went for another pub classic – Adnams battered haddock and chips with mushy peas and tartare sauce (£13.50).  The large fish was fresh and meaty, covered in crispy golden beer batter.  The extras were also of a high standard, particularly the chunky mushy peas and tarragon-filled tartare sauce.

We accompanied our meal with a bottle of Chateau Musar Jeune Musar (£31), my favourite Lebanese wine.  The wine list is extensive and interesting, with a carefully selected range of bottles.

For dessert, I was tempted by the Devonshire custard tart, tea steeped prunes (£5.50).  On first glance the slice appeared rather petite, but this was no ordinary custard tart!  It was the most decadent, dense, creamy and heavenly custard tart I’ve ever tasted.  Packed full of vanilla pod seeds, the tart was almost like set double cream with a fragrant and not overly sweet taste.  The tea-steeped prunes came in liquid form and were malty with a cream consistency.  Perhaps a fruit coulis or compote would have been a better accompaniment to the custard tart to balance the richness.

Steven went for another pub staple – Sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream and fudge sauce (£5.50).  The pudding was dense and nicely gooey, with tiny pieces of oats and dates mixed in.  The home-made vanilla ice cream sat on a pile of golden, crumbly biscuit and the toffee sauce was molten and sweet.

The Delaunay and Meat Market may be drawing the foodies to Covent Garden, but The Angel & Crown is the kind of low-key place that you’re likely to go back to again and again.  The food is exceptionally good, service is friendly and efficient and finding that country atmosphere in the centre of London is priceless.

Chérie City was a guest of The Angel & Crown

All food images by Chérie City.

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London, Restaurants

Dinner At The Rosendale, West Dulwich

West Dulwich is an area I’ve always planned to explore and as usual, the thing that lured me out of my central or east London comfort zone was the prospect of a good, hearty dinner at posh gastro-pub, The Rosendale.

My first experience of West Dulwich got off to a troubled start.  I was promised a leafy, picturesque suburb and yet one wrong turn from the station and I was lost in rural blackness on a particularly chilly night, got splashed with swamp water by a sadistic driver and encountered a rather sinister-looking fox.  It was like being a reluctant player in a Lars Von Trier film (I’ll be Charlotte Gainsbourg, please)!

This minorly traumatic episode melted from my memory as soon as we reached the warmth haven of The Rosendale.  Part of the petite Renaissance pub group, The Rosendale serves traditional pub classics but with an interesting foodie twist.

The Rosendale is very spacious for a pub but has a homely, cosy feel and the owners have made a huge effort with the decor.  A butterfly collection takes pride of place above the fireplace, the walls are covered with a vintage photo print and the plush seating lends to making yourself completely at home for hours on end.

The staff at The Rosendale are warm and friendly and really made us feel welcome.  To warm up after the treacherous journey, I started with Ham Hock and Chicken Croquettes (£5.50).

They were without a doubt the best croquettes I’ve ever tasted!  Usually croquettes are puffed up with lots of potato and cheese, but these ones were purely honey-roasted, juicy meat, coated in light and crispy breadcrumbs, served with a rocket salad and home-made piccalilli.

Steven ordered the Mackerel and Dried Tomato Sourdough Bruschetta (£5.50), which was succulent and delicious.

I followed with the 250g Orkney Sirloin Steak (£16) with hand cut chips, rocket salad and béarnaise sauce, as I’d heard good things about the steak at The Rosendale.

The steak had a lovely chargrilled taste and was tender, well-seasoned and high quality.  The hand cut chips were thick, golden and extremely tasty – just like home-cooked chips.  The creamy béarnaise sauce with little pieces of shallot topped it all off – just delicious!

Steven ordered the Pork Belly with salsa verde and crushed jersey royals (£13).  The pork belly was juicy and succulent and rolled with sage and parsley, covered with fine, crispy crackling.

The crushed jersey royals were buttery and soft and it was all topped off with a rich red wine gravy.

As that evening felt like an abrupt fast-forward to winter, I went into comfort food overdrive and ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding (£4.50).

The pudding was dense and moist with tiny bits of oats and dates and was swimming in a a thick, buttery toffee sauce and topped with fine vanilla ice cream.

When we arrived, the table next to us ordered the massive Banoffie Pie (£4.50), so we knew it would be epic!  It came as a huge wedge packed with cream, sliced banana, thick caramel and a crunchy biscuit base.

Dinner at The Rosendale was one of the best pub meals I’ve ever had and I’m now a little bit jealous that West Dulwich residents can call it their local!

The Rosendale has a huge outdoor terrace at the back of the pub for lazy summer drinks and the Sunday Roasts are apparently incredibly popular and book up weeks in advance (I can see why).

Prices are very reasonable, given the exceptional quality and generous portion sizes, and the staff are so lovely, you feel like you’ve been a local for years.

Now that the Autumn chill is on the way, The Rosendale is the place to get toasty and warm and indulge in some delicious comfort food.  Just remember to turn LEFT when you come out the rail station!

All photos by Chérie City.

Chérie City was a guest of The Rosendale.

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