A Boat Trip on the Thames & Dinner at The Old Brewery, Greenwich

The Old Brewery

I was so looking forward to a lovely boat trip down the Thames. It’s one of my favourite London things to do (along with a trip to the top of Parliament Hill on a sunny day, a Primrose Hill picnic, a stroll along a sunny South Bank, a glass of wine in the membership bar of the Tate and a myriad of quirky and delicious things that you can do in this lovely city – I must write about them someday). Anyway, I was looking forward to the boat trip, until work intervened. I wasn’t going to make it in time. So I took the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) and endeavoured to catch up with the rest of the crew a little later than planned.

The Old Brewery

The Docklands Light Railway, half train, half rollercoaster, is quite the piece of public transport. At one point I expected everyone to raise their arms as we ascended/descended a hill through a tunnel. It’s utterly bizarre as there is no driver at the front, which can be nerve wracking. A small price to pay, however, for a trip to lovely Greenwich. In Zone 2 but as far removed from the mania of central London as possible, I always feel like I am on holiday when I am there.

The Old Brewery

I was on my way to The Old Brewery, a new restaurant in the heart of Greenwich, located within the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College, a really charming location. It is a brewery – as the name suggests – but it is also a bar, and in a vaulted high ceiling room next to it, a restaurant resides, by night at least as it’s a café by day.

The Old Brewery

There is no escaping that beer is the thing here. An impressive installation made almost entirely of Meantime beer bottles hangs over many of the tables. Being a touch chicken licken by nature, occasionally I worried that it may fall on my head, but I am sure they have ensured against that. Eight enormous 1000 litre copper tuns grace the space, shiny and magestic, like ancient high kings surveying their lands. It’s quite a nice touch that the microbrewery is located within the restaurant.

The Old Brewery

We tucked into a delicious matched food & beer dinner led by 2008 Brewer of the Year Alastair Hook. What surprised me most was not the quality of the food, which was very good, but just how much I liked the beer. I mean, I loved the beer. I am much more of a wine drinker normally so I was very pleasantly surprised. And I loved that they called their stout Porter, stouas it is still commonly called that in Ireland today.

The Old Brewery

Up first were oysters, served with Meantime Porter. They serve a little jug of the porter to put on the Oyster as you would with Tabasco. I didn’t try that this time as I can never resist shallots & vinegar plus I was drinking the porter with it, so it seemed like overkill, but we were told that it is traditional and also very good. The Oysters were fresh & meaty, tasting only of the sea and childhood summer holidays. The Porter was smooth, velvety and rich without being overwhelming as porters can sometimes be.

The Old Brewery

Next was the star of the show for me, a confit middle white pork terrine, crispy pig’s ear, apple sauce & granary toast with Meantime Wheat Beer, a bargain at £6. It was superb. The terrine was meaty and dense and oh-so-porky as you would expect. The pigs ear was crisp and moist and divine with a comforting but not frightening amount of fat. They were very well cooked and the texture was perfect. I would love to feed these little fritters to lots of unsuspecting offal haters and see how much they love them before I tell them what they are. The apple sauce was a nice piquant counterpoint and the beer was a fine match.

The Old Brewery

I’ve had a few beers by now and have lost track of the next beer matches, apologies dear reader! A Meantime Pale Ale braised neck of Herdwick mutton, ratte potatoes, anchovy & parsley gravy followed which was rustic and delicious. The mutton was deeply savoury and rich, good honest food that was packed with flavour. It’s always nice to see the much undervalued mutton on a menu too.

The Old Brewery

There wasn’t much room left for dessert but I had to try the lemon tart with Kent hop meringue. The meringue had hops in it which were incredibly bitter on their own but blended really well with the lemon curd underneath. In fact, I didn’t notice the hops until I took a bit of meringue on its own to sample. There are hops along the side too but these were a little too much for me.

I managed to get the boat back which was great fun, so all was not lost. It was a great evening, The Old Brewery offers solid food that’s packed with flavour, it’s rustic but has been created with a delicate hand. It’s the perfect place to go with friends or visiting parents. The food is excellent but not intimidating in anyway.

So, there’s a bank holiday recommendation for you: get a boat to Greenwich and have dinner at The Old Brewery. And do try the pigs ear – it’s really very, very, good!

Disclosure: I dined as a guest of The Old Brewery. An opportunity to eat with the Brewer was too good to turn down! You would, wouldn’t you? :)


Two Competitions! Gorgeous Mugs from Cornishware & Real Food Festival Tickets


Cornishware - Girls Set

I am in the throes of moving house and disconnected from this world with little cooking or dining out going on. So, what am I doing here? Well, I have two lovely competitions for you and I am running them both today.


Cornishware - Boys Set

The first prize is a set of gorgeous cheerful mugs from Cornishware that retail at £40 a box. You have a choice of his mugs or hers mugs. Being a her I prefer the colours of that set naturellement, who can resist a sunny yellow cup? But you boys can go for the more demure set if you so choose. I remember those lovely blue striped mugs from my childhood, where they graced my grandmothers table. Fond nostalgia! I am sure you have your own associations too.


The second prize – or rather four prizes – is 4 pairs of tickets for the Real Food Festival worth £30 each, which will be in London on the weekend of 7th-10th May. Bringing together top chefs such as Raymond Blanc, Giorgio Locatelli, Willie Harcourt-Cooze, Thomasina Miers and Oliver Rowe and over 400 of some of the best food and drink producers you will find anywhere, this is food and drink heaven. With Riverford Organic bringing their award-winning Field Kitchen restaurant and our own Mad Hatters Tea Party, with chef demos, livestock including a water buffalo from Laverstoke Park, milking and butter-making demos, tastings, grow your own and live music, this is a fantastic day out for all the family.

Tickets are selling fast, and for those that don’t win I also have a fantastic ticket offer of 2 tickets for £12, that’s a saving of £18 on the on the door price if you book by 4th May 2010. Simply quote RFNM when booking tickets. Book tickets online at or call the ticket hotline on 0871 231 0827.

How to enter:

Statistics show that only 1% or less of readers leave a comment, so I would love to hear from more of you! Leave a comment, say hello, tell a joke or a funny story, anything you want. Let me know which prize you want by stating mugs or tickets. You can enter both competitions but please leave a different comment for each. I will put the names in a hat and draw fairly.

