Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Lunch @ L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

Last Thursday was time again to break out of Surrey for some fine dining and a good catch up with Saf.  Situated right on the edge of Covent Garden is L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, a dark yet alluring looking restaurant, directly next door to The famous Ivy.  Eager as ever we arrived at the restaurant about 15 minutes before our table was booked only to find that the bar didn't open until 12, but we were received by the exceptionally friendly front of house who arranged for us to go up to the terrace slightly early.  I think she sensed my champagne clock ticking, and I don't think that she wanted me smoking on the pavement!  The bar and terrace are immaculately presented, a sensual theme of black and red runs through the entire 3 floors, it exudes opulence and sophistication with a mild but slightly intense sense of drama. Just how bars should be (oh and it stays open until 2am!)  We headed out to the terrace, sunglasses firmly on and enjoyed a glass of Veuve Cliquot and Berry Blast in the sunshine, in our own privacy.  When we had finished, we were taken down to our table in the restaurant, and what a great table we were sat at.  The dining room has a modern industrial yet dramatic feel in its decor but is comfortable and inviting as the kitchen is situated within the restaurant so diners have the privilege of watching all the staff at work, cooking and presenting the fabulous dishes.  Our table was directly opposite the kitchen area, so we were very well positioned for some, slightly less than cool, gawping!

The rather extensive menu was presented to us, along with another aperativo, and we began the enviable task of deciding what to sample.  We chose from the set menu, a difficult task as the different dishes available all sounded excellent, but I went for the Lobster salad, followed by Teryaki Salmon and Saf choose the soft poached egg with aubergine and shitake mushrooms, followed by the risotto.  Our amuse buches were then delivered, along with the bread basket, and the amazing meal began.  I was given a fois gras puree with port reduction and Saf had a lime and melon shot.  To be honest I didn't want that mini course to end, it was delicious, perfectly balanced and so rich but without being heavy.  Next came the starters, OK so my lobster came with a £7 supplement but I haven't had lobster in such a long time that I thought it was worth it, and I wasn't disappointed.  The meaty lobster was cooked beautifully and was perfectly complimented by the baby gem and vinaigrette.  I chose a Vouvray to accompany it which matched brilliantly, but again rather like Roux @ Landau, the absence of a Somellier was rather disappointing, but the wines by the glass list was so concise that it didn't really make an impact. Saf's only disappointment with my starter was that it was cold, and she doesn't really do cold food, and she def doesn't do salads!  Her starter was the poached egg and it was superb, both of us were grinning like proverbial Cheshire cats by the end of the course.  The presentation was immaculate, and so precise, I am always so impressed by the intricacies of this type of dining and the Chefs at L'Atelier were an inspiration. 

Amuse Bouche

Lobster Starter

Poached Egg, Aubergine & Mushroom
THE Fennel Mash


Teryaki Salmon

Next came our main courses, again exquisitely presented, and in addition we were given fennel mash with potato crisps compliments of the Chef.  OMG what an amazing dish that was in its own right, super smooth and tasty, with the additional crunch of the home made crisps!  Saf's favourite things are crisps so she was in her element.  When the waiter came over and asked us what we thought, our empty bowl and gushing response prompted him to bring us a second bowl - how lovely is that?  Our mains were excellent too, great flavours and my salmon was perfectly cooked, but if I had to be critical of anything it would be that my fish was, well, a little fishy.  But, that is hyper critical, I am just not a huge fan of fishy..but I am also really fussy.  For the first time in a long time I chose the (French) house white next, as the waiter recommended that it was crisp and dry and served very cold.  I have to say that it was very good.  Obviously a French chef isn't going to serve up any duff wine, but I usually steer clear of the house, still, at £8 a 175ml glass it is never going to be classified as cheap.

Once we had leisurely completed our mains, we chose to have our deserts and finish our drinks on the terrace.  The sun was streaming down on us by now and the atmosphere so relaxed it was great to sit and enjoy the rest of our afternoon in the tranquility above the busy London streets.  I opted for the cheese board, but actually couldn't really eat much of it as I was so full, and Saf had the filled choux pastry which looked (and tasted I am told) beautiful.  The staff were friendly and accommodating and the whole place ran calmly and smoothly, pretty incredible seeing as you dine beside the kitchen.  Our 3 courses were £35 and the wines ranged from £8 per glass skywards.  I did also try an English beer which was actually pretty good, despite my turning my nose up at the initial idea!

