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Winter gardens are definitely a must this year, and I could not have found a better place to snuggle up for dinner than inamo Camden’s igloos. So the prospect of trying out inamo Camden’s 4-course tasting menu made me count down the hours and the minutes before I got there…
A private garden with 3 splendid pop-up igloos covered with fairy lights, furnished with sheepskin rugs, and fitted with floral decorations, creates the perfect atmosphere for a magical evening. And not a red nose in sight – inamo has your back with heaters to keep you warm and cosy.
Upon our arrival, we were welcomed with a bottle of Italian white wine – dry and fruity with a nice citrus finish. To start was a selection of Asian tapas, including Bang Bang Cauliflower, crispy baked cauliflower bites drizzled with an addictive bang bang sauce, and a creamy sweet and spicy chilli sauce.
Bang Bang Cauliflower & Chicken and Vegetable Gyoza
We also tried the Chicken and Vegetable Gyoza, which were soft and tender, and packed with flavour.
Trying the Scallop kataifi, may have been my first time trying kataifi that wasn’t the Greek kataifi dessert. The scallop was wrapped in kataifi with a succulent gold colour on the top, and the spicy dip, just left me speechless!
Once our appetizers were done we had an itch to see what cocktails were on offer. We decided on the Passionate Martini and the Tropical Tornado. As a self-proclaimed passion fruit aficionado, it’s usually my go-to cocktail, and with the stamp of, “an inamo favourite”, it was a no brainer. The Tropical Tornado was recommended to us by our waiter, comprising rum, guava, and you guessed it… passion fruit.
Passionate Martini & Tropical Tornado
Up next, our sushi extravaganza. First, the Red Dragon Roll, a vegetarian option encompassing red pepper revolving around crunchy cucumber and indulgent avocado. We thoroughly enjoyed this, a great take on the tempura shrimp also on offer.
Red Dragon Roll & Spicy Tuna Maki
If I had to eat one sushi for the rest of my life, it is a high possibility I would pick what came out next, the Spicy Tuna Maki, so simple yet so delicious. Tender tuna, crunchy cucumber and velvety avocado, topped with a mouth-watering piquant mayo.
And finally a 16-piece sashimi platter to top it all off. The rainbow Sashimi Platter was undeniably an incredible dish, comprising fresh tuna, Scottish salmon, English mackerel and glamorous barramundi. The subtle flavours, the delicate texture, and the vivid colours of our platter presented such an inimitable gastronomic experience.
Sizzling Black Pepper Fillet of Beef
The penultimate course was by far our favourite, Sizzling Black Pepper Fillet of Beef. I love the theatrics of how it was served, sizzling in a cast iron dish. Salty with a subtle peppery heat, tremendously soft beef, with a rich aroma emerging from the colourful peppers and spring onions. Who could resist? All this accompanied by the beloved sticky rice.
Tempura Banana Maki
With whatever space we had left after this enormous tasting menu, we were curious about dessert. A Tempura Banana Maki with a dash of melted chocolate, wrapped in coconut rice and showered in honey. What a nice dessert to end our first igloo experience!
If you are looking to ig-lose yourself with a marvellous 4-course tasting menu from the Far East, then inamo Camden is for you. I can guarantee you an astounding experience with a jam-packed meal, succulent sushi and enticing Asian tapas.
A short walk past the Jazz Café in Camden, you’ll find one of its newest restaurant arrivals: 40 Zero. The name’s not a Bret Easton Ellis reference, but a naming convention from the Above & Below restaurant group who aim to create ‘locals for the twenty first century’, and, despite having very recently been a squat, this local has been expertly renovated by big-shot designers Russell Sage Studios. The resulting dining room is an interesting mix of 90s nostalgia (I’m looking at you, bar made of cassette tapes) and nods to Camden’s urban landscape, with its graffiti scrawled concrete, UV loos and hanging greenery peppering the otherwise cosy room.