The competition closes on Monday 3rd May at 6pm. Get commenting! Best of luck and I look forward to hearing from you!


Recipe: To Dal, Daal, Dhal, or Dahl, that is the question

I hate confusing spellings and names. Why the world can’t agree to spell and name everything the way I do, I just don’t know. University was a high point of this, not only can’t the US and UK agree on spellings, they give the same thing different words at times: adrenaline meet epinephrine. Oh! We look the same? Well, you are the same. The very same, but people like to call you different things.  Gah!

It haunts me still in my world of cookery. Sichuan or Szechuan? I’ve seen both in print from reputable sources. What’s haunting me today is the most perplexing of all: Dal, Daal, Dhal, or Dahl? Again, all are online and in print. These last two we can only blame ourselves for. We can’t seem to agree how these words should appear in English. I want someone to tell me! Do you know?

For now, I am sticking with dal, I’ve been told that the correct pronunciation is with a long a. So daaaal could be our new spelling. However you spell it, it’s a great dish. Pulses are so very underrated, and when you add spices and other accoutrements, they absolutely come to life and sing. It’s a fantastic budget dish too and a great illustration of what can be produced with a little time, effort and a lot of love.

There are many versions, and most cooks have their own. I traditionally make a Tarka (also called Tadka) Dal where the pulses are cooked with turmeric with some tempered spices added at the end (these are the tarka). This is a delicious way to do it, the spice flavours are really bold and fresh and the dish is really zingy. Sometimes, when I prefer something a bit more gentle, I add the spices at the start and cook the lentils with them, adding other items like tomatoes and fresh coriander with some lemon at the end. I also like to put a few eggs in for the last ten minutes and serve the dal hot over halved peeled boiled eggs.

Gorgeous blossoms in the garden

Gorgeous blossoms in the garden

A vegetarian friend was visiting in advance of her move to India. We were going to eat in the sunny back garden and I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate to cook. Golden yellow dal with sunny egg yolks peeping out from behind chunks of red tomato and flecks of green coriander, begging to be eaten, as we basked in the sun under the lovely blossoms.

Recipe notes: The chana dal can also be bought as yellow split peas. They’re my favourite for dal as they have a lovely texture and retain their shape. Some people soak them, but there’s no need, unlike other pulses they won’t poison you, they will just take longer to cook (about 35/40 minutes, depending on their freshness). I added the tomatoes before the end as I had spashed out on some delicious English heritage tomatoes that were big, juicy and meaty, and I wanted to retain that flavour & texture in the dal, and not have them become mushy with longer cooking. If you can’t get tomatoes like this, I would recommend getting some small juicy tomatoes, if you can only get water bombs, add them earlier but try not to use them – they’re awful.

A note on the spices. You get much superior flavour from fresh whole spices that you toast and then grind. It seems like a lot of effort, but it’s not really and the return for that little bit of time and effort in flavour makes it a great trade. Try it – I am sure that you will agree.

Gorgeous blossoms in the garden

Gorgeous blossoms in the garden

Dal Recipe – makes enough for 4


500g Chana Dal
2 red chillis, finely chopped (enough for a bit of a kick – use one if you want mild)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seed
I tbsp turmeric
2 big tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped or a handful of small ones, diced
1 tbsp red pepper flakes (optional)
a handful of coriander leaves, chopped (best to chop jyst before you serve for colour and freshness)
a fresh lemon
one egg per person – the best you can afford, I like Old Cotswold Legbar which have a gorgeous big yolk. Burford Browns are good too.
sea salt


Dry roast the coriander and cumin seeds for 30 seconds or so over a high heat in a dry frying pan to release the oils and therefore the flavours. Once you can smell the spices, they’re ready to grind, take care not to burn them. Grind them to a powder using a pestle and mortar (my preference) otr electric spice grinder.

Fry the garlic, chilli and ginger in some light oil (groundnut or sunflower work) for a minute or so, taking care not to burn the garlic as it will become bitter. Add the ground spices and fry for a further minute.

Add the chana dal, turmeric, red pepper if you’re using it and enough water to cover the chana dal with an inch to spare. Bring to the boil and cook for 25 minutes at a lower heat ensuring that it cooks at that tenperature but doesn’t explode all over your hob! Add water if it looks like it’s getting dry.

Add the tomatoes and your eggs and cook for a further ten minutes. If the dal is cooked it will be tender, it may need another few minutes if it’s a little old.

Add the coriander and a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. Season with salt to taste. Serve the dal over the boiled eggs, shelled and halved.



Parliamentary Waffle House – Mine’s a Labour/Lib Dem Cocktail!

Bompass & Parr have struck gold again. Not content with jellymongering and providing fantastic jellies for restaurants and funerals (true!), creating giant cocktails that you can row across and other magical and surreal food experiences, they have moved into the world of waffles and have established the Parliamentary Waffle House.

The video says it all realy. So much fun. Please ignore and forgive the very shaky start! I was laughing very hard.

Parliamentary Waffle House

Bompass & Parr

It launched last night with a screening of the live televised debate followed by a Waffle Eating Competition (in the video above)  and was tremendous fun. The menu lists three types of waffles, one associated with each party, and three types of beer plus tongue-in-cheek Prescott Punch made with Courvoisier. I had a Labour waffle with raspberries and vanilla ice cream. I just couldn’t bring myself to order Conservative, even if it’s only a waffle. The waffles were perfectly delicious and the porter light with a tingle. I loved it so much, I am going back and have booked a couple of tickets for election night.

So, if you’re in London, go! It runs right up to the election and entry is only £5. Further details are available on their website: The waffles are about £3.50 and the drinks are reasonably priced. A bit of a bargain I think, it really is enormous fun.

(More photos on flickr.)


Steak Frites Tasting at Racine

Steak Frites Tasting at Racine

Do you ever take yourself too seriously? Give a situation too much gravitas, or get really wound up over something stupid? Then something happens which puts everything in perspective and makes you laugh at the inanity of it all? I find myself in this situation occasionally, and hilariously recently.

