Wake up to Wahaca

Wahaca in Covent Garden is a great spot in town for somewhere to go if you're in the mood to share dishes, order more than one thing and sip on Mojitos.

The restaurant (both the Covent Garden and Westfield branches) is the vision of Thomasina Miers; food author, presenter of Channel 4's Wild Gourmets and winner of MasterChef in 2005. Miers opened it in 2007 and in the three years it's been going, I've only just been. The incentive is to experience a Mexican market-style of fresh food and cooking in three different ways:
1) light dishes to snack on while enjoying the drinks menu
2) larger meals all to yourself
3) or antojitos which are smaller dishes designed for sharing

When I went along with a couple of friends recently, we each chose to order a few antojitos to share. They're split into the different ways to cook with tortillas; tacos, tostadas, quesadillas, taquitos and burritos, all of which have their own choice of fillings.

Beef Tostada

Pork Tostada

Chicken Taquito

Plus there are a variety of extra side dishes like their green rice (with coriander, garlic and onion), frijoles (black bean curd with cheese or chorizzo toppings) and spicy coleslaw. These come in some little terracotta ramekins and are enough to share between two people.

Green Rice & Frijoles with cheese

There's even the authentic puddings menu including Churros; doughnut-like sticks which are found across Mexico as a common pastry snack. The name comes from the Churro breed of sheep in Spain, as the shape resembles their horns. Different variations on the ingredients depend on which country you're in and Wahaca have obviously taken the Mexican way to enjoy them, which is with hot dipping chocolate. They're also coated with cinnamon and sugar to balance the bitter dark chocolate.

The prices are really reasonable for the quality of the food and amount you get. The menu advises that if you want the antojitos it's best to order 3 per person. I'd say if you're fairly hungry this is fine but if you're quite ravenous, go for 4!

A bar is situated near the waiting area which serves a combination of customers waiting for the next available table and people who just fancy a drink and some snacks. The design of the restaurant is a mixture of modern and authentic market with benches paired with chairs for the seating, an open kitchen at the back of the restaurant. There's also borrowed elements of Mexican marketplaces where they've recycled reclaimed timber for the walls and kitchen counters.

There are also some little packets in large baskets near the entrance and stairwell which look like you're generic complimentary matchsticks...but they're actually sachets of chilli seed so you can grow your own at home! Nice touch. I'm currently giving them a go myself. As they've only just started to sprout it doesn't look all that interesting yet. But I'll update with pictures of their progress soon enough!


The chillies have begun to sprout. Fingers crossed they'll do well!



Usually I wouldn't be able to afford to eat out for an expensive night of fine dining. But the other day I got the chance!

My boyfriend, Roman, received a gift certificate to eat out at one of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants, and after scanning the menus and various blogs for advice on which one to go to - we chose Maze. And boy am I glad we did.

For some reason I was inexplicably nervous when we approached the entrance (maybe because I don't get to visit many high-end restaurants), but the atmosphere was totally relaxed and welcoming I soon brushed that off at the door.

Upon arrival we were greeted with our waiter who took us through the menu options (the Chef's set menu or the A la carte in which you're advised to order two dishes per page.) We opted for the A la carte and studied the choices over and over before deciding. There was no rush from the waiter to order, and in the meantime the drinks waitress took our order for the wine. Unfortunately the two different bottles of Riesling that we asked for weren't in stock, but third time lucky she suggested another Riesling they did have. It was at a higher price which cost half of the voucher - but it was worth it. The Riesling Reserve, Trimbach 2007 was beautifully crisp and light with aromatic hints and as the night went on I noticed the full fruity flavours like peach, apple and lime. This was a perfect accompaniment for the dishes we ordered, especially the seafood.

Now for the food...

Round 1:
Quail, kohlrabi, cauliflower in ‘ras el hanout’, burnt onion reduction. Roman: "perfectly cooked, very gamey and the 'ras el hanout' cauliflower was a delightful new experience and the right accompaniment".

Salcombe crab, brown crab and toast sorbet, sea herbs, pickled black radish, apple vinaigrette: a really playful take on textures and temperatures with the sorbet, crab, salad leaves and radishes. Stunning presentation and colours.

Round 2:
Braised Dedham Vale lamb shoulder, wild garlic risotto, onion powder.

Confit of wild mallard, raspberry gel, walnuts and compressed celery: the mallard flaked into chunky bitesize pieces and the raspberry gel gave the dish a juicy finish.

Round 3:
Roasted hake in cured ham, chorizo and pimento purée, squid paint

Roasted sea bream, cauliflower and broccoli, mushroom cereal:. This was incredible how the balance of the crisp outer skin and the softness of the sea bream worked together to make a perfect melt-in-your-mouth moment.

Round 4:
Suffolk pork ‘cheek ‘n belly’, spiced pumpkin jam, red cabbage, crispy crackling

Roasted Muntjac deer, pine nut purée, baby beets, oats, seeds and juniper: extremely gamey giving off a strong earthy flavour which was accentuated by the catalyst - the juniper sauce!

