Her Favourite Food | London Food, Restaurant & Travel Blog
London based restaurant, food and travel blog. A London food blog that features reviews of restaurants, foodie events, travel, pop-up dining experiences, food festivals, food markets, food tours and so much more
Numnum, London - Restaurant ReviewCuisine: Contemporary Chinese Style Points: 4/5 Location: Southwark Price: £ Overall: 4/5
KUNG PAO CHICKEN
Chicken thigh, dried chilli, cashew nuts
GOLDEN ROASTED & SPICE COVERED CHICKEN THIGH
Corn fed chicken, curry spices, honey glaze
BEEF MARROW FRIED RICE
Roasted bone marrow, peppers, wild rice
Chinese food is one of my favourite cuisines and recently I had the opportunity to try newly opened contemporary Chinese restaurant Numnum. Following a successful period as a pop up in London’s iconic Spitalfield’s market, Numnum can now be found in the heart of Southwark where it operates out of a funky converted railway arch.
The dining area is large and the long white painted ceilings give it a real spacious feel and the gentle rumble of trains passing overhead only add to the cool feel of the place. But of course the proof is in the food so we took our seats whilst the lovely proprietor Tim talked us through the menu.
The menu itself isn’t extensive as one would expect from a Chinese restaurant, instead the restaurants has focused on quality over quantity and there is a great selection to choose from including an array of noodles, wok fried and roasted dishes along with soups and dumplings.
The menu will also change constantly to use seasonal ingredients and allow the chefs to experiment with new dishes and flavours from their respective region of Southern China.
We tried the Wonton Noodle Soup with pork and prawn wontons, bok choi and shitake mushrooms in a rich chicken broth made out of entire chickens and their bones that’s been boiled for eight hours.
Alongside this we had Twice Cooked Pork with leak and peppers, and Pan Fried Pork and Chive Dumplings drizzled in chilli oil and garnished with coriander.
The noodle soup was a refreshing palette cleanser and chocked full with the flavour of chicken in the broth. The wontons were very tasty and had plentiful amounts of minced pork and prawn. The twice cooked pork was one of my favourite dishes and really put to shame all the twice cooked pork dishes I’ve ordered from my local takeaway over the years! It was super delicious and the leaks and peppers were the perfect crunchy accompaniment to the juicy pork.
I actually preferred the chive dumplings to the pork ones, this might be because I still had the twice cooked pork on my mind! Nonetheless both were very nice and the chili oil drizzled on top gave them a nice spicy finish.
After these dishes we tried the Kung Pao Chicken which consisted of chicken thigh pieces wok fried with dried chili and cashew nuts, Numnum Roasted Corn Fed Chicken, Golden Honey and Spice Roasted Chicken, and Beef Bone Marrow Fried Rice.
I love Kung Pao Chicken and this one was particularly delicious with juicy chicken thighs pieces coated in a wonderful sauce made with dried chili.
We were excited to try the roasted chicken dishes which came with three pieces each but you can order a half chicken sharing size that consists of six pieces. Tim informed us that the honey and spice was his favourite and I would have to say it was mine too. The Numnum version was very nice but that honey glaze was sweet, spicy and tasted divine when biting into the juicy chicken.
Along with the twice cooked pork and the honey and spice roasted chicken, the bone marrow fried rice is a must try. A moreish mound of wild rice cooked with peppers and other delicious ingredients is served with a beef bone filled with meaty bone marrow. Tim told us to add the marrow to the rice before eating it on its own was good enough for me as I’ve loved bone marrow ever since I was a little girl and my used to cooked lamb bones for me to suck the marrow out of it. Delicious!
The prices at numnum are very reasonable, especially for the portions you receive. The wok fried dishes such as the twice cooked pork and the kung pao chicken were £7.5, the roasted chicken dishes were £7 for three pieces or £10 for six pieces, and the pan fried dumplings were £4.50.
The wonton noodle soup was £7 which may seem steep for a broth but you get a huge portion and there was plenty of wontons. You will definitely be able to get a meal for two people for under £20.
I’m delighted that Numnum now has a permanent home in London. Given the success of the pop up I’m sure the restaurant will be around for many years to come and I will definitely be going back to sample new dishes as well as some more of that moreish honey and spice roasted chicken.
If you like Chinese food as most people do then I recommend you give this place a try.
Motley, Whitechapel - Restaurant Review
Cuisine: European Style Points: 5/5 Location: Whitechapel Price: £-££ Overall: 3/5
BUTTERMILK FRIED CHICKEN WAFFLE
With maple syrup
REJECTED FRUIT CRUMBLE
With vanilla ice cream
Hidden in the heart of Whitechapel is a delightfully colourful and quirky restaurant that is doing things a little different. Motley is taking sustainability to heart and is turning what some would consider scraps into tasty veggie dishes.
In today’s world, it makes complete sense to take ‘imperfect’ fruit and veg that would otherwise have been discarded and turning it into a perfectly edible dish and I’m quite surprised this hasn’t become more commonplace in London. Right off the bat, I commend Motley on taking this step towards food sustainability.