So, all together we had a great day, superb food and another wonderful experience, quite different to our previous lunches.  The staff weren't quite as attentive as we have previously experienced but overall Joel Robuchon exceeded our expectations, providing a decadent atmosphere with polish and finesse and the opportunity to relax and bask in the 2 Michelin starred perfection. 

La Cuisine within the dining room

What I wore;
Navy Dress - Next
Tan sandals - Zara
Blazer - Zara
Sunnies - Prada
Bag - Marc Jacobs Elise in cream
Gold Tiffany Heart necklace


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The White Hart in Pirbright

Skiving off on Snow Day
Before I go any further I have a confession, or rather an admission.. The White Hart is my local, it takes me 11 seconds to walk there, 20 odd with a small child in tow, but all the same you get the proximity!  I have frequented this pub for many, many years now, and have seen it change hands, and even name (albeit once, before the locals went up in arms) and have had recurrent special/hilarious/shocking/embarassing/soul searching, times in the place.  This post however is about the present, how The White Hart or WH as we refer to it, stands on this day in 2013.

Pirbright is a quintessential English village, cliched as they come, much sex drugs rock and roll mixed with stitch and bitch, scarecrow celebrating and 'who can build the biggest gin palace?' but the one thing that remains our constant is our dear village pub.  As far as places to be social go this place tops the charts - as a single person I am more than happy to walk in any night (or day) of the week and I know that I will not only be greeted adoringly by the staff but I can also chat to the regs in Alchies' corner and will always love & laugh at every second.  No two nights are the same in here, there is always a great mix of clientele, and it never ceases to amaze me how many out of towners there are, people flock here, it is a destination haven as much as a locals retreat.  The decor is tasteful and befitting, the garden is decent and well kept - and dogs are welcome - the pub side is a self service option so to speak, you have to choose your table, so get there early and be prepared to order at the bar, but the restaurant is fully waited on which requires you to book. 

To be honest, I am not a massive fan of the entire menu, some things they do exceptionally well, the fish is fresh, the steak is great and I love the flat bread and the scallops, but some of it is, despite the fact that they have a great kitchen team - just too Brake Bros for me.  OK, I know it is an M&B pub but still, for the type of place it is I think that they should allow more home made dishes rather than the freezer options, a classic 'Gordon Ramsey would cut the menu in half' quote.  Chefs should, in my humble opinion create everything, not defrost and reheat, anyone can do that.

So, back to the point in hand, I love the staff in this pub, seriously do, I can go in there feeling crap, for just the one, and they are so brilliant that I can't stay grumpy for long.  I also LOVE the wine list, they have a Cloudy Bay Sauv Blanc for £30 which is an excellent price for a pub, albeit a little extravagant for every day, and many others besides for around the £15 mark,great wines and great value.  The cider, cocktails and coffees are also noteworthy, total quality.  The beer is also fantastic, they do guest ales and always chill down the bottles of Peroni when they see me coming, so to my mind it is perfection.  Gush, gush.. I have brought swathes of people here over the years and spent many many lunches and evenings in the place with friends and loved ones that I almost feel an extension of the furniture.  I rather think that Andre - the brilliant, dry and amazingly hospitable manager - would agree there! 
Birthday Bubbles
It was my birthday last week and I took my Mum in for lunch, we were treated to a bottle of fizz by Andre and ate tempura prawns followed by scampi, and I have to say I was impressed by it all, the scampi was clean and well presented, the prawns tasty and fat.  In fact, everything always is here.  Sometimes you have to wait for food (it is a popular spot) sometimes the staff are trying so hard to please everyone that they get a bit stressed, sometimes other people's kids are irritating and sometimes you have to send the food back, but overall I cannot think of any other pub that I would rather spend my time, energy and money in - I value the friendships I have there and the great work that they all do, day in day out. 

Next time any of you are in Surrey please pop in and patronise, you won't be disappointed, and if you don't see me propping up the bar with the locals in the corner, tell them Kate sent you, you will be all right :)

Thanks so much to Andre, Monica, Shaun, Chris, Emma C(who has recently left) and everyone else for making it what it is today - and for the brilliant friends that I have met through this place, notably Chris and Emma, who are I classify as superb - if I started to thank all the others I have got to know over the years I would be here a very long time!  Here's to what is to come, and the Trip Advisor reviews ;) hahahha, cheers, MWAH

Lining them up on the bar, thanks all!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Lunch - Roux @ The Landau

Happy days, yesterday was time for  Saf and I leave to reality behind for a short while and head up to London for shopping and lunch, in style.  It is so great having such easy access to London, but I do sometimes wish I was even closer to town. Surrey is a lovely place to live, but still, you cannot beat the atmosphere in the Capital, not to mention all of the vibrancy, energy and beauty that the city exudes. 

