Village East, Bermondsey

Bermondsey Street is one of London’s most flourishing food destinations, and certainly a gem of the South London food scene. With Jose Pizarro boasting not just one, but¬†two¬†restaurants on the one street and Zucca doing well for the Italian side of things, it’s easy to see why.

One (slightly) lesser-known Bermondsey Street diamond-in-the-rough is Village East. When we decided upon a last minute trip for a bank holiday Monday brunch, many of the usual suspects were booked up but not taking reservations. Last time I visited Village East was for a wine-fuelled pre-Christmas catch up with the girls, but I remembered reading good things about their brunch menu and a couple of tweets later, we were all booked in.

Inside, Village East basically encompasses the phrase “shabby chic.” The chairs don’t match; the sofa upholstery is all ripped and coming away from the cushions; there is a vintage, 70s-style TV behind the bar. But it’s all so very charming. I perched myself on the sofa while Matthew went for an old school wooden armchair, and we perused the expansive brunch menu while waiting for his sister.

I only had to have a quick glance over the menu before deciding on the campfire breakfast: BBQ beans, pork shoulder, and fried eggs. Um, yes.

The others went a bit more upmarket with lobster eggs benedict (a novel idea if ever I’ve heard one), and steak & eggs.

And as the eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed – yes, we had to order pancakes for the table. I’ve officially adopted this tactic from my dad and to be honest, it’s basically the best idea ever. Nobody gets pancake envy, and nobody gets that gross “oh-my-god-I-just-ate-my-weight-in-pancakes” feeling either.

These particular pancakes were delicious – lighter and thinner than the Breakfast Club’s offering, and with a v. satisfying amount of maple syrup. YUM and a solid decision. Also, I should add that although my portion size was great, both the others’ were definitely on the small side so this “little” side dish was actually needed.

We finished things off with another round of coffee for the others, and a tea for me – I loved the cute little milk bottles.

Although the service wasn’t quite as good this time as last time I visited (it was efficient, but not¬†overly¬†friendly), the vibe in VE was¬†just as laidback, super relaxed and cool as it was last time. It’s only a ten minute walk from London Bridge (which, let’s be honest, is lacking in options other than Borough Market) and it’s well worth a visit, whatever time of day!

How to eat your way around London in 3 days

Last weekend, I did some things I’m ashamed of. Namely, I ate out for almost every single meal and this is how I did it:

After some very bad news and the resulting rollercoaster of a week, I kickstarted the long weekend with Dominos & Hummingbird Cupcakes at work, followed by a very brief trip to Pizza Express with one of my lovely little cousins and aunt for dough balls and a large glass of wine.

Saturday lunchtime saw a little trip to Covent Garden, where I met my long-lost friend Mae. Both starving, we ended up at The Diner, where I had an absurdly enormous hot dog topped with pulled pork. For £7.50 this was SERIOUSLY good Рit was so large, I had to leave half (! Рneedless to say I did eat all the pulled pork). Also, any restaurant that serves ice tea is a tick in my book.

Saturday afternoon saw a brief stop at Starbucks for fuel to show off my beloved Greenwich Park to Mae, and later that evening it was on to¬†Davy’s.¬†I have been wanting to eat here since we moved in seven months ago, and it seriously lived up to my expectations (at > 2 mins walk from my flat, it would be hard not to). Service was super efficient and super friendly, the wine list is as extensive as you would expect, and I had a¬†delicious¬†steak sandwich. The decor inside is as cosy and old-timey as you would expect from maritime Greenwich – it feels more like a country pub than zone 2, in the nicest possible way. Turns out Davy’s actually have a whole string of restaurants & wine bars all over London, so if you see one, I’d highly recommend.

On Sunday morning, we whipped up avocado & poached egg bagels and waved goodbye to Mae, before jumping on the DLR, Spitalfields bound. This was supposed to be a rare, non-food-oriented outing, but obviously as soon as we got to the food part, we failed. We did at least go for one of the healthier options, one that Matthew informs me his office raves about РPilpel. Now we all know I am a falafel fanatic, and Pilpel is definitely amongst the best I have ever had. It was so fresh and crunchy, and  you can have guac in your falafel pita. Sold!