Located in London’s greenest hotel, Qbic Hotel, Motley seems quite out of place amongst the gritty streets of Whitechapel that will sadly forever be synonymous with the infamous Jack the Ripper. Instead the restaurant would fit right into the trendy Shoreditch area with it’s fabulous decor, eye-catching furnishings and colourful upcycled artworks. The live music duo singing acoustic versions of pop classics like Kylie Minogue’s ‘I’m spinning around’ really added to the hipster vibe and made for what would be a mellow and relaxed Saturday brunch.
Our super friendly and funny server Rebecca talked us through the brunch menu and recommended some perfect brunch dishes.
I tried the buttermilk fried chicken and waffle and my guest went for the pulled pork eggs benedict. I was expecting a typical American style dish with lashings of syrup and sweet notes. Instead I was pleasantly surprised to find that the crispy chicken was covered in a tangy sweet hot sauce which really kick-started my taste buds. The sweet waffle was a great contrast to the hot sauce and the dish was a hot and sweet delight.
My guest’s dish was a real show-stopper. The pulled pork had flavour profiles similar to the crispy hoisin duck that you’d get in a Chinese restaurant and which I absolutely love. The egg that sat atop the pork was cooked perfectly although I didn’t manage to get that all important Instagrammable ‘yolkporn’ shot as the egg was overcooked.
Both dishes were really comforting and on the side we had to try the Parmesan Truffle Chips which were calling out ‘eat me’ from the menu. The chips were smothered in shavings of parmesan and truffle and were a real delight.
To get us in the weekend mood, we took regular trips to the bar where we indulged in DIY bottomless mimosas using a variety of berries, fruit juices, and of course some bubbly. It was great fun muddling our own berries and making our own mimosa concoctions.
After sitting back with our drinks and listening to some relaxing live music, we decided it was time for dessert. I was really excited to try the patisserie pudding with homemade custard but sadly it was sold out so I decided on the chocolate pot with créme fraiche and crushed raspberries whilst my guest tried the rejected fruit crumble served with vanilla ice cream. The crumble is made using old and bruised fruits to create a thick compote topped with a sweet and crunchy crumble. We didn’t have any problem with this and with the UK's food waste at at all time, it made perfect sense to me. It was also quite delicious and a perfect dessert for a lazy Saturday afternoon. The chocolate pot was also a delight and made with a good quality chocolate to give it a rich and decadent flavour.
Before we called it a day, our server told us that each bartender had their own signature cocktail which reflected their personality so I was keen to try one! We went with Sasha’s - A gin-based cocktail mixed with apricot liqueur, prosecco, chili infused vodka inside a chili salt rimmed cocktail glass. It was fantastic, and in Sasha’s own words, reflected her sweet and salty persona!
Brunch dishes are very reasonable at around £8 with desserts around £6-7. The DIY Mimosas are £15pp for 1.5 hours, plenty of time to enjoy a few over brunch!
Motley is a real gem of a place that has made its own unique mark. I can still picture the stunning decor and colourful interior and it makes me feel quite warm and cosy.
The prices are very reasonable and the live music is fabulous but of course it is quite commendable that they are taking food wastage and sustainability seriously and making it part of their ethos and identity. Let’s hope more restaurants follow suit in the coming months and years.
Brunch at Ella Canta - Restaurant Review, LondonCuisine: Mexican Style Points: 5/5 Location: Mayfair Price: £££ Overall: 5/5
Aguacate relleno de mariscos
Half avocado filled with seafood, spicy mayonnaise
Pollo de leche adobado con cebollas moradas encurtidas
Slow roasted baby chicken, pickled red onion, avocado
Fantásticos churros Mexicanos con festín de caramelo y chocolate
Fantastic Mexican churros with caramel and chocolate feast
When a restaurant is featured in the hit TV cookery competition MasterChef you know it has to be good. So I knew I was in for a special treat when I headed to Ella Canta on Park Lane which featured in this year’s semi-final of the show. The brainchild of renowned female Mexican chef Martha Ortiz, the restaurant first opened its doors in September 2017 and has built a strong reputation in the culinary world.
Upon entering the establishment, located adjacent to the InterContinental Hotel, the first thing you notice is the servers who are all dressed impeccably in waist-coasts and suspenders or bright dresses with colourful Mexican flower crowns. The decor is both modern and elegant and yet it doesn’t lose any of its Latin American charm including the cutlery with the plates being exclusively handmade and designed in Latin
America and crafted to resemble rolled out tortillas. The seating is also spacious and the atmosphere is suave and sophisticated, being somewhat enhanced by the upbeat bossa nova style music pumping through subtle speakers throughout the restaurant.
We took our seats to try the three-course weekend brunch which includes 90 minutes of unlimited margaritas (£45 per person).