The Langham Hotel is situated right at the top of Regent Street, just opposite the fancy new BBC building and is a stunning place.  We arrived a little early so we made our way back down Regent St in the glorious sunshine for a quick spot of shopping before hitting the bar.  I was wearing flats but the world's most uncomfortable ballet pumps (yes such things do exist!) so headed for Zara and picked up a fab pair of pink suede heels, for a whopping £22.50 (the black versions were £70, I think I might have got an ultra bargain) and back in heels I felt much better, albeit leggy next to my slightly shorter compani.  We had a good look around and then headed back for a drink in the Artisan bar before heading in to the Restaurant.  The bar was beautiful, but expensive and OK I had a glass of Laurent Perrier but they charged us 12.5% service charge for 2 drinks which I feel is a complete con. 


Walking in to the Roux you are presented with amazing looking wine cellars on each wall and then a dining room that is opulent yet serene, with a calm vibe about it and immaculate staff.  We were shown to our lovely table by the window and were presented with the lunch menus as well as a red rose for Saf and a white one for me, we were also told that our aperitifs had been paid for, no clue as to who by though.  I guessed it was Ram but when Saf messaged him he denied all knowledge the toad.  Anyway, it was a lovely surprise and the whole restaurant went quiet, making me blush - which never happens!  Saf did laugh. 

So, we made our choices from the menu, I chose from the set lunch menu and Saf went a la carte vegetarian.  My menu included half a bottle of wine and 3 courses for £45 which I thought was excellent value and chose Chablis to accompany both fish courses.  I was rather surprised that there was no present Somellier as I love talking wine, this time I had to choose for myself which, although it is of course fine, I would have liked to have the opportunity to benefit from an expert's opinion.
The first set of canapes were very promising, smoked haddock, and gorgeous, we had high hopes, and the bread was hot and fresh from the oven, so again, lovely detail there.  Much laughter and putting the world to rights ensued and a short time later our starters arrived.  I have to say that I have never been more surprised when Saf's starter arrived, 4 minuscule chopped carrots in the bottom of a bowl, barely enough for your average hamster - until the pea veloute was poured on top, thank goodness for that.  When my starter was presented I have to say that I was more than a little disappointed, it didn't look good at all and I am afraid to say that it didn't taste great either, it was under seasoned, eggy and well flaccid, for want of a better word!  Saf and I took at least 5 minutes to compose ourselves, so mature that we are.  It was a smoked salmon and scallop dish, but really the flavours were lost and it was rather disappointing. 
My face says it all - and

The next disappointment was the lack of extra tasters, no amuse bouche or palate cleansers, which I do feel would have added to the meal.  When the main courses arrived they looked much better, I had the Sea Bass and Saf had aubergine with Saffron wheat, lovely presentation and cooked to perfection, although again, mine could have been better seasoned (not that I am a food critic, it isn't just about the food but it is rather an integral part of going to a restaurant, and therefore expectations are naturally high, especially with the Roux name above the door) the portions were very generous though and we were both really full at the end of our main so waited a while before ordering our desert.  Another huge plus for the place was the the cheese board could be taken instead of desert at no additional cost, which was a huge plus for us as neither of us are that fussed about desert.  It also meant that I could have a glass of exquisite Bordeaux as well - no after dinner fizz for me this time.  It was excellent cheese, truly delicious, but the bread served with it had nuts and raisins in it which meant that Saf and I both spent a deal of time picking the bits out!  By the time the petit fours were delivered we couldn't eat another thing.

Saf's Main
Cheese & a cheeky Bordeaux
Overall it was a really great day, a super location, relaxed ambiance and friendly, attentive staff.  The food was good, but I was expecting more of the wow factor I have to admit.  We weren't offered a kitchen tour either which was a shame, but the quality of the food was first class and it was super value, especially as our mystery benefactor had paid for all the additional drinks for us!  That was a lovely surprise.  I am really glad that we chose this place, but at the same time I wouldn't rush to recommend it, competition is rife and I really feel that there is a lot more to be done in order to secure the coveted repeat custom. 