By this point in the weekend we thought we might as well throw caution to the wind and so we made our way over to Boxpark so I could introduce Matthew to Dum Dum Donutterie. Yes, we could have had a regular sized donut, but where’s the fun in that when you can have a tarte tatin cronut the size of your face? Exactly. Safe to say, it was delicious – and, actually quite light enough that we didn’t feel nearly as disgusting and full as we should have done by this point.

We had my sister and her boyfriend staying with us on Sunday night ’cause they’d been to the O2. When I heard that the new Breakfast Club at Crossrail Place was having its soft launch¬†and¬†taking reservations over the weekend, it seemed too good to be true so we snapped up a table and the four of us headed down for my first ever BC experience (I don’t queue for breakfast).

I was going to do a whole post on this, but my photos are shocking, so I’ll do a quick run down. The whole point of soft launches is so that staff can work out the kinks, and I have to say that there were quite a lot of kinks – every dish we ordered was delivered to the table behind us, and every one of theirs was delivered to us. But the staff were more than friendly everyone was in bank-holiday-high spirits, and the food was good.

Just in case we didn’t have enough food, we also followed a family tradition of ours with “pancakes for the table” – the best decision ever as they were SERIOUSLY delicious. We left stuffed and happy, and¬†suitably smug when we saw the huge queue building out of the door!

Crossrail Place, by the way, is ridiculously impressive and futuristic, and after breakfast we took the opportunity to explore its roof garden, which is actually very similar to the Sky Garden.

With a Big Easy, a Sticks & Sushi and many others soon to open, it is set to become one of my favourite foodie destinations – so I’m sure there will be plenty more visits to feature on here!

SO there you have it – a month’s worth of naughty treats crammed into one crazy busy bank holiday weekend. What did you guys get up to?!

Springtime in Notting Hill (& Ottolenghi)

This was supposed to be my Easter post, but honestly¬†it’s taken such a long time to get myself in gear that Easter feels like it was about a million years ago.

In one of my most shameful moments yet, I was basically too hungover to go home, so Matthew and I found ourselves with a sunny Easter Sunday on our hands. After swapping Easter eggs and enjoying pancakes for breakfast, we headed off to pastures unknown, i.e, West London. It’s been over 2 years since I last visited Notting Hill, so that was the destination of choice and it was looking suitably fresh and Spring-like.

I was particularly excited to spy George Orwell’s house…

And of course, Portobello Road was its usual treasure trove of trinkets & tacky tourist shops, which are one of my guiltiest pleasures in life.

http://i95.photobucket.com/albums/l126/bjollyblog/IMG_3281_zpsjqih3nj8.

We had watched Paddington the night before (told ya we were hungover) so I was also VERY excited to come across what I assume is the antiques shop they used in the film.

Just as our stomachs started grumbling, we chanced upon Ottolenghi, which has been loitering on my to-visit list for months now. I couldn’t resist dragging M inside for a look.

How could anyone resist those salads?! As luck would have it, two spots were just coming free at the one, communal style table, so Matthew and I staked our claim and splashed out on main dish + 3 salads each.

I went for salmon, with slaw, broccoli, and some new potatoes that I am still dreaming about 2 weeks later. Seriously, they were so good.

And Matthew went for panko-crusted seared tuna, green beans, sweet potato, and a cauliflower dish.

Quite difficult to photograph (not to mention awkward on a communal table), but you can get the gist of all those colours and all that freshness. I love that Ottolenghi is so different from other lunch spots and I love the concept Рjust wished we lived closer to one!

After a few days of excess, it was SO nice to get some goodness inside us and it all tasted¬†so¬†delicious. It wasn’t ridiculously pricey, either, and we both felt it was a very virtuous kind of Easter lunch – we even managed to pass up on dessert! (Although next time I’m in the area I will definitely be back to rectify¬†that.)

As you read this I’m off in Copenhagen for a snazzy long weekend, so I’m sure I will have lots more posts to share then and in the meantime – what’s your favourite Notting Hill spot?

Percy and Founders, Fitzrovia

It’s all very well having a boyfriend to accompany you to every restaurant that takes your whim, but sometimes you just need a girl date, am I right?

