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Travel Gourmet’s Top 5 Gelaterie in London

I’m reblogging this post from last year after making some revisions. I heard that one of my chosen five had closed down so I’ve added in the wonderful Gelatorino instead! And it’s definitely gelato time now with summer upon us, so make sure you make the most of the wonderful ice cream on offer in London!

Travel Gourmet

With the weather warming up and the sun shining at last, we’re definitely moving into the ‘ice cream season’. Though in truth, I’ll eat ice cream at any time of the year. I confess to having a big addiction to ice cream; well, gelato. I’m an ice cream snob (I’ll own up so you don’t need to accuse me). I don’t buy those old British favourites that you find in your local newsagent, I seek out the many and growing number of wonderful Italian gelaterie in London. Thus this will probably turn into an ongoing post that needs frequent revision (and frequent tastings of gelato!) for I have sampled only a few, so there are many, many more to try. But of the ones I know, here are my favourites. And while I rarely stick my neck out on these pages and attribute rankings – I’m doing it here…

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Bulgur with Tomato, Aubergine & Preserved Lemon Yoghurt

This is an Ottolenghi recipe from his book, Simple. Ottolenghi + Simple are not two words I’d normally put together. His recipes often contain very long lists of ingredients and are quite complicated. However, I was completely addicted to his Jerusalem book when it first came out in 2012 and cooked from it endlessly. Some of the recipes, like Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini & Za’atar remain family favourites that are still frequently made. That’s not an especially complicated one, but some do take a lot of time and a lot of ingredients. Hence the immediate attraction of Simple. Not surprisingly, my definition of ‘simple’ is not quite the same as Ottolenghi’s. There’s a wonderful sounding Blueberry, Almond & Lemon Cake in it but it requires complicated cooking that involves taking the cake out of the oven a couple of times mid-cooking and really … if I’m making a loaf-tin cake I just want to beat all the ingredients together, tip it all into a tin, put it in the oven and leave it until it’s done.

But then – his food is a miracle. I’ve been to his flagship restaurant and store in Islington a couple of times in recent years and the food is exceptional. You can tell as you eat it that ‘complicated’ = ‘amazing with layers of taste’. It’s that incredible kind of food that stops you in your tracks; you taste and think it’s great, then as you continue to eat another layer of flavour reveals itself, and then yet another, so the whole eating experience is like a wondrous food journey.

I wanted to make something with bulgur wheat. When I was in Comptoir Libanais with Freddie last Thursday he loved the tabbouleh on my mezze plate and we ended up sharing it (kids have very sophisticated tastes these days!). So out came my books at home – Ottolenghi, Moro, and various ‘middle eastern’ others – and I came across this recipe in Ottolenghi Simple. It sounded so wonderful, I just had to make it. And as it turned out, it was actually quite simple. I served it with some lamb kofte but it would make a great vegetarian meal on its own. I ate it warm with supper but it would also make a nice cold ‘salad’ meal too, so is eminently versatile.

(I halved Ottolenghi’s recipe and thus made slight adjustments.)

 

Bulgur with Tomato, Aubergine & Preserved Lemon Yoghurt

Serves 2 as a main course; 4 as a side dish

  • 1 aubergine, cut into roughly 3cm chunks
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 200g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ tablespoon tomato purée
  • 125g bulgur wheat
  • 100g Greek yoghurt
  • ½ preserved lemon, with pips removed and finely chopped (12g)
  • 5g fresh mint leaves, finely shredded

 

 

Cook the aubergine first. Preheat an oven to 220C/Fan 200/Gas 7. Cut the aubergine into biggish chunks. Put in a bowl and add 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Mix with your hands and lay on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until nicely browned, turning halfway through cooking.

 

Put the sliced onion in a large frying pan (for which you have a lid) with the oil and cook for about 8 minutes on a medium heat until soft and slightly caramelising. Add the garlic and allspice. Mix well and cook for another minute.

 

Add the cherry tomatoes. Cook for a couple of minutes and mash down a bit with a potato masher. Add the tomato purée, 200ml water and a little salt. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer, put the lid on the pan, and leave for 12 minutes. Check the seasoning.

 

Add the bulgur wheat. Stir in well then remove from the heat. Put the lid back on the pan and leave for 20 minutes off the heat for the bulgur to absorb the sauce and soften.

 

While the bulgur is finishing ‘cooking’ make the yoghurt sauce. Put the yoghurt, preserved lemon and half the mint in a bowl and mix together. Taste and season with a little salt in necessary, but preserved lemon is quite salty so you may not need any more.

   

When the bulgur is ready, transfer to a serving bowl. Flatten a bit and lay the roasted aubergine pieces on top. Then spoon the yoghurt sauce on top of the aubergine. Sprinkle over the remaining mint.