Lastly, what I wore;

Printed dress - Joseph (this dress was £380 to start with but I got it for £90 3 years ago and have never worn it, have been 'saving' it for an occasion-  but I need to stop doing that, too many things with tags on in my wardrobe, so it was trotted out)
Pink Suede heels - Zara
Black patent Barbarella bag -  Aspinall of London
Black blazer - Zara
Prada sunglasses

Saf and her rose from Ram

Wine Racks!  The entrance

The dining room

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lessons learned in April

As far as months go April is always a crazy one, aside from the unpredictable British weather (fashion dilemmas abound) and the Easter holidays dominating - it is a transition month and is always really busy.  For me I have had lots of work on and Zach's birthday, amongst other fun things, so the time has flown past.  This April has been particularly eventful, and I find that (as with all good planners/ de briefers) I have a number of take aways already, despite the fact that it isn't actually over yet;

1) Always pay your TV licence, if you don't/ forget to then they will knock at your door, read you your rights, wind up your dog and make you pay a year up front.  Fact. Yep, for missing one payment.
2)  Sometimes it isn't worth claiming on your insurance if someone hits your car  - and when I say hits, I mean drives in to your car at speed, at night and totals the side of it (or not mine in this case!)so, always befriend a decent local garage who will look after you and fix you up for a reasonable amount.
3) Despite how easy a You Tube tutorial makes it look, never attempt to ice a cake using fondant icing, unless you have an immense amount of patience, or nothing better to do with your time.
4) Adults can have as much fun as kids on a 25 ft high inflatable side, and especially wearing mickey mouse ears...
5) Marlboro Silver are really just expensive air
6) Being a size 8 is good
7) Eating your own body weight in pizza is also good
8) 6 & 7 aren't sustainable
9) Sometimes you can't fix people, you can just be there for them, let them know you care and hope that, with time and patience, it is enough. 
10) Sunshine makes everything better, makes people more sociable, makes them smile and definitely makes the world a sexier place to be.  Nothing better than having a drink, in the garden, in the sun with those you love being with.  Looking forward to some time doing just that... Hopefully very soon.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Spring Please!

The sunshine is out and so whilst nursing a ridiculous hangover this weekend I have begun fantasising about a SS13 wish list and the compilation, thereof, has begun.

This has to go top - black tee with peonies, possibly the most beautiful romantic flower ever, perfect sexy laziness, and All Saints come up trumps again, but £95?!  I think I may have the white jersey tee version in my basket for now ;)

Peony Top
 This Marni dress from The Outnet is stunning, but doesn't exactly scream SS, and is still £302!  Ouch

Printed cotton dress by Marni

This BMB jumper looks like the perfect addition too, would probably wear this more than the other SS tops!  Sadly/ happily it is OOS in my size but a good price at £56 for cotton and I love the quality of her clothes

Astha striped cotton-blend sweater by By Malene Birger

These are also going on the wish list but only because I have a problem with sunnies, and they are a bargain ( I have no need for them, shallow..)
Metal aviator sunglasses  by Marc by Marc Jacobs
Then there is this blouse from H&M which I have purchased already and am really hoping it isn't too 'poolside Marbella' but we shall see;

Thursday, March 21, 2013

All the small things...

This post title comes courtesy of my crazy obsession for song lyrics, and yes I need to accredit the good boys of Blink 182 for this one but recently I have become all consumed with my desire for a new tattoo which I have wanted since the ink dried on my last (4th) one - but my problem is that I am so indecisive!  It was one of my new year's resolutions though so I am sticking to it, I fail at so many, and am on a quest for the right one.  I have had so many defining songs in the sound track to my life that I feel I need to pay tribute and add something to my body but my butterfly mind can't seem to choose.  At the moment I am torn between the rather damning Kelly Clarkson words from Gone and Lawson's rather soppier ones from Standing in the Dark.  Both, in my humble opinion worthy of being committed to flesh but at the same time it is rather permanent and I am not sure about exactly how much I want to bare in a bikini...

So tattoos aside, the post was all about the small things, tattoos excluded (latest one will be rather bigger than my others) and so I thought it was about time that I put down some of the small things that are very good things right now. 

