Restaurant review: Dominique Ansel, Victoria, London

Now I know Christmas is over and maybe I'm a bit behind the times with posting festive content, but Dominique Ansel still does afternoon tea all year round. With Sarah's birthday outing colliding with Elodie's flying visit earlier this month, we decided there wasn't a better way to kickstart December then stuffing our faces with cake. Located just as short walk from Victoria Station, Dominique Ansel is famous for the creation of the Cronut but that isn't all it has to offer. It's a great place to catch up over a fancy cake with the only problem choosing which one to get!

The afternoon tea is located in a gorgeous undercover garden terrace, available from Thursday to Sunday from 12pm-4pm. Like all traditional afternoon teas you'll be given a savoury selection, sweet selection, scones with cream and jam with as much tea as you can drink. But this is where the tradition ended. Instead of sandwiches, we were given cute savoury Christmas trees which were filled with delicious fillings, including salmon, egg salad, turkey and mushroom. Next up was the best tier, the sweet treats! The mince pie snowman was my favourite, in fact I had two! The stars were filled with a delicious cream and jam concoction for the scones.

Service was a little slow but I think that's because of the busy festive season. But they did let us have the table a lot longer than they originally said. We always gossip too much so it was an nice touch to not feel rushed. Priced at £42, it's one of the more expensive afternoon teas in London but it is worth it for something a little different. It was a great way to kickstart Christmas!


A 2019 cooking challenge: 52 new recipes in 52 weeks

This year I spent a lot more time in the kitchen and realised that it really is my happy place. I love being about to switch off on a Sunday afternoon and lose myself in cooking something delicious. One of my goals this year was to start using my cookbooks enough and I certainly did that. But I mainly rotated around five books which is silly considering I now have around 200 sitting around. I found recipes, especially baking recipes, I loved and did them numerous times. Now there's nothing wrong with that but I want to push myself and stop being afraid of it going wrong.

So this year I am going to try 52 different recipes which works out one a week. A pretty doable challenge if you ask me! They can be from books, blogs or newspapers. Just a recipe that has tickled my fancy. I have literally hundreds bookmarked and have tried maybe one or two. I want to be a lot more adventurous and try and improve my knowledge of the kitchen. Bread is my top choice for something I want to ace next year.

I'll be blogging about it on here to keep me in check. I think I'll be writing a new blog post each time I complete around five which will hopefully equal around one a post a month. As nothing really counts until it's been posted on social media, I'll also be popping each recipe up on my Instagram alongside the hashtag #52recipes so be sure to follow along. 

Wish me luck!


Restaurant review: Silk Road, Camberwell, south London

We all went out last weekend to help celebrate Hannah's birthday. The lucky girl is now in Norway - what a hard life! She suggested Silk Road which is a restaurant in south London specialising in north-western Chinese food from the province of Xinjiang. I've always said I'm not a fan of Chinese food but I think that's because I always associate it with takeaway and I've never had 'proper' Chinese. Boy have I been missing out! Silk Road was absolutely delicious. It is unlike any other Chinese food I have eaten and I can't wait to seek out more dishes.

It'd be very easy to just walk past Silk Road without giving it a second glance. It's nothing special from the outside and even once you get inside, the decor really doesn't blow you away. But as with SO many places in London, the quality of the food completely outstrips the interior. So what were our favourites? The addictive lamb shish are an absolute bargain at just £1 each, the home style aubergines tasted delicious with the plain noodles, the sublime pork belly had a gorgeous sweet and sour heat and the simple beef and onion dumplings were incredibly tasty. 

We certainly didn't hold back from trying lots of dishes and the above, alongside a can of fizzy pop, came to just £12 excluding tip. All in all it cost us £15 which is an absolute bargain for such fine quality food. Camberwell is a mission from my house but I'm willing to trek here once again. If only for that pork belly!


Where to eat along the Causeway Coastal Route

Lost & Found, Coleraine
I'm still shocked we managed to find such a cool place in Coleraine of all places! Coleraine reminds me of my Essex hometown and we have nothing as snazzy as this! This little cafe is well worth coming a bit out of your way for. Serving brunch from 9.30-3.30, everything on the menu sounds so delicious. After much deliberation I decided to opt for L&F Italian Eggs. Crispy Parma ham, lashings of pesto, fresh rocket and two poached eggs were piled high onto top of sourdough toast. The eggs weren't as runny as I would have hoped but it was still great.