It looked and smelled fantastic and it was truly gorgeous to eat.

It was a great accompaniment to my lamb kofte, with a green salad on the side.

But as I said above, it would also make a great vegetarian dish on its own.

I plan to have the rest tomorrow cold – or at room temperature – as a salad supper. I can see this becoming a great favourite and can’t wait to try it out on the family.

Amorino, Richmond upon Thames

You can never have too much good gelato. Or you can’t if you’re Travel Gourmet. There are so many great gelaterie in London these days, it’s slightly taken the edge off going to Italy, where for so long a highlight of an Italian holiday was eating ice cream that was far superior to anything you’d find back in the UK. However, the up side is that while good gelato may still be a treat, it’s one that can be enjoyed more often. Especially if you live in Richmond upon Thames where Gelateria Danieli, Venchi and Gelatorino have been joined by Amorino.

I’ve written about Amorino before after visiting their Covent Garden branch and it features in my Top 5 Gelaterie in London. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw one getting ready to open on my local patch. I pass the site most days and today the doors opened and I just had to go in for an afternoon treat.

It’s quite a big cafe with plenty of seating to sit down and enjoy not just a gelato but a drink too.

 

Amorino pride themselves on using a lot of organic products with ‘no artificial anything’ and offer a good choice of flavours.

Italian style, you pay at the till first. I asked how many flavours I could have in a small (£3.90) cup. The guy serving me looked thoughtful. Well, you could probably have 3 or 4, he said. Then I remembered that in other Amorino shops I’d been told I could have as many flavours as I liked. So I settled on 3: chocolate sorbet, blackcurrant sorbet and pistachio.

I also ordered a single macchiato espresso (£2.20) and a macaron (£1.90).

Their macarons are very special because they’re filled with gelato. They pack them in thermal takeaway boxes if you want to take some home.

 

I took my cup of gelato to one of the long bars and they said they’d bring my coffee.

It’s an attractive place to sit and enjoy a coffee and gelato treat.

 

My small cup was really quite a good size; perhaps a medium cup elsewhere. The ice cream was very delicious and having a macaron (I chose vanilla) to go with it made it extra special. The macchiato was good-tasting coffee though a little too milky for my preference, but came with a biscuit, continental style.

It’s going to be extremely tempting walking past Amorino nearly every day! But what a great addition to Richmond town centre.

Amorino Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Where to Eat with Kids: Comptoir Libanais, Kingston-upon-Thames

Freddie (4) and I had gone on an expedition to Kingston in search of a hippopotamus. Despite being set on the Thames and therefore near water, it was of course highly unlikely – if not impossible – that we would encounter a live member of the species there. But Freddie, who is gradually making a large collection of both farm and safari animals, was entranced by the BBC TV’s programme, the Natural World, on ‘Hippos: Africa’s River Giants’, narrated by David Attenborough, a few days ago. ‘We need to go to Bentalls to buy a hippo,’ he told me. For there is a good selection of Schleich little model animals there. And Freddie’s safari collection doesn’t yet contain a hippo.

It seemed a nice idea now we’re in school holiday time to make an outing of it and it’s always a delight to have some one-to-one time with my little grandson. I promised him a pizza lunch. For years there’s been a Rossopomodoro outlet in John Lewis and I’d heard their Neopolitan pizzas are good.

We went first in search of the hippo, didn’t find one and settled – after considerable deliberation – on a crocodile. It was a little too early for lunch after this so I suggested we went down to the riverside to see ducks, swans and boats. We did indeed see all these – Freddie was particularly excited by the many narrowboats and intrigued that you could live on them. We also passed lots of restaurants but still we made our way to John Lewis for the promised pizza. However, despite seeing Rossopomodoro there very recently, we found that it had gone, leaving just a cafe in its place and not an exciting option for a kids’ meal.

I persuaded Freddie that pizza would have to wait for another day and that we should go back to the riverside and choose a restaurant there. I looked at a couple but was uninspired by their kids’ menus. Then I saw Comptoir Libanais. ‘Do you have a kids’ menu?’ I asked the woman standing outside. And they did. Quite an exciting-sounding one, too.

Freddie opted to sit outside so we could watch the river and it was a great place to sit at lunchtime on a summer’s day – albeit a slightly windy and cloudy summer’s day. It felt quite holiday-ish to be by the water and there was plenty of activity on it, with large river boats carrying people up and down, lots of narrowboats slowly chugging along, and some canoes, which Freddie decided were having a race.

Our waitress brought a kids’ menu quickly with a pot of colouring crayons. On the other side of the menu were puzzles and drawings to colour in.

 

There was a good choice of food and it was great value at £5.95 for Main, Drink & Dessert.

