Category Archives: Reviews: Restaurants, products, books etc

Special edition Love Hearts for Mother’s Day

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Thanks to a new facebook campaign by Swizzels Matlow, my favourite sweets of all time, Love Hearts, have got twenty-two new messages, created by fans, especially for Mother’s Day. 

Adorned with their new messages including ‘Super Mum’, Thanks’, ‘Mum Rules and ‘My Rock’, the love hearts have been packaged up in specially designed, lilac, ‘I Love Mum’ 120gm gift pack for an RRP of £1.39.

Sarah-Louise Heslop, marketing manager at Swizzels Matlow, said: “We thought it was about time we celebrated our wonderful mums on a grand scale. Every mum will love the special messages contained on our iconic sweets. Our Love Hearts tube is the perfect little gift and is a refreshing alternative to chocolate.”

Amazingly, a whopping 2.75 billion Love Hearts are produced every year, that’s enough to stretch 1.5 times around the world – I wonder how many of those I get through?

http://lovehearts.com/

Streetfood venture ‘Pizza Pilgrims’ launches tomorrow in Soho

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If you work in Soho, you’ll be pleased to hear about the new street food venture Pizza Pilgrims.  Three British lads making and selling Napolitan pizzas from the back of a three-wheel Piaggio van/custom-made pizza oven – brilliant idea!


Having spent months touring around Italy on their ‘pilgrimage’ in search of the best ingredients, secret recipes and tricks of the trade, the three pilgrims will be making the pizzas themselves and serving them to the masses of Soho for lunch.


They are using the finest ingredients and while their pizzas may not always be perfectly shaped, the bases are light and fluffy and not too salty.  Having spent a lot of time in Italy eating thousands of pizzas, I was impressed by what they have achieved in such a short space of time – but practice does make perfect… especially when distributing the right amount of toppings and getting the temperatures of the oven just right so that the base cooks properly, but the toppings don’t over heat either 😉

The guys are due to launch tomorrow and will be selling their pizzas around Berwick Street market for about a fiver, so do look out for their Ape pizza oven and give’em a try, you won’t regret it, the sausage pizza was especially good, so was the nutella one!

From working in Soho, I know that between about 12.15 and 1.30 ish all the decent places have a minimum of a 20 metre+ queue, so I hope the pilgrims are well prepared for Soho lunchtime madness!  Best of luck guys, can’t wait to hear all the success stories.

A Christmas gift guide for alcohol enthusiasts!

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TEQUILA MEETS TATTOO ART

-The Reserva de la Familia Limited Edition

Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia tequila is celebrating the subculture of tattoo art this Christmas, teaming up with Mexican artist Jerónimo López Ramírez to create a funky gift pack. The handcrafted wooden box celebrates the notorious style of the artist known as ‘Dr. Lakra’, a legend in Mexican tattoo artistry. His work has been shown across the world, bringing his unique style, influenced by comics, flamenco dancing and music covers, to several different art forms and audiences.

Reserva de la Familia is no ordinary tequila. Every March Fancisco Hajnal, Cuervo’s Master Blender, mixes a unique blend from the Cuervo tequila reserves, producing a limited number of special bottles; hand-poured, wax-sealed, numbered and labelled ‘Reserva de la Familia’. Since 1995, to honour the extraordinary tequila, the Cuervo family has teamed up with the Mexican artist of the moment to design a one-off gift box, creating collectible limited editions.

A tequila to be appreciated and sipped, served best over ice.  The Reserva de la Familia collectible box is available from Selfridges for £84.68 RRP.

SALUT! THE WORLD’S BEST TASTING SILVER TEQUILA

This Christmas, why not treat someone to a bottle of award winning tequila Jose Cuervo, Platino. The silver tequila comes in a striking blue wooden box, making it an ideal gift for those who appreciate the fine Mexican spirit.