It’s the kind of place you could imagine the staff of ‘Empire Records’ hanging out after a shift, and funnily enough 40 Zero do a much-lauded 90s-themed brunch with bottomless bubbles and cocktails. The menu is, like Camden, a fusion of different cultures and cuisines, with dishes to suit all manner of diners from omnivores to vegans and everyone in between. So, after making our choices we settled into our booth and enjoyed some thoroughly original cocktails.
Original Cocktails – £12.95 each
On the left is the ‘Smoked Oaxacan Apple’; a long drink made with sage-infused mezcal alongside pineapple, apple and lime juice, cinnamon syrup and bitters. But on the right is Camden’s first cannabis cocktail called ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ complete with sparkling edible glitter on the rim. This seemingly innocuous pink cocktail packs a punch with CBD oil, gin and aperol with flavours of tangerine, marmalade and Himalayan salt.
Plancha sharer – £14.50
For starters we went for a sharing platter called the ‘Plancha sharer’ consisting of fritto misto (i.e. deep-fried seafood) served with aioli, griddled padrón peppers, 70s throwback devilled eggs and a decent portion of buttermilk fried chicken served with a wedge of lime and chilli mayonnaise.
Hari Lamb Pizza – from £9.50
Despite some initial reservations, our Italian waiter, who we thought would be the first person to be disparaging of a spiced lamb pizza, enthusiastically recommended it and even asked if we would like to ‘go saucy’ (add a drizzle of sauce over the top), ‘go filthy’ (add pulled pork) or ‘go balls deep’ (add beef n’duja meatballs). We obliged and went for the extra meatballs. The resulting pizza was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise, with a crispy base and generous toppings it soon became a collection of crumbs.
Market Salad – from £9
After the indulgent four cheese and hari lamb pizza, we decided that balance is everything and went for a virtuous market salad. A mix of leaves, avocado, egg, farro, tomato, piquillo peppers, carrots, almonds, toasted seeds, lemon and rapeseed oil dressing; it’s a far cry from the usual iceberg and cherry tomato pub basic and has enough interest that the extra halloumi was probably an extravagance (but one worth going for).
Side Dishes – from £3
40 Zero has some decent sides to augment your meal. We went for the cauliflower cheese, which had a good ratio of creamy melted cheese and crispy toasted cheese topping, and some piping hot skinny rosemary fries.
Classic Cocktails – £8.50
After mains, the barman emerged from the cassette tape bar and whipped up a couple of classic cocktails to help our food go down: an Old Fashioned and an Espresso Martini.
Camden Mess – £6
Our first dessert was a rough and ready remix of the classic Eton mess; the Camden mess. The Camden revision replaces the typical strawberries and cream with figs, berries, cream and chocolate drizzles on shards of meringue.
Catalan Cream – £4
To finish we had the Catalan cream, which is no ordinary crème brûlée, although it still retained the satisfying crack when breaking through the caramelised sugar top. Nevertheless, underneath the Catalan cream is incredibly light, almost like a panna cotta, and flavoured with refreshing blood orange.
On paper I was dubious about 40 Zero, but I’m happy to eat my words and admit that I was impressed by the place. The interior is pitched just right. There’s a nod to the nineties without it feeling like you’re with Andi Peters and Edd the duck in the broom cupboard. Similarly, it’s hard to find somewhere that caters for so many dietary requirements without the choices being uninteresting or compromising on food quality. So with it ticking all the boxes for a nice leisurely lunch, brunch or dinner, I have a feeling 40 Zero will become my go-to choice for meeting my argumentative group of vegan, vegetarian and carnivorous friends.
The Knightsbridge Lounge can be discovered in the centre of Belgravia, a short walk from Knightsbridge Underground Station. The lounge itself comprises many comfortable high-backed armchairs, and soft couches. Each table is set far enough apart from the ones around it to get a sense of privacy within your group – something that is so often not the case.
An impressive 18-foot teardrop chandelier cascades from the ceiling into the centre of the room, providing the space with a bright and airy feel. The lounge is adorned with tree motifs, which creates a calm and beautiful setting that feels as though you could be 100 miles away from busy central London – a perfect haven after a busy day shopping or touring the city. However, should guests wish to enjoy their afternoon tea in the bar area, this is also possible. Glasses of champagne were brought to our table as we perused the menu. The staff were very friendly and helpful, and our requests were met promptly using a service bell allowing us to call at our own convenience. Recommendations were both helpful and readily available with regards to the food and drinks options.
