The Sloane Brothers Frozen Yoghurt

It’s the hottest day of the year, and it only seems to be getting hotter, what is going on! I am typically British wishing for the sun, then complaining as soon as it gets over 20 degrees. So of course it made perfect sense to take up an offer of checking out a new frozen yoghurt place that has just opened on Brick Lane, the Sloane Brothers Frozen Yoghurt.

There I was wandering over to Brick Lane trying my best not to look like I have just walked through a desert, when I came upon the bright airy shop, instant relief. The shop was empty, but it was only just 6pm so the after work crowd hadn’t started pouring in yet, but the staff instantly greeted me with a smile.

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Now I do not like yoghurt, never have, but I am open to the concept of frozen yoghurt. The plain one has that tang of yoghurt, but flavoured ones are good. There is one near my office who have been going crazy with samples now the sun is out, and it would be rude not to try! The question was could the Sloane Brothers completely convince me of their product, could they win me over?

One thing I wasn’t sure about when looking at the website and menu before arriving was that they only offer 3 flavours, Vanilla, Chocolate and Dulce de Leche. They do have a dairy free option as well made with coconut milk which I thought was interesting. Many frozen yoghurt places offer many more flavours so I wondered what did these guys had to offer up to make themselves different when they only had three flavours. That question was answered rather quickly on meeting the owner Joseph, Biscuits!!!!

Yes that is right biscuits, the best of British, bourbons, custard creams and jammi dodgers to name a few. Joseph explained that the idea behind the frozen yoghurt shop was best of British, something that instantly made me warm to him. As written on the wall of the shop, legend has it that Frozen Yoghurt was invented right here in London, in the east end no less, and not the USA which many presume. It was created by accident by the Sloane Brothers. With frozen yoghurt being British he wanted to make sure it was British, so the yoghurt is British made, all the fruit is sourced from local providers, the biscuits all British, and the cakes are locally made.

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So you may only have 3 base flavours ( they do occasionally do guest flavours) but you get a whole host of toppings, from sauces, to fresh fruit to the best of British biscuits and baking. I was overwhelmed with the choice. All three flavours, and the dairy free were refreshing. The chocolate one tasted of chocolate and was rich and creamy and the dulce de leche was sweet and creamy, and quickly shot to the favourite spot. Flavour picked I stared at the topping cabinets… so many choices. After much debate I went with bourbon biscuits and crumbled red velvet cake. This definitely was no longer fat-free but it was delicious!!

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YUM!

I would highly recommend the Sloane Brothers if you are in the mood for some frozen goodness in the Brick Lane area. It’s a friendly place that offers lovely frozen yoghurt at a reasonable price. These guys have been open for less than 2 weeks and in that first week ran out of frozen yoghurt more than once due to the high demand. With the biscuit selection it is offering something a little bit different from your normal fruit or sprinkles. Joseph wants to create a firm British brand that provides great quality British products. This is a friendly establishment offer a great product so head on over and give them a go, I certainly will be going back whenever I am in the area!

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The Secret Garden

Now I think it’s fair to say from previous posts I am a fan of the lovely chef Jimmy Garcia and his wonderful food. His new summer pop up launched a couple of weeks ago and I was lucky enough to snag a table on opening night (hectic days has caused a delay to this being posted!). Called the Secret Garden, it leads your imagination to think of all things summer, and even though it was raining the night we went, I do believe the restaurant exudes summer!

The Secret Garden

Buzzing the bell to get in you make your way up stairs through the vines, candles are lit and you are on an outside terrace. As you make your way inside and are greeted by the front of house you are not quite sure what to expect as the diners are behind a set of double doors. Walking in you are greeted by quite a dark room, lit with candles, the floor covered in grass ( the fake kind, don’t worry ladies no mud to be had in this garden), vines and flowers hanging from the ceiling and there in the middle in all its grandeur a beautiful wooden tree. Its like the kind of garden everyone wants, low maintenance, no bugs or mud and it has a bar in it!

The centre of attention, the grand tree of the Secret Garden

The centre of attention, the grand tree of the Secret Garden

Sitting at a table by the bar, long grass created a bit of a divider from the bar area which was a nice touch, we had a view of the whole place. It was busy, and tables continued to empty and fill throughout the evening even though we didn’t sit until 9pm proving the popularity of this pop up chef.