Made from 100% blue agave, Platino boasts an exquisite flavour thanks to the Cuervo family’s secret recipe and unique handcrafted production process that has developed over 200 years at Casa Cuervo. Its light herbaceous aromas give way to hints of vanilla and this smooth tequila is best served in luxurious cocktails.

An ideal gift for foodies, and all discerning drinkers, the Cuervo Platino gift box is available from Selfridges for £55.44 RRP.

THE IDEAL STOCKING FILLER FOR THE WHISKY ENTHUSIAST: The Talisker® Single Malt Scotch Whisky Flask and Glass Pack

 The makers of Talisker whisky this year has created the perfect solution to honour the award winning malt; a striking special edition of the Talisker 10 year old 20cl that comes together with a unique Talisker rocking glass and a hip flask. The perfect stocking filler, savour the whisky at home or in the hipflask whilst enjoying the great outdoors on your Boxing Day walk.

At a recommended price of £19.99 and available from whisky specialists.

FOR JOHNNIE WALKER® LOVERS: The Johnnie Walker Black Label Gift Pack

The Johnnie Walker Black Label gift pack includes a bottle of the smooth Scotch whisky, along with two elegant tumbler glasses, all enclosed in a stylish black case. Aged for 12 years, Johnnie Walker Black Label is a unique blend with a smooth, deep and complex character.

Available to buy from selected whisky specialist stores, the Johnnie Walker Black Label gift pack has an RRP of £29.99.

 

The Johnnie Walker Red Label Gift Pack

To ensure you’re spoilt for choice when deciding what to buy the whisky enthusiast in your life, the makers of Johnnie Walker have also created two Johnnie Walker Red Label gift packs.  The first pack contains two complimentary bespoke tumblers embossed with the famous Johnnie Walker striding man, along with a bottle of the world renowned whisky, famous for its bold and characterful taste. In contrast to Johnnie Walker Black Label, Red Label has been created to drink long. Just adding water will unleash the robust, sweet and smoky blend to its full potential.

The Johnnie Walker Red Label Glass Pack is available from selected supermarkets throughout the UK, priced at £21.99.

GRAND MARNIER® ADDS A CHRISTMAS TWIST TO ITS CLASSIC BOTTLE

Grand Marnier has created The Red Ribbon Limited Edition Bottle to shake up your drinks cabinet during the party months.

Renowned for its distinctive flavour and character, Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge is a delicate blend of fine cognacs and distilled essence of tropical oranges. Slowly aged in French oak casks, Grand Marnier has an incomparable roundness and subtlety, making it a fantastic ingredient for Christmas drinks.

The Red Ribbon Edition is available to buy from October in Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, with an RRP of£29.99.

THE ULTIMATE GIFT FOR COCKTAIL AFICIONADOS: Tanqueray® gin limited edition

Tanqueray gin has created Tonight’s Edition.  The bottle of Tanqueray gin, honoured with a Royal Warrant in 1925, is enclosed in a high quality, premium silver shrink sleeve and embossed with the iconic Tanqueray seal; a must have for any cocktail enthusiast.

The gift pack comes with the seal of approval from Erik Lorincz the head barman at the world famous American Bar in the London Savoy.  It also includes a recipe to create the perfect Tanqueray & Tonic so you can recreate the glamour of the cocktail bar in the comfort of your own home.

Tanqueray gin’s complex combination of refreshing juniper, peppery coriander and aromatic angelica give it an elegant taste that sets it apart from the rest and has helped make it one of the world’s most awarded gin.

The Tanqueray Tonight’s Edition is available at all major supermarkets this Christmas, with an RRP of £22.99.

A GIFT FOR THOSE WHO LIKE THE FINER THINGS IN LIFE: The Ron Zacapa® 23 Gift Box

Zacapa 23 Solera is regarded as one of the finest rums in the world. The ultra-premium RonZacapa 23 gift box comes complete with two bespoke tasting glasses.  It is the result of a unique combination of soil climate and ultra-high-grade cane sugar and is produced using only the first pressing of the sugar cane, the virgin cane honey.