Freddie, who loves chicken, opted for Grilled Chicken Wrap served with Hommos & Lebanese Fries.

It was a good-sized serving and when I cut open the wrap, there were large chunks of chicken inside in a sauce, with slices of tomato. He had Apple, Mint & Ginger ‘homemade’ lemonade with it (but there was a water choice too as well as milk and juice).

I decided to order the Mezze Platter for one (£9.95) which was a generous plate of mixed mezze – hommus, baba ganoush, tabbouleh, falafel, labneh, cheese samboussek, flatbread & pickles. I also had a small bottle of mineral water.

Freddie can’t read yet so wasn’t aware that I didn’t read out the sweeter options for dessert – like chocolate brownies and cheesecake – so settled happily for 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream. I had an espresso.

It was a great find and such a lovely location for a summer lunch. The inside was good too, decorated Lebanese style, making it a good place for winter as well. It was an excellent Kids’ Menu that would have satisfied a much older child. And importantly there’s good food for the grown-ups too. Freddie liked it as much as I did and is now keen to introduce Mummy and Daddy to it!

Total bill with drinks and service: £22.17.

‘Carpaccio’ of Kohlrabi with Goats’ Cheese & Thyme

There’s been a discussion about kohlrabi amongst a food writers’ group I belong to over the past few days, so when I saw red kohlrabi in Wholefoods in Richmond this morning, well … it was impossible to resist buying some. I’ve actually put a couple of kohlrabi recipes on here before – with walnuts and apple; a yoghurt dressing – but I use it rarely, because it’s not often seen. And because it’s not often seen, most people don’t really know what to do with it. To be honest, neither did I, so I turned to my books again for inspiration and found this simple but gorgeous salad in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Veg Everyday book.

Kohlrabi is really quite an ancient vegetable going back to the Roman times when it was mentioned by Pliny. It’s a hybrid of the Brassica family and has a swollen stem – the part we eat – that resembles a turnip; Hugh suggests they’re best eaten quite young and small (again, much like a turnip). It’s always been more popular in Central Europe – Germany, particularly – and the East and Asia. You can cook it and serve it simply with some butter, lemon juice and seasoning. It’s said to make a good dauphinoise. But my experiments on the blog – and today – have been with it raw.

It is similar in texture and taste to a turnip. Hugh describes it as having a ‘water-chestnutty crunch’ and it does have a smell reminiscent of water chestnuts and that same kind of watery crunch to it. Hence it can be used in stir fries.

Mostly you’ll see the green variety but this red one isn’t red through (like a beetroot), only the skin. On peeling and shaving, it’s quite a pale thing inside. Hugh shaves it thinly carpaccio-style and similarly shaves thin slices of hard goats’ cheese on top. With just the simplest dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, seasoning and fresh thyme, it is quite the most glorious fresh-tasting salad for a warm summer’s evening. I ate it as a main course with a mixed salad on the side and slices of a very good focaccia I’ve found on the deli counter lately at my local Waitrose. But the dish would make a great starter too.

 

‘Carpaccio’ of Kohlrabi with Goats’ Cheese and Thyme

  • 1 small kohlrabi
  • hard goats’ cheese
  • ½ lemon
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • a few springs of fresh thyme

 

 

I used only about half of my kohlrabi so as a main, it would have been enough for 2 people; 4 as a starter. Peel the kohlrabi. Use a sharp vegetable peeler to cut thin slivers onto a serving plate (at this point I reminded myself I keep meaning to buy a mandoline to cut thin slices of vegetables).

 

When you’ve got a nice layer of the vegetable, use the slicer to shave paper-thin slices of a hard goats’ cheese over the top. Make a good pile in the middle but you don’t have to cover all the kohlrabi. Squeeze lemon juice all over. Then drizzle a little olive oil on, but don’t drown the kohlrabi and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Take the leaves off the sprigs of fresh thyme and chop roughly. Sprinkle over the top. Now it’s ready to serve!

 

It looked very attractive and delicious.

 

With the focaccia and mixed salad, it made a lovely light supper.

I loved the fresh crunch of the kohlrabi with the creamy goats’ cheese. You need a hard cheese to shave but in its thin slices it seemed to melt down a bit into a creamy topping, perfectly complimenting the raw crunchy kohlrabi. And the lemon and thyme dressing was sensational. Gloriously simple but oh so good!

Greek Yoghurt & Blueberry Compote ‘Trifle’

The family were coming round for a Sunday meal and I decided to go Greek style. I say ‘meal’ rather than ‘lunch’ or ‘supper’ as we tend to eat somewhere in-between. The grown-ups don’t like eating a large lunch; the little ones (Freddie 4 and Benjamin 20 months) can’t manage late. So we compromise and eat around 5.30ish.

