Bar Dining – My Recommendations

This time of year tends to signify a period for reflection, ahead of striding forward into the next year with all guns blazing, resolutions like ammo sitting loaded in pockets, learned nuggets of wisdom promising a, perhaps, straighter path through the following twelve months.

I’ve learnt enough about myself now to know not to be too hard on myself, though it’s taken many years to get here. So no New Year’s Resolutions for me, no restrictive diets or detoxes and no dry January. What may be more useful, is to learn to say ‘no’ a little more often. …We’ll see about that.

With old age I’ve also got to the point where I don’t really feel the need to use this blog to write about every restaurant experience, in fact I don’t necessarily feel that desperate urge these days to try any and every new place like I might have done once. God knows the internet doesn’t need any more inept thoughts on them. I know what I like, and more often than not I find Twitter and Instagram are as good a place as any to share those meals I do enjoy. Having scanned the last year’s, increasingly infrequent, posts I’ve noticed my shift towards recipe ideas and seasonal flavours. If I’m honest that’s partly because I find them far quicker to write but also because I like to note these things down here as a sort of scrap book and reference.

There *are* a number of places I feel I’ve neglected to comment on over the year, mainly again due to time restraints, so here I’m going to jot down my stand out recommendations for bar dining, since I’ve established that this is by far my favourite way to eat out. I, more often than not, don’t really want a full and coherent meal these days, so mix and match, snacky options score highly, I also require delicious wine and or cocktails, a relaxed atmosphere and warm but unobtrusive service. These that follow come up with the goods consistently and with aplomb.

40 Maltby Street is a place that fills me with warm tingles every time I walk through it’s doors, and at the same time makes me wonder why I don’t visit more often. It’s like coming home. Well, to a home with a very well stocked wine cellar and an accomplished chef in the kitchen. I know they’re now open some weekday evenings, but for some reason I can’t remove them from a Saturday lunchtime slot that always coincides with a trip to Maltby Street, having failed as yet to visit at any other time. Always busy, always warm, always welcoming, I’ve yet to find a more consistently, impressively ever changing, desirable menu in London. The wine list is always interesting, natural, with a couple of red and white corkers by the glass.

A recent trip just prior to Christmas was a particular highlight. A plate of pheasant sausages with sprouts, pancetta, chestnuts and bread sauce and a couple of glasses of wine a far more festive way to spend a saturday afternoon than the horrors of Christmas shopping. If there’s Yorkshire ham on the counter, make sure to get a plate.

I think the only place on this list I haven’t ever dined alone, and doesn’t technically have a bar to sit and eat at, is Quality Chop House. However it still fits the criteria. I would ordinarily say stick to the bar area and select from their delightfully comprehensive wine list along with a collection of plates of food. But having now dined in the main dining room, I’d say you surely have to try the set menu here at least once for the incredible experience and value.

Always, ALWAYS order the confit potatoes. Possibly the most ridiculous food item in London.

Wines are available to take away by the bottle and many of the ingredients can be purchased in the grocery and butchers next door. Whipped lard I find particularly hard to resist.

Josē’s simply can’t be beaten for tapas in a tiny but great space, I’m such a fan I’ve never visited the more proper Pizarro for fear of disappointment. Ooozing croquetas, unrivalled ham, the best potato bravas and should the Iberico Pork be on the chalkboard, DO NOT resist.

A plate of ham and a glass of sherry sat on one of the window seats is surely one of life’s great, simple pleasures. If you can shoehorn yourself in that is.

I’ve been a regular at Lyle’s since they opened in Shoreditch’s Tea Building earlier this year. The beautifully spartan room, a perfectly serene backdrop to a menu that is pared back to basics and transformed into astonishing plates. Highlights have included sweetmeats served with brown butter dressed grilled lettuce, duck hearts with sweetcorn and hazelnuts and a completely jaw droppingly delicious broth described simply as chanterelles, egg and onion that tasted all of myth and magic.

Lyle’s coffee bar is worth a mention as one of the only really decent places in London to get great restaurant coffee, serving a rotation of roasters but do keep an eye out for Parisian roasters Belleville as it’s one of the only places you’ll find them over here. It’s also one of my favourite, secret spots to sit and work, though just try and resist the incredible doughnuts and smoked pork fat canneles on the counter if you do. Seriously, just try.