Picture the scene when recently en route to Racine in Knightsbridge for the Steak Frites tasting evening, I got trapped underground courtesy of the central line. For 40 minutes a fake bouyant promise was issued over the tannoy “the central line is currently suspended but will be on the move soon”.

After 40 minutes, fit to burst with frustration, I left and made my way using a hodge podge of buses and tubes. Arriving exactly 40 minutes late and very flustered, I burst into Racine, trying to appear as calm as possible, and announced quietly to the maitre d’ that I was here for Steak Frites.

Steak Frites?

Yes, steak frites, it’s on here tonight.

Steak Frites?

Yes, it’s a group thing, in a private room maybe?

At this group table?

I looked. There was noone there. It didn’t make sense, I was 40 minutes late.

I looked around again and then with horror realised that I was at the WRONG restaurant!

I whispered, I’ll just ring my friends and see where they are and stepped outside, had a good chuckle at what had happened, and exorcised myself of any remaining stress and bother. I arrived at Racine seconds later, fresh and very late at the Steak Frites tasting two doors down at Racine.

Steak Frites Tasting at Racine

Steak Frites tasting? Yes. I should explain that. The brainchild of Daniel at, it was an evening dedicated to exploring steak frites, three cuts of steak with matched wines (if you chose to include them), onglet, fillet and côte de boeuf. The steaks were from the esteemed O’Shea’s Butchers in Knightsbridge (happily they’re Irish too) and cooked for us by Henry Harris at Racine. I’ve blogged about Racine recently, and if you’ve read that you’ll know I am a big fan already.

I had missed the appetiser – thank you Transport for London – and arrived just as Henry was running through the menu. I hadn’t missed any steak, I could relax. Daniel was determined that the wines should be served as they would be in a French bistro so we had some light red wines to accompany, there are further details on these on his blog.

Steak Frites Tasting at Racine

We started with Onglet aux Échalottes, a cut of steak that’s located near the internal organs and so carries a taste not too dissimilar to liver and kidney. Traditionally a cheaper cut, and one that requires more care and attention, it delievrs superior flavour to lots of more expensive cuts, and is terrific value for money. Even if you don’t like offal, and I accept that some don’t, I don’t know how anyone could dislike this. Served in a light veal reduction, it packed so much flavour into every bite and served rare – the texture was superb. Served with those lovely little bone marrow toasts that Racine do so well, it was heavenly.

Steak Frites Tasting at Racine

One plate of steak down, two more to go, and these were main course sized! Next was the Filet au Poivre. All steak fans despise fillet. Personally, I think there’s a place for it, it’s just a different cut of meat. From a part of the animal that isn’t put under much strain, it’s not tough like some other cuts. As it’s very tender, male fans of the steak often dismiss it as a girls cut (I won’t even start on this!), but this was very, very nice, served with a pepper crust and melt in the mouth tender, with a terrific cheesy mash, how could you not like it? If it’s a girls cut, I am very happy to be a girl. There were protests from the obsessives, “it is delicious but it has had a flavour lobotomy”. I found the dish as a whole gorgeous and elegant and would very happily eat it again. In fact I will.

Steak Frites Tasting at Racine

Finally came the expected piece de resistance, the Côte de Boeuf. This should have been the star of the show but the onglet was such a picture of perfection that it couldn’t live up to it. Henry agreed that the onglet was some of the best that he had had, and that perhaps, as it had packed such a flavour punch, it should have been delivered last. Ihad very high expectations and it didn’t live up to them, particularly after the first two excellent plates. The frites and lightly dressed salad were wonderful though. A fellow diner pronounced that the salad had definitely been picked that day, and he would know as he used to pick salads for a living. The bearnaise was sensational Henry confided that he adds a lot of water and reduces the sauce significantly to get the sweeness of the vinegar but not the acidity. I will play with my recipe and aim to replicate something approaching it.

Steak Frites Tasting at Racine

Steak Frites Tasting at Racine

Steak Frites Tasting at Racine

We finished the meal with vanilla ice cream with hot Valrhona chocolate sauce. Simple and rich, this was a fitting end to a fantastic steak indulgence. It was interesting to hear Henry’s take on his chocolate sauce. He uses Valrhona as he says that the product is always the same, Valrhona are like whiskey blenders, which for a cook is fantastic, as you can always be assured of delivering the same product. I accompanied mine with a black coffee, I was so full and sleepy, I feared that I would not last the journey home without it.

Steak Frites Tasting at Racine

I believe Daniel will be running more, do go if you get a chance. It’s £75 but I think this is a very fair price for an evening of this calibre. He is also running other evenings where he seeks out the best burgers in London (Burger Monday), and the best pizzas (Pizza Tuesday). I love his purist quests and hope to join on more soon.

Steak Frites Tasting at Racine

Steak Frites Tasting at Racine


A Magical Evening: Providores & Prudence Pop-Up at the Sipsmith Distillery

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

Not much escapes me in the world of food, but lately there’s been so much going on that I’ve missed a number of things. You may wonder how I could fit much more in, the answer is I don’t know, but I will try relentlessly. That’s the joy of living in London, it’s absolutely bursting with great things to do.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

One day, whilst idling on twitter, which I am wont to do, I spied mention of a pop-up restaurant at the Sipsmith distillery. Not just any pop-up, for there is many an “any” pop-up these days, the restaurant in question would be none other than one of my favourites, The Providores, a London institution run by chef-owner, Peter Gordon.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

I’ve blogged about The Providores before (Turkish Eggs and Tapas Room). It’s a fusion restaurant, but don’t turn your head, it’s done really well. Accompanied by a lovely room and a great wine list featuring many interesting and delicious NZ wines, I can’t and don’t go there often enough. I just had to go to this.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

I bagged myself a couple of tickets, and made my merry way to Hammersmith, a meaty trek on a weekend when most tubes are slack on the work front. Somewhat like myself. Nonetheless, we made it, almost in good time.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

I had never been to Sipsmith before, and was surprised and enchanted to find this gorgeous little distillery encased in a little suburban terraced house. People were milling about outside drinking hot gin twists, and it wasn’t long before one was dispensed for me and I had my first taste of what was going to be a fantastically interesting and indulgent evening.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

Mulled Gin – what a lovely idea and a lovely drink. Warm gin with a lovely citrus twist topped up with hot water. I love mulled wine, spiced cider, hot port and now mulled gin. These drinks could almost make Winter bearable.