The Knightsbridge Lounge offers an extensive range of loose teas to tantalize your taste buds. For those that like home comforts, the traditional English breakfast tea has made the list. If you are feeling a little more adventurous then travel back in time to the true origins of tea and take your pick from the Oriental tea collection. The Knightsbridge Lounge doesn’t just stop here but suggests a Tisane range, which compromises an array of herbal and fruit infusions. If none of the above are your cup of tea then fear not, indulge in a hot chocolate by Rococo Chocolates with 8 different luxury beverages, you are sure to find one or 3 that take your fancy!
Afternoon tea stand
Head Chef, Gaurav Puri, has created a sandwich menu which offers an innovative twist on some of the classic flavours of an afternoon tea. The breads, which include brioche, white finger rolls, and black rye-bread, are baked on-site and feature delicious additions such as walnut and basil.
pastrami (with pea and asparagus)
Fillings include roast chicken (with celery, pickled walnuts, watercress, and apples), Scottish smoked salmon (with seaweed and yuzu mayonnaise), pastrami (with pea and asparagus), cream cheese (with cucumber and sun-dried tomato pesto), and duck egg served with cress. As evidenced by these flavour combinations, this afternoon tea challenges the everyday conceptions of what a ‘British’ sandwich may comprise of, and in doing so, creates a unique experience for visitors. It is clear from both the presentation and the quality of these fine sandwiches that a great deal of thought has been put into the ways in which the varying textures and palates complement one another. Aside from the delightful flavours, one of my favourite aspects of the sandwich course is how generous the portion sizes are. As somebody who greatly enjoys savoury food in a lead-up to indulging in sweet treats, it was refreshing to find that the sandwiches were just as filling as they were beautiful to look at. This, combined with a welcome break from the classic cucumber sandwich that so often frequents British afternoon tea, made for an impressive and memorable start to our dining experience.
One of the most important and iconic aspects of any afternoon tea is the scones – and the Knightsbridge Lounge did not disappoint with regards to this. We were presented with an assortment of butter milk scones, some plain and some packed with cranberries. These were, of course, accompanied by Devon clotted cream, alongside a homemade British strawberry jam and a more unique (but all-the-same delicious) chestnut marmalade.
top-tier cakes and pastries inspired by fragrance expert Rachel Vosper
In addition, fragrance-expert Rachel Vosper, a leading British candle maker, has inspired a range of top-tier cakes and pastries. Alongside the cakes, samples of candle wax were placed on our table which corresponded to each of the flavours encompassed within the pastries.
Collection of Scents Afternoon Tea by Rachel Vosper
Rachel Vosper encapsulates scents from each bottled fragrance, giving customers a unique afternoon tea experience inhabiting all your senses. Colourful and immaculately presented, we enjoyed a pink rose panna cotta with soft jelly centre and fresh raspberries, a white chocolate mousse with orange blossom honey and a caramelised orange tuile, a minted chocolate cream pastry with vanilla sponge, lime-crusted base and gold leaf, a roasted cinnamon éclair with freshly whipped cream and confit chestnuts, and a custard made with lemongrass, sponge cubes, pineapple dice, strawberry compote and organic jasmine tea jelly. Scents of rose, orange blossom, mint, cinnamon, and lemongrass from the candlewax enhanced these flavours, and to incorporate so directly our sense of smell alongside our sense of taste really did give this afternoon tea something extra special.
If you are looking to enjoy a high-end afternoon tea, particularly as a welcome break from a busy day spent in the capital or to celebrate a special event, then the Knightsbridge Lounge provides a delicious and memorable experience. Delectable, filling, and thoroughly Instagrammable, this is an afternoon tea with a difference. Highlights include the generously filled fine sandwiches, the perfectly carried out combination of scones, jam and cream, and the incorporation of scents into the top tier. In all, this venue should absolutely be on the list of any afternoon tea enthusiast.