When a work friend of mine offered me his table at the soft launch of Percy and Founders in Fitzrovia, I figured it was high time I took my BFF Kate on a girl-date and so on Wednesday after work we headed over (via a mediocre, but cheap, mojito at Simmons). Soft launches, by the way, are fast becoming my favourite ever thing.¬†Generally, restaurants give you 50% off food if you go in the couple of weeks before they “officially” open, when they’re still testing the waters for the menu & feeling the service out. It is a¬†great¬†way to try out London’s hottest new restaurants while saving some money (or, if you’re like me, you can spend the money you “save” on cocktails and wine instead)

The restaurant itself is one of the most gorgeous I’ve ever visited.¬†Inside it’s huge and feels decadent and special without being pretentious or stuffy. Kate and I were led to our table at the bar, which was great for us but I wasn’t sure I would have wanted to be seated there if I was on an¬†actual¬†date.

The menu is pretty small but ticks all the boxes, with about 6 starters, 6 sides, 6 mains and a few salads in there for good measure. We kicked things off with some bread and some wine, and skipped starters in favour of going straight for the main event.

Kate went for a very gourmet looking fish finger sandwich, and myself for the seabass, which came with charred broccoli and samphire and was one of my favourite fish dishes I’ve ever eaten. The samphire gave a gorgeous fresh lemony zest, and the skin of the fish was perfectly crispy. I didn’t try Kate’s sandwich because I have an aversion to tartare sauce, but it certainly looked great.

On the side, we had charred vegetables with sunflower seeds (a hit) and Jersey royals in butter & mint that came in an adorable Le Creuset-style pot. New potatoes are one of my favourite things ever and although there was slightly too much butter for my liking, they were still delicious.

The dessert menus came on branded clipboards that I loved. There were a few things that caught my eye, but in the end I was too tempted by the idea of a “crepe souffle.” Our waiter didn’t disclose much about what this was (when I asked what a “crepe souffle” was he just looked at me and said “crepe souffle”), but as it turned out it was literally a crepe with a cloud of fluffy souffle in the middle. It was¬†delicious,¬†so unbelievably light – like eating a cloud.

Kate had the “whipped chocolate,” which turned out to be a small mountain of chocolate mousse with huge slabs of honeycomb and brownie in it – as she put it, it was like a grown up kids’ dessert. I sampled and can confirm it was very good (although I probably couldn’t have managed the whole thing).

Having sat at the bar for all that time, and with service so fast we were done eating in about an hour, we couldn’t resist prolonging the evening with a cocktail each. My “La Vie en Rose” tasted exactly like jellybeans and was the most gorgeous colour, while Kate’s was a warming, nutty affair that tasted faintly like Christmas.

To be honest, even without the soft launch the prices at Percy & Founders aren’t bad at all and I think I’ll definitely be back. They do a weekend brunch menu and¬†it seems like exactly the sort of place I could while away a good few hours with some good friends. They have a couple of sharing dishes on the menu that are already popping up all over my Instagram – a chicken Wellington and a sharing beef dish – that I’d love to get my hands on!

Dandelyan and the Oxo Tower

Last week, Matthew’s sister turned 21 and I was lucky enough to be invited to her family celebrations.

Festivities began at Dandelyan,¬†in the Mondrian hotel. Every time we’ve walked past, Dandelyan has looked super busy but when we were there it was just nicely so. Their extensive menu is inspired by the botanical and is split up into several different sections, including ¬†like “cereals”, “grains” and “florals” and M and I took our time¬†getting to grips with it. I kicked things off with a Monroe, which is a blend of vodka, pommeaux (whatever that is), lemon, wheat, and passionfruit, and which arrived looking suitably beautiful.

Round 2 saw a Dandelyan Sour from the “floral” section, which apparently contained dandelion capillaire and garden bitters and which tasted grassy in a good way. Also,¬†I went on a little snoop around on my way to the bathroom and concluded that the Mondrian is a seriously gorgeous hotel. If I ever have the cash to take a little staycation, I would¬†definitely¬†want to stay there.

Soon enough, it was time to head next door to the Oxo Tower for dinner. We were a little early for our reservation so took up seats at the bar, where I had a quite unmemorable cocktail that was a little too sweet for me.

From there, though, things only went up. The service was so slick and so personable, and although our table was in the middle of the room with not-great views, I was more than fascinated by watching the waiters’ station instead.