I have a dirty little secret – I’ve never actually dined at The Clove Club. By that, I mean I haven’t eaten in the dining room from their set menu. I can’t ever get past the rather lovely bar and it’s snacks. It suits me just fine to be honest. Service is utterly charming, martinis excellent, wine best ordered by the bottle with friends and plates of aforementioned snacks. The pine fried chicken is now infamous, but don’t overlook some of the other small plates. We had some incredible chicken kebabs on a friend’s birthday made from various parts of a chooks anatomy including cleverly deboned and puffed up feet.

I’ve been to The Remedy a handful of times and each time I do, I remember how utterly charming it is. Just a small bar towards the top of Cleveland Street, they always have a great selection of light, natural reds (my preference) along with a list of small plates. The pair behind the bar always more than happy to chat, offer advice and tastes of their wines. It’s another of my secret little working lunch spots. They’re usually quiet around late lunch, so a plate of livers on toast with a glass of wine at the corner of the bar is pretty much perfection. I’ve heard a horrible rumour they’re now closed at lunch now though….

Best kept secret, if other rumours are true, is that they have a half price Monday industry night on all bottles.

Honey & Co never fails to delight. Again, it’s actually another spot without a bar, the tiny room is intimate enough to offer a similar service though. I’ve dined here alone and with friends and it’s always hit the spot perfectly. Itamar and Sarit are an absolutely charming couple, full of joy, and it comes through fully in their food. Middle Eastern mezes and larger dishes, turkish coffee and the most completely irresistible Fitzroy buns; one of my favourite sweet dishes in London – the pic below is of one half eaten, they way I do by uncoiling it’s syrupy goodness slowly, eking out the pleasure.

It’s been too long since I’ve darkened Duck Soup‘s doors. Shame on me. The danger of London’s vibrant dining scene is in that of neglecting old favourites. I fell in love with the small bar at first sight, and spent my first evening there feeling transported from the busy london streets, to European and warmer climes. It’s embodies a tick list of my favourite things; great wine list, classic cocktails, seasonal small plates, great bread and a chilled atmosphere that comes alive in the evening. Those small plates so enticing I’d happily order one of each, and pay a number of limbs for the pleasure, this type of dining can certainly rack up. But here I don’t mind because it works; it’s charming and intimate and welcoming in a way Raw Duck (sister restaurant) just doesn’t achieve – though I like it for other reasons.

It didn’t take Sager & Wilde to win me over, in fact I was hooked almost from day one. Leading the pack of a new breed of wine bars, of which I’d include The Remedy, that London was really, finally ready to embrace. I shan’t write in length as I did when they opened, but it remains one of the most perfect places to relax for a glass, or five, seduced by attentive staff and a wine list that boasts some of my very favourite things.

A serious trip here is not complete without one of their infamous toasties.

I plan to write similar posts on cocktails and coffee shops. For as ace and new and sparkly Kitty Fishers, Portland etc etc  look, oh and they sure do, I chose to dine, with a friend, at Duck Soup last Friday night. It was as brilliant as it’s always been, better than when they first opened (surely a lesson there…) – an intoxicating experience, wine splashed chatter rising above jazz, glasses chinking in candlelight. A white negroni to start, a dish of lamb hearts, bulgar, mint and pomegranate a highlight, not everything is perfect but the languid atmosphere soothes over any wibbles like the most effective of salves.


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N’duja, Goat & Ewe’s Cheese, Truffle Honey & Sage Toastie

I’ve been to some great restaurants this year and some terrible ones, some fancy and some more basic, but I’m a simple creature at heart and quite often all I really want is something comforting betwixt two slices of bread. You’d think finding this whilst out and about wouldn’t be a problem, especially since toasties are having a bit of a moment around town. But, as I’d previously found with doughnuts, they’re all too often to be found lacking, tear inducingly dull and badly assembled. Toasted sandwiches are not hard to get right, but it appears, diabolically easy to get wrong. I mean, who really wants a clump of ham and cheddar? Soggy tomato? Really? I know simple is sometimes best but NOT ALWAYS and only when the ingredients are outstanding (as they should be quite frankly) – at least put something else in there, even if it’s just some herbs, chutney, freshly cut tomato, spring onion, whatever. Also, fill evenly, I expect spreads all the way to the edges and I want an equal amount of filling in each and every bite – no-one wants naked toast.