Now the menu has changed a bit since we first went, the indoor BBQs have unfortunately gone and the menu is now a standard Starter, Main and Dessert using the dishes that made up the small plates element of the original menu. Do not let this put you off because we had the small plates (which are now bigger plates) and they were great. The menu like with Jimmy’s other pop ups are seasonal, using as much local produce from small producers as possible and of course his dad’s Spanish chorizo. The meat on the menu is varied using a range of game and fish such as pigeon, rabbit, Guinea fowl and sea bass, which adds a varied depth to the menu and when paired with ‘garden’ inspired foods you have delicious plates.

‘Run Rabbit’ Wild Rabbit Loin, Pickled Baby Veg, Rabbit Veloute, Rabbit Pop Corn

‘Run Rabbit’ Wild Rabbit Loin, Pickled Baby Veg, Rabbit Veloute, Rabbit Pop Corn

'Porky Beans' Belly, Smoked Eel Beignet, Fava and Bacon Beans, Carrot Puree

‘Porky Beans’ Belly, Smoked Eel Beignet, Fava and Bacon Beans, Carrot Puree

Papa G’s Chorizo, Guineafowl ballotine, Chorizo and Parmesan risotto, skin shard, cherry tomatoes and Spinach

Papa G’s Chorizo, Guineafowl ballotine, Chorizo and Parmesan risotto, skin shard, cherry tomatoes and Spinach

Seared Sea Bass, Deep Fried Oyster, Radish, Squid Ink Aioli, Chardonnay Foam

Seared Sea Bass, Deep Fried Oyster, Radish,
Squid Ink Aioli, Chardonnay Foam

As always presentation is faultless. The plates are delicate and beautiful even though some are carrying these hearty and robust meats on them. My favourites were the ‘Run Rabbit’ rabbit ballotine and the Chorizo and Guinea fowl, both hearty, delicate and busting with flavour.

If you have room for dessert then go for it. The Edible Garden is lovely and chocolate heaven while the Ice Cream Factory allows you to fill your face with sugary goodness and throw caution to the wind for any future dental visits!

This is definitely a must try so if you can get yourself a reservation do, as this is great food in a cleverly put together theme.

Chef Particulier Supper Club

It’s a cold Friday night in Stockwell and I am sitting in the basement flat of a gorgeous Georgian town house off the main road running through Stockwell. Why am I here you ask? But for the first supper club of Janos Balint, aka Chef Particulier!

I came to know about Janos and his supper club through my colleague Naomi who is the other half to the lovely Jimmy Garcia and Janos has worked for him. I love the random connections you end up making in London! Anyway, I was told that Janos was doing his first supper club so I felt like I should go along, try it out and support him in his efforts. So here we were in a rather spartan but toasty warm basement flat, 4 tables set for six people apiece and starving.

The Fabulous Menu

The Fabulous Menu

The kitchen team were hard at work when we appeared and being prompt we were some of the first people there. Supper Clubs are always interesting as you never quite know who you are going to be sitting at a table with. It was a mixed crowd. Friends of Janos’, friends of friends, employers and friends of employers. As we sat down, a quick welcome speech from Janos and the wine bottles opened, the very relaxed evening commenced.

The menu for the evening was

A Trip of Canapés

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Mackerel Three Ways

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Seasonal Vegetable Shooter

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Pheasant Salmi with Celeriac Gratin and Roasted Plums

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Citrus Sorbet

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Apple terrine served with Caramel and Chantilly Cream

The food itself was delicious. I was personally intrigued by the mackerel as its one of my favourite things and always interested to see what people do with it. The mackerel came in tartar form, as a pate and escabeche. All three were beautiful. I do not normally like tartar but with the Asian twist it was light and full of flavour and I inhaled it!. After a short breather we were served shots of vegetable soup. Always novel!

Mackerel Three Ways

Mackerel Three Ways

The main course is what we were all waiting for, pheasant severed with celeriac gratin and roasted plums. The pheasant was beautiful, moist and full of flavour. It was very well cooked. I would have liked my gratin with a bit more sauce to it but that’s just me being greedy and wanting yummy cream. The gratin itself was lovely, the celeriac perfectly thin and seasoned well.

Pheasant!!

Pheasant!!