I spied Peter Gordon and his team working in what looked like a field kitchen, set up in a tent beside the brewery. I tried to take a sneaky photo. Peter caught me and invited me to take a proper one, which I promptly did. Our first course was laid out, and I was starting to salivate, so was very happy when we were invited to take our seats and begin.

Seven courses were served over a magical evening, I felt as though I had slipped down a culinary rabbit hole, as Alice did to Wonderland. There was barely a weak note. The food was creative, exciting, beautifully presented and a joy to eat. The matched drinks were exciting, delicious and an inspiration. There was a lovely energy in the room, people that had created were excited to share it, and see the reactions of the diners. Guests indulged and delighted at each unfolding dish and cocktail match. Seated at commual table in the shadown of the still, Prudence, the room was a-buzz. Each course was presented by Gordon and Jared, who had great energy and enthusiasm. It was infectious.

Here’s what we had:

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

Bloody Mary granitée with a fresh Irish oyster

A lovely spicey bloody mary topped with a meaty oyster. A spritely start that awakened the palate, and left us wanting more.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

Beet, horseradish and yuzu-infused vodka and distilled and infused wasabi vodka with a Chinese beef and Pacific fish tartare

This was stand out, one of my favourites. The beef particularly was wonderful, gentle textures and interesting flavours. The wasabi vodka was perfect with it.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

Game broth with a crispy wonton and wild mushrooms with a ‘bowl shot’ (gin-based salt and pepper tea jelly) was delicious and excitiing. Intensely savoury, with gorgeous textures, the shot of jelly was dropped into the broth and devoured. Great theatre which added to the experience.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

Edamame parmesan, sake and mascarpone risotto with Truffle martini

The decadence of this martini, served in a gorgeous glass was remnisent of churches in the presentation for some reason. A large slice of truffle garnished the martini, lurking at the bottom like a gourmet creature of the deep. It was a wonderful match to the risotto, each really working to accentuate the other.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery
Crisp-skinned trout with soba noodles with tempura shiso leaf and den miso mustard with a ‘Ginza Gibson’ (Shiso-infused shochu with gin)

The tempura shiso leaf was gorgeous, and a perfect textural contrast to the rare fish, the cocktail was aromatic and fragrant. Gorgeous.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

Roast New Zealand venison on buttered salsify with pickled plums and crispy buckwheat with ‘Northern Star’ (freshly distilled star anise and cacao vodka with ginger syrup and champagne)

I must confess that after so many cocktails at this point, my memory is hazy, but the venison was wonderful with the salsify and plums. I really enjoyed the cocktail too, the anise was interesting with the plums and the venison.

Finally, dessert. Medjool date, banana and pecan pudding with coconut palm sugar and caramel sauce with Lady Grey Martini (Lady Grey infused gin, fresh lemon and egg white, double shaken)

I adored this cocktail, it was my favourite by far. Spritzy with that lovely texture of egg white and the tea, I would have been happy with just this. The pudding was perfectly nice but not really to my taste being too sweet and rich. Others with sweeter teeth than mine loved it.

Cheers to Sipsmith and to Providores for a really special evening. I loved it, and hope they do it again, because I really want another experience of it. At £90 per person it’s not cheap, but it’s worth every penny for a fantastic and unique gustatory indulgence.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

Sipsmith Independent Spirits

The Providores and Tapa Room Restaurant
109 Marylebone High Street
London W1U 4RX
020 7935 6175


A Weekend in Watergate Bay: Dinner at Fifteen Cornwall

Watergate Bay, Cornwall

Fifteen is a very impressive place. Another one of Jamie Oliver’s socially enterprising projects, Fifteen started in London, a restaurant established with two purposes: serving good Italian food and training kids with difficult
backgrounds and limited hope for the future, as chefs.

This presents many problems. Lots of these kids are quite traumatised and struggle with routine and authority. It has been very successful despite this, and on the back of that first TV show and book, there are now many troubled kids that have become trained chefs and work in the industry. Lots of chefs with potential that we may hear more about in the future. The London restaurant is also successful (although it gets mixed reviews, some love it, some not so much) and is now an international brand and charity with restaurants/academies in Cornwall, Melbourne and Amsterdam.

Dinner at Fifteen, Cornwall

I find this interesting for many reasons. It’s a lovely twist on using food to nurture, not only providing diners with food, Fifteen provides the trainees with direction, focus, and a passion for and knowledge of food. Some of the kids that train there have limited skills and little exposure to food, certainly of the standard served in most restaurants.

The selection process is thorough, they ensure that they choose kids with potential, they ask them to taste food and describe it, and those that pass this, are sent on an overnight boot camp to ensure that they can work as part of a team and deal with the stresses that will come their way in the kitchen. No small thing then, this all happens before they ever pick up a knife and learn to chop, produce a stock, their first dish, it’s a long process.

I paid a visit to Fifteen Cornwall, which is socially enterprising as it’s London sibling is, but it takes it to another level. It takes in kids from all over Cornwall (a big county – the kids travel to Fifteen from all over daily at the expense of the charity) but also ensures that it sources 80% of it’s produce from Cornwall. That includes salt & pepper, everything. They encourage local producers to provide produce that the restaurant requires, be it duck, herbs, charcuterie, coffee, and durum wheat for pasta and as a result or in partnership with, Cornwall has a fantastic and thriving local food culture. They are a veritable force for good at a time when farmers and small producers are struggling against the commercial might of the supermarkets.

But, what of the food? The social enterprise nature of the restaurant is very important, but it is a restaurant, and customers pay for the pleasure. How do they maintain consistency and ensure that the food that comes out of that kitchen is good and worth the price ? For every trainee chef, there is one training chef, and not only is there a head chef, but there is also a head training and development chef, ensuring that along with the training, food of a high standard is sent out, as each trainee chef has a trainer accomplice. Makes sense.