Mini Maegden, The Giant's Causeway
Head to a little car park just a stones trow away from The Giant's Causeway, Mini Maegden is a little retro caravan converted into the best cheese toastie food truck. It was absolutely packed and for good reason! I opted for the cheddar, blue cheese and mozzarella toastie with an added extra of chorizo. All washed down with a refreshing homemade watermelon and rose soda. The toastie was perfectly gooey, so full of flavour and had a delicious crunch. I'm so pleased my boyfriend has family not too far from it so I can visit again!

Maud's Ice Cream, Ballycastle
Right next to Ballycastle Harbour is Maud's Ice Cream. You'll be spoilt for choice for both the cones and the ice cream. I decided to treat myself to a waffle cone dipped in chocolate and sprinkles with a scoop of sea salted caramel and a scoop of honeycomb and vanilla. It was so tasty and the perfect treat to have overlooking the beach.

The Copper Kettle, Bushmills
One of my favourite things about visiting Ireland is the opportunity to indulge in a heavenly Ulster Fry. They're version of a fry up, it usually comes with soda bread and potato bread. It is one of my favourite things in the world! Sadly The Copper Kettle doesn't offer black pudding but you can't win them all! It's a great little cafe to stop off at to start your day off right before you head over to the Giant's Causeway nearby.

Harry's Shack, Portstewart
I had a table booked here last January but cancelled it at the last minute as another branch of the restaurant had just opened in Derry where we were staying. So I've waiting a long time to eat here! It was well worth the wait. Located on the beautiful Portstewart Strand beach, the wooden shack has such a great atmosphere. We went on an evening where they had loud music outside and it looked buzzing. Their selection of Irish gin is incredible and I'd love to go back to sample them all! I had a generous portion of spicy chicken to start with such a moreish sauce and the fish and chips for my main. Just what I needed after a day of rain!

Roark's Kitchen, Ballintoy
One thing you'll notice on your road trip is there will always be somewhere to stop for a slab of cake Roark's Kitchen is right in the heart of Ballintoy Harbour and offers incredible views. This giant slice of red velvet cake was only £2.50! And you always have to have a bottle of Club Orange when in Ireland...

Pablos, Belfast
If you're looking for a quick bite to eat then Pablos is your man! This burger joint only has a couple of tables outside to sit down so you may have to opt for a takeaway. The spicy freedom fries were heavenly and I could have eaten them all day long. The patty in my cheese burger was a little too fat for my liking but it was cooked well. They certainly didn't scrimp on the fillings which is always nice.


What I've been cooking #4: John Whaite Bakes at Home

Another cookbook review. And another baking book. Last time I vowed to use a savoury cookbook but once again got sucked in by the gorgeous cakes in John Waites Bakes at Home. John Whaite won GBBO in 2012 and this is his second cookbook. I follow his Twitter and Instagram so when I spotted this book in a charity shop I picked it up for a couple of quid. It's full of both savoury and sweet bakes and I'd say it was a book for the slightly more adventurous. I'd been stuck in a bit of a rut with only baking simple things like carrot cake, banana loaf and lemon drizzle. All delicious but nothing ground-breaking. I fancied pushing myself a bit and this book was just the ticket.

Mojito cake
I baked this for my mum's birthday and slightly changed the recipe to include both lemons and limes because that was what I had to use it. It tasted exactly like a mojito and was absolutely delicious. At first I was a bit annoyed at the presentation as it didn't quite come out how I wanted it to. But the more I look at at, I actually feel quite proud. It was out of comfort zone and I'd pushed my baking skills quite hard for this cake. I made the lime curd from scratch and made the infused mint & rum filling. I vowed to really try new things this year in baking and feel like this was me keeping my promise. I'd definitely make this again.

Rhubarb, white chocolate and thyme traybake
Rhubarb was a fruit I'd never tried before and traybakes are my jam so this was always going to be made. It was very simple and took hardly any time at all. I loved the contrast of the gooey white chocolate with the tart rhubarb flavour. It went down an absolute treat at work with everyone declaring it was the best bake I'd make yet! Definitely a recipe that I'd rustle up again. It was fun to be a bit more adventurous with ingredients.