This is skillfully distilled and then transported to the aging facility, known as ‘the house above the clouds’ sitting as it does at 2300m above sea level. Not only is the location unique, but the cool air serves a practical purpose of slowing the ageing process to craft rums of impeccable quality.

The Zacapa 23 gift box includes a 70cl bottle with two elegant bespoke Zacapa sipping glasses, and is available exclusively from Selfridges RRSP from £65.

Chillies Hanging On The Christmas Tree

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I love this idea!!!

If you are trying to work out what colour scheme to go for on your christmas tree, or whether to have tinsel or baubles, or both – then how about hanging a selection of dried chillies on your tree, don’t they look amazing?!

There’s a wide variety available in all different colours, shapes and sizes at the South Devon Chilli Farm (buy online at www.sdcf.co.uk).

Manson – Alan Stewart hired as new head chef

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Not far from Fulham’s Munster Road, Manson might not necessarily be right on your doorstep; but walking into the restaurant, you know immediately the journey was worthwhile, and even more so since Alan Stewart, previously at Launceston Place, has been appointed its new head Chef.

The menu is British through and through, striking a fine balance between fresh, seasonal produce, classic English dishes and a level of cuisine you would only expect to find in Michelin stared establishments. The brasserie style restaurant has a wonderfully welcoming and warm country pub feel to it, yet somehow it still manages to maintain the urban and fresh atmosphere of a top London restaurant.

 

The menus, created by Alan to reflect the best of local and seasonal produce, reveal his field to fork philosophy through the use of Manson’s own allotments, the foraging of British ingredients and sourcing of meat from small Cumbrian farms.  The food was utterly fantastic, beautifully presented and probably the best meal I have had in a long time!

 

We had a selection of dishes from the menu, which were perfectly paired by Launceston Place’s sommelier Mickey Narea from Manson’s well-selected wine list.  To start with we were presented with the most stunning plate of tartar of highland venison, rich in flavour, yet still light on the taste buds, adorned with meaty pickled girolles and cobnuts and a rather glamorous swirl of celeriac.  What a fantastic way to start a meal!

 

The venison was paired with a Little Yerring Pinot Noir from Australia, and while I am usually a huge fan of Pinot Noir, I think that out of all the wine we sampled that evening, this was perhaps the least exciting.
Thinking that we had already had the best course of the evening, the next course arrived, a red leg of partridge, with quince, honey and oats.  Utterly delicious, a perfect combination of sweetness from the honey coupled with the gamey flavours from the partridge.   Alongside, this we sipped on a syrupy and rather smokey white, a Marques de Riscal Limousin Reserva. While punchier than the Pinot Noir, this really was so well paired with the flavours of the dish, I’ll be hard pushed to want to drink anything else with partridge in the future.

 

Next as if it couldn’t get any better, we were fortunate enough to dine on roast grouse – my absolute favourite – and even more so now after having tasted it with damsons and savoy cabbage.  This we drank with a superb Riferno Rossa Riserva, Camillo De Lellis, Molise, Italy.

And last but not least, a plate of cheeses and a sumptuous apple tart with clove ice cream, alongside a soupcon of Coteaux du Layon, from the Loire Valley. 

The cheeses were full of flavour and a great selection, and the tart really was to die for, so much so I forgot to take a picture before I dived on in!  If I am being critical, I’m not entirely sure what benefit the clove ice cream gave to the dish, I think I might have been happier with double or even clotted cream, but 99% ain’t bad… fruitiness from the apples, rich creamy caramel yumminess balanced out by the crispy and buttery pastry. YUM

 

Overall a fabulous array of flavours, and while it’s hard to say what my favourite dish was because it was all simply divine, if pushed I might say the grouse and damsons, coupled with the Italian Riferno, narrowly surpassed the tartare of venison as the dish extraordinaire of the evening.
Other highlights from the menu include: wood pigeon, spelt, berries, currants and chervil (£7.50); Devon brown crab, chilled tomato soup with pickled cucumber (£8.50); roast coley, leek, fennel and surf clams (£14.00); mutton suet pie, roast loin, baby onions and bacon (£18.00); Cumbrian suckling pig with glazed apple and cobnuts (£19.50); damson parfait, candied rose petals, blackcurrants and brown bread crunch (£6.00) and London honey and almond loaf with plum ripple ice-cream (£6.00).  There is also an extensive wine list with a number of English wines, featuring over 60 bins, with 15 available by the glass from £4.50, and bottles starting from £17.90.
 