It is grey, it is January. The holiday season is over, a long 5 weeks loom until this month will be over. Blue Monday is around the corner, and the jolly of the party season has evaporated. Lo & behold, Maskelyne & Cooke. The bar proving that the magic and sparkle has not all faded, as they offer an impressive cocktail menu, classic dishes and best of all, a magic show.
Maskelyne & Cooke, on the lower ground floor of Le Méridien Piccadilly, takes its name from 2 famed magicians, John Nevil Maskelyne and George Cooke, who performed their magic show in the West End for over 30 years. The bar has dark furnishings, with subtle references to the era of Maskelyne & Cooke’s show including Art Deco lamps and original framed advertising posters. The sophisticated mystique of Maskelyne & Cooke makes it the very inviting place to be refreshed from their menus; they have an impressive, magic-inspired cocktail menu coupled with classic dishes to enjoy.
Beginning our experience, we sank back in to the plush sofas whilst sipping on cocktails, and then we were impressed with the tricks of the in-house magician. In a time when what’s real and true is often undefined, it feels good to suspend one’s disbelief in an entirely innocent pursuit.
Accompanying the entertainment and cocktails, there is a short but well-executed menu of favourites such as prawn cocktail, beef Wellington or baked Camembert.
We began with the smoked salmon, which came as 2 enticing edible parcels encasing a bundle of tender prawns below. The finishing cucumber ribbons added a refreshing element to the fish.
The next delectable dish was similar to the salmon in its shape, but it hailed from the land instead of the sea. The beef Wellington consisted of buttery, soft pastry wrapped around rare beef fillet. A simple accompanying hollandaise sauce lent the dish a further buttery and acidic taste, making this a prize example of how to do this classic dish.
Meanwhile, there was another star of the show. This time in liquid form. My friend selected a ‘One Shilling’ cocktail, named after the admission fee for Maskelyne & Cooke’s show and complete with its own spectacle. The ‘One Shilling’ arrived centred in a bell jar, with a white fog collecting in the bottom of the glass. The bartender lifted the bell jar, for the fog to dissipate over our table. Very theatrical.
Meanwhile I opted for the Sharp and Flats cocktail, which borrows part of its name from Maskelyne’s book. The book is still revered as an excellent handbook for card tricks for magicians today. This concoction served in a dramatically tall martini glass aims to make just as an impression as its namesake. The delicate balance of sweet and sour makes it hard to forget.
Back to the food. Presented in a long cocktail glass, the prawn cocktail had succulent prawns and crab meat layered over crisp lettuce.
Up next were the chicken sliders. Three mini chicken fillets were perched on top of brioche buns, complete with tomato, lettuce and mayo. The mini burgers, like the other dishes, were simple yet stylish. The staff at Maskelyne & Cooke know there’s no need to over-complicate their food menu, when time-favoured classics make the perfect accompaniment for the many wonders of the bar, be that the spectacle of their cocktails, or their awe-inspiring illusions.
Can there be a more classically British way to spend an afternoon than with a traditional afternoon tea? Afternoon tea in London is still booming and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. A good few places now cater to those with dietary requirements and of course the seemingly ever rising number of vegetarian and vegans, but I must say this is one with a difference.
When I heard that La Suite West in Bayswater and their restaurant Café Forty One had relaunched a new fully vegan concept with something as rare as a French pâtisserie chef heading it all up, I couldn’t wait to visit.
The addition of head chef Clarisse Flon makes La Suite West and Café Forty One the very first in the capital to serve vegan French pâtisserie. The fact that they also aim for an ecological and sustainable approach in everything they do is just the icing on the (very delicious) cake.
Looking to cater to both vegans and non-vegans as well as those with allergies, Clarisse says about her style of cooking; “I realised no one was doing French pâtisserie and if I craved something delicate and more sophisticated surely other people did as well”
Alcohol free bubbles – Café Forty One
On arriving at the restaurant we were offered a glass of alcohol-free bubbles – a tasty way to start our afternoon, accompanied by our choice of luxury loose leaf tea.
