Category Archives: London

Sticks N Sushi in Covent Garden

I’m a big fan of japanese food and especially sushi and yakitori. So when I found out about Sticks N Sushi in Covent Garden, I knew that this restaurant would be right up my street. Sticks N Sushi originates from Denmark where it was founded 18 years ago by  two brothers, Jens and Kim Rahbek, and Thor Anderson. Taking inspiration from their half-Japanese and half-Danish background, they decided to fuse the two cuisines together. What they serve? Pretty much what it says on the box – Sticks (yakitori) and Sushi. The concept has been a roaring success because today there are ten Sticks’n’Sushi restaurants in Copenhagen and two in London, Covent Garden and Wimbledon.

I’d been meaning to visit Sticks N Sushi in Covent Garden ever since it opened late last year but just never got round to it. But late is better then never, so finally a few weeks ago I met a friend for a catch up dinner at Sticks N Sushi in Covent Garden.

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The design and feel of the place is very trendy, classy and fun – I love the exposed brick and it oozes Nordic cool. Their menu offers lots of delicious cocktails if you’re up for a fun night out. Me and my friend however were having a bit more of a low key evening, so we decided on a refreshing green tea after a long day in the office. You can also never go wrong with edamame beans (very generous serving) covered in a spicy miso dip) to nibble on while you work out the menu.

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The menu at Sticks N Sushi is enormous. They have set menu / plates or the a la carte option so you can select whatever you fancy. The menu has photos of all the dishes, which is helpful so you know what you are ordering – but also slightly tempting because it all looks so good, making it very tricky to decide. We decided to go A La Carte and picked a selection of sticks to share and some rolls.

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Gyu Filet – beef with herbed butter // Goats cheese with dried ham // Chicken and leeks in teriyaki // Miso marinated black cod // Salmon wrapped in pancetta with herbed butter // Scallop wrapped in pancetta with herbed butter. It’s hard to say which one I loved the most because I loved them all but true stand outs for me were the scallops, cod and goats cheese.

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Rolls wise we got Soft-shell crab in rice paper (YUM!) and a Rainbow roll (8 pieces) which contained Surimi, snow peas, salmon, tuna, halibut, shrimp, mayo, tobiko and avocado. I know this all might not look like a look of food but it was actually very filling!

We decided to pass on dessert (we were being so good!) but their four taster dessert which includes a chocolate fondant with caramel and hazelnut brittle sounded so decilious that I might have to go back to Sticks N Sushi soon to try it!

I really enjoyed Sticks N Sushi in Covent Garden. The food was very good, the vibe fun and the service relaxed and friendly. They market Sticks N Sushi as ‘a sushi restaurants – even for those who don’t like fish’ and I think that’s very true - I just love the mix of sushi and skewers, it means there’s something on the menu for everyone. I think Sticks N Sushi would be make a great date restaurant and the perfect place to kick-start a fun night out with the girls. I for sure will be back and recommend you add it to your list of restaurants to visit.

Sticks N Sushi in Covent Garden
11 Henrietta Street
London WC2E 8PY

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Tapas Brindisa London Bridge

Brindisa is a bit on an institution when it comes to Tapas in London. After 16 years of wholesaling the best ingredients and products at Borough Market they opened their first restaurant Brindisa Tapas London Bridge in 2004.

 “The start up of the tapas business began when I invited Mark Hix, a Brindisa customer since 1989 and good friend, to view the Borough market site I was being offered by the Borough Market Trust. Between us in seconds we could visualise a tapas bar.”

And since opening Brindisa Tapas London Bridge, they have spread their wings around London opening Casa Brindisa South Kensington, Tapas Brindisa Soho and Tramontana Brindisa in Shoreditch. I am a big fan of spanish food and tapas but had never made it to any of the Brindisa restaurants before. Then our office moved to Southwark, which meant London Borough market and Tapas Brindisa London Bridge was now only a short walk from my office. So recently when I had a friday lunch date with a good friend/colleague we decided on the, always busy, Tapas Brindisa by Borough Markets.