  • It is March, and therefore surely we are due some sunshine!
  • The F1 season is upon us, which means heady petrol head fun and the longing for corporate hospitality (or maybe even a ticket for the Singapore GP and to watch the Killers play for £105 as Johnno and his new fiancee have managed to bag) remains a hazy memory
  • I have dared to put on jeans that I haven't worn in 5 years, and they fit fine
  • There are loads of lovely items to be tried and purchased on NAP (but my credit card was declined the other night, which is probably best, so I shall lust from afar for now)
  • I was asked for ID in Waitrose yesterday when buying wine, actually I wasn't directly but the very sweet and quite frankly terrified looking boy at the checkout asked me, cheekily, if I was old enough to be buying Chianti, to which I ridiculously said 'are you asking for my ID because I haven't got any!' to which he said 'no, but now that you have said that I can't serve you!' cue much hilarity from my fellow shoppers and the poor boy looked as though he was about to be hung out to dry - happily I was safe in the knowledge that Tesco were delivering white and fizz that very day so I just laughed, and let him off.  Was only one bottle, but rather awkward!  Quite flattering all the same, if I look 25 ever, to anyone, then that is fine.
  • The price of cigarettes is extortionate, not that I am buying them for me - natch - but seeing as I bought some for someone that I rather love having in my company only to have them smoked by drunken friends meant that I had to replace them - £8/20, WTF.  The first pack of 20 I bought were £2.52. 
  • My little people continue to amuse/ drive my bats at every opportunity, but they are doing amazing and I am very proud of the bigger people that they are turning in to.  Z will be 4 one month from now.
  • Lastly, for those feeling a bit shit at the moment - all I can say is that it will all get better, be honest with yourself and enjoy everything that is to come.
Oh and I put unleaded in to diesel car today, but thanks to the Bentley's boys all was OK (well so far so good!) they were very appreciative of the thank you beers that I dropped in on my way home.  I must be their number one nightmare client!

Happy weekend all, enjoy all of the small things, they make the bigger picture ..

"Say it ain't so, I will not go, turn the lights off, carry me home
Keep your head still, I'll be your thrill, the night will go on, my little windmill
Say it ain't so, I will not go, turn the lights off, carry me home
Keep your head still, I'll be your thrill, the night will go on, my little windmill"

All the small things, Blink 182

Friday, March 01, 2013

Lunch @ The Ledbury

Saf and I have taken the command decision that we shall sample all of the best restaurants around the country and have drawn up a 'to visit' list as part of our quest.  I seem to be making some very fun lists at the moment, but I had best leave it there else I shall become most distracted..! Following our meeting with the lovely Darren McHugh at The Berkley last month we decided that our next stop should be The Ledbury, as he had just been appointed restaurant manager there.  So, yesterday morning we set off to the big smoke on the train for our day, happily with much less drama than the last time we went in to town.  We arrived in Notting Hill for midday, a lovely part of town actually, I haven't been there for years (I think to visit Myla - stunning underwear shop- in maybe 2004?) anyway, the shopping there is fabulous, boutiques and quirky independent shops as well as an Ottoleghi deli, and of course some great looking cafes and bars.   The Ledbury is situated at the end of Ledbury road and has a very glam exterior that wouldn't look out of place at the centre of any of the World's Capitals.  Rather disappointingly there was no bar or anywhere to sit before lunch so we were shown straight to our table by the very charming Lawrence, who I have a feeling had been instructed to look after us by the afore mentioned Mr McHugh.  The restaurant itself is very pleasant, airy and modern, but nothing hugely special, I think the minimalist look had been taken a little far really, and therefore it lacked a little personality.  I like a touch more drama when it comes to decor, purely personal obviously. 

Our drinks arrived and Saf was presented with a really good non alcoholic cocktail, usually I am not a huge fan, they tend to be a little sticky but this was excellent, and my house champagne was good, although at £12 for a 125ml glass it should have been.  Lawrence had also been briefed about all of Saf's dietary requirements too and I have to say they were excellent to her, and even gave her her very own bread basket, which she made her way through admirably! Oh and they served SALTED butter, heaven.  I am not a fan of the unsalted stuff.  The canapes were yum (mine was a foie gras option) but 1 each I thought it was a little stingy..


My Starter

My starter was the rabbit veloute, which was excellent, the wine was also very good, cannot remember what it was though oops!

