Saturday, 28 September 2013

UNION STREET CAFE

So here's one of my latest impulsive reservation bookings - eager to check out for myself what all the buzz and excitement was about. Gordon Ramsey's 10th opening in Britain - looks like I've still got a few to catch up on.

We arrived at the restaurant a bit earlier than expected after wandering about for a bit. The streets of London are always so quiet on a Sunday, and Mr D finally gave in to my persistent hungry cries. 
A hungry (wo)man is an angry (wo)man.

 

 

 



We were seated in the middle of the dining area, getting a view of the kitchen and bar area on opposite sides.
Not long after, the lovely waitress patiently went through the whole menu with us. Italian is unfortunately not my forte, and Mr D's excuse was his aging memory, as usual.
I do very much appreciate it when the waiters/waitresses have a thorough knowledge about the menu, and she did indeed give us a pretty good explanation of each dish.

 

 


 

Olive fritte

Because we both love olives - and even better, DEEP-FRIED olives. Stuffed with cheese. Enough said.

 

Culatello a gnocco fritto

Delicious slices of ham wrapped around fluffy doughballs - nicely presented and different from the usual lone slices of ham served on a board.

 

San Daniele ham, porcini mushrooms & parmigiano

The first element that caught my eye on the menu was not the ham, but the porcini mushroom - because mushrooms make the world go round...
As well as cheese. And broccoli. And lychee. 
Okay, weird foods that have just randomly popped into my head...
If one goes, I'm afraid the world might just come to an end...

Loved the nutty flavour of the mushrooms combined with the delicate flavour of the ham and the slightly gritty texture of the parmigiano.


Calamari fritti

Fried squid has always been one of my favourite dishes to order. The squid itself was nicely fried, and I did like the slight saltiness from the capers. 
I wasn't too keen on the huge chunky slice of tomato it was placed on, whether or not it was there for presentation purposes. Personally, I would have preferred it if it was chopped up, maybe into a nice tomato salad...
Not that it would have mattered to Mr D, the tomato hater. I shall continue to persevere in my efforts to convert him.

 

Polpo, braised borlotti & spicy Calabrian sausage

Rather disappointed with the octopus - ours was slightly charred giving it an unpleasant burnt taste, with not much other flavours to it.
There was also more borlotti beans as opposed to the almost non-existent sausage, and overall hugely lacking in that spicy 'kick' we were hoping for.
Such a shame as I always have such high hopes on octopus dishes.


Tagliolini, rabbit & provolone

Nowadays, I have become more partial towards rabbit dishes, despite my small conscience shaking its head in disapproval. Being born in the year of the rabbit and all that...
Still tastes like chicken to me.
We went for the larger portion size - common sense as we both have big appetites.
Lovely tender pieces of meat and the sauce was quite tasty without being too creamy or heavy.



Panna cotta & grappa, marinated figs

And finally for dessert. Not quite like us to order only one to share, but the panna cotta was one of the desserts that we both agreed upon.It is after all one of the truly great classic Italian desserts.
Smooth, creamy and just simple delicious.
I gobbled up all the figs as Mr D dislikes figs - blasphemy.





On the whole a pleasant and relaxing dining experience - lovely ambience and service, and I suppose I did enjoy the majority of the dishes that we ordered.
A place that I wouldn't mind visiting again, although I heard that they are fully booked up until December...
Hopefully the dishes would have undergone some tweaking by then, especially that octopus.
Guess I'll have to keep myself occupied with other foodie adventures til then, which would definitely not be hard thing to do.

And once again, credits to Mr D for some of the lovely photos. 

The Cheekster, signing out x


Square Meal

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

MONOPOLY TREASURE HUNT

I had come across this event by chance after noticing it posted on my Twitter feed.
The only Monopoly game I have ever played were the board-game ones, and even that was ages ago. Owning hotels in Mayfair and Park Lane was my ultimate goal - unfortunately impossible in reality as I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Although I did have a tendency of putting all sorts of objects in my mouth...maybe even the Scottie dog. 
No euphemism intended.
Shame on you.

Anyway back to the game.
There was a list of prizes, and I have to admit that I found some of them looked pretty tempting - I particularly had my eye on the Beats by Dr Dre headphones, and the Samsung Digital Camera. The kind of stuff that I don't really need, yet still want.
Free prizes handed out on the streets with no catch...what's not to like?
It didn't take long for my competitive side to kick in and I decided to take part in this real-life treasure hunt, making sure that I set my alarm clock to wake up in time the next day!



I got into Central London just before it started so that I could 'fuel-up' with some breakfast, whilst keeping a close watch on countdown...