Post pheasant and starting to feel rather full came our pallet cleansing citrus sorbet. Light and refreshing it was what was just needed. Having eaten pretty much everything that was put in front of me I was going to struggle with fitting desert in, but I would try. Now I am not the world biggest fan of cooked apple but I did quite enjoy the apple terrine. I like the idea of the apple terrine but both me and my friend agreed we would have preferred it warm rather than cold. The caramel and cream complimented it very well though.

Desert!

Desert!

Overall this was a great dinner by Janos and I am very excited that it will be just the first of many. In fact the second one was a couple of weekends ago but I couldn’t attend. Fingers crossed that the next one falls on an empty date in my diary.

Janos is one to watch, he is all about seasonal food that tastes great. His love of food comes from growing up in a three generation household in a small Hungarian village. His grandmother seems to be the inspiration when you talk to him, her cooking of traditional dishes, simple and seasonable using ingredients from their garden ( including the chickens and rabbits they kept). Janos’ cooking goes back to simplicity, using what is available and seasonal and not trying to use a ridiculous number of ingredients. I like this, its home cooking but with a touch of elegance. I look forward to seeing how these supper clubs develop as the seasons change!

If you like good food and random company then keep an eye out for Chef Particulier’s next supper club as I know it will be good!

Art in unusal places

I was recently invited to the opening of an art residency at a hotel. The hotel was the Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel in London. The Art Movement, an art consultancy, has taken up residence in the hotel and will in their programme showcase some of the world’s finest contemporary artists within the hotel lobby and Lowndes Bar & Kitchen Restaurant. The first artist being Chuck Elliott. The aim being that guests can view the art and purchase. It’s intended to be a new way of displaying art as an alternative to a gallery. The Art Movement want to demystify the process of acquiring original art.

blast/first/fracturerefract by chuck elliott

Chuck Elliot Blast/FIRST/fractureRefract . Taken from artnet.com

I quite like this idea of creating new ‘art galleries’ accessible to people who maybe wouldn’t wander into an art gallery. I like it when art is accessible to all people, I think that is why I am so drawn and interested by graffiti and street art. It’s a way for people to express themselves on an open canvas to a wide audience and get them thinking. Street art is something that I always look for when I am abroad as it gives you another layer to the culture and the people of the country you are in.

Some of the many pieces of street art from San Jose

Some of the many pieces of street art from San Jose

Some of the many pieces of street art from San Jose

Some of the many pieces of street art from San Jose

Amazing use of space for art in Soweto

Amazing use of space for art in Soweto

One of my favourite cities for Street Art is Berlin. This is a city rich with art and it has a long history of expressing itself through art – just look at the East Side Gallery – the remnants of the Berlin Wall. It is showcase of politics, oppression, freedom and culture. Its one of my favourite galleries. But along with the wall, the streets and buildings of Berlin are littered with graffiti and art all showing different thoughts and feelings.

Its not only the East Side Gallery that show cases the artistic talents of the city but all surfaces, no matter their height. The sides of apartment buildings are painted to look like gardens, a wall full of sunflowers or words of expression.

Its not only the East Side Gallery that show cases the artistic talents of the city but all surfaces, no matter their height. The sides of apartment buildings are painted to look like gardens, a wall full of sunflowers or words of expression.

The East Side Gallery, the worlds longest open air art gallery.

The East Side Gallery, the worlds longest open air art gallery.

Of course here in London and the UK we are not short of street art. Just look at Banksy, he made a name from creating art, originally on the streets of Bristol, and then further a field. In the eyes of some he is just a graffiti artist or vandal while others are willing to pay millions for an original Banksy. Wandering around Bristol and spotting a Banksy is part of the fun of going to visit the lovely city.

Bristol Street Art

Bristol Street Art

Bristol Street Art

Bristol Street Art

Here in London of course we are spoilt… yes I am not going to deny it most of the graffiti out there is just tagging and pretty non descript but then you go to somewhere like Shoreditch which is starting to become like a living art gallery, around every corner is an artistic surprise, big and small. I follow quite a few people on Instagram but I particularly like following Anissa Helou as she is always putting up new pieces she finds wandering around Shoreditch – I can admire the art wherever I am thanks to her pictures! The art has become so popular that tours are popping up to show it all off.

Shoreditch art

Shoreditch Street Art

More recently I have been introduced to an art project in Cuba Fusterlandia,created by Jose Fuster, known as the Picasso of the Caribbean. As you enter the Havana suburb you are met by block after block of mosaic creations. It’s a suburb that has been turned into a living art project and encourages the inhabitants to express themselves through their houses, gates and gardens! This is definitely something that I am very excited to explore when I go to Cuba in January!

