foodie for thought

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. ~Voltaire

Dabbous - Whitfield Street

I was massively excited to visit the fine dining delight that is Dabbous a couple of weeks back. It made a thundery, rainy day in London that bit bearable. 

There’s been quite a bit of hype and talk about Mr Ollie Dabbous, particularly with his recent opening of Barnyard on Charlotte Street, which is next to tick off my list. To be honest the vibes of these two restaurants couldn’t be more contrasting, which I actually quite like. So I knew this was a dining opportunity not to miss. 

'Industrial warehouse chic' has been used to describe the decor of this establishment, but I'm quite a fan. Maybe because it suited the moody outside weather, and coming into dark mahogany and gridiron installations, exposed copper pipes and giant air vents craning their way around the ceiling was just what I fancied that day. Let’s just say it’s got quite a manly feel to it. 

First off, you’d be hard pushed to find a tasting menu for under £50 anywhere else in London - but you’ve got that right here in Dabbous. Somehow. You can see why there’s no need for more than one table cover at a time here, thanks to this fantastical tasting menu. Due to time constraints - although I would have loved to hide out here for the remainder of the afternoon - we opted for the four course lunch menu, not a bad substitute. 

To start, freshly baked hazelnut bread with salted butter in a datestamped brown paper bag was served to our table alongside some very juicy queen olives. It would be incredibly easy to scoff your way through slices and slices of this, but some willpower had to be enforced.

For each course following, you have a choice of two - how generous. You’re pretty stumped if you don’t like the sound of either, but I think you’d be hard pushed not to. So here were my choices.

So next up was smoked salmon infused with elderflower on a bed of puree. This was incredibly light and delicate, and you could taste the freshness of that fish.

The vegetarian course of the day was charred broccoli in lashings of rapeseed oil dressing. If it wasn’t such a fancy place I would have been licking the plate clean. Get me some rapeseed oil now so I can recreate this!

The main event was cod brandade with puffed bread on top, complete with pickled onion and olive soil. It reminded me of one of my favourite Portuguese dishes, bacalhau. The balance in this dish was just about right, and somehow it was made really dainty, but felt strangely filling at same time.  

Possibly my favourite course was the dessert, which is very unlike me. Potentially because it was more of a savoury offering of roasted peach with burrata. And I LOVE burrata. Super creamy and a beautiful compliment to the sweet, juicy peach doused in honey.

Dabbous is definitely a worthwhile trip and provides an experience you won’t forget. On top of the outstanding quality of food, the wine is top notch. I love the little touches like pouring the red wine into a decanter to let it aerate - not something you see in any old restaurant now.

Next up is Barnyard. But I’m definitely heading back to get me some of that tasting menu as a dinner to really soak up the atmosphere that Mr Oliver Dabbous has so effortlessly made cool.

#yabbadabbadabbousfoodieforthought

Linguine with chilli and garlic butterflied prawns, peas and grated courgette tossed in creme fraiche as opposed to double cream to make the dish lighter. And if you like your black pepper like I do then add heaps of it.
Super simple and massively tasty. I may have gotten carried away with my portion sizes…woops. 

Linguine with chilli and garlic butterflied prawns, peas and grated courgette tossed in creme fraiche as opposed to double cream to make the dish lighter. And if you like your black pepper like I do then add heaps of it.

Super simple and massively tasty. I may have gotten carried away with my portion sizes…woops. 

Seafood Laska (spicy noodle soup)
Next time I’m at Wagamama I’m having their version of this. 

Seafood Laska (spicy noodle soup)

Next time I’m at Wagamama I’m having their version of this. 

Malay Vegetable Curry. Tofu and Aubergine yes please.

Malay Vegetable Curry. Tofu and Aubergine yes please.

Spinach, chicken, asparagus and pea risotto with Parmesan and white wine.
Ingredients:
140g of risotto rice 1 pack of diced chicken  1 pack of asparagus  Peas 1 large white onion  Half a bag of spinach
Method:
Finely dice the onion, and dice the chicken into bite size chunks
Add oil to a pan, and fry the onions till translucent, then add the chicken, followed by some asparagus and peas. Make sure that the chicken stays moist and doesn’t dry out whilst cooking
Add your risotto rice (top tip: toast ths for two minutes before adding your stock)
Add water to the pan, together with a vegetable stock cube. Add a dash of white wine for some acidity
Leave to simmer until the rice has absorbed the liquid, and keep stirring to ensure the rice is tender and has a creamy consistency
Throw half a bag of spinach in to wilt
Stir through some grated parmesan to finish it off
And there you have it. Risotto is not a scary thing to cook - which I always thought it was. So have a go, and the beauty of it is that you can add have a variety of ingredients with risotto. I love mushroom risotto, butternut squash, and a prawn and pea risotto. Even better when they’re packed with a lot of cheese. And if you put a lot of green veg in it, then you can fool yourself that it’s healthy. Five a day? 
parmesanaddictfoodieforthought

Spinach, chicken, asparagus and pea risotto with Parmesan and white wine.