Selection of sweet and savoury
In traditional British afternoon tea style, we were then presented with a beautiful 3-tier stand of sweet and savoury delights. Had I not known, I wouldn’t have guessed all this deliciousness was fully vegan – I don’t imagine anyone would feel this selection lacking in either taste or looks!
BLT and hummus and cucumber sandwich
True to tradition, the selection consisted of a mix of savoury and sweet. We decided to dig in to the savouries to start off our tea.
My meat-eating partner was particularly impressed with the smoked carrot “salmon” and cream cheese in a brioche roll. The carrot was smoky and creamy – very much reminiscent of its fishy counterpart. My favourite was probably the “BLT” sourdough sandwich made with vegan mayo and aubergine “bacon”.
Of course no tea is complete without some classic scones with cream, and these were another highlight. The scones came in a plain and a raisin variety, served with a lovely home made berry compote and clotted cream made from coconut.
The pâtisserie is made fresh and changes weekly, we had a chocolate cake with chocolate and vanilla crème pâtissière, a flaky and buttery apple and vanilla swirl, mini short bread with blackberries and a lovely moist carrot cake, all equally delicious.
The restaurant at La Suite West has seen a few different incarnations over the years but here I feel they have really hit home. The small restaurant space has had a recent refurb and feels light and airy, which is only enhanced further by the space leading out onto their leafy canopied patio – perfect for warmer times of the year.
Plant eaters will also be pleased to hear that in addition to patisserie, the restaurant also serves fully vegan breakfast and lunch and La Suite West aims to become the first fully vegan hotel in London.
Over all this is a lovely afternoon tea – a great treat for those with a dairy or gluten allergy, or anyone looking for some really delicious pâtisserie, vegan or not!
Café Forty One at La Suite West
La Suite West, 41-51 Inverness Terrace, London, W2 3JN
Drawing flocks of crowds from faithful regulars to far-flung destination travellers, the fine-tuned formula at Rock Star Sushi Bar is clearly ticking all the boxes, with a strong line in contemporary Japanese creations rooted in immaculate sourcing. A humble 12-seater restaurant, service is always on point in here with dedication, precision and passion in equal measure from Igor and his team. Who knew that this humble little Japanese outpost in the suburban depths of Colliers Wood would draw destination restaurant travellers from across the globe, holding pride of place as a consistent Tripadvisor sensation.
In this cosied-up setting with the twinkling glow of the fairy lights, we firstly tried the sparkling sake to pair with the contemporary Japanese dishes, which brought a mellow match of light and subtle bubbles.
Crowned with a shiso leaf, the seaweed salad had a freshly mixed texture which added piquancy to the bold and rich slices of wagyu beef. Fresh from the Kobe herd of Japan, the beautifully presented wagyu was certainly a premium dish, with exquisite marbling and a rounded flavour which you don’t usually get with native shore wagyu. The slab of pink Himalayan salt looked visually striking but also had the dual purpose of curing the beef and adding to the flavour.
Meanwhile, the rarely seen kampachi black cod was lightly scorched and had a feather-light texture, enhanced by the purple shiso and daikon fronds.
Fresh wasabi and sushi rolls
The freshly grated wasabi root is a real unique selling point, grated against the authentic shark’s skin paddle. This fresh wasabi was fresher, zestier and had a smoother, subtle taste which brought all of the Japanese flavours singing to life.
From the vibrantly named prawn tempura rock ‘n’ rolls section, there was a smorgasbord of delightful creations prepared for us. Favourites were the scorched salmon with avocado, torched garlic and teriyaki sauce. The torched salmon was an absolutely winning technique to feature; really accentuating a burnished flavour on the rich salmon.
Salmon sashimi and sushi rolls
Salmon sashimi is always a favourite of mine, and the impeccable freshness sourced from Japanese suppliers meant the sashimi grade fish was at its absolute prime. To complement, the ponzu-style dipping sauce was a delicious combination of citrussy yuzu, soy and sesame.
Salmon passion fruit sushi rolls
Straying from convention, cream cheese and passion fruit sauce was perhaps a steer towards a more Western palate and away for a traditional pairing. Immaculately presented, who wouldn’t be drawn to this spectacular sushi platter though.