Stepping away from paint into the world of sculpture there are so many places that are now being used as galleries outside of the norm. I like the idea of sculpture parks, like the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail. Putting a piece of sculpture in the context of nature, where the elements can get to it. Of course this is not art you can buy but it can be appreciated, and your perception and feelings towards it are always going to be different depending on the weather. You are more likely to rush around when its cold and wet than if it was a warm sunny day where you can linger and explore all the aspects of it. Sculpture parks and walks allow you to go back time after time and experience the same things in different ways, something that isn’t really possible in a climate controlled museum or gallery.

P1020881 P1020900There is so much creativity out there that its hard to contain it all within the four walls of an art gallery – of course do not tell that to all those boutique private galleries that fill the streets of London and other cities a like trying to sell the wares of artists. As long as it isn’t hurting anyone I do not see a problem with using new spaces to express yourself through art. I hope to keep seeing art popping up in unusual places. I encourage you to go out and find art in unusal places. Find something and keep going back and see how the elements effect your perceptions of it. Go and explore art – I dare you!

The Lodge

The wood paneling, the antlers on the wall, warm blankets and a steaming bowl of fondu! I could be in the Alps, but alas I am not, I am in the heart of Balham and at the latest pop up from Jimmy Garcia, The Lodge.

The Alpine lodge theme runs through not only the decor but also the menu which is filled with fondu, hot cocktails and wild meat mains. All of which makes you long for the snow.

Feeling the Alpine spirit at the Lodge

Feeling the Alpine spirit at the Lodge

The Lodge

As with Jimmy’s other pop ups, this is a relaxed affair. With communal tables and a couple of smaller ones this is the place to go with friends, grab a couple of bottles of wine or a round of mulled cider from the drinks menu and then settle down for a natter over delicious fondu. Outside you can sit under big toasty blankets and heaters and really get into the Alpine swing of things by having the chill on your cheeks.

The fondu is the star of the show, made with Coolea and Ogleshield Somerset provided by Neals Yard Dairy and blended with white wine and kirsch, it sits proud in the middle of the table surrounded by potatoes, bread and salads. We of course had to have the delicious charcuterie served on slate to go with our cheese, because what meal is complete without charcuterie!

An Alpine spread of glorius fondu

An Alpine spread of glorius fondu

I very much recommend you get yourself down to the Lodge and get your urban apres ski on as it won’t be around forever! This is the ideal place to meet up with friends as the winter draws in either for dinner or sunday lunch ( the venison looks divine!).

Bobo Social

Now London isn’t short of Burger joints, they are popping up all over the place either as restaurants, street food vendors or pop up restaurants. The burger phenomenon is well and truly upon us and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon.

Of course I am not going to argue with this because I love a good burger, a big old patty of high quality flavoursome meat, gooey cheese and amazing topping choices. I admit it, I have a burger problem! This is only aided by the opening of new burger restaurants. So on hearing about BOBO social, offering lux burgers then I of course had to try it out.

BOBO social sells itself as offering a new dining experience. In their own words “Take a seat and relax, pop the champagne,enjoy an innovative small plate of deliciousness, a succulent burger made with fresh British ingredients, indulge yourself with a decadent dessert cocktail and laugh among friends… after all, what’s the rush?”

Now I agree with their statement in the most part, but not so much whats the rush! I booked a table for Saturday night at 7.30 because I thought, its Saturday night in London on Charlotte Street it will be busy, plus I had somewhere I needed to be at around 9pm. The restaurant located in a converted house is on split layers, the entrance being on one along with the kitchen and then as you head towards the back you drop a level. There was a group in the back room but out front there was no one else. In the bright white restaurant it was empty. We were seated at a table near the door and kitchen and the staff we instantaneously cheerful and friendly. We decided to order cocktails to start, thinking they would turn up quickly ( seen as there was no one else around) and could sip them while we decided on food, alas we were wrong. After 10 minutes we had to ask where they were and then only one turned up. You don’t offer a long cocktail list and sell yourself as a place for burgers and cocktails if you cannot whip them up quickly, how long would we have had to have waited if the restaurant was busy? Eventually we had to remind the waitress we were waiting on a drink. Then throughout the meal we were constantly asked if everything was ok, and once we had finished our food we kept being asked if we wanted desert even though we had told them we need some time to let our food settle. There was no point rushing us we had half a bottle of bubbles to finish! It all just seemed rather odd, that even when the place got busier ( about 8.15) it almost seemed like they had nothing to do but ask us if we were ok or needed anything else. It felt like we were being rushed but by the nicest people. I know they hadn’t been open very long and maybe the staff were just getting to know their roles but asking once if fine, but continuous ‘ is everything ok?’ is a bit annoying.
Inside BOBO Social