Dinner at Fifteen, Cornwall

The restaurant is set on the beach and walled with windows, a stunning location. We were seated in the corner while the sunset and it was absolutely beautiful, it would be difficult to match the setting. We started with some prosecco and a natter, soaking it all in, before turning our attention to the menu. The menu changes daily, and depends on what food is available.

I was invited to try the tasting menu on my visit there. We didn’t match the wines in this instance, although I will do that on my next visit. Overall impressions of the food were that this is well executed Italian food. It doesn’t have the robust simplicity of The River Café, where Jamie cut his teeth, it’s more intricate and detailed, and on the evening that I ate there, very good indeed.

Dinner at Fifteen, Cornwall

We started with porcini mushroom and thyme arancini, crispy little risotto balls and roasted butternut squash with St Allen goats cheese. These were a lovely appetiser with some prosecco (Cartizze from the other Bisol family in Venice it turns out). I really liked both of these, nice little bites, the arancini were crispy and intensely savoury and the sweet roast butternut squash was lovely with the more tart Cornish goats cheese.

Dinner at Fifteen, Cornwall

The insalata course offered insalata of mozzarella di bufala with Italian blood orange, candied walnuts and Buttervilla’s micro herbs or Cornish Deli Farm coppa with beautifully dressed ruby beets, wild rocket and horseradish. I wanted both (greedy girl that I am) but forced with a choice, I really wanted to taste the coppa from Deli Farm Charcuterie in Cornwall. Luckily, one of my dining companions offered to share hers too, so we had half and half. The mozarella with blood orange was stunning, and very pretty with the bold walnuts providing a lovely bite, and the microherbs I loved for texture as well as flavour. Overall it was lovely. The coppa was delicious, hats off to Deli Farm, I adore beetroot and these were treated well, but the insalata was my favourite of the two for the dish as a whole.

Dinner at Fifteen, Cornwall

We’re now at Primi and I am getting full already as I have had an enormous lunch (call me a bad planner or a glutton, both work equally well). We had a choice of squid ink angel hair with Falmouth bay mussels Looe day boat squid and pangratatto or gnudi verdi (the lightest ricotta and spinach dumplings) with a lemon and sage butter sauce. I couldn’t resist the local fish, and was delighted that I had chosen it, it was delicate and very well composed tasting elegantly of the sea. The squid ink angel hair was remniscent of seaweed, and despite my appetite waning I wanted more.

Dinner at Fifteen, Cornwall

There were four options for secondi, and I won’t go through all of them here, but will tell you about the two I spent 5 minutes agonising over. The crispy fillet of line caught sea bass with winter vignole of borlotti beans, kale, violet artichokes, prosciutto di San Daniele and salmoriglio or pot roasted Primrose Herd balsamic pork shoulder with sage polenta, savoy cabbage and pan juices. I’d already had fish, and adore pork shoulder, and this balsamic treatment of it was interesting to say the least. But my appetite was waning, so I thought the lighter fish option might be better. The dish arrived with lovely crispy artichokes lying on top, as if a funeral for the fish. They did that fish proud, it was lovely, the borlottis and the kale providing savoury meatiness. I didn’t much notice the proscitto, but the fish was lovely and wonderfull fresh. Another well executed and pleasant dish.

Dinner at Fifteen, Cornwall

I needed something light for dessert so went with Amalfi lemon semi freddo, Champagne rhubarb and Clare’s lovely macaroon. It was a spritely dessert, RHUBARB again (I must be turning pink!), and the semi-freddo was lovely. It was a large dessert, but I did my best to finish it.

Dinner at Fifteen, Cornwall

We finished with coffee and petits fours, the petits fours were fine, but nothing really special, however I was really full at this point, and it would have taken something stellar to revive my palate.

Dinner at Fifteen, Cornwall

Wines? We had Nebbiolo D’Alba, 2007 from Ascheri a lovely light red that would be perfect for summer or with Italian food like here, and Les Fleurs d’Alsace Hugel, 2006, both recommended by the sommelier. I really liked them both and found them great matches for my light dishes. I found myself hogging the Hugel wine though. It’s delicious and creamy, but quite bright and lively, one of those lovely white wines full of personality and also elegant from the Alsace.

The overall experience was one of a lovely pleasant relaxed evening, eating delicious food by the sea. It was relaxing, despite the restaurant being busy, and the food felt delicious and healthy. A lovely break from a Londoner, I am going back this June and doing it all again, and all on my own dollar. Highly recommended.

Fifteen Offer for readers of Eat Like a Girl: From the 19th – 30th April enjoy a new season’s asparagus course free with each booking. I only wish I was closer to indulge!

Disclosure: I ate at Fifteen Cornwall as a guest and stayed in Cornwall courtesy of Beach Retreats and The Hotel Watergate Bay.


Posh Lunch Club at Racine

Lunch at Racine

Friends were visiting from Ireland recently and staying in Knightsbridge. As always happens these days, recommendations were requested, and I had one must visit for them in the area – Racine. I couldn’t get through to them, and when I finally did they announced that they had already happened upon it and loved it. High praise from two Francophiles indeed. I was delighted that they had had a chance to try it, I feel now that everyone should.

Racine is a classic French restaurant that serves very elegant, well executed food. Henry Harris is at the helm, with impeccable credentials having trained at Hilaire with Simon Hopkinson. I’ve eaten there a few times now and have never been disappointed. Each dish delivers what you expect and more. It’s classic French food, rich but not heavy with excellent sourcing of ingredients that are cooked in perfect harmony.

I went here for Posh Lunch Club but for the first time fell off of the horse. Posh Lunch Club is about fine dining at bargain prices, only from the set menu, no matter how enticing the main menu is. I blame my dining companion Derek, he went off piste, and then I had to. It’s all his fault you see. I have decided to include it in Posh Lunch Club anyway, if only because I am going there for regular posh lunches from now on, and they are a steal at £17.50 for 3 courses. Also, despite matching wines to each course and going off piste, it came in at the same price as The Ledbury set lunch (£50), and I enjoyed it just as much.

So, what did we have? We started with the stunning bone marrow, spring garlic and bacon toast pictured at the top of this post. It was gentle, eloquent, and just the right side of intense. The garlic distracted from the bone marrows fervor and gave it a lovely aromatic and slightly nutty quality.

