The Chocolate Festival

The Chocolate Festival took place this weekend (10-12th December) at the Southbank and at first I thought I couldn't make it as I was working all weekend. But when I told my boss all about it he let me leave work early so that I had time to catch the last 30 minutes before all the cocoa delights were packed away!

I bought a few treats from the following stalls:
Ooh La La Chocolaterie - a box of twelve truffles including lemon curd and elderflower, vanilla and black forest.

Cocoapod - some cute Christmas themed chocolate lollipops with edible transfer patterns.

Jaz and Julz - a pack of chocolate orange flavoured organic drinking chocolate.

There was also a stall for chocolate art. White Fox supplied a fashionable selection of jewellery, shoes, socks and mittens.

There was also an impressive model of a steam engine on a choccy railway track!

The Chocolate Festival takes place in London, Oxford, Brighton and Kingston and the next one is in April, so make sure you check it out when it's back in town. As well as products to buy there are freshly made crepes and baked goods all involving chocolate so it's difficult to walk away empty handed.


My Top Ten

It's nearing the end of the year and the lovely people at Top Table recently asked me to give my Top 10 Restaurants of 2010.
So click on the link and check out which ones made it and why!

There are also lists from other brilliant food bloggers such as Gourmet Chick, Cheese and Biscuits and Hollow Legs. You can see which eateries are their favourites as well! (There seems to be a valid mutual love for Hawksmoor).

Rather Dishy

This may be a bold statement but what the heck, Dishoom is my favourite London restaurant this year. Why? I'm glad you asked...
[Apologies for the lack of photos, my camera was absent :( I shall of course take some on another visit but don't let that stop you from reading and imagining how gorgeous the food is.]

Dishoom is the sound effect in Bollywood films where the hero whacks a good punch to his enemy. Or, as it suggests on their website, can be 'popular slang usage of the expression “Mojo”; e.g. “He’s got that Dishoom” '. So, they've taken both meanings and incorporated them into the style and presentation of the food and restaurant.

The ingredients for the menu are designed to taunt the taste buds, rather than blow your head off with excessive heat. The dishes are designed to have authentic flavours and touch on traditional Bombay dining. The biryanis are cooked and served in a clay pot, and you can expect to see familiar things like bhajis, samosas and classic tandoori grills. The berry chicken biryani may seem like a decent sized portion for one person, but it's far more enjoyable to share and order a few small plates so as not to get too full on rice.

If you're a fan of squid I have it on good authority from calamari connoisseurs that the lime and chilli coated calamari is very tasty and worth ordering. I personally loved the Bombay sausages. Bitesize chunks of chipolata sausage smothered in a masala sauce.

The drinks are a particular highlight as well. Serving your everyday cocktails with a twist such as herb infused Bloody Marys, Mojitos with Chai - Chaijitos, and Bombalada which is, you guessed it, a Pina Colada with herbs and spices that give a little extra to hit the spot! Ooh er.

When it comes to the tandoori grills the dill salmon tikka was cooked with just the right amount of spice and had a crunchy outer shell from being cooked on charcoal but well enough to avoid the fish becoming dry. In fact it was soft and almost juicy on the inside.

There's a sense of pride in the air from the service to the design of Dishoom. It's spacious, luxurious, even the ladies toilets have the extra detail of traditional trinkets in glass cabinets. This paired with friendly and professional service makes the dining experience almost like you are being doted upon.

If you've not yet been, I urge you to pay Dishoom a visit.


Top Marks for Mooli's

This eatery has been on the blogs, tweets and food critics' lips as one of the best new places to eat at in London. I'd heard only good things about it so recently popped along to Mooli's with a couple of friends. As it happened, it was their 1st Anniversary and as a token gesture for celebrating this milestone with them, the owners, Sam and Matt, were personally handing out free slices of brownie. (Big imaginary appears above head).

Mooli's has a very select, to-the-point menu. It's designed to be tasty fresh Indian food on-the-go which meets the demands of a fast paced City but keeps authentic Delhi flavours in the food. This is something which somehow didn't already exist in London (or the UK come to think of it).

The ingredients are a simple combination for each choice of mooli, making your decision on what to order far easier, or at least I thought so. (A bigger pops over my head.) For example, the chicken option consists of mildly spiced chicken, apple, mint chutney and yogurt. This is the mooli I ordered and was very pleased when the wholesome warm silver bundle was served. It's an equivalent of a burrito in terms of quantity and concept. Something portable, sizeable and full of healthy, tasty ingredients. The only thing that might be a little frustrating is that it can be a bit messy to eat - but all the more reason to eat it up! Plus it makes the act of eating more enjoyable, having to lick your fingers and grapple with stray bits of salad. (Another in my book).

The other highlight from their celebratory evening were the £2 drinks. Wine, beer or mojitos all for two quid - yes please! (The mojitos are £4.85 normally which is still reasonable for Soho).

The special thing about these mojitos are the flavours: lychee, pomegranate and guava. I opted for the pomegranate one and was offered the option of added chilli for some warmth. As it was a cold night there was no excuse not to try it, and boy was it worth it. Little tip though, give it a good stir so that you don't get intermittent hits of chilli. (Brilliant combination, ).