Inside BOBO Social

We may have had to wait a while but the cocktail was good - gummy bear included

We may have had to wait a while but the cocktail was good – gummy bear included

Sigh! Enough about my moan about the weird interrogation by the staff, what about the food?!
They sell themselves as the place for experimental burgers, unique flavours and quality British produce. The food, it didn’t disappoint. Seen as the restaurant was so quiet our burgers turned up incredibly quickly, so quickly we hadn’t even finished our cocktails.Served on mismatched china plates and the fries in china cups it was an odd mix of china in a sleek modern environment.
We ordered the Peanut Butter and the Capsicum and split them. The Peanut Butter does what it says on the tin, it’s a succulent beef burger topped with monterary jack cheese and maple cured bacon and yes peanut butter. I couldn’t help but be intrigued, but by George it worked. The salty sticky peanut butter with the bacon and the meat, it just worked. I thought maybe the peanut butter might over power the flavour of the meat but it didn’t.
The Capsicum was a beef and chorizo patty, topped with Manchego, tomato and chilli salsa and jalapeno chillies. There was some chilli in the meat as well. This was a very nice burger, I am not sure how much chorizo I got through the beef but there was a slight heat from the chilli which was delicious.
The Peanut Butter burger

The Peanut Butter burger

The Capsicum Burger

The Capsicum Burger

Both burgers were delicious, the meat full of flavour and the toppings paired well. I liked that the burgers were a little different. The menu itself is short with only 6 burgers on offer plus their weekly experimental burger ( one created by guests visiting on a monday night at their experimental burger night), even the veggie option sounds tempting. The sides were fairly standard, I liked that they offered sweet potato fries but not sure about serving them in a tea-cup…. maybe I need time to adjust to this new way of serving chips!
Now usually after a burger I cannot physically fit in any dessert but seen as we had half a bottle of bubbles to finish and were not in a rush, after an appropriate amount of time to let the burger settle itself we dived into Dark and Milk chocolate salted caramel mouse. It came served in a small kilner jar. The mouse wasn’t light and fluffy but thick, solid and like a beautiful smooth truffle. It was sickly sweet but the salted caramel that ran through it cut through this and made a wonderfully delicious dessert.
the fabulous chocolate and salted caramel mousse

the fabulous chocolate and salted caramel mousse

Overall I very much enjoyed the food and would go back as the burgers were good, I would also be interested to see how busy it gets on a week night and whether the service has gotten better. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t terrible service but just needed work.
If you are looking for a burger that is a little different to the run of the mill in settings that mix minimalist modern with vintage china then this is the place….. plus the cocktails aren’t bad either!
Enjoy xx

Spa Terminus a hidden food paradise in London!

There is nothing better than fresh produce, seeing where something came from and meeting the people that made it, it gives real satisfaction. It also makes you appreciate the food you are eating so much more as you know exactly where it is coming from. Food today is so convenient and it’s so easy to not think about what you are eating or where it has come from. Producers are faceless, and all you think about is price. Meeting the person who made, say your cheese, changes all that.

One place that offers you the opportunity to buy beautiful food products straight from the producers is Spa Terminus in Bermondsey. It’s a short walk from London Bridge and the river and the perfect place on a sunny day to pick up items for a picnic in the park or down by the river!

Spa Terminus by their own definition is an area for food production and distribution in which likeminded businesses can grow and develop with the security of long term tenure. Located in a section of railway arches, they are working with Network rail and the local council to restore the area to an industrious manufacturing base supplying food destinations throughout London and the UK. This is an ingenious way of restoring abandoned pieces of London, using forgotten areas and bringing them back to life. Walking around the arches the food producers have really bought the area back to life.