Lunch at Racine

Mains were, for me, and from the set menu, confit pork belly with sauce diable. Derek had confit de canard aux lentilles. I wanted each as much as the other. My pork belly was perfect. The flesh was tender and packed with flavour, the skin was crispy but not teeth shatteringly so, it had a lovely crunch. The sauce diable was creamy but with a beautiful acidity, which was perfect with the fatty pork. The confit de canard was the best I’ve had, crispy, succulent, more-ish and the lentils were a perfect savoury accompaniment.

Lunch at Racine

I went off piste for the dessert, for I have to have the rhubarb as you know. We’re almost out of season and I am in a near panic. Poached Yorkshire rhubarb, mandarin sorbet, grand Marnier and orange curd was a beautiful tribute to my favourite fruit, the rhubarb meshed with the ice cream, bright pink and meltingly tender. I see it’s still on the menu now. Derek had the cheese board which was generous and well selected, and had the most delicious walnuts, from memory they were gently spiced and candied.

Lunch at Racine

The menu changes daily and offers great variety – it is updated on their website and I can’t resist peeking frequently and planning future outings there. This was one of my favourite posh lunch clubs by far, and it’s placed high in my affections for dinner too. A classic restaurant, driven by passion, knowledge and fierce attention to detail. If you haven’t been yet, I highly recommend you go.

Lunch at Racine

Racine Restaurant

239 Brompton Road
London SW3 2EP
020 7584 4477


A Weekend at Watergate Bay Cornwall, in Pictures

Watergate Bay, Cornwall in Pictures

View of the SUnset from Fifteen, Cornwall

The sunshine this weekend prompted thoughts of a lovely weekend stay in Cornwall recently that I teased you about briefly with mentions of homemade pasta at Fifteen Cornwall and foraging trips, lovely dinners and lunches and a long gorgeous beach. I had a food-filled and very busy weekend, so it will take more than one post to cover it. I’ll start with a photographic summary and then devolve into the details.

Cornwall is a beautiful county with lush green countryside and lengthy coastline, a bit of a trek from London (it’s as far as Scotland), so for my brief weekend visit, it warranted a flight. I was visiting Watergate Bay, a short hop from Newquay airport (5 minutes or so in a taxi), not that you would even notice, as the airplanes that fly in there are on the small side, and don’t make any infernal racket.

I arrived early on Friday evening, and dropped my bags at the apartment that would be my home for the weekend. I was delighted to see that it was a stones throw from the beach, indeed everything is, Watergate Bay is a small cosy seaside village, indeed village may not even be the right word. It has a hotel (The Hotel) which was booked out the weekend I was there, no small feat for March, Fifteen Cornwall, an offshoot of the Jamie Oliver social enterprise started in London and now international, The Beach Hut, a beachside bistro, a couple of surf shops, a surf school, some apartments and a bar. I didn’t spy even a shop. For a Londoner, it was a perfect escape. I had little distraction, save the food and the place itself.

Fifteen Cornwall – what a setting!

Watergate Bay, Cornwall

Dinner at Fifteen, Cornwall

Surfers on the beach at Watergate Bay

Watergate Bay, Cornwall

Someone having fun – if I thought I would get away with it, I would be down there stomping with her.

Watergate Bay, Cornwall

The Beach Hut, Watergate Bay

The Beach Hut - Watergate Bay - Cornwall

The Beach Hut - Watergate Bay - Cornwall

Duck Egg with Wild Mushrooms & Watercress on Toast at The Beach Hut

The Beach Hut - Watergate Bay - Cornwall

Mussels at The Beach Hut

The Beach Hut - Watergate Bay - Cornwall

Hand Dived Scallops with Roast Cauliflower Puree at The Hotel

Dinner at The Hotel, Watergate Bay

Spring Farmers’ Market at Fifteen Cornwall

Wild Garlic Pesto

Farmer's Market at Watergate Bay - Cornwall

Quackling! Delicious and best product name *ever*.

Farmer's Market at Watergate Bay - Cornwall

Deli Farm Charcuterie – this lady makes terrific charcuterie in Cornwall

Farmer's Market at Watergate Bay - Cornwall

Origin Coffee Roasters – these guys travel the world sourcing great coffee and roast it in Cornwall

Farmer's Market at Watergate Bay - Cornwall

This man grows and makes tea in Cornwall

Farmer's Market at Watergate Bay - Cornwall

Dinner at Fifteen, Cornwall

Dinner at Fifteen, Cornwall

Dinner at Fifteen, Cornwall


Recipe: Home Cured Salmon

home cured salmon

Continuing with the fishy theme from my last post, this next post is also a recipe from the Tante Marie Seafood Cookery Course that I recently attended. This home cured salmon was swift and gratifying, the prep is super quick, and then it’s just a matter of waiting. The taste and textures tells of an altogether more complex process, but it’s the science behind the curing that does all of the work. It relies as always on high quality ingredients, so source good salmon, the best you can afford.

I think that I will be rolling this out for the summer picnic season. It would be perfect, especially with a nice cold glass of prosecco. Let’s hope it’s soon! The clocks have changed and these glimmers of sunshine tease me so.

Home Cured Salmon


750g piece middle cut salmon fillet

Cure mixture for salmon:

1tbsp coriander seeds
2tbsp juniper berries
1tbsp fennel seeds
1tbsp pink peppercorns
225g sea salt
375g granulated sugar


Place the pink peppercorns, coriander, juniper and fennel seeds, in a dry frying pan and shake over the heat to toast them. Grind them all together in a pestle & mortar or spice grinder.

Mix the ground spices with the salt and sugar.

Rub over the salmon, wrap well and leave to cure for 4-5 days.

To serve, wipe the cure mixture from the salmon with kitchen towel. Slice vertically, excluding the skin if you have left it on.