The first margarita acted as the palate cleanser and was a refreshing Grapefruit & Pineapple Margarita. It was salty, sweet and sour, everything you want in a margarita.
The starters all looked exquisite and we decided to try the Aguacate relleno de mariscos (half avocado filled with seafood and spicy mayonnaise), Tostada de pulpo con salsa de cacahuate (octopus tostada with spicy peanut, sauce & avocado) and Pescadilla de Nayarit (fried fish taco with pickled carrots & chipotle sauce).
Each starter was seasoned to perfection and the flavours were fantastic. The half avocado was filled with fishy delights including octopus and mussels and with the spicy mayonnaise it resembled an elegant prawn cocktail (I dare to say!).
The fresh chilli gave it a nice spice kick and the radish shavings added a refreshing crunch alongside the smooth and creamy avocado. The octopus tostada with the peanut sauce was delicious and plentiful and had flavour notes similar to a chicken satay. There was also a great crunchy texture when eaten with the blue corn tortilla which the tostada was placed on top of.
Tacos are of course a popular and traditional Mexican dish as the fried fish taco were just simply a delight to eat - moreish, spicy, crunchy and packed with the flavours of Mexico.
Next up was the Lavender and Sea Salt Margarita which I have to say was my personal favourite due to the fragrant lavender smell and the beautiful deep purple colour. I was certainly glad there was unlimited refills!
For the main course, tried the Flautas de papa en salsa verde esmeralda (crispy potato tacos with lettuce, queso fresco and green sauce), Pollo de leche adobado con cebollas moradas encurtidas (slow roasted baby chicken with pickled red onion and avocado) and Torta ahogada estilo Guadalajara (Mexican bread filled with slow cooked pork in red sauce.) The potato filling in the taco was soft and smooth to contrast the crunch of the taco and paired wonderfully with the lettuce and tangy queso fresco, which is a type of white cheese that is popular in Mexico and similar to sour cream. The green sauce that accompanied it was salty and spicy to provide a little bit of heat to the dish.
The slow roasted baby chicken was cooked to perfection and the main flavours were lemon, herb and chili, similar to the Portuguese piri piri chicken. A revelation for me was eating the chicken with the fresh avocado which added a really nice creamy note to the dish. It’s a combination that I want to try more of!
The final dish can only be described as a pulled pork sandwich drowned in hot sauce, which is roughly what the name of the dish translates into. A torta ahogado, or drowned sandwich, is popular in Mexico and in particular Guadalajara, and the sandwich is usually ‘drowned’ in a hot chilli sauce. The sauce in this particular dish wasn’t overwhelmingly spicy for me but if you aren’t used to chilli you may find this dish a little on the hot side. For me, it was the right level of spice and soaked up nicely into the bread. It felt like a proper Mexican street food dish and I enjoyed mopping up the rest of the sauce with the leftover bread.
The final margarita we tried was the Hibiscus Margarita which was sweeter in tast than the others and had a nice fragrance of the hibiscus flower.
Finally, to draw the curtain on our fabulous brunch, dessert. We tried the Fantásticos churros Mexicanos con festín de caramelo y chocolate (fantastic Mexican churros with caramel and chocolate feast) and Pan dulce Mexicano (Mexican sweet bakery: Conchas, puerquitos de piloncillo & garibaldis).
Churros are of course a popular Mexican desserts and pan dulce is essentially a bread basket of assorted sweet breads that are typically eaten with hot chocolate at breakfast or supper. The conchas were particularly delicious - three warm and sweet bread rolls with crunchy toppings of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate.
Not only is Soho full of important landmarks, it’s also got some of the best gourmet foodie spots in London. I love wandering through Soho and stocking up on food supplies or dining at new restaurants that are popping up. There are also lovely luxury hotels in Soho, many of which have beautiful bars to enjoy a drink in the evening too.
Here are my favourite foodie spots in Soho, London which are well worth a visit when you are next in the area!
Lina stores is an iconic Italian delicatessen and pasta restaurant which was established in 1944. This gorgeous store is full of the best Italian produce including fresh homemade pasta, cured meats and of course, cheese!
I like to pick up some parmigiano-reggiano from here and always also end up buying a few cannolis too, as they are irresistible!
They also sell fresh sandwiches filled with their authentic ingredients in the store - perfect for a delicious Italian snack! The staff are super friendly and happy to help with any questions.
Algerian Coffee stores was established in 1887, and over 130 years later they are still selling decadent and delicious coffee in Soho. Offering over 80 coffee and 120 teas, they also sell the cheapest coffee in London, which is made from their home-blend coffee beans and served on site.
I usually buy a pack of their home-blend coffee beans and a cappuccino to go whenever I pop up to Algerian Coffee Stores!
Bread Ahead originally started by selling fresh produce in Borough Market. After opening a bakery school, they now have a lovely cafe in Soho just by Kingly Court. Thy are known for their gigantic cinnamon buns, beautiful doughnuts and gluten free bread too.
