Thursday, 21 May 2015

Ask for Janice, Farringdon - Restaurant Review

I have found my favourite cocktail. It's taken years of research and much trial and error but here it is:

Hey Ladies. 
It's 'Breakfast tea infused Beefeater Gin, Creme de Figue, lemon, fig jam, egg white, Prosecco top, and a sherbet rim.'
It's beautiful. It's delicious. It's sweet. It's got everything I love - Prosecco, gin, lemon and some sweeeet sherbet. Mission accomplished.

Hey Ladies; 3 Minute Rule.

At Ask For Janice in Farringdon, there is a new Spring menu and a whole host of newly created cockatils, mostly featuring one or more of their 40+ gins. I tried both the Hey Ladies and the 3 Minute Rule. I had to try them again...

The restaurant on street level looks out onto Smithfield Market, and is only a few minute's walk from the Barbican (the tube station and the actual Barbican). It opened only last year, and I don't know who Janice is, nor did I ask for her, but she has created a fantastic menu featuring locally sourced seasonal ingredients, some even foraged in Hackney. I had some crispy fried wild garlic flower - delicious. Like some kind of tempura batter, but seeming healthy as it's totally natural and wild inside. With those amazing cocktails, they are beautifully complementary.
Crisp Pork Crackling with sloe cider jelly; Wild Garlic Flower Fritters; Cod Cheeks with braised Fennel; Asparagus salad with Somerset ricotta and hazelnuts.
Another starter/nibble worth the visit is the pork crackling. Crisp, really crisp, served with a sticky cider jelly. The perfect snack to whet your appetite for the rest of the menu, which is all billed as British, with a modern creative twist. All seasonal, all locally sourced. All delicious.
There was asparagus salad with Somerset ricotta and hazelnuts, cod cheeks with braised wild fennel and lemon - again very more-ish, and marinated flank steak with Young Buck blue cheese. So tender and so tempting.

For dessert Ask For Janice has taken the traditional British dessert Poor Knights of Windsor and turned it into the Farrindgon version - a brandy-soaked walnut bread and butter pudding, with caramelized peaches, served with custard. Not too sweet and not too stodgy, the perfect end to a meal.

Poor Knights of Farrindgon

The basement bar at Ask For Janice is a laid back, trendy area where you can choose from a gin list, a wine list, and a cocktail list. You can even hire it out for private events. Did I mention the Hey Ladies? Go and try it. It's wonderful.

50-52 Long Lane

020 7600 2255

Read my review on behalf of Love Food Love Drink magazine here.

Ask For Janice on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Made in Brasil Boteco, Camden - Restaurant Review

Wednesday evening. Hump day. It's time to head on down to Camden Town and chill in the Brazilian vibe of Made in Brasil Boteco. One of Camden's latest openings, a sister to the Made in Brasil beach shack style Brazilian restaurant on Inverness St, this favela-style cachacaria is perfect for an authentic taste of Rio.

Caipirinhas - classic and lychee. Mazzaropi and Floripa Martini
The cocktail list is awesome. Brazil's national spirit Cachaca, is mixed with sugar and muddled with fresh lime over ice to make a classic Caipirinha. There are many version of this classic on offer, including lychee, passionfruit, and a chilli raspberry caipirinha. The cocktail list doesn't just restrict itself to caipirinhas, but many other delicious and refreshing beverages including a Floripa Martini, and the Mazzaropi, both Brazilian, as well as all your usual cocktails from around the world.

Frango a passarinho, Camarao na morango, Beringela 'a parmegiana', Acarajé, Bolinho de arroz.
The petiscos were amazing. Already a Spanish tapas fan, now I find that the Portuguese or Brazilian version is every bit as good. If not better. (I didn't say that - Tapas, I still love you.) From the traditional street food dishes such as bolinhos (dumplings) and coxinha (chicken pastries) to creamed pumpkin prawns (served in the pumpkin skin) and the genius pasta-less aubergine lasagna, a few seemingly small dishes were more than enough for two of us. The problem being, we need to go back to try the rest!  

Cheesecake de maracuja, Pudim de leite

Desserts. A must. Even for non-dessert fans. The passionfruit cheesecake is really, really, REALLY superb. A Brazilian créme caramel also made the cut, all food beautifully washed down with a bottle of Vinho Verde. The wine list isn't long, I have to say, but with a Carnival (geddit?) of more than palatable cocktails, you won't even notice.

Brazilian music, eclectic decor and most helpful friendly staff, next time you're in Camden, go and taste the Caipirinhas.

48 Chalk Farm Road

020 7267 4868

Dinner for two with wine (AND cocktails!) ~£75

Read my review on behalf of Love Food Love Drink magazine here.

Made in Brasil Boteco on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Monday, 20 April 2015

Piñata Cake

Pinata Cake. So much fun! Not so much that you have to whack the cake with a stick, but when you slice it, out fall loads of sweeties! This worked really well for a little afternoon tea party, celebrating some birthdays. Some of the kids, I knew, weren't really cake eaters, so I thought this would be the perfect compromise - cake AND sweets...

Pinata Cake - before
 It didn't take long and was simpler to make than it looks. I used Annie Bell's Classic Tearoom Chocolate Victoria Sponge and was helped in the technique by I Should Be Mopping the Floor (which, to be fair, I should have done afterwards!). 
Pinata Cake - after
The kids' faces were so funny, full of surprise and ultimately delight! Well worth the effort.