If I ask son Jonathan what they’d like me to cook, 9 times out of 10 the answer will be ‘moussaka’. I’ve been making Claudia Roden’s moussaka since before he was born and now I feed it to his sons too. So moussaka was on the menu to be served with a Greek salad and simple green salad.

Elder grandson Freddie has a very sweet tooth. You wouldn’t guess it from his tall, wiry frame but you can easily bribe him with the promise of gelato, chocolate cake … basically any kind of dessert! My mother once told me off for bribing my own kids when they were small but honestly, how do you deal with little ones if you don’t sometimes bribe them! However, Freddie turned the tables a bit when I reported on the wonderful gelato I’d eaten every day in Florence last month: ‘Ice cream is a treat, Nonna, and just for Saturdays,’ he told me. There had been a bit of a clampdown on sweet things during my absence in Italy. Well Nonna (me!) has been guilty, it must be said, of encouraging his love of gelato, cakes and pastries, so I’m trying to make amends.

But a Sunday meal just wouldn’t be the family occasion it should be without some kind of dessert. You can lower the sugar load, though. For instance, I make apple crumbles or tarts with dessert apples so no – or very little – sugar is needed. Today with the Greek theme in mind I thought I should do something with Greek yoghurt.

A little sugar came into it, but very little – just a touch to sweeten the blueberries and encourage the compôte to go a bit syrupy; a small shower of icing sugar to sweeten the yoghurt topping. Various ideas were going round my mind as I wandered Waitrose’s aisles this morning but I finally settled on picking up a pack of Savoiardi biscuits (which I normally buy for tiramisu) to put at the bottom, making it a kind of trifle – hence ‘trifle’ in the title, but of course not a proper trifle with no custard, etc., just a lovely layered concoction of a healthier kind of sweetness.

Greek Yoghurt with Blueberry Compôte ‘Trifle’ Makes 4-5 individual

  • 225g blueberries; reserve 4-5 for decoration
  • 1 dessertspoon caster sugar
  • 1 dessertspoon crème de cassis
  • 4-5 Savoiardi biscuits
  • 250g Greek yoghurt (preferably Total)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon icing sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla paste or extract

Have ready 4-5 tall glasses to fill with the dessert. I made 2 smaller versions (in plastic glasses!) for the little ones, otherwise the recipe will make 4 good-sized desserts for grown-ups.

 

Put the blueberries in a small saucepan with caster sugar and crème de cassis and cook over a gentle heat. You could use just water instead of the cassis if you don’t have any; you want just a little liquid to stop the blueberries catching. For just grown-ups you could put some cassis in at the end but it is alcoholic and therefore I wanted to burn off any alcohol because of feeding little ones.

Stir occasionally. The blueberries will release some of their juices as they cook and start to burst. Take from the heat when nicely warm, bubbling a little at the edge but some of the blueberries are still whole; don’t let it all bubble down into a mash. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

 

Break each Savoiardi biscuit into 4 pieces and put at the bottom of the glasses.

 

Spoon the blueberry compôte over the biscuits in each glass.

 

Make the yoghurt topping. Put the yoghurt in a bowl. Sprinkle over the icing sugar and vanilla. Whisk well to mix in completely with a small whisk or spoon. This also breaks down the yoghurt a little so it isn’t too solid. I think it’s important to use real Greek yoghurt – not Greek-style. Most Greek-style yoghurts have thickening agents in them (read the label) and are not just pure, unadulterated yoghurt made from milk and cultures. The only Greek-style yoghurt I’ve found that’s pure is Yeo Valley’s but for this dessert I chose to buy Total.

 

Divide the yoghurt mixture between the glasses, laying it carefully on top of the compôte. Spread as gently as you can – you don’t want it to start mixing in with the fruit. Decorate with a single blueberry on top.

I covered the glass with clingfilm and put in the fridge for a couple of hours. They need this for the Savoiardi biscuits to soak up the compôte.

They were a great success. The general consensus was that they were ‘super yummy’. Freddie asked for seconds and I had to explain there were no seconds; I’d just made one each. The compôte had soaked nicely into the biscuits (which are really a kind of hard-ish sponge) and this gave a nice structure and base to the ‘trifle’. For an experiment they’d turned out remarkably – and pleasingly! – well. I liked them chilled too, which also means they’re excellent for preparing ahead, and they were wonderfully fresh tasting and summery. You could of course use other fruits. Fruits that cook well. I don’t like strawberries cooked but raspberries, plums, blackberries and even apricots would work well.

French Apple Tart

I’m calling this a ‘French’ apple tart as it’s what I think of as a French-style tart rather than, say, a deep-filled Dutch apple tart. It’s also the apple tart I used to make a lot – and I mean really a lot – many years ago, as the recipe is in a book I commissioned and edited back in 1979. You can see how spattered the pages are from frequent use!