First port of call if starting from the Bermondsey end is the Kernel Brewery, making beer that forces you to confront and consider what you are drinking. They make Pale Ales, India Pales Ales and old school London Porters and Stouts, so there is something for everyone. If you fancy a drink before you carry on shopping they have a small bar area next to the brewery otherwise fill your bags and carry on to the next arch which is the Ham and Cheese Company selling fabulous Italian cheese and cured meats. For the honey lovers amongst you there is the London Honey Co, who have their own hives on the roof of the building – watch out for the bees!

The London Honey Co.

The London Honey Co.

Next door is the Little Bread Pedlar – yes it’s a bakery, and nearby is one of my favourites ,occupying the corner unit is La Grotta Ices, the perfect accompaniment to a sunny shopping morning.

La Grotta ices

La Grotta ices

La Grotta ices

La Grotta ices

La Grotta ices - so many flavours

La Grotta ices – so many flavours

Crossing under a bridge to the next set of arches more wonderful delights await. For those that want some reasonably priced and fresh fruit and veg then head to South East Fruits, we picked up some amazing bargains. Further up is a cheese lover’s delight, Mons Cheese, Neal’s Yard Dairy and Kappacasein. There was so much cheese and so little time. Kappacasein won me over straight away, their cheese is made right there in the back of the unit, the Bermondsey hard pressed was only a few weeks old, but there was also the more mature version (great for cheese on toast). I loved the fact that the woman serving us could tell us the exact date the cheese was made – where does that ever happen! They sell their own butter which looked divine but dangerous for the arteries as well as their own buttermilk. On Saturdays they share the space with Neal’s Yard Dairy and they too offer a selection of great cheese, including St. James and my new favourite the Montgomery Cheddar.

Kappacasein

Kappacasein

Kappacasein cheese

Kappacasein cheese

Along the way there are also bakeries to stop at so you have something to go with all that cheese. A great place to stop is St. John Bakery which is further up on Druid Street and for something a little sweeter then definitely drop into Comptoir Gourmand for the best of French baking and patisseries.

St. Johns Bakery

St. Johns Bakery

Comptoir Gourmand

Comptoir Gourmand

From Druid Street you can turn off onto Maltby Street which offers even more fine food with their street market, or if you are laden down with goods then head to the riverside for a drink and if you can find a spot sit down and tuck into all that fabulous food you have just bought.

Spa Terminus is the perfect place to shop for fresh and well-crafted produce. Borough Market is just up the road and again I love to shop there but with the crowds it’s just off putting, so for a quiet food paradise head to the old railway arches in Bermondsey.

Lunch at the Gherkin

“The Gherkin is opening its restaurant to none members in August” “What?!  Yes, yes we need to go! ” Yes that was my reaction to hearing that the Gherkin was celebrating its 10th Birthday by opening its members only restaurant right at the very top of the building for the month of August to us lowly folk! Firstly I couldn’t believe the Gherkin was only 10 years old, it feels like its been there forever, it’s so iconic in the London skyline. But 10 years old it is. The iconic building designed by Sir Norman Foster which was opened in 2004 is 180m tall and from the top offers spectacular views of London. The opportunity to get in the Gherkin, and enjoy the views over food could not be passed up.

There she is!

There she is!

The restaurant itself is owned by Searcy’s and is a private members club so normally you cannot get up there if you are just ordinary folk. The top floor is the dome of the Gherkin and is usually a bar / restaurant, the floor below is the proper restaurant. We ate in the dome which was amazing!

Dining in the dome of the Gherkin

Dining in the dome of the Gherkin

Approaching the Gherkin, as you get closer and closer and you realise just what a beautiful building it is, the glass shimmering in the sunlight. I should mention at this point we ate at the Gherkin the day storms were hitting London. Thanks to the tail end weather of a hurricane London was being hit by freak rain. This only added to the atmosphere in the restaurant. So as we reached the base of the tower, a question was raised, where is the entrance in this circular building! As we walked around the circular base we finally found the entrance and were met with a crazy amount of security. ID, check. Through the X-ray machine and metal detector, check. Accompanied in the lift by security, check. As we finally reached what we thought was the top and the restaurant entrance we checked out coats and were ushered to another lift – we are going higher! So level 39 here we come. The staff were incredibly polite, and as we stepped out of the lift at level 39 we were told we were dining on the top floor, level 40 – excited we were. Up a few stairs and you enter the dome of the Gherkin, the very top, a room made of glass. Outside you are surrounded by the London skyline, simply stunning, and luckily the rain was still at bay. The menu was simple, three choices on each course. To start I went with the Serrano Ham Eggs Benedict. It was a great choice, although it did fill me up as it was a little large for a starter. For Main, Poussin, fondant, leek ash and saffron sauce. The Poussin was beautifully cooked. The desert, something light, lemon tart with raspberry sorbet. Again it was very nice. The tart was fresh and zingy, but the pastry was a little hard but I survived. Overall the food was very nice, however, it wasn’t a meal that would blow you away. Would I go back….  I am not sure. The main reason for going is that you are in the Gherkin and you are dining with amazing views, but for food like this you could go to a number of other places in London that do the same thing at the same level or better for the price.