Mark Dyer, Eamonn Manson, and David Minchin, who also set up sister pub The Sands End together in 2007, opened Manson in 2010. 
A resounding success!  I look forward to coming again soon… 
Reservations can be made on 020 7384 9559 or http://www.mansonrestaurant.co.uk/ 676 Fulham Road, London, SW6 5SA

Mayfair’s Cuckoo Club gets menu revamp

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Having always been wary of clubs that try to claim they’re top quality restaurants as well, I was naturally nervous about the prospect of dinner at Mayfair’s Cuckoo Club, just off Regent Street, however, I really was pleasantly surprised!

The rather stylish ground floor of The Cuckoo Club plays host to the restaurant, which serves contemporary European cuisine under a funky purple bauble-laden ceiling.

The head chef Chris Cooper (ex Texture & Savoy Grill) has created a new menu with a good range of light dishes using fresh seasonal ingredients. With a notable exception of butter or cream in any of the starters or mains, the menu is exceptionally light, making it a great pre-club option.

While the prices are fairly high, as one might expect in Mayfair, the portions are not small.  In particular, king crab with mango; the duck breast, the fish and the fillet of beef were all delicious and also extremely well presented on the plate.

Annoyingly, I was driving, so was unable to sample the alcoholic cocktails, however, and not usually being one to order a virgin cocktail, I can say the non-alcoholic versions were absolutely yummy, so I am sure the punchier ones are even better!

Since its inception, The Cuckoo Club has defined itself as London’s place to be, entertaining the likes of Mick Jagger, Leonardo Di Caprio, The Killers, Natalie Portman, Prince Wills and Harry, Kate Moss, Orlando Bloom, P Diddy and John Cusack.

The Cuckoo Club - Swallow Street - London W1B 4EZ
T +44 (0) 20 7287 4300 - F +44 (0) 20 7788 2942 - info@thecuckooclub.com

Cooks & co launches new mediterranean artichokes

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I have just come across Cooks & Co‘s new jar of grilled artichokes, and they’re absolutely yummy and not expensive either!

The company gets its artichokes from the coastal mountains of Puglia in the south of Italy, an area famed for its countryside’s flourishing cultivation, which dates back to Roman times.  They are then picked and prepared to a traditional Italian recipe, using garlic and Mediterranean herbs. Unlike many jars, these artichokes are not at all watery, and are really tender and tasty, even if eaten straight from the jar.

I had mine on home made pizzas, but they’re also pretty good in salads, with mediterranean chicken, or simply as bruschetta.

I’ve also been munching all day on the Cooks & Co red chillies, and as they only have a little kick, they’re perfect to eat whole – although I do have an extraordinarily high tolerance for chili, so it’s probably best to test them for yourself.

Visit http://www.cooksandco.co.uk for more information.

Benares pops-up in Soho’s Meza

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Fine dining Indian restaurant Benares has just launched an exciting new pop-up in Meza, which will be open for four weeks, until 28th May.

Michelin starred chef Atul Kochhar has transformed the modern grill menu of Meza into the Benares pop-up, bringing some mouth-watering examples of modern British Indian cuisine and Indian street food to the heart of Soho.  The menu includes some of the Benares signature dishes and some funky new additions.

After finishing my exquisite mango and chilli kaipiroska, we tucked into an assortment of vibrant dishes, each of which left me salivating for more.