I always head to Bread Ahead for their sourdough bread, and a small loaf of brown sourdough bread will cost about £3.
Kova Patisserie café sells beautifully hand-made Japanese cakes and Japanese teas. This includes their signature mille crepes which is made up of several layers of crepes with more layers of cream in between these - divine!
My favourite is the coconut flavour mille crepe, though matcha and vanilla are also very popular. This is a great place to experience the latest cafe culture from East Asia in the heart of Soho!
Bao in Soho has become an institution, and you can often find a queue snaking around the outside. Selling some of the best bao buns in Soho, Bao has developed quite a following since it first opened.
My favourites are the Classic Bao, filled with shredded pork and a peanut topping the flavours are delicious! I also enjoy the vegetarian Daikon Bao, filled with taiwanese radish it is spicy and crunchy and irresistible! I also always order the Fried Horlicks Ice Cream Bao which is the hardest thing to eat but totally worth the effort! Top tip - Arrive early to beat the queues!
Address: 53 Lexington St, Soho, London W1F 9AS Website:baolondon.com
Papi’s Kitchen, Street Food Union Market
Located on Rupert Street, Street Food Union Market is a must visit. It can be easily missed as it isn’t massive, but hosts some of the best new foodie start-ups in London.
My favourite is Papi’s Kitchen and their amazing cuban sandwiches. Make sure to sample the El Cubano, filled with pineapple marinated pork shoulder, honey ham, swiss cheese, and home-made mojo verde. Enjoy with fries in the sunshine and soak up the Soho foodie culture!
Spring is always a lovely time of the year. The days get longer, flowers start to bloom and relaxing in the garden with a cold refreshing gin and tonic becomes a regular past-time! To get you in the mood for those relaxing days in the garden, here are my top 5 gins to try this Spring.
Whitby Gin - The Original Edition
Whitby Gin is a relatively new gin on the market having started life in 2017 by a pair of gin enthusiasts inspired by the various gin distilleries in the Outer Hebrides. Since then the gin has won several awards including Best London Dry Gin at the World Gin Awards in 2019.
Of course, the proof is in the tasting and this gin has lovely herbal and sweet notes from the ingredients sourced from all over Yorkshire including sugar kelp, heather, and honey. If you like a gin that doesn’t overpower the palate and can be enjoyed just on the rocks then this is certainly the gin for you.
Hendrick’s is of course a well known name when it comes to gin and their latest addition is another in a fine line of impressive and innovative gin creations. Hendrick's Midsummer Solstice Gin is a small batch, limited-edition gin by Hendrick’s Master Distiller, Ms. Lesley Gracie whose inspiration when creating the gin came from the ‘mysterious and ephemeral delights’ of floral blooms during the summer solstice.
The final result is a lovely gin that has floral and zesty notes but has the recognisably mellow taste of Hendrick’s House style. Try this gin over ice with a good tonic water and a couple of slices of lemon to really bring out the flavours of the gin.
Bränneri Dry Gin is a new favourite of mine. Hand crafted on the Swedish island of Södermalm by Calle and Anna Wikner, this gin is their take on a traditional dry gin drawing inspiration from their Nordic background and surroundings. The gin is distilled from 7 organic botanicals - juniper berries, coriander seeds, angelica root, lemon peel, heather, elderflower and rosemary.
All these ingredients make for a gin rich in earthy flavour, especially from the local angelica root, heather and elderflower. This is the perfect gin for classic gin cocktails and I’d recommend it with a dry or sweet vermouth and a twist of lemon to create a wonderful Gin Martini.
The popularity of gin has spread so far that even Australia has begun to feel the effects. Manly Spirits is a distillery based in Sydney’s Northern Beaches and tries to captures the spirit of the New South Wales coastline by using sustainably sourced, native Australian botanicals. Their Coastal Citrus Gin is incredibly refreshing and if you take a sip and close your eyes, you may even hear the waves of Tasman Sea gently caressing the Australian coastline (not a guarantee!).
The gin is made with numerous citrussy ingredients including Lemon Aspen, Lemon Myrtle, and Meyer Lemon. The aroma is wonderfully lemon and citrus and the overwhelming taste on the palate is of course citrus lemon, but there is also juniper and coriander in the background. This gin doesn’t need any frills, just pop in a couple of cubes of ice and top up with a good Indian tonic water and you’re good to go.
BLOOM London Dry Gin has been producing high quality gin since 1761 and currently has Joanne Moore at the helm, one of the world’s first female Master Distillers. One of Joanne’s creations is the limited edition Jasmine & Rose pink gin. The colour of the gin is just lovely and perfectly reflects the season of Spring.
As soon as you open the bottle the wonderful floral fragrance and scent of jasmine flowers and rose petals rises up and entices you further. There are lovely notes of jasmine and rose on the palate yet it is not too overpowering which I sometimes find with drinks flavoured with rose. This gin is best enjoyed over ice with a good tonic water and a sprig of mint leaves to give a nice contrast to the floral flavour.