 

I’ve found since writing the blog that what one thinks of as ‘classic’ or ‘authentic’ is rarely a definitive way of cooking a dish. I like to do a little research before I put recipes like this on the blog and found that typing ‘French apple tart’ into Google came up with many variations. Not surprisingly some recipes put crème pâtissière on the bottom with slices of apple on top; some put a frangipane base in. More similar to my old recipe, Michel Roux Jr puts an apple purée base under the apple slices. I noticed ‘my’ recipe was called ‘Tarte Normande’ but maybe I’ve been eating too many slices of Paul Bakery’s delicious Tarte Normande over recent years and think of that having a custardy mix in with chunks of apple.

My desire for a French style was to have a crisp pastry base with a good, slightly tart and not too deep filling. And I wanted it to look as beautiful as I could manage because it has to be said that French pâtisserie does look very beautiful indeed.

It was in the end my own interpretation of what I used to do. I used my fail-safe sweet shortcrust base to line the flan tin and because I wanted to use minimum sugar, I used sweet Gala apples rather than sharp cooking apples.

 

French Apple Tart

  • about 6 eating apples (e.g. Gala, Cox’s)
  • 15g butter
  • 1 dessertspoon caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons marmalade or apricot jam

Pastry

  • 225g plain flour
  • 150g butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 egg

Make the pastry first. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until it all comes together in a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

Prepare the apples. First make the purée. Peel, core and cut into small chunks, 4 apples (weighing about 500g). Put the apple in a pan with a dash of water, just enough to stop the apple sticking to the pan as you cook it. Cook gently over a low-moderate heat, stirring frequently, until soft. The apple pieces probably won’t break down into a mush like cooking apples, so once they’re tender, use a potato masher to break them up and then beat with a wooden spoon into a purée. Then beat in the butter. Taste. I felt I didn’t need any added sugar but if your apple purée is a bit too tart, add just a little to your taste.

I’ve been using eating apples rather than cooking apples in pies, crumbles and tarts for years now but feel it’s particularly important when I’m cooking for the little grandsons – as I was yesterday – to keep sugar at a minimum.

 

Heat the oven to 220C/Fan 200/Gas 7. Grease a 24 cm loose-bottomed flan tin with butter. I like to then sprinkle over a little flour, shake around and tip out the excess. This helps you to get the flan out easily at the end with no sticking to the tin. Roll out the pastry and line the tin. Crumple some greaseproof paper to soften, lay over the pastry and put in some baking beans. Put into the hot oven for 5 minutes. Remove and tip out the beans and paper, put back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

 

 

Tip the apple purée into the flan base and spread evenly. Peel and core the remaining two apples. Then cut thin slices (about 2mm).

 

Lay the apple slices carefully round the edge of the flan, overlapping slightly. Then do the same in the middle.

 

Sprinkle over a dessertspoon of caster sugar to encourage some nice caramelisation of the edges.

Return the now filled flan to the hot oven and bake for a further 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is nicely browned and the apples cooked. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit in the tin and then carefully transfer to a cooling rack.

Put the marmalade or jam in a small saucepan with just a dash of water. Warm through, stirring, until dissolved. Strain. Then using a pastry brush, brush the warm mix over all the apple slices and edges of pastry for a nice glaze finish.

Transfer to a serving plate. This isn’t a tart to be served warm, but room temperature so is brilliant for entertaining as it’s best made in advance.

We had ours with clotted cream because I had some in the fridge that needed using but it would be lovely with Chantilly cream (whipped cream flavoured with vanilla and a little sugar) or simply some nice pouring cream or even a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I love the simplicity of this kind of tart, especially for warm summer days. With just apple purée rather than a rich custard at the base (lovely as that is sometimes), you get a lighter, fresher taste. It was a great hit with the family – and I really must start making it regularly again!

Travel Gourmet’s Top 10 Places to Eat in London, January-June 2019

Since starting the blog, people often ask me to recommend restaurants. It’s a compliment and very nice to be asked but also slightly difficult for a number of reasons.

I’m not a professional restaurant critic and while I go out to eat quite a bit to meet up with friends, it’s often to the same places and I very rarely go to anywhere ‘posh’. I can’t give you advice about Michelin starred and award-winning restaurants; I’m more of a trattoria and café person. So, if you’re looking for somewhere extra special for a blow-out meal, I’m not really your guide.

Recommending anything is always like entering slightly dangerous territory. There are restaurants I love which others haven’t been impressed by; there are restaurants others think are wonderful but I don’t like. I do know if a first visit to a restaurant isn’t good I’m rarely forgiving enough to give it another try, while favourite restaurants have nine lives like cats: ‘Oh dear,’ I might think, ‘that wasn’t quite up to their normal standard,’ and let it go and not be put off going again (unless the lower standard is regularly repeated).

