Archives for category: Food

Where do you go when two Emirates pilots are arriving into London for one night only over Easter weekend and you want a good catch up?

Despite reading that this weekend tourist traffic into London was up over 60%, I somehow talked myself into thinking Covent Garden was the answer. It was primarily driven by my desire to go to The Barbary with these guys as a good sharing food option.

I met Captain P when his wife and I were setting up Taste of Dubai some ten years ago now. P tells me the event is going from strength to strength which is great to hear. And how fabulous that he could just WhatsApp me from afar and appear here in London for a catch up after too many years of not seeing each other. You know good friends when you can do that and just pick up again from where you left off.

When visitors come to London I feel a need to match the restaurant with the person to get a good evening together and my thinking was that Dubai has a lot of the top International chefs doing classic cooking but I was sure the Israeli food revolution had not got there yet. After great meals at sister restaurant Palomar, along with Bala Baya and a truly wonderful meal at Honey & Smoke, The Barbary was the last Israeli place to on my list to try. And Seven Dials is a good place to meet. Certainly that end of Covent Garden has developed massively with a wonderful international collection of one off shops to discover and it is easy access from Heathrow.

I was able to browse whilst I waited. I had a natter with the guys doing the Haeckels pop up at Beast, admired the Easter confectionery at Pierre Marcolini and popped into Bread Ahead’s Monmouth Street corner shop. Wandering the arteries coming from Seven Dials and Neal’s Yard is always entertaining with its unique blend of shops from across the globe.

The Barbary has been on my list for a while and everyone I know has enjoyed their meal there. Personally I don’t think the team have the same Israeli vivacity of Palomar but there is no doubting the food which is all made in front of you on their grills at the counter and with an interest and passion from the chefs that is undeniable. The Spanish Head Chef was happy to explain everything and from the very first bar snacks our dishes were delicious.

The pilot’s favourite was the black salmon dukkah which was prepared in the Israeli version of soy sauce and mirin with a sweet sticky glaze coming from a syrup made by infusing a sugar syrup with the burnt aubergine skins from the baba ghanoush and then sprinkled with dukkah. I loved the warm chickpea starter and everything was lapped up with bread from their tandoor oven which was also in the kitchen on show. The open flamed grills added flavour to all the main dishes and the extra swirls of pastes and dips and drizzles just took the flavour one step further.

This is delicious well made tasty food celebrating the best of that Barbary Coast. The food and service was generous, engaging and somewhere that the pilots declared they would come again. Now, where to suggest next time?

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How do you celebrate a significant birthday? Having just turned fifty, this was something I had to consider recently.

And with friends and family spread out across the world, I was not able to get them all together in one place at one time and honestly I didn’t think that was a good idea anyway. You just read about my big treat at Henne Kirkeby Kro which will be an experience that stays with me forever and reminds me of this time of my life but I also wanted to find a way to celebrate the actual day with those that I love.

I came up with two solutions to my dilemma.

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Firstly a beautiful weekend in The Cotswolds surrounded by a select group of close friends: my oldest, my newest and many in between coming together just to be and enjoy our time together. What could be better? We stayed in the Burford Brewery, ate at The Kingham Plough, walked the Autumnal Cotswold countryside, put the world to right, shared stories, played games and cooked wonderful meals together. My fabulous birthday cake was thanks to Rachel who is a dab hand at baking. All in all it was just a great weekend together.

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Secondly a promise to myself to celebrate 50 things at 50. I just want this year to be one that pushes me to say yes more, engage with different things and to take a leap into the second half of my life. There is also the added benefit of having 52 weeks to celebrate as opposed to one day.

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Thanks to Mr M&M, I quickly notched up something new: attending The School of Life talk from Innocent founder Richard Reed. He has written a book called “If I Could Tell You Just One Thing” pulling together pearls of advice from an array of significant people who have made it in the worlds of business, technology, politics, the arts and much more. The evening sat Martha Lane Fox, Katie Piper, Jo Malone and Heston Blumenthal with Mr Reed in front of us sharing their experiences and their wisdom. “Be generous” was the pearl that most captured my attention. What a lovely way to move forward with my own life by finding generosity in whatever I do.

To those who I was unable to see in The Cotswolds, I am looking forward to sharing significant time with you in the coming year and to doing things for my list #50thingsat50. And for those who may have some interesting things to recommend, let me know.

Finally: to those who were with me this year, thank you for making it so special…I have a thought about what we can do in a year’s time so book the weekend now. It will mark number 50 on my list. Looking forward to it already.

 

Some of the many books available right not on the Hygge concept

Some of the many books available right not on the Hygge concept

The Danes have a word for it. Hygge. Pronounced Hoo-gah. And there are many books lately trying to define it and tell us how to embrace it. Whether it is comfort or mindfulness, embracing the moment or enjoying life’s simple pleasures, it is certainly one of the reasons that my birthday trip to Denmark was so special and so difficult to express in words. They simply can’t translate what happens in your soul when you go out there.

Denmark is said to be the happiest place in the world. In its time it has also been a leading light in history, in the world of design, architecture and more recently in the world of food. The Danes shun hierarchy or fakery, they don’t have high rise buildings that encourage another just a little bit higher, they don’t reward oneupmanship and they don’t really do the classes. The most common form of transport is a clapped out old bike. No need for flashy cars here. It’s all understated elegance.