Tuna and avocado rolls
Kampachi rolls with sugar snap and vibrant purple shiso were moreish and light, tasting just as good as they looked. Thick slices of tuna tataki were meltingly good, and avocado with tuna and black tobiko was also a striking combination.
For dessert, there were mochi rice dough balls of ice cream including the distinctive black sesame and green tea and flavours. Sakura-style-blossom sugar flowers were strewn prettily on the plate but for us the real rock star of the show was the preceding sushi selection.
Sushi proficiency certification
With the prestigious sushi proficiency certification placed proudly above the kitchen, it’s clear that the hard-earnt accolade is doing wonders for the produce flowing from these doors, continuing to draw a crowd of eager locals and sushi-lovers alike from far and wide.
Walking into the majestic dining room at Gillray’s you’re greeted by a well stocked bar populated with a plethora of gins, and gazing out the window you see a glorious view of the Thames which adds a certain luxurious vibe to the evening. That will be a mainstay throughout the meal as we’re continuously wowed by the offerings at Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar.
Cocktail & Yorkshire Pudding
To accompany our starting cocktails (gin based of course), we were bestowed a Yorkshire pudding in lieu of a bread roll. The inspiring part of the serving is there is cheese baked into the Yorkshire! Combined with a side of horseradish to provide a complementary heat, we could’ve easily eaten a baker’s dozen of these if not for the rest of the meal that was to take place.
Pan fried Mackerel with baby gem croutons, parmesan, anchovies and an oyster dressing
Our starters were pan-fried mackerel with baby gem croutons, parmesan, anchovies and an oyster dressing, and free-range chicken and mushroom roulade with Black Combe ham, aubergine and tarragon. These were very well cooked, the mackerel being a particular highlight, the anchovies bringing a salty and oily taste that went well with the rest of the salad. The chicken was cooked very nicely and was presented quite elegantly.
Knives in Gilray’s
For our mains we each decided to get a different cut of steak. Our server provided us with a well received recommendation for our meal and invited us to select a steak knife from a range that had varying blade sizes and makes of handle. We were very impressed with this as we were able to select a utensil that would enable us to really personalise our experience with these wonderfully cooked cuts of beef. Cooked to our specifications, it was tender, and very easy to cut into with our selected cutlery.
Broccoli with toasted almonds and chili & creamed Spinach – £3 each
I’ll have to take a minute to talk about the sides as they were absolutely incredible. I’m well known as a fiend for creamed spinach, but I have never had spinach that was prepared in such a way – the spinach soft and silky, the cream sharp and adding a saltiness to the spinach, that I had to order a second serving. I couldn’t get enough. In addition we had tender stem broccoli with toasted almonds & chilli which as a combination worked really well and tasted great. We also indulged in some toppers to fully maximise our experience of eating this steak – I had the prawns which were seasoned very well while my guest had the Burford Brown eggs which were poached perfectly.
black cherry Bakewell tart with white chocolate custard
For dessert my dinner guest had a black cherry Bakewell tart with white chocolate custard, which they had reservations about being overly sweet and cloying but found it anything but! Described as tarte and delicious, it served as a nice ending for their meal. I, on the other hand, opted for the vegan lime meringue. Served with a blackberry compote and avocado mousse this was an interesting dessert which I thought worked really well together, and is a wonderful vegan alternative.
To sum up my visit to Gilray’s in one sentence would do it a disservice – it’s hard to describe just how fantastic the service, setting, and food were. Take a trip and sample the delights.
Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar
County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, Entrance via Marriott Hotel or Queens Walk, London, SE1 7PB
Low, cosy lighting welcomes you when arriving at Paesan on Exmouth Market, before you are shown to your table by any number of friendly staff (we asked to be moved near to the window, and everyone was very accommodating). Our waiter for the evening, Michael, was that perfect balance of attentive, but not intrusive, answered all our questions about the new menu and advised us on which wine to select.