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They don’t take reservations and usually the place is pretty busy but we decided to be patient and just grab a drink at the bar while we waited, and wooohoo within about 15 minutes we managed to score a table inside.

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Now onto the food, the important part! We ordered a mix of little tapas plates to share. Are you ready?

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First up the Cecina Salad which is Smoked Cured Beef with chunks of (manchego) Goats Cheese (£7.00). This was probably one of my favourite dishes, the beef was so tasty and the flavours combined each other perfectly. Think we pretty much licked that plate clean.

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Grilled Smoked Chorizo on toast with rocket and piquillo pepper (£6.60). Delicious but wasn’t quite what I was expecting or craving. I love chorizo and we couldn’t decide between the several chorizo dishes and ended up picking this one from the menu. I liked it, but didn’t loooooove it and think I would have preferred simple grilled or cooked in red wine chorizo. Next time!

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Deep fried Monte Enebro, handmade goats cheese with orange blossom honey (£7.60). I love a goats cheese and honey combination (it makes a delicious open sandwich!) and this tapas was quite rich but totally hit the spot. Oh and the red bits are not bacon (now that would have been extra naughty, but tasty) but crisp beetroot.

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Galician style octopus with baby potatoes, olive oil and paprika (£9.75) and of course a plate of Padron Peppers (£5.70) had to be part of our tapas selection. I love these smokey and salty grilled peppers, they are the best!

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And last but not least, some Croquetas de Jamon, cured ham croquettes (£6.90). They were perfectly crisp and crunchy and yummy and soft on the inside. After all these little plates – actually think they are quite well sized for the price – we were pretty stuffed but could have easily not returned to work and enjoyed some wine in the sun and get that holiday feeling after all this delicious spanish food. But nope we did have to go back to work but having this as a local restaurant is definitely not a bad thing.  Have you been to any of the Brindisa restaurants in London before?

Tapas Brindisa London Bridge
18-20 Southwark Street
London SE1 1TJ

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Ottolenghi Islington

I love Yotam Ottolenghi. There, I’ve said it. Ok not in the I want to marry him and have his babies kind of love, but his food is most definitely my idea of heaven on a plate. I have most of his recipe books, which I often cook from (see some examples here and here), his deli cafe in Notting Hill is my favourite place to drop by for cake (or two) and his restaurant NOPI in Soho is without a doubt one of my all time favourite restaurants in London.

However as a long-time fan, I am pretty embarrassed to admit that I had never been for dinner at his flagship store/restaurant in Islington. I’d visited a few times while in that side of town during the day but getting a booking always seemed impossible. To be fair though, it always was a bit of an after-thought and I just hadn’t planned a visit there well enough in advance.

So a little while back when I knew my parents were coming to visit me in London I thought, this is it, I am determined to get a table at Ottolenghi. And because it was for a Monday night I managed to score myself a 6.30pm booking – I was over the mood and knowing my dad is also a huge Ottolenghi fan I was super excited to finally get to experience dinner at Ottolenghi Islington.

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As close as it gets to a flag-ship, Islington is the biggest Ottolenghi and a proper restaurant. As well as take-away food, they seat about 50 in the cool, sophisticated-yet-laid-back environment, mostly around communal tables (with a few small tables for two). We were seated at the end of the big table which suited us, but probably not ideal if you were hoping for a more intimate dinner.

The philosophy behind the menu is fresh, no nonsense food, which comes straight from the source to your table, homemade.  Since opening nine years ago Ottolenghi has gained the reputation of being the man responsible for sexing up vegetables so it’s not a surprise that the menu has lots of vegetarian options. We immediately got served with some (delicious) fresh bread while we explored the menu. 

The menu is split into two sections, ‘From the Counter’ and ‘From the Kitchen’ and it is made up of small sharing plates – not that you’ll want to though when you start eating them. The counter food is cold and readily prepared and served as a starter while the kitchen food is hot and comes later. 

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Dad and I explored the deli counter and after lots of ummm-ing and ahhhhh-ing (because we just wanted to try everything) we finally chose the following cold starters.