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I realised going around Copenhagen that I grew up with mid century Danish design at home. The simplicity and clean lines are something that stood the test of time. Arne Jacobsen chairs, Pole Henningsen lights, Georg Jensen silverware. On a recent trip, the designs were all very apparent in so many places. Illums Bolighus is a fantastic department store showcasing Danish designers across their four fabulous floors and is a must go place to shop. Just opposite lies Hay – a lesson in retail homewares and display that everyone should learn from. Totally unique and inspiring.

And then of course there is the food.

The Danish food scene has long been on the list of those interested in food, encouraged by the Noma craze that has gripped Copenhagen since they beat El Bulli to the number one spot in Restaurant Magazines world’s best restaurant list in 2010. It defined this “new Nordic” cuisine and was instrumental in challenging chefs from across the country and indeed the world into going back to the roots, literally, of ingredients and food.

Whilst fascinating and surely a wonderful place to go, it didn’t appeal to me and as this was a big birthday celebration, I opted for anything but Noma itself. Many of the places recommended to me were headed up by chefs who came through the house of Noma but spread their wings further. We ate so well whilst we were there and only once had a disappointing meal, which was ironically the most upmarket place we went to. Even there, the roast celeriac with chestnut beurre noisette was awesome, but the rest – well let’s just leave it there.

So where should you go for food? Here are a few places we tried and there are just many many more we didn’t:

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Grod porridge for breakfast with Coffee Collective coffee and time to explore the whole market area of Torvehallerne

Atelier September: cute boiled egg and rye toast breakfast and probably just as fab for lunch

Palaegarde for a good example of local homely cuisine but just a step above the tourist traps

Radio for sheer elegance of cookery and as near to new Nordic as I wanted to get

The famous Manfred's steak tartar

The famous Manfred’s steak tartar

Beetroot and Goat's Cheese done the Manfreds way

Beetroot and Goat’s Cheese done the Manfreds way

Baest, Manfreds and Relae: Any of these for fab food. Manfreds was my personal favourite and if you like steak tartar it is their favourite but also their wines were incredible. And the area it is in has a lovely feel to it so stroll on from there after a long lunch. Relae is more for dinner and Baest a casual pizza offering

Explore Paper Island and all its food stands.

Queue up for hot chocolate at La Place but don’t be tempted to anything other than share one of their overpriced and somewhat disappointing traditional cakes. Too rich for us.

Eat the liquorice caramels or blond chocolate at Summerbird chocolate shop

Breakfast at Pastis and stroll along the street there even if just to take a picture of the one bed/one cafe Hotel Central

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Danish pastries and great coffee in 108 which is about as near as we got to Noma. Who ever heard of a sweet or a sour or an umami pastry? The restaurant is surely fabulous too and in the adjacent building to Noma

Chill over a beer at the old meatpacking district of Kodbyens. Many recommend Kodbyens Fiskebar although it wasn’t one of my favourites. I preferred our meal at Kul.

Visit:

Tivoli Gardens, whilst letting go of your cynicism for an inner city fairground and taking a couple of rides and a appreciating the history of this place. Go at sunset to appreciate the lighting and romance of it all

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art which is well worth the train journey out of town. Make sure you buy your ticket at the central station so that you get a combination of return train and entrance fee all in one.

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Captain your own ride on Go boat for a different angle and fun view of the city

Go and explore the art and statues at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek and just take in the atmosphere in the cafe with its cute gift shop just adjacent

Just walk or bike the city and discover all the incredible buildings and places on the way. From Torvehallerne to Nyhavn it is only a 10 minute stroll so take it all in.

Stunning gardens in the cemeteries

Stunning gardens in the cemeteries

Walk through the amazing cemeteries. You can see where Hans Christian Andersen is buried in Assistens or walk through Solbjerg before getting up close and personal with the elephants in the Copenhagen zoo! just by strolling through the adjacent park.

There is so much we didn’t get round to seeing and that’s great because there is a good reason to go back. And then we left to go west – the best reason to go and one for another story another time.

 

The lovely girls in my shop have rather generously shared their lergy with me this week and whilst I am sure at their age it is easy to brush it off, I have to admit to finding it a little harder. Bring on the antioxidants.

Whilst I peruse with interest the books of Amelia Freer, Ella Woodward and Hemsley and Hemsley they are a bit too worthy for me. I do believe in cooking from scratch, avoiding processed food and a big chunk of fruit n veg. But my dishes are probably a bit more in the real world of eating. My weekly shop puts good food in the fridge, freezer and cupboard and ensures there are options throughout the week with a bit more time at weekends to experiment.

So when I opened the fridge this afternoon, pretty hungry after my massage and return power walk I was drawn to a slightly sad old cauliflower (OK – I realise how daft that looks now I have written it). Anyway. This brassica is a new revelation for me with my healthier hat on. Gone are the cauli cheese options and in come roasting, ricing and charring which all deliver flavour through the cooking  method before you do anything else at all.

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Today was cauliflower steak day as I needed to feel meaty and full. But I took the opportunity to roast the rest of the florets so I have them this week for lunchtime salads. Cutting right down the middle is quite satisfying. Just pan fry in a bit of oil (I am using avocado oil at the mo) either side to brown and then chuck in the oven for 15 minutes or until cooked.

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Meanwhile I knocked up a dressing from what I had. Tomatoes were a must given their health properties and for me where there are tomatoes, there is also garlic, chilli, olive oil and lemon (juice & rind). Add to that spring onion, capers and parsley and there you have it.

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By the time I had chopped and mixed together the cauliflower was pretty much ready. Just a chance to clear away and then I could relax and take in the sunshine, not only on my plate but also in the garden. I must get better after that!