Recipe courtesy of Tante Marie Cookery School – for further info and for details on courses see


Tante Marie Seafood Course & a Recipe for Pan Fried Scallops with Sesame Dressing & Courgette Spaghetti


Counting fingers, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 white ones and 1 blue one. A blue one? Yes folks, clumsy as ever, on my first morning at a Seafood Cookery Course, on the very first task, I cut my finger open whilst chopping a carrot. A carrot! Gah! I’ve chopped carrots lots of times before. Why now? For shame. This so called enthusiast and obsessive cook sliced her finger open on the first morning of the course. Nothing to worry about though, I stayed calm in the face of my finger going numb, for fear of further embarrassment, and Mrs. H had my finger sorted in no time at all, until it was shiny and new and bright, bright blue with a spangly and enormous blue kitchen plaster.


What am I rambling about? Last week I had the pleasure of attending a Seafood Cookery Course at the Tante Marie Cookery School in Woking, a cookery school with a fine pedigree that has been open for the last 50 years. Endorsed by el Gordo himself, I was invited there to do a 2 day lifestyle course on Seafood Cookery, but they also do lots of other more intensive courses like a year long Cordon Bleu diploma.


Why seafood? It’s the chink in my culinary armour. I love fish, and I know how to cook it, what evades me, or what I avoid is the gorey prep that dealing with fresh whole fish involves. It’s very important to have an honest and open relationship with your food, to know where it comes from, and to be able to deal with that. In this case that meant going from whole fish to fillets, making stock with the heads (having chopped the heads off and removed the eyes yourself), understanding how to gut and scale, and what to do with it after.

There are many rambling childhood paranoias and phobias that account for this – mainly I hated fish, how they looked, how they smelled and how they felt, after a childhood friend slapped me across the face with a rotten fish when I was tiny for a joke. True story. Funny now, but horribly traumatic then.


How was it? Very good. We had a slow start as the fish delivery was delayed, but once we got started we were off with a bang. All dishes are demonstrated by the chef in a demonstration kitchen, then we would decamp in small groups to two training kitchens to reproduce them ourselves, and either have them for lunch or take them home for consumption later. The training chefs were very friendly and approachable, and the school itself is charming. On the first afternoon a fishmonger came in with a shops worth of fish and talked us through them with some demonstrations. Very informative indeed, but what I really loved was the hands on cooking.


Highlights were:

– a bouillabaisse with rouille made entirely from scratch, from a platter of fish we conjured a homemade broth from fish heads and assorted extras, which the cooked fish was served with, as tradition would have, in a platter next to it, topped off with homemade rouille whipped up from potato and egg. This I really loved, even more than the bouillabaisse.

– Scallops shucked by our fair hands, pan fried and served with a clever and very simple courgette spaghetti

– Home Cured Salmon with sea salt, sugar, pepper & spices – a simple and very nice dish

– Sole Meuniere, simple but sensational

– the best looking dish was a Terrine of Skate with Gherkins, Carrots and Sushi Nori


The course is not cheap at £325 for 2 days, but it is worth it. One clever student had a dinner party on the last night and fed his guests spoils from the course including bouillabaisse and taramosalata – clever!

All dishes are reproducible at home – although the Bouillabaisse is an effort and one to make only for several people. Tante Marie have kindly allowed me to blog some of them here for your pleasure, which I will over the coming week or so.

The first recipe is one of my favourites, the deceptively simple pan fried scallops with sesame dressing and courgette spaghetti. You can shuck the scallops if you want, I just get my fishmonger to do it and ask to take the shells home too. I am happy now that I know how to do it, but I’m lazy and a good fishmonger is hard to beat.

Londoners: Shellseekers in Borough Market sell hand dived scallops for ~£1.50 each. Delicious and worth every penny.


Pan fried scallops with sesame dressing and courgette spaghetti


3 scallops
1 small courgette


1tbsp rice vinegar
1½tbsp sunflower oil
½tsp sriracho chilli sauce (optional)
1tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1tbsp dark soy sauce
1tbsp toasted sesame oil

Garnish: a handful of shiso leaves

sea salt and black pepper


Cut the courgette into spaghetti on a mandolin, sprinkle with salt and leave in a sieve for 20 minutes.

Open, clean and prepare the scallops. Wash and reserve 1 shell for garnish.

Stir the remaining ingredients together to make a dressing.

Season and pan fry the scallops in a hot pan for 1-2 minutes on each side.

To assemble: place the courgette spaghetti in the scallop shell, place the scallops on top and drizzle over the sesame dressing.

Garnish with a few shiso leaves.


Recipe courtesy of Tante Marie Cookery School – for further info and for details on courses see


Best of the Blogs in The Times

I woke up groggy this morning, and started my morning ritual of peeping my arm out from under the duvet where I am otherwise mummified, seeking my iPhone, where I quickly check twitter before contemplating getting up and showering. This is a protracted ritual for I am highly distractable and wont to get out of bed.

This morning I had a lovely message from a fellow twitterer, suggesting I buy The Times, as they had listed me in “Best of the Blogs” in their weekly food supplement “The Table”. How lovely! But I was still in bed and I really wanted to see it. No better firecracker to get you to haul your carcass out the door!

I purchased my copy, noted an article on homemade stocks to study later, and a few other nice pieces (it’s worth a purchase), and there I saw my little corner, and very nice it is too. So, thank you Nick Wyke and other Times food people! You made my day.

If you’ve just come here from the Times and you want to see what they were talking about the posts they referenced are here:

My Posh Lunch Club exploits, where I eat weekly at one of London’s many fine dining establishments, and eat only from the set lunch menu, which makes a lot of them fantastically affordable. Recent Posh Lunch Club excursions were to Galvin Bistrot de Luxe, The Ledbury, The River Cafe and Terroirs.Girls Just Want to have Steak! (Girls Steak Club at Hawksmoor, London)

A Butchery Class at Allen’s of Mayfair


Butternut Squash, Chickpea and Spinach Curry
Roast Pork Belly, cooked simply
Courgette Carbonara

Thanks for stopping by!

Times Article


Posh Lunch Club at Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

Another day, another Posh Lunch Club. This, my friends, is why none of my clothes fit me right now. I wish I was exaggerating! How can I go about continuing my lifestyle as savoury cookie monster, without putting on weight, or going to the gym? No purging either please. There has got to be an answer. Answers in a comment.