Giant jam tart
It always makes me nervous when I attempt a recipe and it doesn't have a picture. I've eaten enough jam tarts in my life to know what one looks like but still no pictures fills me with dread. This was extremely simple and used ready-made pastry - a god-send! It was my first time making jam, I was supposed to use both raspberries and blueberries but alas, my raspberries were rotten. A day before the best before date! I stupidly didn't reduce the sugar so the jam was extremely sweet. Note for the future!

Chocolate and pistachio torte
This was my first time attempting a torte. I'm not a huge chocolate fan but my boyfriend is so I always end up backing a type of chocolate dessert at home. This was a bit more of a faff than I originally thought it would be. But it was simple enough. I'm not sure my version really tastes like a torte but my friend commented that it tasted a bit like a brownie. Which I'll take! After all, who doesn't love a giant brownie? My chocolate drizzling leaves a lot to be desired but that helps to add to the rustic, homemade feel right?

Loaded Mac and cheese
Mac and Cheese is one of my last day on earth meals. If I knew I only had one day left then I would scoff this until I felt sick. So far Jamie Oliver's version is my favourite but I'm always keen to try new  versions of the dish. After skimming through the ingredients list I knew I had to make this. It looked like pure indulgence and perfect for a Sunday dinner. I was right! Three types of cheese made this absolutely heavenly and I adored the added veg of asparagus, mushrooms and spring onions. I think John may have push Mr Oliver from the top spot!

If you want to see more of my cookbook reviews, just click the tab on the right hand side of this blog.

Restaurant review: Roti King, Euston, north London

As I've mentioned before, next year is going to be a pretty intense travel year and I need to start making sacrifices to make it happen. One of these sacrifices is cutting down on the amount of time I eat out. Something I've been missing terribly. So I've been keen to find the cheap eats in London and I've stumbled across a gem.

Earlier on in the week, I met up with Hannah and Michelle for an evening of gossiping and Malaysian food. I'm actually off to Malaysia next year and really wanted to try some of the local cuisine before I jetted off. When Michelle mentioned her dad, who is actually Malaysian, declared Roti King as the best Malay food in London I knew I was in for a treat. You're unable to book for Roti King and most likely will encounter a queue. But stay put as it moves very quickly. Also be sure not to judge it from the outside because it honestly doesn't look like much. But you're here for the food, not the decor. 

After waiting for 40 minutes we were finally shown to a table and the fun began. As Michelle is a veggie we opted for a few vegetarian dishes. So what did we order? We tucked into roti Canai which is a bowl of dal, not as lentil-heavy as an Indian Dal, alongside two flaky roti. The gooey cheese roti was absolute heaven and we actually ordered another one once we scoffed the first one. In fact, I think I'd just order six plates of these next time I visit. Cooked in shrimp paste, Kangkung Belacan or Morning Glory is a endless pile of stirfry water spinach. It was the perfect accompaniment to the other dishes. Hannah and I shared a beef and spring onion dish on Michelle's recommendation which was very moreish and we all snuck a bite of Michelle's sea spiced aubergine. Delicious! 

Roti King is not somewhere where you sit and linger, you eat your grub and you leave. But service is done with a smile and the food is very quick to come out. We ate six dishes with a soft drink each and  it cost £14 per person including a tip. Almost unheard of in London! The food was so tasty and it's definitely somewhere where I can see myself visiting time and time again. In fact, I'm trying to arrange a date with my boyfriend so he too can try it before we jet off. I'm now so excited to eat all the food in Malaysia! 


Restaurant review: The Good Egg, Stoke Newington, London

The Good Egg is a restaurant that's been on my list to visit for a good few years. The Jewish eatery, basing its menu on Tel Aviv street food, has won lots of praise for its brunch menu. But the original one is based in Stoke Newington, an area of north London not known for its transport links so I've never made it down to the area. But this year I'm keen to explore parts of London I've not been to before so we arranged a day out with Hannah and her boyfriend Steve to hunt for records in charity shops, go on a mini bar crawl and stuff our faces.