Saf's Starter

My Main
Saf's Main
Saf had a take on posh cheese on toast with a mushroom consomme which was also amazing, beautiful crockery too, which I loved, obviously as I have a slight crockery problem/obsession..  Next came the mains, and an excellent Merlot for me, I really love good red wine, it could be the financial ruin of me though, would I let it.  This was £18.50 for a 175ml glass, ouch but delish, and Californian, which I started off being a little sniffy at but the somellier took all of my preferences in to consideration (!!!) and he was absolutely spot on.  So, I had the Muntjac and honestly if I had to guess what I might choose for lunch that morning I would never have said deer, but oh my word it was exceptional, incredibly tender, cooked to perfection (med rare) and served with super tasty bone marrow and fried pretty potatoes (can't think of how else to describe them!!) was perfection on a plate.  Saf had a beautiful mushroom and celeriac risotto with pea puree, which easily stood up to the meat eaters' option. 

Lastly came pudding, and petits fours which I didn't fancy so Saf had that lot.  The sorbet was OK, but nothing special, neither of us have sweet teeth though so it isn't really surprising.  Lastly as I was enjoying my third glass of the fizzy stuff we were offered a kitchen tour and were very honoured to meet Head Chef Brett Graham and his team.  The main man took a good 5 mins to talk to us about his love of the place and shooting game, it was really lovely and he was a delight. 

We left at around 3pm after a really lovely lunch, the food was absolutely brilliant, couldn't fault it and we had a great laugh as we always do, but I would just say that it lacks something in the personality stakes, not just the decor but the atmosphere rather.  For us there weren't enough 'princess touches' no amuse bouches or extra little additions that make the overall experience, it was just going out for a nice lunch, and I don't like to use the word nice!  The prices were reasonable for Michelin starred food, £30 for 2 courses, £35 for 3 - and as I said, it was fabulous food, but I wouldn't rush back.  However, if you happen to find yourself in Notting Hill then you could do a lot worse than lunch at the Ledbury.

What I wore;

Silk shift dress - Warehouse
120 denier opaques - Wolford
Black suede ballet pumps - M&S
Grey woollen coat - M&S
Plaited shopper - Zara

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bargain Brogues!

I am so bored of this horrid weather, we haven't even seen the sunshine for days now and everywhere is grey and miserable.  So, of course I am looking ahead to the warmer months and really need to plan a trip to Italy, I am missing my sister like mad at the moment and really want to be back over there, catching up and leaving England behind for a little while.  Fingers crossed I can make that happen very soon.

I have been looking tentatively for some brogues since last spring, I am never *quite* sure about them though, love the idea and the looks in my head but not sure if I would actually suit them, so it has always put me off.  Also I only want decent quality ones, no crappy pleather jobs, and for something that I am not wholly sure about I am rather hesitant to pay out Russell & Bromley or even Boden prices.  As chance would have it I was browsing the Next website for ballet pumps (after finally paying off my balance, natch) and under the heading 'ballerinas' I found these beauties;

It must be fate, £14 from £48!!  So, I figure that even though I might not get loads of wear out of them, for £14 I can cope with that.  Next shoes always come up too big so I got the 5, and they are a touch on the tight side, but nothing that the hairdryer won't fix.  The leather is lovely and the colour very versatile.  Very impressed.  I have them on today albeit to work from home in, breaking in and all that, with black jeans and khaki military jumper, and I am loving them already.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chicken, fennel and tomato ragout

Hurrah!  January is such a miserable month, I am glad it is almost over.  The snow was fun for the weekend we could enjoy it but come Monday it just became a pain, put lots of disruptions in to work calendars and everywhere just looked filthy.  Also my grass is shot to bits, I cannot wait for spring.  But, we need to get through February first.  So, I have started looking at SS purchases to cheer myself up, even though there isn't much about just yet (although you cant buy a pair of boots in M&S FFS!  What is that all about?) so I will be back with a lust list very soon.

In the meantime I have been sourcing more winter warming dishes for the small people and I and I stumbled upon this delightful recipe from Good Food - to be honest if the fennel that I bought had been properly tasty fennel (as in Italian fennel) then I think it would have been too overpowering for Z & T but as it was it was very mild (Sainsburys, pah!) and they loved it!  It was also ridiculously quick and easy, I served with basmati rice.