Burrata Affumincata – £10.00
Scamorza Affumicata – £7.00
All the starters were tempting, but we eventually decided on the Burrata Affumicata, soft creamy burrata on a bed of seasonal mushrooms and the Scamorza Affumicata, melted smoked cheese topped with ham. I’ll be honest, I was expecting the mushrooms to be warm and was a little disappointed that they weren’t, but burrata more than made up for it – total melt in the mouth gorgeousness. The Scamorza was definitely on the rich side, and perfect for those looking for a hearty starter.
Pappardelle Vesuviana – £16.00
Pollo Ripieno – £16.00
Whilst the polenta-dusted chicken with parma ham & fontina was tasty – the polenta gave it that extra crunch – pasta is the star of the show at Paesan, and there is plenty to choose from on the seasonal menu. I was torn between the linguine with swordfish, cherry tomatoes and mint or the Friday evening’s special, pappardelle alla vesuviana. Due to the appalling weather outside I went for the warming pappardelle dish, and it didn’t disappoint. Delicious flavours from the slow-cooked beef were complemented by the slightly al dente fresh pasta. The sides, market greens & chilli and hand-cut fries with truffle and parmesan were cooked to perfection, but we probably didn’t need both as the portion sizes are generous, and we struggled to finish everything.
Tiramisu – £6.00
Flourless Chocolate Cake – £7.00
However, dessert goes to a separate stomach right, so we happily ordered the tiramisu and flourless chocolate cake with cream as our sweet treats. Tiramisu is a favourite of mine, and so when it arrived in a tall glass, I was worried it wouldn’t live up to my high standards. However I needn’t have worried as it was delicious. The sponge was light and soaked in just the right amount of liqueur, whilst the coffee cream elevated it, I could have eaten it all over again. The chocolate cake was rich and thick – a little bit intense for me, but the cream proved to be the perfect accompaniment.
A great venue for everything from a romantic meal to bigger birthday gatherings, it delivers great food and atmospheric lighting, plus there is a bar downstairs where you can sample more of the drinks menu if you want don’t want the night to end – I’ll definitely be going back.
When Grace Dent brands the food ‘magical’ in one of her restaurant reviews, you sit up and take notice. Turning this staunch critic into a fangirl, Londrino is the latest outpost from head chef Leandro Carreira; the name meaning ‘Portuguese for Londoner.’ Fresh from his time at the helm of Viajante, it’s clear that the mission here is to mark the Portuguese culinary stamp firmly on London’s vibrant food scene, having successfully carved a niche in this thriving destination restaurant & wine bar, with a line in contemporary Portuguese seafood & signature creations.
With the menu and dishes changing so regularly to showcase the freshest of ingredients, we were ready to sample the specialities showcased that very evening, matched by wines recommended from the excellent sommelier. To begin, the regal oyster with punchy samphire vinaigrette brought flavours of the sea, with impeccable freshness.
Modern Portuguese delicacies kicked off with Enoki mushroom, egg yolk and pimentao powder. The dash of paprika-style spice complemented the yolk once it had been mixed, and the delicate strands of wild mushroom finished this elegant dish to perfection.
I loved how the cockles bulhao pato and bolo de caco were treated with such a light touch in the cooking process. A traditional, authentic dish sautéed with garlic and coriander, the cockles were treated with respect and weren’t overdone, keeping their pearly tenderness with briny perfection and not overcooked in the slightest, as some restaurants tend to do.
Prawns and daikon
On bold purple daikon and mizuna, the smoked prawn was visually striking and packed a real punch with the charred crustacean flavours. A Mica vinho verda to match was reminiscent of the zesty, fresh whites we tried on our last trip to Portugal.
Hispi cabbage with black garlic biscuit was earthy both in flavour and in visual metaphor. The black garlic biscuit was really unique and not something we had tried before, offering up a stark contrast of textures with the leafy greens.
Aged Peking duck, the crispy rice cake had an original rice wine flavour lingering with soft accents of vanilla. To match, a baga berry-filled wine variety by Filipa Pato marked the excellent Portuguese producers showcased at Londrino.