Serrano Ham Eggs Benedict

Serrano Ham Eggs Benedict

Poussin, fondant, leek ash and saffron sauce

Lemon Tart with raspberry sorbet

Lemon Tart with raspberry sorbet

The views of course did not disappoint. As I mentioned there was freak rain going on throughout the day. As we ate desert we watched a storm move over London from West to East, the dark grey sky getting closer and closer until all of a sudden we were in the of it and the heavens opened around us and then as quickly as it came the rain was gone and blue sky followed. Sitting in a glass room with a storm around us was simply fantastic!

Views from the top - hello shard!

Views from the top – hello shard!

Views from the top

Views from the top

The Storm is coming!

The Storm is coming!

I am glad that we got the chance to go up to the top of the Gherkin, it was I think a once in a life time thing…. unless of course I come across a handsome gentleman that has a membership! I love going to the top of London and looking out upon this fabulous city, so much below, the history and the architecture. If you ever get the chance to go to level 39 and 40 of the Gherkin do it – standing in that circular glass room is a fabulous experience.

A trip around Fullers Brewery

Beer, it’s one of the oldest beverages in the world! It’s been drunk through every great empire, it became a staple in Europe thanks to the brewing by monks in monasteries and today is a global business. Over the last decade or so the craft of beer has become more and more popular, with fine ale and craft beer societies making their way into the University society lists, micro breweries popping up all over the place and pubs now offering a brilliant choice of beer rather than the run of the mill european larger that have a monopoly on the market.

While at university I was like most people and would drink what ever the cheapest bottle beer was, as it was cheap and you could dance with it in your hand. However, moving to London I have slowly become a lover of craft beers, I blame this partially on long weekends in Berlin, and over the last couple of years with the emergence of micro-breweries around me its hard not to like these new beers. Brixton Brewery is down the road from me, Camden Town brewery is also close, plus the smaller ones like the Kernel Brewery are all temptations. Plus We Bought Beer have just opened their first shop in Balham! Of course all this fine ale drinking means more time in the gym so a beer gut doesn’t form but I feel its worth it!

Now there are some bigger breweries that have been going for much longer but still hold onto the traditional values and want to create fine craft ales that can be appreciated and not just chugged down. One of these which I have been a fan of since moving to London and stumbling upon them ( and their pies!) is Fullers. They are London’s last traditional family brewery and strive to produce quality beer like they have been doing for 160 years.  Based in Chiswick and all their beer is made on site there they are heavy weight in British beer. A majority of their pubs are based in or around London but also get as far as the midlands. They are a familiar scene in London and if I was given the choice of one of their pubs and another brewery, I would take Fullers. Not only is the beer good, the pubs full of atmosphere but the food is also great. They are a company that are focused on quality produce.

I was lucky enough to recently get a chance at touring the brewery. It was great! Not only did I learn about how beer is brewed but I also got to sample some of the fine ales they produce. Now this tour is something they offer and its such a good idea. It runs Monday – Friday between 11am- 3pm and only costs £10 and that includes tastings.

Fullers BreweryThe tour starts in the Mawson Arms, the brewery pub, where your knowledgable guide will collect you. From there you are taken around the brewery, shown the processes, questions answered and all in all very educational. I always had a general idea of how beer was made but now, now I know all. I think on tours like this the guide makes it or breaks it, our guide completely made it. He was humorous and entertaining and was a wealth of knowledge, he clearly loved what he was doing.

Who doesn't love a tour with a high vis-vest

Who doesn’t love a tour with a high vis-vest

On Tour!

On Tour!

At the end of the tour you end up in the tasting room, of course what we had all been waiting for! As it was a hot sunny day, a cold bottle of Indian Pale Ale – the Bengal Lancer was very much enjoyed. We also tried our hand at the Honey Dew, which as its name suggests has a hint of honey about it.