You know that’s why I started making doughnuts don’t you? Because I was so bored and disappointed with everything else out there; just jam or custard; where were the curds, the pistachio creams and boozy jams? It remains that my favourite toasties are still the ones make at home.

I’m being overly ranty. Of course Kappacasein do an extraordinary beast, the bench mark for toasties, Sager and Wilde always have a great one on at their wine bar and the ones at Embassy East are very much worth a try. I just mean that on the whole toasties are disappointing when they should be a delight, small details too often ignored and SO uninspiring.

I wrote an ode to them once - well, sandwiches, but nearly.

So, I’m seeing 2014 off with this one and, as with many things, I’ll likely overdose on the combo till I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than eat it again. I’m like that – addictive personality and all that.

N’duja, Goats Gouda & Ewe’s Cheese, Truffle Honey and Sage Leaf Toastie

Cut two slices from a soft white loaf and butter the exterior sides.

Spread n’duja onto the unbuttered side of one, drizzle with truffle honey then pile on great handfuls of grated cheese, much more than looks decent. I used a combination of a sweet and tangy goats gouda and a semi soft ewe’s cheese, you could go regular goats cheese but you won’t get the alluring cheesy dribble and stringyness that I love in a good toastie. Finally add a couple of sage leaves to the top before putting in a sandwich press, they fry up all pleasingly crisp in the external layer of butter.

(I bought my n’duja and truffle honey in the foreign section at M&S but you can get both at various farmers markets and Borough Market and the n’duja at L’Anima Cafe is pretty unbeatable)

Always leave to toast for longer than you think it needs, till the n’duja melts and the cheese oozes out of the sides into molten pools.

Happy New Year!


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Of Sprouts and Marzipan.

Sprouts and marzipan. Both pretty  divisive festive ingredients – I imagine those little sprouts made of marzipan are enough to turn many a stomach while at the same time reducing others to wobble knee’d joy. I bloody love them both – perhaps not together, mind – and will eat either at any opportunity whilst they’re readily available.

I recently stumbled across purple sprouts (well, they’re actually labelled ‘Redarling brussells’ – but you know – PURPLE) and as such they immediately trump all other brassicas. They were damn delicious doused in David Lebovitz’s Pistachio Aillade but even better with my fridge staple; nduja. A mess of sweet, fried shallots, halved purple sprouts, a handful of toasted hazelnuts, generous spoonful of n’djua, all topped with a Burford Brown egg; it’s a very smile inducing, easy dinner indeed.

When people say they don’t like marzipan, I’m inclined not to believe them. I think most have been permanently scarred by the memory of those cloyingly sweet, modelled fruits. But honestly, what’s not to love about sugar and almonds? I just don’t get it. I adore the stuff in every guise, from frangipane and all levels of sickly sweet to the more restrained, less saccherine homemade versions, I guess you’d call them nut pastes.

I very, very rarely eat any of the sweets and puddings associated with this time of year, but I do make a lot of time for marzipan. One of my ultimate breakfasts over Christmas is a thin slice of sourdough toast, liberally anointed with salty butter and then finished with slivers of marzipan. This pistachio paste is a fragrant and fancy version, in keeping with the season. I only make small amounts at once, partly because it’s a pain pummelling too many pistachios at once, but also because I can’t be trusted not to eat it straight from the bowl until there’s not a scrap left.

Pound around 50g of pistachios in a pestle and portar until mostly ground but with plenty of texture, add around 25g ground almonds, 50g golden icing sugar, enough egg white to bring together as a paste, a good pinch of salt, clementine zest and a drop or 3 of maraschino liqueur.

Spread on buttered, sourdough toast and serve with the best coffee you can lay your mitts on for an insouciant take on the serious matter of breaking fast.

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Warmed Figs with Crumbled Roquefort, Red Wine & Black Pepper Syrup & Red Wine Salt

It’s  a rare day that I actually cook a coherent meal. You know, traditional fare like a roast dinner, meat and veg or pie. No, I’ve adopted an in house dining style that mimics my bar led dining out style. A little of this, a nibble of that, things on toast. I make a LOT of Things On Toast. Maybe that’s a subject for another post.