Bone Daddies Victoria - Restaurant ReviewCuisine: Japanese Style Points: 3/5 Location: Victoria Price: ££ Overall: 4/5
Fried chicken with kimchee, pickled carrot, lettuce and kimchee mayo
Duck bone broth ramen with confit and crispy duck, a Clarence Court duck egg, sliced spring onion, and bamboo and roasted leek oil
JAPANESE MOCHI ICE CREAM
Mongo, coconut and green tea
I love Japanese cuisine and have had my fair share of sushi, ramen and bao buns over the last few weeks! It’s a cuisine I could never get bored off. So when I heard that Bone Daddies was serving up a world’s first, a duck egg ramen made with a broth of duck bones, I made sure I had a reservation in the dinner diary.
Bone Daddies is the brainchild of chef Ross Shonhan, who has a strong passion for Japanese food and wanted to share his own unique take on the cuisine. I was certainly looking forward to tasting the end product and when we arrived at Bone Daddies in the trendy Nova area in Victoria there was already a queue outside and when we left there was still a queue - a surefire sign that the food has to be good.
It’s a very casual place with a steady flow of customers and canteen style seating and I really liked the feel and vibe of the restaurant. I also love the fact that there are hair bands and aprons on every table for those of us who want to avoid any messy mishaps when it comes to slurping noodles!
Before we tasted the duck egg ramen, or Ducckotsu, the Bone Daddies special of the month, my guest and I decided to try some of starter dishes. Guided by our lovely server, we opted for the fried chicken with yuzu kosho mayo (£6.40) and a selection of bao buns - fried chicken with kimchee, pickled carrot, lettuce and kimchee mayo (£4.75), chashu pork with red chilli, pickled carrot, lettuce and sweet chilli soy (£4.75),and miso aubergine with miso, pickled carrot, lettuce, sesame and mayo (£4.00).
The fried chicken was delicious and I could see why it was a crowd favourite. Piping hot with a crispy seasoning, there was plenty of it and it was even better when dipped in the moreish yuzu kosho mayo. I adore bao buns and could happily eat a dozen at a time and these bao were especially tasty.
The fried chicken had a lovely spicy kick from the kimchee and a great crunchy texture from the carrot and lettuce, the pork chashu was beautifully tender and moist and worked perfectly with the sliced red chilli and sweet chilli soy.
However, my favourite has got to be the miso aubergine which had a nice chunky piece of perfectly cooked aubergine and an incredible flavour of miso that was just harmonious with pickled carrot and crunchy lettuce. It was just simply delicious and I’m so glad our server highly recommended it.
To accompany our dinner, I had to go for a Japanese whisky (solely to help my sore throat I assure you...) and I was recommended the Yamazaki which was incredibly smooth and had a nice rich smoky flavour. My guest tried the frozen yuzu margarita with tequila, triple sec, yuzu, lime and agave syrup. Of course, I couldn’t try any due to my sore throat but my guest described it as an ‘alcoholic slushie with a really nice kick of tequila.’ You can take that to mean that he liked it!
Finally, the main event. I of course mean the Duckkotsu, a Duck bone broth with confit & crispy duck, a Clarence Court duck egg, sliced spring onion, and bamboo & roasted leek oil (£13.00.)My guest went for the Crispy Duck Aburamen (no broth) with pickled padron peppers, roast corn and duck fat (£13.00).
The Duckkotsu was wonderfully creamy from the duck bones that were boiled for at least four hours to create a really rich broth that had an almost peanut like flavour to it. It was a real joy finding little bits of crispy duck meat between my chopsticks as these were full of flavour and gave some added texture to the dish. Clarence Court are of course synonymous with high quality eggs and the perfectly cooked duck egg that accompanied the dish was incredibly creamy and really gave the broth another dimension of flavour. It was a really tasty ramen and also deceptively filling as I struggled to finish the whole dish.
The Crispy Duck Aburamen was another standout dish and again I’m glad our server highly recommended it! The flavours of the crispy duck fat with the charred corn were fantastic and the silky smooth noodles had a nice sweet miso type sauce that really enhanced the flavour of the dish. I’ve never had Aburamen before but I will certainly keep an eye out for it in the future as I was really surprised by the depth of flavour in the dish even without a broth.
To finish off our lovely meal we decided on some green and jasmine tea (£2.50 each with unlimited refills) as well as some traditional Japanese Mochi ice cream, which is essentially ice cream encased in a sweet rice dough. There are a variety of flavours to choose from including traditional Japanese flavours like green tea and yuzu, to more contemporary flavours like salted caramel and hazelnut.
We tried Coconut, Mango, Hazelnut and Green Tea (£1.60 per piece.) Each piece was roughly a golf ball size and had nice enough flavours. I must admit, I’m not the biggest fan of mochi but nonetheless I enjoyed the flavours and would recommend the green tea and hazelnut flavours.