Ingredients:

140g of risotto rice
1 pack of diced chicken
1 pack of asparagus
Peas
1 large white onion
Half a bag of spinach

Method:

Finely dice the onion, and dice the chicken into bite size chunks

Add oil to a pan, and fry the onions till translucent, then add the chicken, followed by some asparagus and peas. Make sure that the chicken stays moist and doesn’t dry out whilst cooking

Add your risotto rice (top tip: toast ths for two minutes before adding your stock)

Add water to the pan, together with a vegetable stock cube. Add a dash of white wine for some acidity

Leave to simmer until the rice has absorbed the liquid, and keep stirring to ensure the rice is tender and has a creamy consistency

Throw half a bag of spinach in to wilt

Stir through some grated parmesan to finish it off

And there you have it. Risotto is not a scary thing to cook - which I always thought it was. So have a go, and the beauty of it is that you can add have a variety of ingredients with risotto. I love mushroom risotto, butternut squash, and a prawn and pea risotto. Even better when they’re packed with a lot of cheese. And if you put a lot of green veg in it, then you can fool yourself that it’s healthy. Five a day? 

parmesanaddictfoodieforthought

Easy peasy scrambled eggs.
Anyone should be able to make scrambled eggs, they’re amazingly easy and super yummy.
Ingredients:
2 medium eggs
Spring onion
Half of a tomato
1 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper
Method:
Crack two eggs into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk with a fork. A lot of people add cream or milk to theirs but personally I prefer without.
Add butter to a frying pan and heat till its melted. Turn down the heat and add the whisked eggs.
Leave the eggs to cook for half a minute, then start scrambling them with a wooden spoon. Slow and low people, slow and low. Low heat is key to a good scrambled egg. Cook to preference (some like well done, others like runny)
Add in the spring onion and tomato for the last twenty seconds and voila!
All in all this whole process takes five minutes maximum.
Perfect for pre-gym as well.
Enjoy.

Easy peasy scrambled eggs.

Anyone should be able to make scrambled eggs, they’re amazingly easy and super yummy.

Ingredients:

2 medium eggs

Spring onion

Half of a tomato

1 tbsp butter

Salt and pepper

Method:

Crack two eggs into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk with a fork. A lot of people add cream or milk to theirs but personally I prefer without.

Add butter to a frying pan and heat till its melted. Turn down the heat and add the whisked eggs.

Leave the eggs to cook for half a minute, then start scrambling them with a wooden spoon. Slow and low people, slow and low. Low heat is key to a good scrambled egg. Cook to preference (some like well done, others like runny)

Add in the spring onion and tomato for the last twenty seconds and voila!

All in all this whole process takes five minutes maximum.

Perfect for pre-gym as well.

Enjoy.

If you find yourself in Covent Garden, looking for a lunch spot in the sun, then look no further. The Royal Opera House is a must try. Their amphitheatre open terrace restaurant looks over the Covent Garden Piazza, and you can soak up the immense atmosphere that this beautiful, iconic national institution provides. Lunch is open to the general public which is a bonus, so you can enjoy a seasonal lunch here without having to empty your pockets for a performance ticket.

I was pleasantly surprised by how reasonably priced the food here was. You can enjoy two courses for £19.50, and there’s definitely no compromise on taste or elegance.

To start I went for the English asparagus, oregano and Parmesan drizzled with olive oil. This was a perfectly light and fresh starter, the asparagus was charred and al dente, and the simple accompaniments were all it needed. It’s an impressive skill to make leaves look that good. 

For the main, Roast sea trout fillet with a honey dressed spring vegetable salad, and chive butter sauce drizzled everywhere. That piece of fish was cooked perfectly, and if you haven’t tried trout before, it’s really similar to salmon in look and taste. The vegetables were pickled and then dressed in honey, which was divine. And that sauce was too tasty to be any good for you. 

I was so impressed with the entire experience, from walking up to the amphitheatre amongst an arranged tea dance in the foyer to my very last mouthful of food. And to drink, we had the house rose and it was really light and crisp, you can’t really go wrong with that!

The Royal Opera House is simply magical in every way.

#iwanttotakepartinateadancefoodieforthought

Nice Round 2.