Often I find that ingredients speak for themselves and need little more than a spot of prep to create a delightful plate, full worthy of dinner with a little accompaniment. Little dishes on dainty plates please me greatly.

In this instance I stumbled upon some tiny, sweetly ripe figs that were crying out for a salty, creamy counterpart. Scattered Roquefort the obvious choice, I layered sweet upon salty, over again and again. A sticky, reduced red wine syrup pepped up with black pepper and then a smattering of red wine salt that’s pretty purple colour makes up for any questions over it’s flavour. I mean; Purple Salt!

The idea for the syrup stolen entirely from a blog, I think it was Manger, but I can’t be entirely sure now as it was a couple of months ago.

This is more of a simple assembly than a full-on recipe.

To make the syrup, add a couple of glasses of red wine to a saucepan, leftover (what’s that?) or otherwise, with around half a cup of sugar. I didn’t measure to be honest, doesn’t really have to be too precise, bring to the boil with a couple of grinds of black pepper and simmer until it’s reduced to a syrupy consistency and coats the back of a spoon.

Warm the figs in the oven for a few minutes to release their juices and warm through.

Split the figs, scatter over the roquefort then drizzle with syrup. Finish with a good scatter of red wine salt (mine was an impulse purchase from The Quality Chop Shop).

Seeing as it’s the festive season and all that, you could use the red wine syrup in a number of different ways by infusing with different ingredients. Try an infusement of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and orange zest over ice cream stirred with crumbled christmas pudding or crushed mince pies.


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Two Twists on the Classic Turkish Egg Dish, Çilbir

I’ve spoken about my love of brunch before, how I will often have brunch for dinner, it’s usually a quick solution combining many of my favourite things. I tend to err towards a balance of comfort and spice, something faintly exotic, transportational, so often it’s influenced by dishes from the Middle East, more recently brought to our attention by Ottolenghi and the like. Shakshuka is a firm favourite as is Çilbir; a Turkish egg, yoghurt and spicy brown butter dish that’s rich, soothing and yet spicy all at once, pretty much the ultimate comfort food, with a necessary tower of buttered sourdough on the side to mop, swish and sweep up.

I recently discovered World of Zing, an online resource bursting with curious cooking ingredients and immediately waved my debit card at it, buying a fairly random selection of flavoured salts, chilli’s and a bottle of Bordeaux Barrel Aged Negroni.


It’s as delicious as you might imagine it to be and is great for lazy moments.

Anyway, back to Çilbir, and I decided to put a couple of twists on it, playing with some of the variables whilst not straying too far from the classic.

The original calls for garlic pepped yoghurt and a paprika or chilli flake spiked brown butter sauce. I softened the raw garlic hit by using smoked garlic, ground to a paste with Sage and Juniper Sea Salt. Aji Limon Chillis have a unique citrussy zing and so I use one of these, finely chopped and seeds removed to spice up my brown butter. I kept the fried sage leaves because, well they’re just delicious aren’t they.

Straying a little further from the classic whilst still keeping it’s form, this is my favourite iteration on the dish yet, inspired by a trip to the gorgeous spice chest of a shop that is Persepolis. A post gym hunger had me prowling around nearby Peckham once again, a grumbling stomach dictating I perform a smash and grab style of shopping for random ingredients that would become the basis of my brunch; goats curd from The General Store, Brickhouse bread from Anderson & Co, Muhammara (a spicy pepper and walnut dip), Dukkah and Sage leaves from Persepolis.

The assembly is simple and quick for what is one of the most satisfying meals; a magical combination of almost ethereal ingredients that’s pure nourishment for the soul. Simply smear and swhirl goats curd and muhammara onto a plate and top with a poached duck egg, plenty of dukkah to season, fried sage leaves (just because, ok) and brown butter. The result is a seriously oomphed version of the classic; rich, a tiny bit decadent and gorgeously nutty.

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Doughnut Takeover at Bruno Coffee & Bakes

Who knew eh?

That the quaint and touristy Kent town of Rochester would lap up the weird and wonderful doughnut brain farts of me and Bruno. But they did. They were even banging on the door for us to open (we were slightly behind schedule) and at intervals throughout the day, there were even queues out of the door until we sold out. Imagine!