I think the prices are very reasonable with starters ranging from £4-9 and mains from around £9-£13. A ramen alone with very filling and you could quite easily eat and be full for under £15.
Although I had heard great things beforehand, this was my first time dining at Bone Daddies and I have to say the food and the vibe of the restaurant were both fantastic.
The queues are definitely justified and I can’t wait to go again to try some more dishes from the menu as well as some of the ones I have already earmarked as favourites already.
Burlock Rum Bar - Cocktails and Food Review Cuisine: Caribbean and Mediterranean Small Plates Style Points: 4/5 Location: Marylebone Price: ££ Overall: 4/5
Ever since I’ve returned from St Lucia in the Caribbean I’ve developed an insatiable thirst for rum. The smooth banana and caramel tones of a good quality rum instantly take me back to that wonderful week sipping Rum Punch on the beach whilst letting the world float by.
Drinking at Burlock Rum Bar turned out to be my escape to the Caribbean in the heart of upmarket Marylebone. This tastefully decorated little rum bar offers a whole host of rum cocktails that take inspiration from all the little and large islands that make up the Caribbean, from Panama to the Seychelles.
The bar has a vast selection of 200 rums from all over the globe and I couldn’t waited to get tasting! To kickstart our Caribbean adventure, we decided to try the Burlock’s own self-confessed favourite cocktail, the Daiquiri. Made with just three ingredients - Caribbean rum (of course,) freshly squeezed lime, and cane sugar. Nothing more, nothing less.
The bartender said it was the perfect cocktail to cleanse the palate and he was right, the cocktail was refreshing and light with the sweet taste of Bacardi Carta Blanca. My guest tried the Panamanian, a rich and complex cocktail featuring the extra aged Compañero Ron Panama Extra Añejo rum and mixed with dark chocolate, orange, mint, bitters, and topped off with champagne. It was quite a contract to the daiquiri but was nonetheless a joy to sip.
We decided to order some small bites from the food menu as we were quite famished. There isn’t an extensive menu but rather a selection of small bites to go with the cocktails.
We tried the Trio of Fries - Thyme salt, melted cheese, sticky barbecue sauce, Nachos topped with jalapenos, red kidney beans in tomato, melted cheese, sour cream and guacamole, Queso Con Chilli - Deep fried cheese with sweet chili dip, Pescado Frito - Fish goujons with lime and herb mayonnaise, and Choripan - Grilled chistorra sausage sandwich with pebre sauce.
Bear in mind, this is not meant to be a fine-dining restaurant and the food is always going to be secondary to the cocktails. However, the food is nice enough and could be considered a rum bar equivalent of ‘pub grub.’
I especially enjoyed the Pescado Frito with the wonderful tangy lime and herb mayonnaise and the Nachos were smothered in guacamole that was freshly made and quite delicious.
My next choice of cocktail was the Painkiller which, according to the menu, is the world’s best beach drink created at the world’s best beach bar, the Soggy Dollar. The cocktail is made with Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof and blended with pineapple, coconut, orange and nutmeg. The cocktail was creamy and sweet like a Piña Colada yet had subtle undertones of molasses and cinnamon. I’d definitely recommend this cocktail to anyone who likes a creamy sweet cocktail.
My guest had a Orange Street Smash, inspired by downtown Kingston, Jamaica. Plantation Xaymaca is mixed with aromatic thyme, orange, allspice, honey and lime. The cocktail is served in a delightful Tiki cup with burnt allspice floating on the top to give you a real spicy aroma before taking a sip. Another refreshing cocktail that would please those that like an Old Fashioned with plenty of citrus tones.
As it was a work week we decided to take the mature and grown up approach and call it a night before we got carried away. However, we will definitely be returning to sample more delicious rum-based cocktails to take me back to those sunshine filled days in the Caribbean.
The cocktails are very reasonably priced for the surrounding area at around £10-12 and there is a really good Happy Hour from 5pm-9pm Mon-Fri that includes 2 Cocktails for £10 and a rum punch bowl for £18 that serves 5 or just 1 thirsty individual.
The food is also reasonable at around £7.5 to £8.5 per dish and the portions are good, especially the Trio of Fries and Nachos!
If you like rum in your drink and a nice relaxed atmosphere with good vibes and ambient lighting then Burlock Rum Bar is your place. Let the bartenders guide you through the assortment of flavours, combinations and pairings while you sit back and enjoy the life of riley, in true Caribbean style.
Spanish Tapas at El Pirata, Mayfair - Restaurant ReviewEl Pirata - Restaurant Review Cuisine: Spanish Tapas Style Points: 3.5/5 Location: Mayfair Price: ££ Overall: 4/5
PULPO A LA GALLEGA
Octopus & potatoes brushed with olive oil & paprika
PINCHOS MORUNOS CON CHORIZO
Marinated chicken skewers with chorizo
I love Spanish tapas but I’m still scarred from my experience in a small restaurant in Valencia a couple of years ago where the tapas didn’t live up to my expectations. So when I was invited to try a variety of tapas at El Pirata of Mayfair, I didn’t get my hopes up in case I was to be let down again.