Amazake ice cream
Seeing as Grace Dent waxed lyrical about them, the ice creams were an essential item to be ordered. The amazake was the clear standout flavour from the selection, a roasted and fermented sugary rice creation which was distinctive and delicious. Think along the lines of a Japanese dulce de leche.
Meanwhile, the tart selection had blood orange, malted and chocolate choices on display – a great way to sample a little of each flavour on offer.
The toasted brioche was a gargantuan bricklike wedge with toasted hazelnuts which we could only nibble on with a spoonful, having been spoilt with such a delicious feast before. The sour caramel gave a dash of sweet-sour sweetness which lifted the dish.
Having experienced a contemporary and impressive range of native Portuguese delights that brought back memories of travels across the motherland, it’s safe to say this Portuguese Londoner certainly has some culinary swagger. Not forgetting that the wines were the real stars of the show, complementing all the dishes impeccably, this newcomer in London Bridge will surely be around for some time to come.
They say Thursdays are the new Fridays, so I made my way to a hidden gem just seconds from bustling Regent Street. Do you want to wake up the next day, and think that you were dreaming? If the answer is yes, then Mo Café is for you, a Moroccan oasis tucked away on Heddon Street.
Once you step in, your travels to North Africa begin… This paradise engages with multiple senses – rich colours, lanterns, and abstract geometric tiles are joined by aromatic dishes and traditional north African songs.
We started with some refreshing cocktails. We ordered the Momo Special, which entails Ketel One Vodka, mint, lemon, sugar and soda water, a twist on the classic Mojito. And with a name like this we just had to order the Lavender Fantasy, containing Tanqueray, Grand Marnier, pineapple, homemade lavender caramel, lime and lemongrass, served with a piece of ignited lavender and oozing with aroma.
With a variety of cold and hot mezze on offer, we started with Zaalouk, a cold dish consisting of soft roasted aubergine in a tomato, cumin and coriander sauce, served in a wonderful unorthodox bowl, along with warm pitta bread to dip into.
We also opted for the Mechouia, a grilled vegetable salad with charred peppers and tomatoes, seasoned with coriander and cumin and drizzled with ouazzania virgin olive oil. Mechouia feels like the epitome of the Mediterranean diet in a single dish.
With the cold mezze over, it was time for another round of drinks. As a passion fruit aficionado the Kiss with Passion immediately struck my eye. It included Vanilla vodka, lychee, lemongrass, passion fruit and prosecco. The waitress highly recommended from the virgin cocktail list the Amistad, comprising passion fruit, strawberries and lime.
From the hot mezze, we picked the Chicken pastilla, and I knew from first sight that this dish wouldn’t disappoint. Fine pastry filled with sweet and spiced chicken, almonds and cinnamon, it was so aromatic, so rich in flavour. It was topped with iced sugar and extra cinnamon, along with a citrus puree on the side. This combination left us speechless!
In addition, we went for the Chicken skewers, perfectly marinated with ginger, coriander and garlic with a rich flavour of grilled charcoal. The refreshing dip was a creamy yoghurt with cucumber, very similar to tzatziki, which I am very familiar with due to my Greek heritage.
We couldn’t leave without trying the traditional North African sausage Merguez. Beef sausages, with an exceptional array of seasonings, chilli pepper gives the characteristic piquancy and red colour to this dish.
We accompanied the hot mezze with bread, sprinkled with sesame and poppy seeds, and with a spongy centre.
After filling our faces, it was time for our desserts and I was looking forward to the Rose Mahalabiya. The presentation was impeccable and the rose water was brimming with flavour as soon as it arrived to our table. This milk pudding topped with caramelised pistachios and drenched in syrup, makes the dessert a clear stand out on the menu. For the other dessert, this is the moment when halva candy is combined with chocolate to form the Halva Chocolate Brownie. It is so difficult to leave having only eaten one piece.
Halva Chocolate Brownie
As North African tradition dictates, finishing a big meal calls for some mint tea, prepared with spearmint leaves and sugar. Beautifully fragrant, it was a relaxing way to end our experience. Dining at Mo Café has further excited me for my trip to Marrakesh next summer, but it’s great to know that I can get authentic cooking so close to home.