Pinata Cake

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Fiery Goan Curry by The Spice Tailor

It is my privilege to be a member of the Guiding Panel for the Spice Tailor, which simply means that, once in a while, they'll send me a sample of one of their products. Yay! Nothing better on a night when all you want to do is eat, drink and relax. Now I'm a huge advocate of cooking from scratch, and Indian food is one of my favourites for making when I've got time and guests to impress. I usually scoff at people who say they've cooked a curry and then reveal they've just used a packet sauce or a jar. But the Spice Tailor is different. Yes, it's convenient, yes, it's out of a packet (or three), and yes, it's far too quick to be believable. But yet, it works. It's something I would serve to friends. And I'm not just saying that because it was free.

It comes with a little package of whole spices, I'm guessing there was a chilli, cardamom, curry leaves, black peppercorns, and cloves. First of all, these are fried for 30 seconds. Next, you chuck in your meat - I used chicken breast chunks. Browned for a few minutes, then I threw in some peppers and courgettes, followed by the base sauce. This, I trust, was made up of onions, and probably garlic, ginger, chillies, maybe vinegar, and some spices, with perhaps some tomato paste. A couple of minutes of simmering and then the main sauce is added - a mixture of tomatoes and more spices I reckon. Who knows? But the smell as you add the base sauce is wonderful and makes you feel as though you've made something special already. The packets are so easy to rip open (no scissors necessary) and add in, and it's so quick to finish off, with a sprinkle of fresh coriander and a shop-bought naan bread grilled for a few minutes with some honey and desiccated coconut.
A palate-warming taste explosion, indeed. With a name like 'Fiery' I would have expected it to be hotter, but that's probably just me and my chilli-addiction. I expect you could add more as you wish! I will definitely stock up on some Spice Tailor sauces - 'distinctive and intense' - and have them on hand for those evenings when you really need an authentic tasting, home-cooked curry. In literally 15 minutes. All you need to add is the meat and/or vegetables. Result!
Fiery Goan Curry

Friday, 10 April 2015

Marvel Avengers 10th Birthday Cake

 My boy is turning 10 this week. I say it every year, but really? How can it be?
His latest craze is Marvel and the Avengers et al., so it only took a bit of Pinning, and some Googling to come up with this montage of current characters. I won't pretend to know who they are (apart from Hulk and Spiderman of course), but there was a long list of 'em.
As ever, Nigella came through for the chocolate cake, and I was helped by a three-year-old to make the buttercream (inside) (thank you Rosie!) and by my own two for the name and the positioning.
Happy 10th Birthday, Joey. Love you. X
Marvel Avengers Cake
Happy 10th Birthday.

X-men/Wolverine, Hulk Smash, Joey POW!, Captain America's shield and the Avenger's, Ironman Mask, and Thor's Hammer.

Monday, 30 March 2015

The Parlour at Fortnum and Mason

It was one of those rare days 'off', when we dropped the kids at school, watched the eclipse (or not, thank you, clouds) over a hot chocolate, then wandered into Piccadilly for an early lunch and a browse around the shops. We popped into Fortnum & Mason, as you do, to admire (and sample ) the amazing Easter chocolate displays, managing - just - to resist the amazing beehive one for £250...

F&M isn't exactly the local corner shop, so it was amusing to wander round, watching tourists and actual rich people shop. The staff were super - I guess you can't really tell by looking at someone how rich they actually are, so we sampled and haggled with the best of them, without ever feeling obliged. Without actually buying anything...

On the first floor was The Parlour Restaurant. With a little voucher from Zomato (thanks, guys) we were able to splash out on a cream tea and an ice cream. They serve a whole range of different teas. At £5.95 a pot. Yikes! But hey, with a cream tea, you can have a delicious spinach and gruyere tart, two scones with cream and jam and a little teeny ice cream. Though small, everything tasted delicious, and was served warm and fresh. After, we had an Original Dusty Road Sundae - Coffee & Chocolate Ice Creams, drizzled with Butterscotch Sauce & topped with Whipped Cream & Chocolate Flakes, accompanied with Coffee Macarons. Now that was lush. I don't eat a lot of dessert, but if you were a fan of such, this would be £12 well spent. The macaron, in particular, was exquisite, and you can't go wrong with butterscotch sauce. At 11.30am...

Pick of the Parlour Cream Tea
Original Rocky Road Sundae
Flat white with Mini Sundae
Spinach and Gruyere Tart

A quiet, peaceful yet slightly formal atmosphere, with super-polite staff. An array of tempting confectionery, not least the selection of pastel-coloured ice creams. The decor was trademark F&M green, playful yet genteel. This would be a great place to meet for an indulgent coffee meeting, impressive yet welcoming. 'A truly decadent ice cream experience, the Parlour offers both much-loved classics and innovative new flavours, many found nowhere else in the world. Add artisan coffee, hot chocolate, open sandwiches and perhaps a glass of wine.' Fortnum and Mason is, after all, the grocer to the Queen.

The Parlour Restaurant
Fortnum & Mason
181 Piccadilly
020 3095 5832

Square Meal The Parlour at Fortnum and Mason on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 29 March 2015