I spent at least one day a year in Rochester when I was a kid growing up in the backwaters of Kent, and that was inevitably for the Dickens festival; a strange spectacle whereby many of the shop owners and locals dress up in Dickensian garb for the day. I harbour some pretty warped memories of Miss Faversham forever sat, gathering cobwebs and dust in one of the shop fronts.

I never thought I’d ever return to appear behind one of those shopfronts myself.

Funny how things turn out.

When a friend took a lease on a tiny but beautiful shop to open a cake and coffee shop I planned to visit, of course I did, but almost a year went by in which I simply couldn’t find the time. Eventually, Bruno forced my visit by suggesting we collaborate on a doughnut takeover at his cafe. We put it off for too long, struggling to collide diaries, but eventually we put our lives aside and went for it. As sometimes you just have to do.

I’m so pleased we did, for as tiring as it was. And it was exhausting; I have absolutely zero desire to work in a kitchen full time; an evening of dough prep was crushingly rapidly followed by an early morning of more prep, then hours spent in front of a deep fat fryer and piping fillings. Well, you get the idea. It was also fantastically rewarding, exhilarating, adrenaline pumping fun.

Believe it or not, and I had no idea how they’d go down – if they’d even sell, it was the sweet and savoury beasties that went down the best and if we do it all again I think we’ll focus on these and expand our range. Maple glazed doughnuts were stuffed with fried streaky bacon and either a fried egg or a huge smear of peanut butter. There was one wonderful lady who enjoyed hers so much she returned for a second immediately after her first. Respect.

100 doughnuts in total may not seem much but I can assure you it’s much, much harder than making the odd batch at home and I’m immensely proud we somehow managed to pull it off.


We also has pistachio and cherry and black pepper.

There was hazelnut and raspberry.

Coffee, cardamom, rum with a little orange zest.

Finally, there were little bags of sugar dusted, spicy ‘nduja filled doughnut holes

Oh, and there were also blueberry fritters and deep fried cheesecake.


Bruno and I shared one of the savoury doughnuts at the very beginning of service and then I had a quiet moment with one of the pistachio and cherry beauts at the end, covered in sugar and reaching of oil. Health.

A couple of Twitter faces turned up and took some much better photos than I was able to – thanks to @Big_Fat_Dan

Maybe we’ll see you at the next one…..

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Brick House Bakery, Bamn Fit and Manfood’s Cocktail Jams

I’ve made two life changing discoveries in the last couple of months. In fact it was making the decision to take up semi private training sessions at Bamn Fit (highly recommended) that enabled the discovery of the second. Yeah. *smug face* (sorry) . Actually, I’m not sorry at all, committing to four, one hour sessions a week is making me feel so much better about myself that I’m going to refuse to apologise. An hour where I can ignore my phone and focus completely on my body and what it can (and  can’t) achieve is something I’m going to let myself have, and hopefully I’ll get a brand new, strong and lean body in the process. I’m not quite taking the nutrition stuff to heart yet, I’m enjoying eating and drinking too much for that, but maybe…everything in moderation and all that. Well, we’ll just see eh?!

Anyway, turns out that if I get my arse out of bed at an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning, then I find a food market waiting for me when I get to Herne Hill Station, muscles wobbling and stomach roaring with hunger. RESULT. I don’t have long before my train (only twice an hour when you’re out in the ‘burbs – so you don’t want to miss it) but just enough time to snaffle a jar of Blackwoods excellent marinated cheese, and a loaf of Brickhouse Bakery sourdough, something I’ve been meaning to try for yonks.

Oh! And, What Bread.

It’s become something of a rapidly instigated weekly tradition and I’ve started requesting Sunday morning training sessions almost for this reason alone – madness surely? Or at a least a fairly accurate indication of how good it is. I left from East Dulwich this Sunday rather than Herne Hill and have been feeling BEREFT.

Previously I’ve been a devout fan of E5 Bakehouse’ Hackney Wild, in my opinion it reigned supreme. Elliot’s is also excellent as is Bread Ahead. But this. This is in another league. As a nod to my pummelled and sweaty body, I choose to feed it, not their signature Peckham rye, but the multi grain variety. Not only is it an absolute picture of perfection but it’s got buckets of developed flavour, a chewy bubbly crust, and moist (actual apologies this time, but how else do you expect me to describe it?!) light textured crumb. As with all sourdough loaves it’s heaven simply hewn into and buttered, fresh from the loaf on day one, and then as The Best toast every day after.