Foodwise, I stuck with just bread rather than a starter (if you go, I totally recommend the potato & rosemary bread), but Matthew informs me that his smoked salmon scotch egg was out of this world and also on the table was a sharing dish of langoustine and avocado puree that looked pretty damn impressive.

I opted for the monkfish for my main course, which came with clams, a “tomato and potato nest,” and a kind of tomato sauce that they poured over the top. I’ve never had monkfish except in Portugal but this was delicious – perfectly meaty. The tomato and potato nest seemed like an odd concept but was also great, with what I can only describe as little crunchy sticks poking out for texture.

At first glance, we weren’t too enthralled with the dessert menu but M and I begrudgingly agreed to share the most chocolate-y looking of the bunch:. This turned out to be arguably the greatest decision I have ever made because it was DELICIOUS. They don’t have the dessert menu online and I can’t remember exactly what it included/all my pictures are awful, but it was basically four little mini chocolate desserts and each of them were sublime.

On the way out we couldn’t resist popping out onto the balcony to get some pictures of the view, which from only 8 floors up still holds its own against the likes of the Sky Garden.

I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Oxo Tower, but the super-slick service & the food more than convinced me of its merits. I’d certainly go back for a celebration meal!

PS. Apologies for the lack of photos – I don’t like to take my camera out at family celebrations (especially not ones that aren’t even my family) but I couldn’t resist posting anyway!

In Brief: March

Sorry to be a cliche, but…is it really the end of March?! Despite my best efforts to get fit & healthy (or maybe because of them) this month has not involved any less trips out and I’ve got quite the list of places I’ve been frequenting over the past 4 weeks.

Banh¬†Mi Bay, St Pauls:¬†I met M here for lunch on a day off and we were impressed.¬†Their Vietnamese bread was absolutely delicious and SO CHEAP.¬†I felt like there could have been a tad more meat in my sandwich, though. We also shared delicious prawn crackers & caramel pork summer rolls which were fab. The highlight of the meal for me, though, was the “coconut juice” which was SO good.¬†Rating: 4/5.

Senor Ceviche, Kingly Court:¬†It’s hard to go wrong in Kingly Court so K, S and I thought we were probably in for a treat when we booked a table at Senor Ceviche and we were right. We tried the eponymous dish, and “The Spaniard,” which were fresh and light, with just the right amount of zingy citrus,¬†and I thought the accompaniments and garnishes were paired really well – there was some great crunchy corn that I couldn’t get enough of. We also sampled yet more delicious ribs, and crispy pork belly, as well as a couple of slightly less interesting vegetable dishes. Service was friendly and fast, and the small plates/sharing style worked really well for us. Cocktails weren’t bad either!¬†Rating: 5/5.

Antidote, Carnaby:¬†Granted, we only popped here for a glass of wine and in fact we didn’t even venture into the restaurant, but sitting outside¬†under the heat lamps in a quiet corner of Carnaby, I felt like I had been transported to France. The wine list was HUGE and I’d definitely like to go back and sample a bottle or two. I don’t feel I can give it a fair rating on the strength of a quick glass of wine but I’d go so far as to recommend it!

Duck & Roll, Hawker House:¬†Street Feast in all its various incarnations is a highlight of the London food scene and so when I heard that my pals at Club Gascon were launching a pop up at Hawker House, I knew I had to go. Hawker House itself is 3 floors of street food fun, but Duck & Roll can be found right at the top, with neon lights aplenty. Their menu is distinctive and unusual, with “popcorn mussels” and duck pastrami featuring, but I went for that week’s special, the Espanola – duck, potato frittata and chorizo sauce in a wrap – and fries with their signature “crazy duck salt.” Rumour has it that this week’s special is a bbq duck bagel which sounds positively divine so I’d definitely recommend a visit (it closes this weekend!)¬†Rating: 4/5 – I wish I’d have been brave enough to try the more experimental stuff!

Scoopsy Daisy, Hawker House: In the mood for something sweet, we meandered downstairs and set our sights on Scoopsy Daisy. Once again, more neon lighting and a super cool ice cream machine, this is ice cream with a difference. You can pick up to 2 flavours from a list of 6, and they mix them all up with frozen yoghurt ice cream and swirl it into a cone. It almost looked too pretty to eat but luckily it tasted better (although be warned, it left seeds in my teeth for days). Rating: 5/5, because it did exactly what it said on the tin.