I must admit I hadn’t heard of El Pirata before but I soon learnt that it has been a Mayfair institution since 1994. 25 years in such a competitive area of London is no small feat and it can’t be luck that they are still open today.
I was also surprised to know that is has been named by Fred Sirieix, the Maitre’d from Channel 4’s First Dates as one of his favourite romantic restaurants in London. My expectations immediately shot up after hearing this!
As soon as you walk in the low ceiling and white painted walls covered with Spanish art and small tables and chairs make you feel as if you are dining in a small eatery down a small side street somewhere in Spain. For 6pm, the restaurant was busy, filled with tourists from the surrounding hotels along with local businessmen and regulars who have been coming since the early years.
We started our evening with some small bites or entrantes recommended by our server who had been with the restaurant for five years, the ‘newest’ member of staff.
We had the garlic toasted bread topped with fresh tomato, olive and garlic, padron peppers from galicia, and a selection of ibérico ham. I absolutely love padron peppers so there were a hit with me especially when seasoned with good quality sea salt to really bring out the flavour of the peppers.
I must admit, I’m not the biggest fan of charcuterie and eating cured meat on its own BUT I’ve come to realise that the quality of the meat makes all the difference. This acron-fed ibérico ham was melt-in-the-mouth delicious and I could see why it was described as ‘Spain’s national treasure’ on the menu. If I had to be picky, I would say that some croutons wouldn’t have gone amiss, but still, a great start to the meal.
We moved onto some small plates and chose the fritos de rape - deep-fried medallions of monkfish with tartar dip, pulpo a la gallega - octopus and potatoes brushed with olive oil and paprika , pinchos morunos con chorizo - marinated chicken skewers with chorizo.
I highly recommend the monkfish, crunchy little morsels of fish deep fried in batter and dipped in a lovely tangy tartar sauce. I hate to use Mcdonald’s as an analogy but it can only be described as a high-end version of a fish-o-fillet, which I hate to admit is a guilty pleasure of mine..!
The octopus is also very nice with the potatoes and works perfectly with smoky paprika. I asked one of the waiters what his favourite dish was and without a moment's hesitation he said the chicken skewers and I could definitely see why. The chicken was cooked to perfection and a match made in heaven with the flavoursome chorizo and chargrilled peppers.
Next up we had the arroz con pollo - spanish rice with chicken, chorizo al vino - spanish sausage in a red wine sauce, patatas bravas - deep-fried potatoes in chilli and garlic sauce, champiñones al ajillo - mushrooms in garlic.
All the dishes were tasty but the spanish rice was packed with a cacophony of flavour and a standout dish along with the patatas bravas coated in a divine spicy peri peri-esque sauce.
To finish our splendid meal, we chose the sacher de chocolate c/helado - homemade chocolate cake, with vanilla ice cream and tarta santiago traditional galician cake made with almonds, served with vanilla ice cream.
Both desserts looked beautiful and the portions were large and plentiful. The homemade chocolate cake was rich and chocolately but not overly sweet and the sponge itself was airy and moist. The traditional galician cake was essentially an almond tart and was full of the taste of marzipan and not too dense.
Little Bites cost around £5 and the tapas dishes are priced reasonably between £7-9 on average. They also an ‘Introduction to Tapas’ platter which offers an array of sharing plates priced at £25 per person (minimum of 2 people sharing.)
Overall, El Pirata was the perfect remedy to heal my wounds from my experience in Valencia. If you are looking for an authentic taste of Spanish tapas you won’t be disappointed with the vast array of dishes they have to offer and the great selection of wine and Spanish brandy.
It’s easy to see how the restaurant has managed to stay afloat for 25 years and I look forward to reviewing it throughout the next 25 years.
Kasbah du Toubkal, Atlas Mountains - Hotel Review
Location: Atlas Mountains, Marrakesh Price: ££ Style Points: 4/5 Overall: 4/5
On many of my trips to Marrakesh I’ve sat on a roof terrace enjoying mint team, gazing at the Atlas mountains and hoping I’d have a chance to visit them soon. When I discovered Kasbah du Toubkal, a sustainable lodge, located at the foot of Jebel Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak, I knew this was my opportunity!
Flights & Hotel Transfer
We flew into Marrakesh Menara Airport on a 3 hour 30 minute direct flight from London; its incredible can we can fly to another continent in such a short time!
Kasbah du Toubkal organised our airport transfer, which consisted of approximately 1 hour car ride up winding mountain roads, to the local Berber village of Imlil. This is the furthest we could go by car and so we were met by a donkey and he’s owner who took our luggage and led us up some further winding treks. As Kasbah du toubkal isn’t accessible my car, a donkey or hiking is the only way to reach it - we loved this as it felt like the start of a real adventure!