My Negroni fangirl stance must precede me as Andre, whom I know through various PR roles and Twitter, thought to kindly send me a couple of jars of his cocktail jams. You heard me right. Cocktail Jam.

Apart from taking umbrance over the whole Man Food name; why should any food be gender specific? Is it somehow not my place to eat beer laced pickles or booze ridden jams?? Hmmmmph. The branding is actually rather nice though.

It took me a while to eat it, not through lack of want. No, definitely not that, in fact I ingested some of it simply via spoon to mouth. But, as with many things, I over think. How could I do something different with this product?

In reality, I simply don’t need to. It already is it’s own new thing.

You know when it’s best?

That’s right. After an evening training session after a long day at work. I can’t be bothered to cook, I can’t even be bothered to stir a cocktail GODDAMIT. Instead I lightly toast a couple of slices of Brickhouse, slather on some salty, unpasteurised butter and finish with a smear of cocktail jam. Carbs, fats and sugar in one fell swoop. It’s every nutritionists nightmare and I don’t do it every night, but on the odd occasion I do, It’s GOOD.

In all honesty the jams are not overly boozy, and actually in my opinion could be fortified slightly, but then I’m a lush so don’t listen to me. The Negroni is a strawberry jam, which may sound strange at first, but is delicious all the same; it’s got an edge of bitterness with an underlying play of orange and a faint hum of booze on the finish. The Bramble is all rich brambles and gin – yeah, that’s right, yum.

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It’s very easy to be cynical isn’t it? Especially in East London, when so many places appear to be simply ticking off a list of current trends; industrial fit out, stripped back cool, fried chicken, cocktails, doughnuts etc etc. It’s also right to have your wits about you. But you know what? Sometimes, it’s ok to like somewhere, despite the cliches, when they seem to be so nice and convivial, and the food’s good. Maybe I’m gullible.

I turn up to an invite at BIRD, on the bottom of Kingsland road, the top of Shoreditch in what’s become a strange vortex of essex day-tripper/hen goer meets hipster hell, and I’m half expecting to want to leave as soon as I sit down. Almost. But, as soon as we’re settled,  owner, Clara, slides into our booth and chats to us warmly, genuinely seeming delighted we’re sat in her restaurant, and it doesn’t feel effected or rote, she comes across as a hard working, small business owner. She tells us how despite opening in the second quarter of the year, they only stepped up their PR as of August – it shows; my Instagram feed has been heavy with images of *that* chicken waffle burger. Cara goes on to answer all our questions, explaining that fried chicken was something both her and her partners parents and grandparent all put on the dinner table, it’s something that comes naturally, and here they use the best, British, free range birds and make all their own sauces. The asian influence that’s apparent throughout the BIRD menu is just their own twist on a home staple, in order to lighten things up and cut through what could be an overly heavy menu. My friend notes a tiny BIRD logo tattoo on her wrist, hopefully not a flash in the pan then, and Clara leaves us to our meal, clutching a small takeaway bag of chicken as she rushes off to a parents evening.

I admit that I’d been ready to Write BIRD off as too many cynical marketing exercises, and it’s only after asking a few friends, who’d already been, for feedback, and consequently hearing positive noises, that I agree to visit. I’m not in the habit of going to restaurants I’m expecting to dislike, life’s surely too short?

And as it happens, the chicken *is* really rather good. We order a couple of ‘small’ mixed white and dark meat (nice touch – you can also choose all white or all dark meat) portions from the start of the menu, assuming they’re starter size, and are alarmed when a whopping great basket arrives. Chicken is crisp and greaseless; the gochujang, sticky and addictive, but it’s the classic buffalo that wins with that sharp, hot kick and crispy skin that is faultless whilst the chicken within stays tender and moist. Deep fried pickles are  on the lacklustre side but corn pudding makes up for this as cheesy, stodgy fun.