Soul Food at Borough Market: I have a bad habit of always accidentally getting the same thing at Borough Market (falafel wrap from Arabica, if you’re interested) – I think all that choice just gets to me. On my most recent trip I was determined to try something other than falafel, and although a bbq chicken wrap might not be much more interesting, Soul Food just called to me. They had several options, including bbq chicken, prawn, steak, or some sort of crazy combo, and the service was super friendly and fast (much appreciated as I watched Matthew queue for legit 15 mins for a salt beef bagel). Sometimes you can’t beat clean and simple and I’d recommend in a pinch. Rating: 3/5.

As well as the above, I also somehow managed to squeeze in a trip home where I visited the Kino Lounge for brunch and old fave The Pheasant for dinner, standard trips to Byron, TGI Fridays and Nandos, and a 21st birthday celebration split between Dandelyan and the Oxo Tower which more than deserves its own post. Is it any wonder I need to keep up running?!

Grown Up Cooking: Chicken & Sweet Potato Salad

There are all manner of student cookbooks online and in real life (you might even remember I contributed to one myself over the summer!) Everyone expects students to be skint and unable to cook anything than pasta, and those cookbooks were a bit of a lifesaver my first year of uni, although I will always credit Jamie Oliver with my cookery prowess.

What nobody tells you, though, is that¬†after¬†uni is when your troubles really start. Cooking is easy at uni, when you and all your pals have hours and hours to sit around flicking idly through cookbooks and there is always someone in to take the Tesco delivery. Then all of a sudden, you’re living in London, getting home at 8pm and staring at the empty shelves of your fridge and shopping in the same old uninspiring Sainsbury’s Local every day (or, if you live in Greenwich and are feeling flash, Waitrose…holla). Where are all those student cookbooks¬†then, hey?

Matthew and I tend to take it in turns to cook, depending on who will be home first and who has had the least crappy day, and we’re pretty guilty of being kind of lazy with cooking. But recently we’ve been making more of an effort, so I thought I’d share some of our best recipes. Beginning with this triumph, which we both agreed was our favourite meal in a long time. I give you…

Warm Chicken & Sweet Potato Salad 

Ingredients:

  • Chicken – however much you fancy. We used one¬†huge¬†bone-in breast because we’d accidentally defrosted that instead of 2 normal ones.
  • Spice rub – we used Nando’s peri peri rub because as mentioned, #lazy
  • Sweet potato, approx 1 per person
  • Avocado (because obviously)
  • Salad leaves of choice – we used baby gem & spinach
  • OPTIONAL: Leftover broccoli & peas your flatmates didn’t eat
  • For the dressing: Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, honey, lemon juice, dijon mustard and/or wholegrain mustard

Method:

  • Coat the chicken in the spice rub and put it under the grill for approx 25 minutes. It’ll go all black and charred (probably), but that makes the skin nice and crispy and adds texture to your salad, so it’s totally fine.
  • Meanwhile, chop up your sweet potatoes into medium-sized chunks and boil them up (about 10 – 15 mins)
  • While the chicken grills and the potatoes bubble away, prepare your dressing by using pretty much any combo of the above ingredients and mixing them altogether. I’m a big advocate of Jamie Oliver “lugs” rather than measurements, because who wants to waste time measuring out tbsps of vinegar? Not me. Just be a bit sparing with your mustard ’cause that stuff is potent.
  • For the last few minutes, pop your bacon on the grill with the chicken (or fry it if you’d rather)
  • And finally, chop up your avocado and your lettuce and reheat/fry/boil any extra veg.
  • Drain your potatoes, shred or cut the chicken, put it all in a big bowl and toss it all through the dressing (I like to add the dressing in “layers” as I go and then shake it all up at the end).

And there ya have it! The kind of meal that all fits in one bowl/plate and is pretty damn good for you as well. Apologies I don’t have better pictures – we didn’t really realise how delicious this was going to taste until it was already done. Next time, you can expect a¬†real¬†recipe post!

What’s your signature dish??