Devonshire rice pudding, spiced blackberry jam, clotted cream and blackberry ripple ice cream which was scooped onto the rice pudding by the waiter from a tiny saucer.

Bitter chocolate délice, honey gelatine, honeycomb ice cream: devilish rich flavours and layered textures that worked beautifully together. It was really fun to eat as well!

Although the portions of the dishes were slight, the meal was still filling. I think that had more to do with the pacing inbetween each course leaving us to enjoy the experience, the wine and readily provided the fresh bread sticks and rolls.

The wine waiter inconspicuously kept our wine glasses topped up, and despite being told there was a maximum of two hours to be at the table - we ended up spending double that with no sense of being rushed.

The layout and interior design is classy, comfortably spacious and big on leather and wood. (On a side note, the toilets were also impressive. Single rooms rather than a communal one, with little hand towels in separators built into the wall, and Molton Brown handwash and moisturiser.)

If you're not shy of big expenditures then this will be right up your street, but if the prices are too steep try and drop hints for friends/family to get you a voucher for your birthday because it's so very worth eating at Maze; for the culinary precision, the remarkable service and an all round aMAZEing experience!


So after an impromptu wander into Mrs. Marengo's on Lexington Street the other week and finding out it was the sister cafe to Mildred's on the same road, it was time to test out the larger sibling.

Again the menu is all aimed at veggies and vegans who don't always get the greatest choices in general restaurants (Ceasar salad anyone?). There's a great mixture of brunch, lunch and dinner dishes including burritos, tagines, Sri Lankan curry, vege burger of the day and sundried tomato and bean sausages.

I went for the daily special of tomato, aubergine, chickpea and green olive tagine served with flaked almond cous cous. The tagine was a real melt in the mouth texture and the cous cous obviously complemented it well. The flaked almonds were a nice touch as it gave that bit of crunch to the dish so it wasn't all about mushiness.

The burrito was also jam-packed with re-fried beans, corn and red pepper topped with tomato lime salsa, guacamole, smoked cheddar and sour cream and looked pretty filling (...get it?!).

You can tell the ingredients are well sourced and cooked well, but even so, I did find the pricing quite steep. The average dish costing about £8/9. It's quite hard to find a decent vegetarian restaurant in London serving creative and varied dishes so it would be a greater bonus if it didn't stretch the wallet as much if you turn up for lunch. Venues like Food For Thought in Covent Garden have the balance of great dishes, sizeable portions and budget prices to make it a hot spot for lunch.

But then again, seeing as restaurants serving a wholesome, tasty and healthy vegetarian menu is hard to come by, I think it's well worth going along for a post-pay day treat!


Easter Nests

So as planned I made some Easter nests for Easter weekend. This is something I made when I was growing up and it looks as though I'm not the only one...check out Chris Skinner's little treats on The Redundancy Cookbook blog too!

I find Easter nests a little dry, so it's sometimes good to put some fruit into the mix. I've gone for dried cranberries as they give a little more juice than other dried fruit.
Here's how to make 8 nests...

Dairy Milk chocolate (230g)
Mini Eggs
Shredded Wheat (2 1/2 pillows)
dried cranberries (a handful)

How to make:
Half-fill a medium sized pan with water and bring to the boil. Turn down to a medium heat and place a glass bowl over it. Break up the chocolate and put into the bowl. Stir regularly until the chocolate has all melted then remove the bowl and put onto the sideboard. Crush the shredded wheat into the bowl and stir into the chocolate with the cranberries. Spoon into the cake cases, pop some mini eggs on top and put them in the fridge to set for about 30mins.

And if you're in a crafty kinda mood, why not make/decorate a box to put them in if you're giving them as a gift?

Mrs. Marengo's

I love stumbling across places I've not been before, especially when they turn out to be better than I anticipated.

After having lunch at Cha Cha Moon (see the post below), I was after something sweet and a dose of coffee. So my friend and I wondered around Carnaby Street then Lexington Street for inspiration until we stopped at the end of the road with a large Pret a Manger on one side and Mrs. Marengo's on the other, and I was won over by the cake display in the shop window that it was a no brainer to step inside.

It's a vegetarian cafe and cake shop whose sister restaurant, Mildred's, is just next door. They serve savoury food as well, but I was more interested in the cakes!

And my what cakes they have - most of which are glutenfree, wheatfree or vegan. The brownie, the victoria sponge and the fruit, nut and seed slice were all very tempting, but I couldn't resist the pretty glutenfree cupcakes.

My friend, Dave, braved it and went for the devilish looking chocolate and raspberry truffle cake! This was very tasty but was served in a rather big slice which I personally would've struggled with.

The latte also hit the spot, but considering that they use Monmouth organic coffees, why wouldn't it?

If you're spending the day shopping in the centre of town, I'd thoroughly recommend popping into Mrs. Marengo's for a quick stop to refuel; or if you work nearby get some food to take-away. The only thing that's slightly niggling is their seating, which are all high stools. In which case, if it's a good sit-down lunch you're after, it's probably best to go to Mildred's next door.