This lunch date was at Galvin Bistrot de Luxe, one of the Galvin brothers numerous outposts in London. I ate at sister restaurant Galvin La Chapelle last year and really enjoyed the well executed and elegant French food. I was very much looking forward to (belatedly) trying the Bistrot. It has been recommended to me by many people for years.

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

I was meeting fellow blogger and good friend, Sig of Scandilicious for lunch. I arrived first, and was immediately taken by the authentic Parisian buzz, high ceilings, low lit and low lamps, mirrors lining the walls, and lots of diners chattering surrounded by hues of brown and cream. It was a very elegant space with a charming atmosphere. I was glad Sig had suggested it, and was asking myself why I hadn’t been before.

I sat down and absorbed it all, perusing the set lunch menu, which is an absolute bargain at £15.50, running 7 days a week, including Sunday. This, in my Posh Lunch Club experience is fairly unusual. The set menu is also available in the evenings from 6-7pm.

There are two options for each course, which is normal for this kind of deal, and absolutely fine for me. It may be a bit trickier for vegetarians, impossible for those that don’t eat fish, but it is a French restaurant, and they don’t do vegetarian well. I am tempted to say Why Should They? Not because I dislike vegetarians, or vegetarian options, I often order them myself. Done well, vegetarian food can be fantastic. French food, however, is steeped in a history of rich meaty stocks and marrow, and I don’t think they should change that to suit a minority.

Sig and I chose a nice carafe of white wine, we asked the sommelier for something that would broadly suit our choices and it was a lovely one, which sadly, I can’t remember. It’s in a notebook somewhere, no doubt under a box, and in another box by now.

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

For starter I had the Velouté of Pumpkin & Parmesan, which was a really perfect soup. Rich and savoury, with the fruitiness of the pumpkin playing with the umami rich parmesan, I was thinking about it for a few days. Sig went for the Mackerel Escabeche, which was perfectly nice, but nothing could extract me psychologically from my soup, sorry velouté, so I took a hurried bite and retreated swiftly to my bowl of liquid pleasure.

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

We went for the same main course, Roast Pavé of Icelandic Cod, Pistou Vegetables. The cod was very nice, well cooked, nice crispy skin, but the pistou vegetables were a little underwhelming. Not bad for the price overall but a little lacking in ooomph. Grilled Calves Liver, White Polenta and Smoked Bacon was also on offer.

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

For dessert, how could I resist the rhubarb? We’re almost out of the pretty-in-pink forced rhubarb season, and that sends me into a blind culinary panic. It came in the form of Buttermilk Panacaotta, Poached Rhubarb. I enjoyed the slight tang of the wobbly panacotta, but found the rhubarb a bit tough, which is a shame. Perhaps they undercooked them to retain a firm shape for presentation, but it took from the dessert. Brie de Meaux with Walnut and Raising Loaf was the other option. Once I saw the R word, I was blind to it though.

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

So, overall, I really enjoyed it, after all, a meal is the sum of its parts, not just about the food, while it is very important. While the service was quite formal, it really fitted with the room and, dare I say it, it felt truly French. I really felt removed from my everyday existence here, I felt like I was in Paris. Sometimes, that’s all you need. The food was good overall, the wine a great match and a good sipper, and Sig was excellent company. What a bargain it was too. I heartily recommend it, and will be there again myself soon.

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe
66 Baker Street,
London, W1U 7DJ
United Kingdom

T: +44 (0) 20 7935 4007


Posh Lunch Club at Terroirs

I have several bad habits, who doesn’t? One is not writing about some of my favourite places. It occured to me recently, and I wondered why. I suspect that it’s part not wanting to taint a lovely dining/wine-ing experience by dissecting it for a review, and part confident that I will be there again soon and I can review it then. A little greedy bit of me may not want to share, I like this part less than you do. So, I’ve decided to write a list of these places, and start ticking them off.

The first one that I will review is Terroirs in Charing Cross, for no reason other than that I was meeting a visiting friend and wine blogger (Vaguely Vinous) there, and I love it. It had the makings of a perfect afternoon.

Terroirs is a natural wine bar and restaurant in Charing Cross, French in character offering a vast selection of natural/biodynamic wines, and a great food selection. It’s bright with lots of light, and is always busy.

It’s always so lovely to find a wine bar that cares as much about the food as the wine, Vinoteca is one (review soon!) and Terroirs another. I trek there a lot, with friends or sometimes solo. I like to perch at the bar with a small plate, glass of wine and a good book, and pass a couple of indulgent hours. The food menu has a variety of snacks, small bites, plats du jour and cheese. The wine list is enormous and comprehensive and I have had the pleasure of discovering some new favourite wines there.

In the spirit of Posh Lunch Club, I had to indulge in the irresistible lunch special, which today was Chickpeas, Chorizo & Clams with a glass of Red Cuvée des Drilles, Gauillac or a glass of White Chateau Clement-Termes, Gauillac for £10. £10?! That is tremendous value. I opted for the red, which was light and very easy, a good lunch choice, and a nice match for the food.

The Chickpeas, Chorizo and Clams were lovely, served with some good aioli, there was lots of clams, with good chickpeas, no ropey tinned rubbish here. These chickpeas had a lovely nutty bite, which, in my experience you only get from homecooking. There was a fine dice of chorizo, so that each mouthful had a combination of the different flavours and textures and a gentle heat. Some bread mopped up the sauce at the end with large, guilty dollops of aioli. It was a very good dish.

Dining companions had the steak tartare, at a very reasonable £7, and really enjoyed it with some robust red wine. A plate of cheese graced the table, and while I didn’t indulge, others were very happy.

We finished with a lovely bottle of red from Bergerac, Le Combal Cahors 2006. Initially quite farmyardy, which natural wines sometimes are, it opened up quickly to reveal some fruity flavours that I really enjoyed. It was a treat at £34, but was worth the spend.

I enjoyed it so much, I almost went back for dinner. However, that would have been silly, and silly I can be, but I curtailed myself tonight. I have enjoyed several dinners there before and can recommend based on these, particularly the bavette served at the restaurant downstairs.

So, there you have it, a bargain fine lunch, in a lovely wine bar. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend you check it out, as it’s marvellous. A real London gem for me.

Terroirs Wine Bar & Restaurant
5 William IV Street
London WC2
020 7036 0660