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 – it was so large, I had to leave half (! – needless 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’sI 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 – Pilpel. 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?!

Degustabox: July

I’ve read loads about Degustaboxes and I’m sure you all have too, if your bloggy reading list is anything like mine. I always like reading what people get in them, I wasn’t about to pay for one for the purpose of my blog. However, when I got home to find that my mum already has a subscription, I figured I might as well add my thoughts on this month’s offerings!

For those that don’t know, Degustabox is basically the Birchbox/Glossybox/etc etc of the food world. I won’t go as far to call it “foodie” stuff as most of it is actually pretty common supermarket brands, so actually it works as a good way to try out things you can find easily but might not have picked up otherwise. From what my mum tells me, they’re a bit up and down in terms of what you get, but I think they’re only about £10 so they’re always good value. Our box arrived last week and we had a lot of fun opening it (Christmas in July anyone) – here’s what we got:

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Portlebay Popcorn

I went through a huge popcorn phase just before I left Exeter and actually once bought the bacon & maple syrup in Waitrose. I wasn’t actually sure I liked it very much but it was definitely addictive and I made my way through the huge bag without too much trouble so it’s obviously got something going for it. We ate the sweet & salty pretty much as soon as it arrived though and that was delicious, and I’m fairly sure I’ve had the chilli & lime before and enjoyed it, so a thumbs up from me overall.

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Hornsby’s Blueberry Cider

This was a timely offering given how much I liked Matthew’s Hornsby’s when we went to Missoula. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m very excited to do so – I love blueberry things as a rule so hopefully this is as yummy as the original!

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Zeo Drinks

I keep seeing these in shops and I don’t really understand what they are. I don’t really drink anything other than water (and alcohol, obvs) so I definitely wouldn’t buy them, but I’ll certainly give them a go if someone else in the fam opens one!

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Green & Black’s Lemon Dark Chocolate

This was probably the one I was most excited to try as I’m a huge fan of G&B chocolate. I’m a bit back-and-forward on lemon flavoured things – I think I have to be in the right mood for it so I was really interested to see what this was like. When I first tried it I was a little bit thrown – I think it almost tastes herby alongside the lemon, which was a bit of a surprise. But after considering it for a while (and having several more squares) I concluded that I actually do like it. It’s so smooth and creamy, like all G&B chocolate, and I’ll be keeping my eye out for their other adventurous flavours!

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Maggi Sachets

In other Degustabox reviews I’ve seen a few people saying how 6 of these seemed a bit much and I kind of agree. However, we did get three different flavours in these: piri piri chicken tray bake x2, a cheesy chicken thing that I will be staying away from, and a beef & ale stew pack. I’ve used the herby chicken wrap things in this same range before (where you just wrap the papyrus paper around the chicken and fry it) and they worked really well so I’m keen to see how these work out. They’re always useful to have in the cupboard anyway so I wasn’t too disappointed in their inclusion!

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Dr Oetker Toppings – Eton Mess & Violet Crystals

I’m always excited to see sparkly things to put on cakes! These have been put in the baking cupboard for now but I’m sure they’ll get used – I’m excited to figure out a few recipes to use them with when I get back from Portugal, so keep your eyes peeled because I’m sure they’ll pop up on the blog!

I definitely don’t have the ££ to justify a Degustabox for myself right now but I do think they’re a great idea and I know in my family of 5, pretty much everything gets eaten by someone or other. They’re a fun way to experiment, and it’s nice to know that you can pick up everything in each box fairly easily in your average supermarket. What do you guys think – have you ever tried a food subscription box? How’d you think they stack up to beauty boxes??

(PS! I’m currently sunning myself in Portugal and have been a super organised blogger for once and left a few posts scheduled to tide me over until I get back. I have got wifi so I’ll hopefully be able to keep track of all your comments and so on but I’ll catch up properly when I get back!)

The Spicery: Budae Jjigae

For Christmas, I was given a three-month subscription to The Spicery. Basically, the way this works is every month, you get sent a little, postbox-sized box filled with two recipes (one main course, one dessert – yay) and all the exotic spices, pre-measured out, you need to create those recipes. It’s is a really great way to try out new and exotic foods without the hassle of searching the aisles of international supermarkets looking for spices you’ve never even heard of before and will never use again. All you have to do is buy the rest of the ingredients, put it all together, and voila!

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There are two different subscription options you can pick: Friday Night Curry, which contains recipes for curries, or World Explorer, the one I received, which showcases different dishes from around the world. Once you’ve selected one, there are also some different menu choices: for World Explorer, you can pick between the “Favourites” box (which will give you dishes like fajitas, tagines, and so on), a Vegetarian box, or the “Discoverer” box, which will give you more unusual, exotic dishes. In the spirit of adventure, I opted for the latter, and have since received 2 of my 3 boxes. Last night, after weeks of looking longingly at the boxes and not being bothered to buy the ingredients, Rory and I finally got down to making the first recipe I received, Budae Jjigae.