I’m more forgiving of mediocre food than mediocre service. But the food of course is important. Food has always been important. I’ve been talking about food since I learnt my first words; my parents were always in search of good and interesting food and we’d make big detours to try a new restaurant or food shop. As a family, now with my children and their partners and own children, we will talk in detail about food, whether eating in or out: how to prepare it, how the flavours work, whether it was better when we did something slightly different last time, maybe it needs a little more this or that … I think you really have to love food to want to talk about it in this way but we do! It’s not about criticising as much as about discovering and sharing.

Virginia Woolf wrote in A Room of One’s Own, ‘One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.’ I’ve been lucky enough to dine extremely well over the past few months. I’ve returned to old favourites, had a few disappointments, but I’ve also added some great finds to my list of places to eat. I thought it would be fun to tell you where I’ve been eating out in the first half of this year – in no particular order – and if you get to try them too, I hope you like them as much as I do!

 

1. Bancone

A discovery from last year but it earns its place in this list by having become my most ‘go to’ place. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve eaten there and I’m going again this coming week! I love the food, which is exceptional, I love the atmosphere, the setup of the bancone (counter) where you see food being prepared and feel part of all that’s going on. I’ve eaten there with friends, my son, and on my own. Happiness comes bancone shaped! (Click here for full review.)

 

2. Tredwells

A recent find but a place I’ve passed so many times and thought I must try it one day. Part of what held me back was the fear of disappointment. I’ve had so many disappointments eating at ‘big name’ restaurants and I wanted to go on liking Marcus Wareing when he pops up on the TV. All fears completely unfounded: Tredwells is fantastic! Get there soon. (For full review click here.)

 

3. Cinnamon Bazaar

The ‘Cinnamons’ have been favourite haunts since a friend took me to the original ‘Club’ about 15 years ago. I was awed; I’d never had Indian food of this quality before. There are other great Indian restaurants now but the Cinnamons are still some of the best: Cinnamon Club, Cinnamon Kitchen … and now I’ve tried the slightly more relaxed Cinnamon Bazaar, I love it too. After I went for the first time in April this year, my son ate there with a friend and thought it was great as well. (Click here for full review.)

 

4. The Oystermen

I mostly choose fish when I’m eating out but rarely go to ‘fish restaurants’ and have never been able to answer the query: ‘Can you recommend a good fish restaurant?’ Well now I can say, ‘Yes! The Oystermen … and it’s phenomenal.’ Be warned there’s not a non-fish alternative on the menu, but if you like fish as much as I do, then you simply have to try it next time you’re in Covent Garden. (Click here for full review.)

 

5. Meson don Felipe

I first wrote about Meson don Felipe in 2016 but with a few visits to the Old Vic and the Young Vic theatres this year, I’ve been back to this great Spanish tapas bar a few times. I like it a lot. I’m always saying that Barrafina in Adelaide Street is one of my very favourite restaurants – and it is – but while Barrafina offers ‘fine dining’ tapas, Meson don Felipe feels more like the real thing; surrounded by Spanish staff you could almost believe you’re in Spain. It’s always busy so best to book. (Click here for full review.)

 

6. Padella

Foodies have been writing and talking about Padella for ages and my first attempt to get in didn’t work. I was on my way to the theatre and just didn’t have time to join the long queue. I don’t venture over to the London Bridge/Borough Market area often so it’s a bit off my radar. But when I was there for the excellent beekeeping course at Bermondsey Bees in April, it seemed the ideal opportunity to try again – and go with plenty of time to queue! I’m so glad I did. It was excellent with fabulous pasta dishes. (Click here for full review.)

 

7. Bar Douro

I keep telling myself I’ll get to Lisbon soon but still haven’t booked my ticket! I’ve never been to Portugal and my instant thought food wise is, of course, the infamous, now very popular pasteis de nata, little custard tarts. So when my friend Annette suggested meeting at Bar Douro, I was keen to find out more about the food of Portugal. And it was great, so this was another good find this year. (Click here for full review.)

 

8. Santa Maria Pizzeria

It must be a year of finally getting to places (even if not Lisbon!) for having heard so much about Santa Maria pizzas for years, when I found I was meeting someone near their original Ealing (West London) pizzeria one evening in May, I just had to go. And was pleased to discover their pizzas were every bit as good as I’d heard. (Click here for full review.)

 

9. Santa Nata

This is cheating slightly for you can’t actually eat at Santa Nata. But you can buy a freshly baked, glorious pasteis de nata, still warm from the oven, some cinnamon sprinkled on top, and carry it to nearby Covent Garden Piazza, find somewhere to sit and experience a moment of pure sweet tasting joy. (Click here for full review.)