Chicken, Fennel and Tomato Ragout

1 large fennel bulb
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken , cut into chunks
  • 1 garlic clove , chopped
  • 200g new potatoes , cut into chunks (I omitted and therefore reduced cooking time to around 12 mins)                                           
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 150ml chicken or vegetable stock                                                                                              
  • 3 roasted red peppers in brine, from a jar or deli counter, chopped ( I actually used my frozen pre chopped fresh peppers instead)

  • Method
    1. Trim the green tops off the fennel and reserve. Halve, then quarter the fennel, cut out the core, then cut lengthways into slices. Heat the oil in a pan, add the chicken, then fry quickly until lightly coloured. Add the fennel and garlic, then stir briefly until the fennel is glistening.
    2. Tip in the potatoes, tomatoes, stock and a little seasoning, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 20 mins until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the peppers and heat through. Roughly chop the reserved fennel fronds, then sprinkle over the ragout. Serve with crusty bread for mopping up the juices.

    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    Lunch @ Marcus Wareing

    Last Friday, after a previous postponement, I was lucky enough to spend the day with my lovely friend Saf at the wonderful Berkeley Hotel as guests of Marcus Wareing.  What an amazing day we had.  After a somewhat shaky start (me vomiting, dropping Teya off late at school, blocking myself out of my bank card for forgetting the pin...) we arrived in to London at 11.45am and made our way black cab stylee to Knightsbridge.  The first thing you notice about The Berkeley is its understated elegance, as we drew up the old town house looked immaculate and the doormen were a delight.  Once inside however the glamour just exudes, not too overdone but such an impact - the foyer was dressed in the most beautiful amaryllis and everything was stunning. 

    We started with a glass of fizz and a 'berry berry' for Saf before heading in to the incredible dining room and taking our place at the best table in the restaurant!  It was so beautiful, relaxed yet polished and my perfect mix of contempory and art deco style.  We were presented with the extraordinary wine list (Petrus for £21,000 anyone?!) and superb menus and very swiftly made our choices.  Lunch menu can be found here.  Our waiting staff and the Somelier were all lovely, so much fun and perfectly attentive without being intrusive in the slightest.  I swear that we didn't stop laughing all day, we were treated like princesses, and were the last ones to leave at 5.30pm. 

    So, the food, well everything was absolute perfection and we were treated to two separate courses that the rest of the dining room weren't given, it really was A list treatment.  We also struck up a wonderful rapport with the gorgeously fun and amazingly hospitable restaurant manager, Darren McHugh, and we were honoured to be invited for a kitchen tour half way through our meal - such a treat, it was immaculate, as you would expect, and so organised!  The staff were all so kind and accommodating and didn't seem fazed by our insistent questions and giggling!  No one even flinched at the 'impressive rack' comments.  Children!  We were also blown away at the lengths that everyone went to to ensure that Saf's veggioe dishes were every bit as impressive as the meat and seafood ones, no mean feat but they pulled it off spectacularly.

     Saf and I in the kitchens


    Amuse bouche - Truffle and celeriac soup with apple foam


    Pre starter - herb & truffle pappadelle

    Starter - Pumpkin ravioli with seafood bisque
    (reisling, just seen)

    Post starter - celeriac apple and truffle creme

    Main - Oxtail - this was spectacular!

    Saf's Main, stuffed Gnocci with broccoil, a truly amazing veggie dish, so much care and attention to detail here;

    Pudding - I didn't actually enjoy pudding but only because I don't really like sweets and to be honest I had eaten so much that I couldn't fit anything more in.  Plus it was bananary and I cannot abide banana, stupid (slightly tipsy!) choice.

    Aside from the Veuve Cliquot and the Moet that I had I also was given a Riesling, that was OK and then the most incredible Shiraz that I have ever tasted.  I had 3 glasses of it!  Me with the wine list >>>

     I can honestly say that we had the most wonderful time and even met Tim Mitchell, a lovely guy whom I have been following on twitter, he works there and is a friend of the lovely Jamie Flemming who looked after us so impeccably at Le Manoir last year.  I take my hats off to everyone in hospitality, they really work so very hard, and ensure that every minute detail is perfection.  It really is a privilege to go to these places and yes, it isn't cheap if you drink as much good wine and champagne as I do, but the lunch menu starts at £30 a head, amazing value for money.  It is a complete experience and I cannot wait to go back!

    I almost forgot to say that we were also presented with Marcus' cookbook at the end of our day, a huge treat, and fab parting gift to accompany our petits fours.

    Lastly what I wore,

    Walker biker jacket - All saints
    LBD - H&M
    Black opaques - Wolford
    Leopard print pumps - Primark
    Oversized tan shopper - Zara