Old School delivery bike

Old School delivery bike

Fullers BreweryThe tour was such a good idea and something I would definitely do again. Its nice in a world where there are so many faceless food and beverage companies that a company like Fullers that has been around for such a long time is still so accessible and open. Its staff are friendly and love what they are doing. Lets hope that it stays a family business for another 160 years as it would be sad to see such a London institution get absorbed into a faceless company!

Fullers BreweryIf you are looking for something a little bit different to do with a day off or a visit to London then head to Fullers Brewery!

Afternoon Tea at the Ham Yard Hotel

Behind buzzing Shaftesbury Avenue and the throngs of people who fill the street lies a haven. A small paved courtyard lined with trees, sits hidden behind one of the busiest streets in London, and this little courtyard belongs to the Ham Yard Hotel. In the heart of Soho hides a respite from the chaos, an elegant hideaway. It is here in the cool and quiet courtyard that I devoured a beautiful afternoon tea, it was so very easy to forget that I was in London in the middle of Soho.

From the moment we got to the Ham Yard Hotel you felt relaxed, the staff were lovely and nothing seemed too much trouble. Afternoon tea can be served in the bar, restaurant or lounge area, but our waiter had assigned us a table outside presuming that we would want to enjoy the glorious weather, he presumed correct. I had a quick snoop around the lounge (and the restaurant area of course!) and in autumn or winter this would be a great place for tea, big deep sofas and chairs, a place you could while away the afternoon away from the cold and enjoy delicate cakes and tea.

From the moment we sat down I felt taken care of, our waiter returned now and again throughout the tea to make sure we were ok, and chat away with us, he was such a sweety! The staff were friendly but not overbearing. We choose the basic afternoon tea, you can upgrade for a little more money and have their speciality teas but I was more than happy with my Earl Grey. As our afternoon tea arrived I could feel myself wanting to dive on it straight away, everything looked amazing.

Afternoon Tea at the Ham Yard Hotel

Afternoon Tea at the Ham Yard Hotel

Love the china pattern

Loving the china pattern – I want!!

The savouries included a chorizo sausage roll ( so going to have to make some of these myself), pea and mint tarts, sandwiches of course (salmon and black pepper and cucumber) and a duck slider with hoisin sauce. This is clearly not your delicate traditional tea but a great modern spin using a range of flavours that made it exciting. Each individual item was full of flavour, not to big or over powering, they all just worked together.

The tower of delightful treats

The tower of delightful treats

the savoury selection

the savoury selection

Going up we had the cakes, yum! There were chocolate macaroons, a pretty little éclair filled with crème patisserie and gold dusted blueberries, strawberry mouse, chocolate and lemon battenburg, bakewell tart and a coconut cupcake. Nothing was too overwhelming, sometimes you go to a tea and the cakes are all to big, they are meant to be small and delicate, these cakes worked well. They all had a slight twist on the traditional which I liked and surprisingly nothing disappointed me, the sponges moist, the éclair crisp and the macaroons delightful.

Cake anyone?

Cake anyone?

the delicate and delicious strawberry mouse and meringue

the delicate and delicious strawberry mouse and meringue

Now I always find the real test of an afternoon tea are their scones. So many places give you massive scones or they are dry, it’s hard to find a really decent scone, but the Ham Yard did pretty well. Their scones were small which I liked, you were not faced with a scone eating challenge, and instead you were given several small scones which were light and fluffy. With two types of jam and plenty of clotted cream it was really hard not to try to devour them all at once. I managed to maintain a small amount of ladylike behaviour while eating them.

As we lazed away the afternoon with our tea I could have quite happily stayed there all afternoon, the bar certainly looked tempting and as I walked through they were making some interesting looking cocktails.

On first visit to the Ham Yard Hotel I instantly loved it. I of course have a great love of the Firmdale brand as the Charlotte Street Hotel’s restaurant and bar are a favourite, it’s so annoying living in London as I have no excuse to actually try them out as a hotel! The Ham Yard is now a firm new favourite and with the afternoon tea being so reasonably priced at £18, I know! The quality of the food was worth much more, but at this price it means I can keep going back without having to make up an excuse for a treat, plus the menu changes every week so there is always a new surprise waiting. I look forward to experiencing the restaurant and bar as well as more tea!