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Roasted aubergine with walnut yoghurt, herbs and spicy walnuts (£9.00) // Grilled courgette, broccolini, Parmesan, pistachio, tarragon, chervil and truffle oil (£9.00) // Grilled pear, mixed bitter leaves, spicy pecan nuts and Urfa chilli with Roquefort and yoghurt dressing (£9.00) // Yellow fin, line-caught seared tuna with mixed sesame seeds and soy, honey, spring onion and ginger sauce (£10.80)

Ottolenghi does aubergine so well! This dish was definitely a huge winner in my books but really all of them were equally as delicious. From the ‘kitchen’ menu we got:

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Braised octopus with Kalamata olive puree, mustard seeds, harissa and cavolo nero (£12.00) //  Seared duck breast with red cabbage puree, pickled celeriac, date and walnuts (£12.00) // Spicy paneer, tomato chutney, chilli, grilled Romano pepper with lime and ginger yoghurt (£11.00) // Roast pork belly with prawn and chilli sambal, pickled kohlrabi, nashi pear and char-grilled baby leek (£12.00)

My favourites were the duck (perfectly cooked) and the pork belly. Crispy crackling pork belly combined with a spicy chilli sambal and the sweet pear ‘fries’ was so good.  We ordered 8 dishes between the 3 of us and the flavours were to die for. The textures, colours and spices were all perfect in each dish. Ottolenghi is famous for his cakes and desserts so luckily we still had room after our sharing plates dinner.

For the dessert menu we were given a little menu or told to come to the window of the deli to choose from a wide selection of scrumptious mouth watering cakes. Warning: your eyes might be bigger then your belly at this point - you will want to eat them all. We decided to continue with the sharing theme and got 3 desserts to share. 

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Carrot and walnut cake with cream cheese icing // Chocolate fondant cake (my recipe here). If you love rich, dense chocolate cakes then you’ll adore this – it’s incredible and one of my favourite chocolate cake recipes // Lemon and marscapone tart. All looks pretty tasty doesn’t it?

Ottolenghi is not your average restaurant/café or deli and at £10 a dish, it is a bit more expensive but you most definitely get what you pay for. Aside from the utterly delicious food, the place has a great atmosphere, has friendly and well informed staff and a good wine list. All in all, this made for a wonderful evening and I can’t wait to go back!

Ottolenghi Islington
287 Upper Street London
N1 2TZ, London
Phone: 0207 288 1454

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Brunch at Pizza East Portobello

On a gorgeous sunny morning this weekend I was craving myself some poached eggs and avocado on toast so I headed to one of my favourites in Notting Hill. Brunch at Pizza East Portobello is absolutely amazing and even though I’ve been there loads,  I can’t believe I’ve never featured it on the blog before (sorry sorry!)

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The best thing about Pizza East Portobello is that most of the time you won’t have to wait too long to get a table. Plus you can even ring in the morning and make a reservation, or if you’re are very organised and planning your visit ahead, then you can book a table online. Plus on a nice day (like we had) you can often even score a table outside. Boom!

Because I’ve been to Pizza East Portobello for brunch many times, it didn’t take me long to decide what I was going to eat but it was a first visit for my friend so we ordered coffee and caught up on our girly gossip while enjoying the stunning weather.

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Ok, ok – I know what you really want to see – the FOOD! When I go to Pizza East Portobello I just have to order the ‘Toast, avocado, chilli’ (£6). It’s the bomb! Without a doubt one of the best avocado on toast in town. Check out the delicious creamy, perfectly spicy avocado on grainy bread!

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This particular morning I was suffering from a wee hungover (me? never!) and I was starving (slight over-exageration maybe, but my belly was definitely grumbling) so on top of my avocado on toast, I also got the ‘Full Breakfast’.

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At Pizza East Portobello they only do poached eggs (hooray!) and the full breakfast comes with delicious crispy pancetta, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and an Italian sausage. It’s quite the plate full, but so tasty – trust me you’ll eat it all.