So I always naively delude myself that when I go on holiday it will be all about the caprese salads and mainly liquid diet. Unfortunately, that is just unable to happen in Nice when you’re surrounded by heavenly food, and bread, and croissants, did I mention bread? You find yourself lying on your back on the beach for the first half of the holiday, then slowly but surely making the move to lying on your front after all those meals. 

What’s great about Nice is how fresh all the food tastes, and somehow that makes me feel better about eating tons of it. Oh well, my holidays do revolve around meal times. I mean, everything else in the day is just a filler right?

So aside from having a freshly baked croissant each morning, we sampled delectable delights during our five night stay in the French Riviera. 

The Old Town boats an impressive food market which we were lucky to catch on the Sunday. You name it, they’ve got it, specialising in spices, olives, buffalo tomatoes, saucisson and the rest. I was like a kid in a candy shop, popping numerous tasters into my mouth. I left happily with a bag of dried chillis and some saucisson for my lunch. 

On the Monday we ventured to Cap D’Ail and spent the afternoon on this secluded beach, La Reserve. The views are simply breathtaking here, immersed in an oasis of calm as you look out among the bay and thank your lucky stars you found this gem. The food here was pretty damn tasty too, we opted for the Chicken Caesar salad to share, and I’m glad we did, as this was a huge portion that left us feeling stuffed after only eating half. For me, the sauce was a little too strong, packed with plenty of anchovies, which wouldn’t usually be to my liking. 

We all know that pasta is a hangover miracle cure. And it’s even better when consumed overlooking the Port of Nice and when it’s my all time favourite, Spaghetti Vongole (Spaghetti with clams). This one was heavy with the pasta and a little light on the clams, which I would have personally cared for more of. 

Nice is where I also had my first oyster experience, a momentous occasion in a foodie’s life. My verdict? DELICIOUS. Splash on the shallot red wine vinegar, tabasco and squeeze on some lemon and you’re good to go. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into this, but I think that’s part of the enjoyment and overall experience. You’re hit with this beautiful fresh taste of the sea, followed by that heat from the tabasco. I’d definitely recommend these as a must try.

You could never say that they’re ungenerous with their portions in Nice. In the same place where we had our oysters, we also ordered lobster pasta and a starter portion of mussels to share. We were absolutely flabbergasted when the two dishes came out. The mussels could have easily fed four people, and took ten minutes to even make a dent in, and there was practically a whole lobster in our pasta. A bit of a messy affair preparing the lobster, and a great day for me to wear a white shirt…Miraculously I left with no splashes. Sadly though, the mussels here, although plentiful were pretty small and not big, meaty, juicy mussels that I would expect. The lobster was beautifully delicate, but the pasta could have done with more of a kick, but not so as to overpower the lobster. So we left here feeling, ‘great portion sizes, but perhaps at the expense of flavour’? And no. We were not able to finish all the food. Shock horror.

On our last day we ventured to Cannes, our favourite seaside town. And after all those big portions of food, we just fancied a tasty salad for our lunch - I certainly was craving vegetables minus the carbs. So on a recommendation we strolled up to Pastis, a classic French bistro cafe, really quaint and with plenty of character. The staff here are a treat, and considering we were in Cannes, the prices are extremely reasonable. They usually have a lunchtime dish of the day offer, where you can have the dish of the day plus a glass of wine for 14 euros. I went for the Salade de Legumes with a massive helping of burrata, just what I was craving. That creamy burrata just melted in my mouth, and I had a well needed plate of delicious fresh vegetables. Look at that portion though. I definitely didn’t go hungry. 

On our last night we simply had to have dinner at our favourite rooftop bar in Old Town Nice, Le Husard. To start, the pumpkin cheesecake with chorizo crisps caught our eye and sounded so intriguing we just had to share it. The chorizo definitely could have been crisper, but aside from that it was packed with flavour, and the portion size was just enough. And gladly it was, as our pasta dishes that followed were absolutely gastronomic in size. It took me a solid half an hour to finish (of course I did, it’s me), my salmon penne pasta in a creamy dill sauce. For me, there wasn’t enough salmon in this, which is what really sold it to me, so for a while I was eating creamy dill pasta, but once you’ve had a couple of drinks this is quite welcome. Definite carb overload here. 

Safe to say I stuck to caprese salads every day for the first week back from holiday to try and combat the mountain of food I devoured.

Until next time Nice. See you in 2015 to discover more delicious food. I’ll get a super tanned back. 

#babyormuffinfoodieforthought

Tuna steak with garlicky greens and broccoli cheese at Jak’s, Kings Road. 