We’re filling up fast, despite efforts to pace ourselves, when things take a turn for the ridiculous as our chicken waffle burger arrives. You may be thinking that it’s not likely to be the meekest order, yet we’re still not quite expecting and what is easily a double portion; a towering pair of beasts that I’m keener to Instagram than I am to pick up and eat, if I’m really honest. Whilst the idea is extravagant and eye catching, I think it works better as a ‘concept’ to splash across social media than it does in reality. I actually like the soft, stodge of the herby waffles – I’m not normally a fan, but these are rather good. However I think they’d work better not hugging chicken, cheese and bacon feel a bit unnecessary, and on a practical level, I can’t even fit it into my mouth. I’ll stick to the excellent chicken, with a waffle on the side next time, now I’m prepped on portion sizes.

Cocktails are good, my friend and I are both taken with a cheeky, Lolita-esque theme that runs through the menu, a cherry sour is a deceptively boozy number with a true cherry flavour, I switch to well made Negronis as the meal progresses.

Desserts are where we truly find our groove again. As a tray of freshly fried doughnuts is waltzed past, our magnificently delightful waiter packs away a couple for us with our doggy bags (we admit defeat fairly early on so as to squeeze in dessert), effectively knocking my top choice from the dessert menu; a doughnut ice cream sandwich. Going to have to go back for that and cocktails I reckon. Instead we decide to share the cherry sundae that’s so magnificently nostalgia inducing, we forget all reserve when digging to the bottom. Cherry and vanilla ice creams swirl with crushed meringue, cream and a tooth jarringly glorious cherry sauce. Despite our groaning bellies we quickly regret not ordering a whole one each.

Our doggy bags make for a fine lunch feast the following day. It’s the doughnut that I’m most keen to get stuck into though, and generously gifting the vanilla away, I find a quiet moment for the cherry one. I’m not going to lie, it’s not a life changing experience, but very, very tasty indeed; a classic light dough with a subtle hint of cherry in a thick fondant icing. I imagine that caught fresh from their doughnut hatch, with a decent coffee, they’d be even more of a treat.

I intend to do that.


Bird on Urbanspoon

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Doughnut Takeover at Bruno’s Coffee & Bakes

Join me and Bruno as we transform his Rochester shop into a fabulous doughnut emporium for one day only!

Following, as I’m sure you can imagine, a highly excitable telephone brainstorming session, we can confirm we’ll have the following doughnut options available:

Bacon & Maple Syrup Doughnut Sandwiches (peanut butter/fried egg optional)

Bags of ‘Nduja filled Doughnut Holes 

Coffee, Cardamom & Rum

Cherry, Pistachio & Black Pepper

Hazelnut Praline Creme with Raspberry

I expect there’ll also be some blueberry fritters and deep fried cheesecake. Well, just because. If you’re going to spend a whole day deep frying, why not go, ultimately, for certain death.

Rochester may sound like somewhere out of a Dickens novel; well, it is. It’s also really not that far out of London and the quaint, historic town of Kent makes for a fine day out. Bruno is a talented French patissier with a passion for fine French patisserie mixed with a healthy dose of Southern American flair. Me? I just like doughnuts.

See you there this Saturday 25th October. I’ll be the innocent looking one with an air of sugar, oil and jam about my person.


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I’ve had Picture nagging at me from my ‘to visit’ list ever since I first came across it, I think on Lizzie’s blog, almost a year ago. It’s a restaurant that I don’t think has ever really reached deserved peak consciousness, falling instead into a gentle undercurrent of awareness. It’s why I’ve not previously felt the urgency to visit, not like you do with the latest hotspots, that aggressively screech for attention, brazenly splashing social media with *that* signature dish like cheap perfume. I’m ashamed to say, like many more no doubt, that it’s due to the hiring of a PR that I finally find myself with no choice but to visit.

I’m just around the corner on a Saturday, post Workshop espresso masterclass, with a gurgling espresso ravaged stomach and in need of something quick and substantial to calm it down. It’s late afternoon, I’m alone and hoping for bar dining, but a cursory peer into Picture reveals a slightly cold and unwelcoming sight; an empty steel bar and a distant flurry of activity past this at the back. I do however clock a ridiculously reasonable set lunch menu and make a mental note to return with a friend, or indeed just a smidge earlier than I am at that moment,  if it’s to be a solo visit. In the meantime I smother my growling stomach with ramen at Tonkotsu.

Before I have a chance to return of my own accord, their PR sends an invite. Well ok, yes, actually I would very much like to visit, thank you; promptly a friend and I are booked in for dinner.