This is decent fast-food that can also be eaten leisurely and an ideal model for expansion. I could definitely imagine a few more Mooli's restaurants making an appearance around London, and hope this happens in the next year because bundles of Delhi joy can never be a bad thing.

In short. Top marks Mooli's!


Indulge at Langan's

After a gorgeous meal at Odins near the start of this year I recently paid a visit to its sister restaurant, Langan's Brasserie. Langan's is the larger and more popular of the two and just as enjoyable to dine at.

We booked in for a Saturday evening which was obviously busy, yet the waiters seemed to make us feel as though we were the only table they were serving. One slight inconvenience was that because the restaurant is very popular, they appear to have crammed in more tables than needed which meant the isles in between were very narrow to walk through.

But enough of the grumbling, it's only a minor detail to the whole experience. When it came to ordering, there was no hanging about so I won't waste any time letting you know what we had.

I started with potted crab which was fresh and lemony with the white meat at the top and then the deeper flavour crept through as I dug into the brown crab meat and cayenne pepper at the bottom of the pot. It was well chilled and went well with the granary bread, though I would have also welcomed toast to spread the crab meat onto. Seeing as it was September, this seemed to be a good way to give a last hurrah to the summer.

My Mum had the duck liver paté with toast and a redcurrent sauce. The paté was beautifully smooth and complimented the crunch of the toast.

Another stunning dish was the spinach soufflé with anchovy sauce. The soufflé was cooked to perfection but the thing that stole the limelight had to be the sauce, which was rich and buttery but balanced out with lemon and a kiss of anchovy. (Not a full on snog that you might expect from something as strong as anchovy.) I thoroughly recommend it!

Onto the main courses then. If you're like me and tend not to order a chicken dish because you eat the feathery free-range bird most of the time so order something you wouldn't regularly cook, then good for you. But, I have to say that I was rather envious of the roast maize fed chicken with thyme and sage stuffing on this occasion. A healthy hunk of half a chicken modestly accompanied by a rasher of bacon and a thin gravy was so tasty that I felt guilty for automatically dismissing it. I'm also usually hesitant when ordering a roast. Anywhere. Mainly because you tend to get ripped off on quality of the ingredients and quality of cooking. But to see it done properly is a pleasing thing.

A couple of the fish dishes offered a lighter dish but were still full of flavour including the salmon and spinach fishcake with parsley sauce.

The grilled lemon sole with parsley butter was also finely cooked and seemed a decent sized portion. However, the fish dishes aren't enough on their own so be prepared to order some extra sides. The leaf spinach, red cabbage and green beans were prepared so that they gleamed from the bowls. Be warned though, the mashed potato isn't for the faint hearted. It's extremely indulgent with either a lot of cream or butter in it.

And on to my main dish - the Saturday Special, grilled Scotch fillet steak with Bearnaise sauce.

I went for the standard choice of medium-rare, though I'm sure I would've been happy with just medium as well. This fillet steak was a challenge to finish (which I did), but a damn tasty one. The meat was a proper melt-in-the-mouth moment with a tender seal around the outside without that tacky texture you can sometimes get with steak if it hasn't been cooked well. The Bearnaise sauce was nice and thick and the tarragon and pepper softly shone through to make sure it wasn't too buttery. Pretty damn good to dip the steak, or a chunky chip, into.

Let's just take another moment to look at it.


The desserts we had were the rice pudding, spotted dick with custard and a chocolate cheesecake for me. The spotted dick was light and quite crumbly with a lovely vanilla custard.

The cheesecake I had was delicious but I was sadly beaten by the sheer size of the slice. It was quite a thick texture and after the crab and steak to start it was a bit overambitious. If it had been half the size it would have been spot on.

Generally you can forget M&S for indulgence because Langan's is utter extravagance. Maybe next time I shouldn't be so greedy and just go for two courses...


Breakfast at Roast, Borough

On the Bank Holiday Monday at the end of August we booked in to Iqbal Wahhab's renowned restaurant, Roast, for a breakfast treat.

 English Breakfast Tea

Wahhab recently posted a valid rant on his blog to scrap Bank Holidays to make it fairer for those who have to work regardless, especially in the dining industry. But boy was I pleased that Roast was open as usual. I too had to work later that night and my breakfast set the day off to a great start, thank you!

It wasn't too busy at around 10:30 am and we sat at a table by the huge windows overlooking Borough Market. The morning light shone through perfectly which meant I could get some good photos just using my phone!

Looking through the menu I dallied with the idea of getting the fried egg and bacon buttie, maybe even the Eggs Benedict but deep down I'd already decided I was going to order the Full Borough (who was I kidding?). This was a combination of two Cumberland sausages, grilled tomatoes, fried bread, mushrooms, bubble 'n' squeak, black pudding, streaky bacon and a choice of fried, scrambled or poached eggs.

I ordered the dish minus the black pudding (still haven't acquired a taste for it...yet) and chose poached eggs which had perfectly cooked whites and burst with vivid orange gooey goodness under the knife. I don't usually have fried bread with a fry-up but I'm glad I did this time because it wasn't overly greasy and didn't have that horrible gritty texture and taste, instead there was a light crunch to it and actually held the flavour of bread so that it was more like toast.