Located in Church Street, a road in Stokey that's known for delicious places to eat, The Good Egg is famous for having large queues but luckily we only had a ten minute wait when we arrived. Settling down we scoured the menu and decided on a few dishes to share. I opted for the the vegetarian option   of the Jerusalem Breakfast with crispy halloumi. A feast consisting of little versions of the breakfast plates on the menu. I adored the delicious dips of whipped green feta, house Labneh and beats and dills. They were so addictive. I just wish there was more of the pita bread to dip. We shared a spicy halloumi Shakshuka which was a little too tight on the cheese for my liking, but still pretty tasty, and fluffy cornbread paired with a herby spread.

Service was brilliant, prices were very reasonable and the food was amazing. If you're looking for something a little different from the bog-standard brunch places then The Good Egg is your guy. You can't book at the Stokey branch but they have another one more central in Kingly Court where you can. I'm desperate to go back and sample the dinner menu. The short-rib shawarma is calling my name!


The ultimate list of places to eat in New York City

I found out about this on Sophie Cliff's blog and knew I had to schedule in a trip. After lots of deliberation, I opted to try their dinner menu instead of their infamous brunch menu. Located right next to the Highline in the Meatpacking District, it's a great option for an early dinner if you're hanging out in the area. Even at 5pm it was pretty packed and had a great buzzing atmosphere. Service was friendly, jovial and quick. I'd seen pictures of their burgers on Instagram so knew this was what I was going to have even before I had arrived. Cheese makes everything better so I added blue cheese to my order.  What a revelation! The huge chunks of creamy blue cheese really did bring the burger up a notch. My mum even declared it was the best burger she had ever eaten.

A recomendation from Kelly, she said it may be one of the most expensive bagels in NYC but it was absolutely worth it. She was so right! I missed out on a traditional New York bagel last time I as in the city so I wanted all the cream cheese and smoked salmon. Ess-A-Bagel, located on 3rd Avenue between50th and 51st Street, certainly don't scrimp on the fillings - it was absolutely huge. We went for a late lunch and and couldn't manage anything for dinner so be prepared for this! We meant to make it back from a second buy just ran out of time. It's one of the first places I'll be visiting when I make it back to NYC.

Pizza is my perfect last supper so I was so happy to finally make it to one of the meccas. We popped in for an early dinner in Dumbo before heading over the Brooklyn Bridge. We had to queue for around 15 minutes but it was worth every minute in the cold. To be honest you probably only need a small but we were starving so opted for a large which gave us four slices each. You choose a white or marinara pizza then customise your toppings. Each topping is around $2-$4 each. My mum prefers vegetarian pizzas so we chose all the vegetables on offer and I snuck in some meatballs too. I loved the fact your could design it exactly how you wanted. It was delicious!

Kat'z Delicatessen
Around since 1888, Kat'z Deli is most famous for THAT scene in When Harry Met Sally and is absolute mayhem. It's quite overwhelming when you enter with the self service quite confusing at first. But we knew what we wanted to try so just headed straight for the sandwich counter. A pastrami sandwich to share and a plate of chips - proper thick chips at that. It really does feel like you've taken a step back in time and I'm dying to go back and try the Reuben.

The Meatball Shop
Boasting seven locations in the city, we dined at the one in Hell's Kitchen as it was the closest to our hotel. Only selling meatballs and accompaniments, the menu is pretty simple. You choose your type of ball and opt for a sauce and style of which they are served. Keeping things traditional, I went for the classic meatballs on a bed of pasta in a simple tomato sauce - comfort food at it's finest! You must get the mini chicken buffalo balls to share as a starter too.

A great option if you've crossed the Williamsburg Bridge, Rabbithole is a cute little hipster restaurant with exposed brick and a lavish chandeliers. They do lots of brunch favourite such as avocado on toast, eggs Benedict, stuffed French toast and soft omelettes. The Eggs Benedict comes highly recommend - if only they were more generous with the hollandaise sauce!

For a twist on American classics, head to Empire Diner in Greenwich for some grub. The Art Deco interiors are to die for and I felt like I should have been wearing a tussled flapper dress to fit in. We decided to try the breakfast menu and I can't rave about my breakfast sandwich enough - basically a burger but with the best bits of breakfast. Divine! Once again service was really friendly which makes all the difference when you're eating out.


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