Some other great dishes on their brunch menu are the; poached egg with potato hash, rocket & pesto, the green eggs with ham or slightly healthier the granola with yoghurt, honey. However on top on breakfast style food they are also a pizzeria of course and their pizzas are some of the best in London. My friend couldn’t resist the sound of the veal meatballs with prosciutto, cream & sage pizza so that was her ‘breakfast’!

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Pretty good way to start the day don’t you think? After eating all this food we were pretty stuffed so we walked it off with a walk in the sunshine through beautiful Notting Hill. Oh how I love that neighbourhood. Have you been to Pizza East for brunch before? Definitely check it out, and they also have restaurants in Shoreditch (the original, hence the name) & Kentish town!

Pizza East Portobello
310 Portobello Road
London, W10 5TA
Tel: +44 (0)20 8969 4500

2 Comments | Posted in Brunch, Food, Lifestyle, London, Restaurants

Dock Kitchen

When my parents were in London I decided to take them to a great restaurant along the canal at the Portobello Docks in Notting Hill; Dock Kitchen. The location is fab (you can have lunch outside on the terrace in the summer) and the design of the place is modern, vibrant and full of cool pieces from the Tom Dixon collection (who’s shop is below the restaurant).

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Dock Kitchen’s chef is Stevie Parle who has quite the impressive resume for his age (29). Stevie has been cooking professionally since he was 16 and has worked at London foodie institutions the River Cafe, Moro and Petersham Nurseries. And The Observer named him Young Chef of the Year in 2010 when he was only 24! 

The menu at Dock Kitchen is experimental and changes monthly – the theme and even the style of cuisine changing from month to month. In the evenings they run a fixed, shared meal alongside a regular a la carte menu.

“The focus for this meal might be a specific place, a particular ingredient or just an idea that inspires us to cook exciting things. We don’t spend months practising dishes before putting them on our menu. Instead we like to be spontaneous and react to what our carefully chosen suppliers are able to give us.”

We decided to go a la carte and started off with a beautiful bottle of white wine (Source Blanc from Chateau Ka, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 2011) and some snacks as starters. The freshly baked lavash flatbread with sumac was delicious and perfect to mop up the pickled labneh with and loved the spicy roasted nuts.

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How gorgeous are those gold serving bowls btw, I want some! For mains my dad and I chose to share one of their most popular and signature dishes; the lamb biryani (min 2 people). The lamb comes with rose petals, black cumin, coriander & almonds on the side and it is cooked in a clay pot, sealed with dough. They then cut it open for you to reveal aromas of the deliciously spiced meat that was perfectly cooked – super tender!  They even give you extra meat and gravy on the side so it makes a great filling meal for two people.

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My mum went for the chermoula cod with  spiced potatoes and harissa which she thought was great, so we had a bite to try and wholeheartedly agreed with her.

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Next up was dessert – you know me, I couldn’t resist! We each decided to pick one so we could share them together. However we do always end up ‘arguing’ a little over the sharing particulars when it comes down to having to give up some of your dessert haha! I also ordered a fresh mint tea which came in a giant Moroccan style pot served with the tiniest cup which meant loads of teeny weeny cups of tea to get through.

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What desserts did we pick each? Mum chose the Madeleines with caramelised blood orange. Dad chose the lemon, ricotta and almond cake and me, well I just had to go for the chocolate (duh) with cultured cream and burnt salty honeycomb!

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All three desserts were absolutely scrumptious but the overall winner for me was surprisingly the freshly baked Madeleines. They were so soft, warm and perfectly cooked that I am now thinking I really need to get myself a madeleine baking pan, so I can re-create these little beauties at home some time soon! 

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I think Dock Kitchen is a real West London gem. The vibe is unpretentious & cool, fabulous service, excellent food and the constantly changing menu keeps it interesting so you can try delicious food from various regions across the world. It’s easily been one of my top meals this year so far and I strongly recommend anyone paying a visit at least once. I definitely can’t wait to enjoy a glass of wine and lunch here on the terrace soon!

Dock Kitchen – Portobello Docks
342-344 Ladbroke Grove, (entrance on Kensal Rd)
Ladbroke Grove, W10 5AH
(oh and online & phone bookings are available – woohoo!)

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