Full Borough

Although it's not a particularly cheap way to have breakfast (at £15.00) you're certainly getting your money's worth with the quality of ingredients, the skillful cooking and the amount you get. I was genuinely still full by lunchtime so just had a snack until dinner.

The Veggie Borough was also incredible (and a little cheaper at 12.50) with two veggie sausages that were packed with flavour and herbs, grilled tomatoes, a tattie scone, wholemeal toast, mushrooms and a choice of fried, scrambled or poached eggs.

Veggie Borough

If you'd rather go for cheaper options the other breakfast dishes are on average about six quid which is very good value for what you're given.

The Breakfast Boosters looked tasty as well with a selection of freshly made juices - which are more like non-alcoholic cocktails, from taste to presentation. And the English Breakfast tea was a lovely brew to have with the Full Borough. Plus you get about four cups in the teapot which is a bonus! I slightly regret not getting the Silver Needle tea which sounds quite refreshing, but there's always next time eh?!

'Conscious Berry' Breakfast Booster

Verdict? Roast is definitely guilty of creating a special dining experience from when you're greeted as you enter the restaurant, to the service, to the refreshing interior design and of course the enjoyment of eating gorgeous, wholesome food.

When I go back it'll have to be for an actual roast - the haunch of venison looks lethal!

NB: There's also a food-to-go branch at Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush.


Bargain Bite: Cats Cafe des Artistes

Bargain Bite!

So this month's find is a brilliant little family run Thai restaurant along Stroud Green Road in Finsbury Park - Cats.

When you first approach the restaurant you notice a panther jumping out of the sign above the entrance, then you get an eyeful from the interior design. There's garish animal print cushion covers and dark wood furniture. But despite the nonconformist decoration it's actually quite charming. Each table has a glass top with different currency notes underneath ranging from Sweden to Peru to New Zealand. There's also quite randomly an old 1920's style car to the left of the main door. Heck, why not?

Admittedly I kind of avoided it because it looked bizarre and only ate there earlier this month when Roman and I moved house. We were totally exhausted and needed sustenance. (Anyone who's moved before knows the drill - eat out or get takeaway, right?!) So we staggered round the corner to Cats and I'm so glad we did.

The food is incredibly modest for the price compared to the portions. I ordered the Massaman beef curry with sticky rice and had to ask for a doggy-bag because it was never ending. The beef was still a little pink which was spot on because beef in curries can be really dry and tough sometimes. The sauce was creamy with a satay-like flavour but with more spice.

Their fish dishes are also worth a try. The Pad se Ewe with prawns has nice fat prawns the size of big conkers and another dish to definitely order is the house special - or Cats Cafe des Artistes Special Fish if you want to be specific. It uses Tilapia fish which I'd never tried before and it's fairly sweet so goes well with a strong or hot sauce. It's more of a delicate white fish and is commonly eaten in Africa and I think you can easily buy it in quite a few fish mongers around town.

Tilapia - Cats Cafe des Artistes Special Fish

Pad se Ewe with Prawns

I've since been back to have one of their lunchtime specials which was vegetable spring rolls to start followed by Amber Chicken Curry (essentially Thai yellow curry) and boiled rice, all for £7.95! Absolute bargain.

You can also order pots of tea to share for two quid which are served in authentic Thai pottery that you'd probably find on local market stalls in Bangkok.

Lunch or dinner - Cats is great value for money.

The Cocker's Porked It

The other weekend I was invited round to my friends' house for Sunday lunch.

We've started making a proper thing of it and share making the courses between us, so that someone sorts the main course, another brings a dessert and someone's responsible for the cheese course. (Depending on the rest of the food someone might do a small starter too).

This time round The Cockers (that's one of the couples) were in charge of the main course and boy was it good. Better than good. It was a mouthwatering treat from tongue to tummy. Sam made pork belly with fennel seed seasoning including on the crackling. Then there was the bed of blanched fennel, some baked carrots in balsamic vinegar and a huge batch of Gratin Dauphinois. Look at how good it was!

The pork was very succulent and the fennel seasoning had really absorbed into the pork. With such strong flavours the gratin dauphinois was a perfect suitor with it's comforting creaminess.

The carrots were probably one of my highlights just because of how simple the method was - baked with balsamic vinegar - yet they had such a smack to them! I'm also a big fan of cooked carrots having the right amount of bite.

Then for dessert The Greens (not vegetables, another couple) brought a homemade baked cheesecake with fresh fruits and raspberry coulis with a shortbread base. Some baked cheesecakes can be quite heavy but Helen made it really light and creamy. Cheesecake with fresh fruit is definitely the way to go...

We sprinkled a bit of icing sugar over the top for the photo.

Then we er...somehow ate lots of cheese to follow. I'm not entirely sure how we had any room or capacity for it what with the gratin dauphinois and cheesecake. Oh, who am I kidding? There's always room for some cheese. (Sorry I didn't take any photos of the board, but there'll be other opportunities).