Just look at the size of that steak! Jaks is becoming one of my favourite places not only for drinks but dinner too. You have to get your head round the strange posh buffet where you pick your main and then sides to complement but the quality of food is outstanding, plus there’s loads of choice you’ll probably have a mare making your mind up. All this food was £15, which in my eyes is quite the bargain wouldn’t you agree. But beware, no one on our table of twenty was able to finish their food, and that includes the boys. Portion sizes here are eye watering. Did the foodie finish though? Of course. 

Come here to soak up the Aladdin’s cave basement turned prohibition atmosphere with plenty of dark corners to hide away in. Head on over to the adjoining bar after dinner instead of going to Embargos upstairs for that understated cool, where the music plays on till 1am. I’ll take that any day. 

I’ll be seeing you soon Jaks, and I’ll be wearing loose clothing.

Tuna steak with garlicky greens and broccoli cheese at Jak’s, Kings Road.

Just look at the size of that steak! Jaks is becoming one of my favourite places not only for drinks but dinner too. You have to get your head round the strange posh buffet where you pick your main and then sides to complement but the quality of food is outstanding, plus there’s loads of choice you’ll probably have a mare making your mind up. All this food was £15, which in my eyes is quite the bargain wouldn’t you agree. But beware, no one on our table of twenty was able to finish their food, and that includes the boys. Portion sizes here are eye watering. Did the foodie finish though? Of course.

Come here to soak up the Aladdin’s cave basement turned prohibition atmosphere with plenty of dark corners to hide away in. Head on over to the adjoining bar after dinner instead of going to Embargos upstairs for that understated cool, where the music plays on till 1am. I’ll take that any day.

I’ll be seeing you soon Jaks, and I’ll be wearing loose clothing.

Roka - Charlotte Street

I officially had my first Roka experience a couple of weeks ago to celebrate a friend’s birthday - not so bad huh? And what a meal it was, it certainly didn’t disappoint. Even though the pictures speak for themselves here’s what we feasted on.

When there’s a big group of you I can’t give any better advice than ordering the tasting menu, as you get to try the best of the menu and you won’t get any food envy. We asked the waiter to bring out his recommendations and I couldn’t be happier with his choices. We got to sample dishes that by just glancing at the menu ourselves we may not have even thought to order.

Spinach salad with sesame oil dressing. Super simple but it just goes to show what a difference a dressing of sesame oil makes. So much so that I’m purchasing some this week.

Sashimi selection with crab salad. This was the freshest sashimi I’ve tasted and that crab salad is just to die for and beautifully press eyes may I add. Wouldn’t you agree? Everything here was super light and refreshing which is what you need when you have another 9 courses to go.

Various California rolls: asparagus, avocado, soft shell crab, spicy tuna. The textures and spicing of these was bang on and we were able to have 2 each.

Grilled eggplant salad drizzled with sesame miso and topped with katsuobushi (dried fish). Well I think this was the star of the meal for me and one that I wouldn’t have thought to order myself. It’s truly opened my eyes to how simple it is for a vegetarian dish to be super delicious and outshine the meat and fish. Again it’s the use of sesame oil here that adds this amazing but subtle flavour to the eggplant which just melted in my mouth.

Grilled seabass. I’ve never had seabass melt in my mouth like butter, and this is now how I want it to taste every time. It fell apart in my mouth and made me go back for more and more.

Seared beef with black truffle dressing cooked to perfection.

Chicken skewers with spring onion and asparagus skewers with sweet soy and sesame. That addition of sesame here transforms these everyday ingredients and elevates them to something superior. Loved the stickiness of the chicken skewers.

The piece de resistance, the Dessert platter. It really is a show stopper and an Aladdins cave of sweet treats that Willy Wonka would be proud of. I wish I could list every item but it consisted of chilled yuzu soufflé cake, warm chocolate cake, bourbon infused creme brûlée, a variety of sorbets (the raspberry was my favourite), dark chocolate and maccha pudding which oozes as you cut into it, raspberry and white chocolate usugiri (which was my favourite) and plenty of fresh fruit dotted around. It definitely has the wow factor and was the perfect way to end this perfectly extravagant meal. I’m pretty damn impressed

Next on my list is to try out the all you can eat Roka brunch at Canary Wharf, that just sounds awesome and I love a challenge. One hundred percent come here and sample some of Londons finest Japanese cuisine and try something you wouldn’t necessarily think to try. Undoubtedly you cannot really go wrong here and you may just discover a gem of a dish. Now I’m off to buy me some sesame oil. Extravagantfoodieforthought