The whole journey can take over 2 hours, so factor this into the flight you book, as you’ll be hiking in pitch darkness if you land quite late in Marrakesh. Although this isn’t a problem for all and it’ll give you the chance to gaze upon the beautiful night sky full of stars.
Hotel & Rooms
Kasbah du Toubkal doesn’t refer to itself as a hotel, instead it is a Berber centre of hospitality and as an eco-lodge. Instead of providing a standard, hotel-stay experience, Kasbah du Toubkal offers so much more by focusing on the merits of Berber hospitality. What’s more Kasbah du Toubkal has a ‘sustainability-first’ approach, meaning you can rest assured that all their outputs bring benefit to the environment and wider community too.
After a friendly and traditional welcome at reception, with rose water to clean our hands and face and mint tea and dates to graze on, we checked into our room.
We stayed in a Standard Room and it was more than perfect for our stay. The room was equipped with an ensuite shower and bath, carved walnut furniture and tea and coffee making facilities, as well as extra heating for the cold winter nights. Note that there is no wifi in the rooms and guest have to go to the main building to connect to wifi. This wasn’t a problem for us as we very quickly got used to it, and actually enjoyed, not having access to wifi all throughout our stay and in the rooms!
In front of our room we had a lovely large balcony with a gorgeous seating area, chess board and deck chairs too! The room faced the impressive Atlas Mountain peaks, which meant that we could spend the mornings relaxing outside on our deck chairs watching the sun rise up behind the peaks - so idyllic!
The building itself used to be the summer home of a Caid, a Moroccan local chief, before it was bought and completely refurbished by current owners. Today the building is a beautiful space, with a stone tower, terraces and a gorgeous green courtyard in the middle.
Food & Drink
Kasbah du Toubkal offer full board accommodation, which is what we opted for. Breakfast, and dinner is served in the main dining room located in the main building. Each occasion has a different feel to it so it doesn’t seem that you are dining in the same place each time.
Breakfast is mainly a buffet, with hot dishes served to the table. These include eggs, bread and moroccan breakfast specialities, such as msemen (flat, square-shaped Moroccan pancakes) and home-made khobz (a traditional Moroccan bread which is shaped like a round, flat loaf).
Lunch is a relaxing affair and served on the restaurant rooftop balcony, with stunning views across the hotel, mountains, waterfall and 360 degree views of the breathtaking landscape.
For lunch we tried a variety of dishes over the 3 days we were there for, including chicken tagine, beef kebabs, lamb couscous and more. Lunch is a three course affair and the starter is usually a delicious salad and there is normally fruit for dessert.
Tea, coffee and soft drinks are included in the board and can be ordered at anytime during the stay. We made the most of this and normally enjoyed a mint tea on the rooftop, in the sunshine after our appetising lunch.
Dinner at Kasbah du Toubkal is the most lavish meal. The main dining room is adorned by candle light and a roaring fire in the corner, giving it a cosy, romantic feel.
Cupcakes are one of my absolute favourite things to bake! They are so easy to make and baking them reminds me of my childhood when we’d bake cupcakes on a lazy Sunday and enjoy them for tea.
I still regularly whisk up a batch of cupcakes when I need a sweet treat, and have started to experiment with the flavours too, moving away from the standard vanilla we made as kids!
I recently decided to add my current favourite healthy ingredient to them, matcha, and absolutely loved the matcha cupcakes! The taste of the matcha was prominent but not overpowering and really complimented the spongy sweet texture of the cake.
I loved that this combination worked, as matcha is packed full of antioxidants which naturally detox the body and relaxes the mind. It is also rich in fiber and vitamins, meaning just a little bit of matcha in your diet can really make a difference!
Here’s my recipe for easy to cook matcha cupcakes, which will fulfill your sweet treat craving and do you some good at the same time!
I used Pure Leaf Matcha Tea for this recipe as they use the finest tencha green leaves, giving it a smooth and earthy taste.
Unsalted butter 175g
Caster sugar 175g
Self raising flour 175g
Baking powder 1 tsp
Pure leaf matcha tea powder 3 sachets
Milk 2 tbsp
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Beat the butter until it has a soft and light texture, then add sugar and keep beating until it becomes a light and fluffy mixture.
Beat in one egg and a tablespoon full of flour, followed by another egg and flour, and the last egg and the rest of the flour. Adding the flour with each egg with stop the mixture curdling.
Add in the baking powder and the matcha powder and lightly fold together, making sure not to beat all the air out of the mixture as this will stop the cupcakes from rising.
Add the milk to ensure the mixture isn’t too thick and dense.
Line the cupcake tin with muffin cases or if you don’t have these butter the sides to ensure the mixture doesn’t stick.
Divide the mixture between the cases so that they are approximately ⅔ full.
Place in the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 16-20 mins, or until the cakes have risen and are firm to the touch.
Enjoy your matcha cupcakes with icing piped on top, or plain with a nice cup of tea! The perfect afternoon pick-me-up!
Let me know if your matcha cupcakes turn out and if you use matcha in any other recipes!