 

10. Coffee 091

We’re a family of habits; we are loyal to our favourite local cafés and restaurants and go to them most of the time. But however much you like a place, it is also nice to have some variety, so the opening of Coffee 091 in Whitton (part of Twickenham, west London) a few months ago has been greeted with considerable enthusiasm and is now a new but regular haunt. They do great coffee and croissants but also snacks. The Sicilian owner, Giacomo, is always friendly and calls hello as we pass, even if we’re not going in, which is part of the pleasure of frequenting local places. (Click here for full review.)

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I hope you feel inspired to try some of these places if you’re in London. The pleasure for me in writing a post like this is not only reminding myself of good places to eat (if I could possibly forget any of these great eateries!), but it’s also a celebration of some of the best bits of the year so far.

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This article is now published on the GPSmyCity app. Why not download it and have it ready on your smartphone or pad – plus other great tips for what to do in London? Click here for link.

Brockhampton Estate (National Trust), Herefordshire

I’m just back from visiting my daughter who lives in Worcestershire. We like to explore her local area where you’ll find lots of National Trust properties and this time she suggested we went to the Brockhampton Estate, about a half hour’s drive into adjoining Herefordshire.

Brockhampton is a 1,700-acre farmed estate and within it lies Lower Brockhampton Manor House, a timber-framed house dating back to 1425. The owners of the estate lived there until 1764 when Bartholomew Barneby inherited it. He decided the house was too small and old-fashioned for a gentleman so he built a new house, high above on the estate in the fashionable Georgian style, allowing farm workers to move into the original house.

The surrounding countryside is stunning (even on a rather cloudy day) and thus you can easily see the attraction of building a home high up for the views.

We arrived just before opening time at 10.00am but were allowed into the car park near the Old Apple Tea-room and told the Manor House didn’t open until 11.00am and its car park at 10.30.

We didn’t need much incentive to go into the tea-rooms and have a morning coffee (tea for Nicola). We also had some delicious home-made cake with our drinks and by this time 9-month-old Rufus had woken up and was ready to join in the excitement of our expedition.

Nicola suggested we drive down to the Lower Brockhampton car park near the Manor House as it was quite a long walk with the baby in the pushchair.

Walking from the car park we passed a sweet little bookshop full of lots of secondhand books.

 

The Manor House itself is beautiful. Surrounded by a moat, it seemed perfect timing to visit for the moat was full of water lilies in bloom. I couldn’t help thinking that Monet would have loved it!

You access the house by going through the gatehouse which crosses the moat and was built in 1530-40. As you go through you can climb some stairs to see inside.

 

We were warmly welcomed at the front door and told we could leave the pushchair there while we walked round the house.

The house has seen many changes in its history and has thus been laid out to take you through 500 years from the Medieval Great Hall through to the 1950s.

 

From the Great Hall you go up a staircase into the Minstrels’ Gallery and through to the bedrooms. The first bedroom was Isabella Barneby’s and set up as it was in 1685. You walk through that into a bedroom used by the farm workers who moved in in the 18th century. A much more simple affair.

 

Walking on you come into the eaves of the Manor House where a small house frame was set up with pieces of wood to allow you to continue putting it together. Apparently families can challenge each other, working from different ends, to complete it. We didn’t do that but spent some time there as Rufus simply adored the little house, which was just the right size for him. He wandered in and out, laughing at us from between the gaps.

Off this area was a bedroom dedicated to a young 21-year-old local lad, Albert, who fought in the First World War and was killed on the Western Front in 1917. It was really quite moving to see his things laid carefully out and read that he was the only son of Alfred Sprague, a local gamekeeper, and his wife Sarah.

 

Downstairs we entered the kitchen, known as ‘Alice’s Kitchen’. Alice was the wife of one of the gamekeepers so partridges and pheasants would be brought to hang and she would cook for hunting parties using not just the game but vegetables and fruits from the farm. This was a ‘modern’ kitchen in 1910.

 

 

A little further on was the ale room. Ale was the diet of ordinary people at the time – a safer option than drinking the water then.

 

The lounge (sitting room) is set up as it was in 1952, when our present Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne (she wasn’t crowned until the following year). An old wireless (radio) was playing; a tea service sat on a side table; a treadle sewing machine was ready for making and mending clothes and furnishings. There were a few children’s toys, a writing bureau, but this was still too early for there to be a television.

 

The ‘Gentleman’s Study’ dates back to 1936. Newspapers of the time, announcing King George V’s death lay on a table; a record player sat on a side table with long-playing records; and a decanter of whisky waited by a chair on a small table.