What a far cry from your average curry house meal! Wok tossed prawns with spring onion, pineapple and soy; kadhai cottage cheese with coloured peppers and little gem; crisp soft shell crab with lemon grass mayonnaise; chicken tikka with red onion salad and mint chutney; and ‘Achaari’ duck supreme with vanilla beetroot.

The prawns were utterly fantastic; delightfully succulent and coated in sweet, spicy, juicy, chilli, ginger and pineapple yummyness.  The chicken tikka was tender and bursting with flavour, and the crab was simply to die for – deliciously soft and melting in the mouth. The duck was good, but my least favourite, mainly because the flavour of duck just didn’t shine through, (and I prefer my duck to be pink,) but having said that the bed of beetroot and vanilla that accompanied it was sublime.  Having never been a fan of paneer, the kadhai cottage cheese on little gem was a real surprise, an exciting and inventive combination of textures and flavours.

Not that I had any space after that, but next came the curries…chicken tikka masala and kashmiri style lamb roganjosh, accompanied by black lentil daal, pulao rice and bread.

As expected they did not disappoint, the chicken was cooked to perfection, juicy portions drenched in a sweet, tomatoey sauce; deliciously meaty lamb that fell apart in the mouth and coupling this with the aromatic rice, the robust lentils and naan just made the meal complete.

While my stomach was bursting out of my jeans, I just couldn’t resist sampling one of Atul’s puddings – pannacotta with cardamom…divine, need I say more!

To top it all off, once the waiter had cleared the table, he bought what looked like two white fluffy marshmallows on a plate, and proceeded to pour boiling water on top, transforming them into little hand towels – genius!

As well as superb food, the service we received was spot on, polite, helpful, friendly, attentive…what more could you want!

The pop-up will be open for dinner only, Monday – Saturday and Benares restaurant will be operating as normal.

For reservations please call 020 7314 4002  www.atulkochhar.com / www.benaresrestaurant.co.uk  www.meza-bar.co.uk

Jordans launches Creations Oat Granola

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One of the first to bring granola to the UK almost 40 years ago, Jordans has just launched another new tasty addition to its range, dubbed Creations Oat Granola.

There are two new combinations to choose from; ‘Juicy Cranberry & Golden Honey’ and ‘Baked Apple & a hint of Cinnamon’, which both sound yummy to me.  As well as being tasty, they are also really healthy, as they both contain absolutely nothing artificial – i.e. no colourings, flavourings or preservatives, and even better, the oaty base is only sweetened with honey.

The other thing that caught my eye is that the company gathers oats from its own British Conservation Grade™ farms, where the farmers manage 10% of their land so that bees, birds and butterflies thrive – we like!

Bill Jordan adds: “I first tried Granola when I was a drummer in a band touring California in the 60s. It was a real eureka moment for me because oats are so nutritious and are the main ingredient in Granola.  As a family of flour millers at Jordans we knew all about the benefitsof eating wholegrain cereals like oats so Granola seemed to be the perfect way of making wholegrains really delicious. Creations is the next generation of Jordans Granola and I amreally pleased we are giving people another choice at breakfast which not only tastes great but contains all the goodness of oats and absolutely nothing artificial.”

Jordans Creations Oat Granola range is now available from selected supermarkets at an RRP of £3.49 for a 500g pack.

Eat Natural launches sharing pack with mini sized bars

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As you may already know from my previous posts, I’m a huge fan of Eat Natural, so I thought I would share its new creation – a special sharing size pack of  20g ‘Little Bars’ made exclusively for Waitrose.

The pack includes a tasty selection of the following bars:

–       Almond, apricot and yoghurt

–       Peanuts, cranberries and milk chocolate

–       Cranberries, macadamias and dark chocolate

Harriet at Eat Natural, who created the pack, says; “At Eat Natural we work with our growers to make sure we get the very best, full-flavoured ingredients possible to go into these recipes.  When you open up one of our bars, you really get the sense that we’ve just baked them…which is pretty much how it is.  And ingredients such as dark chocolate mean that you can live a ‘little’, too.”

Little Bars are currently available in Waitrose with an RRP of £2.99.