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As the little card explained, Budae Jjigae is a dish originally eaten by American troops in Korea and was made up of hot dogs, baked beans and eggs, along with more traditional Korean aspects like noodles and kimchi. The Spicery have poshed up the menu a little bit though, replacing hot dogs with real sausages and baked beans with broad or edamame beans.

First up was the kimchi. We were using pak choi, which I already had in the fridge, rather than the Chinese cabbage it specified, but I don’t think it really made much difference. All this entailed was chopping up pak choi and spring onions, and adding the required spices (korean chilli flakes & kimchi spices), along with some vinegar (we used balsamic, which isn’t what the card said, but it still tasted fine!), garlic and ginger. Then we left it to soak up all the flavours while we got on with the main part of the meal.

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There were a lot of different steps and components, but everything by itself was actually very easy and with a little bit of teamwork we got everything going nicely. We basically created a broth with spices & tomato puree, in which we boiled some eggs, and then added mushrooms, noodles, broad beans, ham, and sausages.

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It has to be said, it was not the most photogenic cooking process and I was getting distinctly worried right about this time that it was going to taste revolting.

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To my vague surprise though, it actually all came together to make a very Instagram-friendly dish – and more importantly, it tasted really good too! The spices elevate what is essentially a random mix to a really flavoursome and delicious meal and I even enjoyed the boiled eggs on top.

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My Budae Jjigae recipe card came with a dessert card for creole bread pudding which I cannot WAIT to try, and we also received a free sample meal in that box and have received my second box in the meantime, so look out for more posts – I personally can’t wait to try them all!

Best of the Rest

February has proved to be a very busy month and I’ve been taking a lot of pictures here and there (mostly of food) that haven’t warranted posts for themselves. So here’s what I’ve been up to, and mainly eating, in amongst the rest:

We visited Exeter’s brand new Patisserie Valerie when my parents were down and despite our intentions only to grab a coffee, we ended up sampling their Nata Custard Tart (DIVINE) and also their walnut & pecan tart, which was also incredibly good. I love the decor inside and will definitely be returning, so expect a full post soon!

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We also squeezed in a trip to my favourite haunt, Hubbox – I had to show it off to the parents! This time I actually got around to trying an actual burger and it was good, as can be expected, but I’m not sure anything can beat the fried chicken sandwich. I’ve almost filled up my loyalty card already which is maybe a little bit shameful.

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My favourite person and I extended Valentine’s Day over two days (because why not) and spent Thursday evening at Las Iguanas, which I have been wanting to visit since it opened in November. I went for the Henrique Rapadura, or Lamb Henry as we christened him, mostly because of the name, and it was delicious – the sauce on the lamb was just the right amount of sweet and I have been fantasising about it ever since.

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On V-Day itself we ate chocolate fingers for breakfast, went to the Waitrose cafe for cake (it was too rainy to go anywhere else), and he cooked up a delicious feast (also courtesy of Waitrose) of steak, new potatoes & red cabbage for dinner. It is impossible to photograph anything in our little yellow-lit kitchen/living room, but here is our dessert: the most gorgeous white chocolate & morello cherry mousses.

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Finally, this week called for a trip to Giraffe to celebrate a friend’s birthday with dinner and cocktails. My favourites were the Apple & Elderflower Martini (that’s always my favourite) and the Strawberry Mule, but sadly they ran out of vodka early on so I moved on to the “Skinny Ginny” and the mango & lime daiquiri for the rest of the night. To eat, I had a chicken & prawn salad which tasted distinctly average, but it looked quite good.

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With all this eating having been going on, you are sure to see me rolling around a town near you pretty soon…what have you all been up to?!

Rendezvous Wine Bar, Exeter

Obviously, one of the best parts about a parental visit is the chance to test out another of Exeter’s restaurants. We always try and go somewhere different, and this time it was the turn of Rendezvous Wine Bar, a total hidden gem down in Southernhay.

First, though, our late reservation (8:45) meant that we had plenty of time to indulge in a pre-dinner cocktail at the Magdalen Chapter. Their cocktail list has grown massively from what I remember, so I struggled big time to choose, and eventually decided on a pomegranate bellini. An unusual choice from me, but it was really good!

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My dad, the resident cocktail expert, impulsively ordered a raspberry & cinnamon martini. He regretted it immediately when it arrived – SO PINK! – but we all tried it and I thought it was delicious.

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Rory had the only non-pink drink of the evening with his Maker’s Sours, which packed quite a punch.