 

Outside again, you can walk round and into the ruins of a chapel that dates back to 1283 in documents and maybe even further back to 1166.

The Granary Shop is a delightful place with a small but beautiful collection of plants to buy.

Inside there are many temptations. And no, I didn’t resist! I bought amongst a couple of other things some Brockhampton Extra Virgin Rapeseed Oil. You can also buy some snacks and sit at tables outside.

 

We sat with some chilled apple juice for a while then, once refreshed, we decided to take a look at the orchard. We got a great view of the Manor House and surrounding countryside as we walked on.

There’s currently a large restoration project going on in the orchard. It is rather neglected-looking at the moment, it has to be said, but great to know that work is under way to restore it to its former glory with apple, pear and cherry trees.

We had a great time and saw a lot but there’s plenty more to do and see, especially for families with a Natural Play Trail and regular events (see the website). There are a number of walks shown on a map that you’re given when you arrive, from the 1-mile Bottom to Top Trail to a Parkland Walk of 3 miles and a 3¾ mile carriage walk that traces the route taken by Georgian carriages.

I had a wonderful time, not just because it’s lovely to spend time with my daughter and youngest grandson, but because Brockhampton itself was such a delight. It was one of the nicest National Trust places I’d ever been to, I told Nicola as we were leaving. This was in part because everyone we encountered, from the man at the main entrance when we arrived, the woman in the tea-rooms, the lovely woman at the ticket kiosk by the second car park who was selling tickets to non National Trust members (£10) to go into the house and its grounds, and who told us about the orchard project, which made us want to see it; the man at the front of the Manor House, the woman in the Granary Shop … everyone was so welcoming and friendly, which added to the intimate feel of the place. But Brockhampton is also beautiful and beautifully maintained with a true sense of love and care. It made it a joy to spend a couple of hours or so there.

 

Warm Chicken Salad with Oranges & Black Olives

A heatwave has been scorching its way across Europe and I guess a temperature in the mid-30s in London today is not so bad when you consider other places – like France, Spain and Italy – have had record highs in the mid-40s. However, it definitely wasn’t a day for standing by a campfire in the garden, as my 4-year-old grandson Freddie calls the barbecue; nor was it a day for rich stews or roasts. But the family were coming for a meal and I wanted to make something nice so decided on a warm chicken salad. ‘Warm’ because the chicken needed cooking and I would griddle it. And I didn’t want a fridge cold salad; sometimes just warm and fresh can be good in heat too.

I bought some mini organic chicken fillets and decided to marinate them before cooking. I thought serving them with a fresh orange dressing would add a nice summery and special touch. I put the chicken in the marinade and prepared the orange dressing a few hours in advance and the final preparation took only a short time – maybe 15-20 minutes?

 

Warm Chicken Salad with Oranges & Black Olives

  • 10 mini chicken fillets (350g)
  • 1 bag of mixed green salad
  • 4 spring onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • a handful of black olives

Marinade

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 level teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Orange Sauce

  • 3 oranges
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (or wine if you don’t have sherry)
  • 1 teaspoon runny honey
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

 

Put all the marinade ingredients in a shallow dish and whisk together. Add the chicken fillets and mix carefully but well to coat each one. Cover in cling film and put in the fridge for at least one hour. (If you can’t get mini fillets, just buy chicken breasts and slice.)

Make the orange sauce: grate the zest of 1 orange into a bowl and the juice of one other (you may only need half) to get 30ml/2 tablespoons. Add the olive oil, sherry vinegar, honey and salt and pepper. Whisk together.

Cut the peel and pith away from the orange you removed the zest from, and the 3rd orange, and carefully remove the orange segments from between the membrane separating them with a sharp knife. Add the orange segments to the dressing. Cover with cling film and put in the fridge.

 

When it’s nearly time to eat lay the salad on a large serving plate. Prepare the spring onions.

 

Heat a griddle and when hot lay the chicken slices on it (I had to do mine in two batches). They should cook quite quickly. Once you have a nice charred effect you can always slice into one to check it’s cooked through, if you like. As the chicken is ready, lay the pieces directly on to the green salad. I’d chosen an organic salad with peppery leaves in Wholefoods.

 

When all the chicken is cooked, sprinkle over the spring onion slices. Then spoon over the orange dressing and all the orange segments. Scatter the black olives over the top.

I cooked some lovely little new potatoes to accompany the salad, dressed with butter and fresh chopped mint.

The salad looked very inviting!

It was a gorgeous salad. The chicken pieces were just warm still and thus were nicely soaking up the orange dressing. They were beautifully tender from the marinade and quick cooking on the griddle. Chicken, oranges and olives make a great combination and this was a gorgeous light but tasty salad for a hot evening.