On a Thursday evening, I arrive before my friend, am sat at the bar and greeted warmly by manager Tom who gives me a bit of their background; he, together with the head chefs of Arbitus and Wild Honey had decided to open their own place. They didn’t want to make a song and a dance about it, they just wanted to have their own restaurant, cooking their own thing, and hence that original decision not to hire a PR. Fitzrovia it turns out, is much cheaper than Soho where they originally had sights, the name is chosen simply to fit with the area than for any other highfalutin subliminal reason. Located a fair way up on Great Portland Street, they weren’t getting the passing footfall they’d hoped for and without a PR, they missing much needed awareness, and so the decision was made. I’ve consequently seen a steady stream of my Twitter feed visit now and I hope it makes the difference for them, as I really warmed to Picture and the team behind it.

The evening of our reservation arrives and I come riding in strong on a lunch of Campari and sodas, it seems prudent to order an off menu Negroni to round things off. The barman is a kind looking man with a twinkle in his eye whom I watch with great pleasure pouring, not your la-di-da and reserved wine measures, but great glugging glassfuls, generously splashing in as much as possible. My friend, when she arrives orders a champagne cocktail laced with lemon and mint adorned with a purple flower, it tastes sweetly of fresh lemonade.

I hadn’t realised the restaurant was quite so small, little more than a long corridoor, the first half dominated by this slick looking bar that, to me, feels incongruous to the second half of the room as it has a far warmer, more rustic and trattoria vibe, replete with back wall mural and dappled paintwork. The menu is divided into a la carte on one side with a tasting menu on the other. We decide to leave ourselves in the hands of the kitchen, pretty much always a wise move, and at £35 for six courses seems to be very good value too.

Expectations are raised with a platter of bread and butter; two, very cute, individual baguettes, warm and crusty, are served with whipped butter. We choose a red wine that is on the cheaper end of the list that has a heavy aroma but is surprisingly sprightly and juicy on the palate.

We start proper with a Squash Velouté, I never order soup (boring) but this is a tiny bowl that smells of autumn, tastes of fennel and cumin seeds and has a luxurious texture that is velvety and mousse-like.

Our next course arrives swiftly after; Grilled, tender stem broccoli sits on top of goats curd, finely diced plum tomatoes, capers and a hearty dose of dill, little croutons add necessary texture and interest.

Next up is the triumph of the night; shoulder of lamb is so soft and full of flavour we guess it’s been sous vide-ed, devoid entirely of stringyness, it falls apart at the slightest prod. Chunks of meruez sausage boost richness and add spice, coco beans and tomato make a jus and puree. An astonishing simple and yet vibrant plate of food.

Three perfect parcels of ravioli with Italian greens and ricotta, really benefit from the warming spice and flavour of chilli.

28 Day Dry Aged Beef served in two, well cooked, chunks with curly kale, sweet potato puree and salsify suffers only from it’s position after that lamb dish, lacking quite the requisite punch of flavours that we’ve only just experienced. Not a negative, more of a comment on how good the former was.

Dessert is a heavenly combination of chocolate mousse, diced and caramelised banana with a peanut cream. Combined, the elements remind me of the artificial greatness of foamy banana sweets. I can’t resist hunting down the original sweets a few days later, the idea lodged firmly in my head.

We make pigs of ourselves by ordering a cheese plate to share, having decided, our waiter leaves the choice up to us, to take this after dessert. Oatcakes and three cheeses from La Fromagerie are swiftly polished off, you can tell we’re having a good time as I’ve given up taking photos at this point.

You know my only gripe? It’s with those big, statement-y plates that have become so popular but really grate on me and dwarf food. I’m pretty sure this is a personal quirk though as everyone else seems to like them…

Picture is the sort of place that feels like it would benefit from a different location, as a neighbourhood restaurant on the edges of town it would really have the chance to sparkle, as it is, it feels a bit strangled by the cluttered network of other dining options in the surrounding areas. Above all though I get a real sense of integrity, a warmth and honesty that behaves like MSG to the tastebuds and emanates from the staff. I note that they have a BYO Monday, which seems like the perfect excuse to instigate another wine evening with friends, it’s the sort of place you can imagine laughing and chatting for hours over a few bottles.

Picture is less slick in feel than you might expect from it’s front, though the service is exemplary, and all the better for it in my opinion.


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