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Cocktailed up and with the parents having been made acquainted with Rory and Mae, we headed out into the wind and rain to nearby Rendezvous. I’ve walked past this place loads and it’s only really recognisable from the outside by the fairy lights on the railings, which I love. The actual restaurant is downstairs in a basement and inside it’s all low ceilings, candlelight and cosiness.

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Their menu changes daily, which is something I always like to see, and it’s all locally sourced. Gold star for them!

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We managed to sample most of the starters, I think – I can’t check because the menu has, of course, since changed! I believe this was a duck liver terrine…

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Mae & I split the tapas-y sharing platter. The hummus especially was fab!

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Mushroom & chestnut soup for Rory, with some artistic olive oil drizzling…

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And some sort of pate for mummy – sorry, I can’t remember at all what it was!

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These starters were perfectly portioned so that we weren’t too full by the time our mains arrived, which I was very glad about because the steak I’d ordered was great. Everyone was very keen to pass the camera around for pictures so we have photos galore!

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Rory opted for the duck, with fondant potatoes & cauliflower, which I was a little bit jealous of – I LOVE duck.

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Here’s dad’s lamb (I think it was lamb!)

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And finally, mum and Mae both had seatrout.

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Everything tasted as good as it looked and by this point I was feeling very happy we’d picked Rendezvous. Things got even better when the dessert menu came out. We’d seen a couple of creme brulees go past and knew that somebody just had to have it…

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It was on fire! Amazing! Mum said it tasted just as impressive, and in the background there you can just see Mae’s honey and lavender pannacotta. I tried some, but it was definitely too lavender-y for my tastes! I was quite happy with my chocolate mousse, served with honeycomb – perfect way to end the meal!

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I was really, really impressed with Rendezvous, actually. Everyting was perfectly sized and portioned, everything tasted great, and there was a lovely homely, friendly atmosphere throughout the whole evening. I’d definitely recommend and I’d definitely go again – with their ever-changing menu & extensive wine list, there’s every reason to!

Old School Dining

Last week, to mark the beginning of 2014 and as a much-needed essay break for myself, my mum and I decided to go out for lunch. Our destination, Old School Dining, is basically the only cafe/restaurant of any type in our tiny village, so it’s a good thing it’s SO good.

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Inside, the bistro is pretty much decorated exactly how I’d like my house to look one day, with kitsch-y, vintage-y decor and literary quotes above the door.

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They change the menu quite regularly but at lunchtime, it does most of your lunch-y classics and this time there were some festive-themed additions. I opted for a baked potato with chilli, while mum had the soup, which was tomato and red pepper and came with THE most delicious looking bread.

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Attached to the bistro is a post office/shop which has a really adorable gift section. I fell in love with these little guys in particular…

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I love going out for lunch and this was such a nice way to round off the holidays! I’m now back in Exeter (after battling rising floodwaters to get here, naturally) and ready to settle in for another term of essays & work…wish me luck everybody!

A Very Jolly Christmas

First up: MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY! I hope everybody had a suitably fun/relaxing/festive couple of days and I hope everybody has eaten and drank more than you’d care to admit.

I have had an absolutely fab couple of days but safe to say things did not start smoothly. After 3 hours of very excited work on Tuesday morning, my train to Hull was duly cancelled due to bad weather. I shouldn’t have been surprised at this – I’ve never had a smooth journey in my life – but it was not a good start to Christmas. Dad immediately launched a rescue mission, and after many, many hours, a bus to Tiverton, several packed trains and an emergency pick up from Chesterfield, I FINALLY arrived at my aunt’s house to be greeted by my delightful family (and a much needed glass of wine)

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Christmas Day itself was a huge success. We were all thoroughly spoiled!

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My aunt dished out a selection of Primark’s best Christmas jumpers for the male guests, which went down a storm.

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After a couple of hours of present madness and a breakfast of mince pies and champagne, we sat down to one of my very favourite Christmas traditions – BRUNCH. Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs all round!

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It’s absolutely not Christmas unless you have a glass of sparkles in hand at all times throughout the day.

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Tradition also dictates a cousinly photoshoot. We’ve got an identical version of this first one from last year and I’m sure we’ll have another for years to come!

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I have been appointed official Christmas sous chef and so joined my aunt in the kitchen when dinner preparations began – I think I’m being trained up for future Christmases. We were using a neighbour’s Aga this year for the turkey which involved much running between the two houses! Everything came together though and all 16 of us thoroughly enjoyed.

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My family is not really one for sedate celebrations and the evening soon descended into highly competitive and raucous trivia games, copious amounts of bubbles, plenty of selfies, and some questionable rapping. With guests ranging from ages 5 to 92, it was a hectic day to say the least but I think everybody had just as much fun as I did!

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Once again: Merry Christmas to everybody! I hope whatever you were doing, you had a wonderful time!