 

I was at Oxford Street when the treasure hunt officially started, and I silently cursed as realized that the Monopoly men started appearing around Trafalgar Square/Charing Cross!
I immediately jumped on the bus, but it was a bit too late by the time I got there - I spotted a few 'Monopoly' people from afar, but unfortunately the prizes had already been claimed. 
On another occasion, a boy about 12 years old ran past me, and I knew I didn't stand a chance...

Nonetheless, I stayed positive and continued keeping my eye on the map for new activated Mr Monopoly to appear. It was only 10.30am, and about 5-10 prizes had been claimed - this was definitely going to be a long day...

Frustrated and defeated, I headed back to Leicester Square, when luck behold, there was one walking directly towards me! I didn't hesitate and ran up to her (Mrs Monopoly?)  and frantically whispered the password 'I own the brand' - I can imagine the look of desperation in my face, but I didn't really care. I breathed a sigh of relief when she congratulated me and handed me my voucher to collect my prize which was the Dr Dre headphones - SCORE!
I could hear a cry of despair as a couple of teenage girls who were nearby (literally walking less than a metre away from us) when they realized that they had missed their opportunity.
My insides jumped with excitement at my first win, and the look on their faces was just priceless...
What can I say...you snooze you lose ;)

More Mr Monopoly starting appearing on the map, with more participants now involved and dashing about trying to snap up the prizes. 
It was clearly much harder getting my bearings right when I had a mixture of excitement and adrenaline coursing through my body, running around like a maniac, oblivious to the strange looks I was getting...
I just about managed to find one standing inconspicuously at the entrance to the underground, and bagged myself a a Spotify card - not quite as exciting as my first win, but a prize nonetheless!

We kept watch on the map with the hope of tracking down more Mr Monopoly throughout the day, but with not much luck...

 

We spent most of the day looking at the map rather obsessively - my 'kiasu' side had definitely taken over.  It was no longer about the prizes...it was about WINNING...

The final release of prizes was the most nerve-wrecking, as they were all scattered about in different locations at the same time - we split up (again) and did a final sprint for the last few remaining prizes. 

 Overall a fun and enjoyable experience, if not a tiny bit torturous...

Guess it's time to unwrap my little gift.



And also a little thank you to Mr D for feeling rather obligated to put up with my crazy antics for the entire day.
You will be duly rewarded. 
With cake. 
Oh, you lucky man.

Currently testing out the new headphones and listening to 'Cold Coffee', whilst dancing in my own little world - bliss.

The Cheekster, signing off x



Monday, 16 September 2013

BAR CHOCOLAT

- An immersive, multi-sensory experience inspired by the pleasure of chocolate, showcasing some of Europe's most innovative creatives -

This week-long series of events celebrates the release of Bailey's Chocolat Luxe, a groundbreaking real Belgian chocolate liquer.

Mention anything with chocolate and you've got me hooked. 

The collaborators of this event included Bompass & Parr, Tabitha Denholm, Petra Storrs, Amelia Rope, Lou Hayter and Blanch & Shock.

 

 

After handing in our coats at reception, we were each given a drink token and offered some refreshments of iced water infused with elderflower, before being led through in small groups.


 

 

 





 

 

We lingered around the bar area whilst waiting for the other guests to arrive.

Not long after, the curtains were finally drawn apart to reveal a long U-shaped dining table, as guests names were called up individually before being seated.
 

The three-course dinner was provided by the experimental food duo Blanch & Shock, bringing together a delightful combination of theatre and innovative cuisine.


In front of each seat was laid a tray of ice, presenting our first course of the evening, paired with a glass of white wine.
Of the selection of food from Course One, my favourite was the Gilt-Head Bream - so smooth and buttery, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. 

COURSE ONE

Langoustines and Brown Shrimp
GIlt-Head Bream and Hogweed Seeds

Kohlrabi, Celery, Fennel, Radicchio
Cucumber Flash-Infused with Fennel Pollen Stock
Borage Flowers and Microleaves, Purple Radish Shoots
Creme Fraiche and Parsley Sauce




After finishing Course One, the tables were cleared, and waiters started streaming in with individual trays. Each tray contained a different ingredient, and were carefully placed before us, on the table - I guess eating off the table is acceptable after all!

The guy sitting next to us even decided to explore his artistic side and rearranged some of his scattered potatoes...
I personally was rather pleased with my little work of art presented before me - maybe just a bit tempted to start nibbling on some bits...

I was probably one of the only ones that totally wiped my table clean, even every single grain of spelt...- waste not!


COURSE TWO

British Dry-Cured Ham
British 'Bresaola'
Sweetcorn, Cream and Whiskey Sauce
Cider-Glazed baby Turnips
Pickled Radishes

Heritage Tomatoes, Chicory and Redcurrants
New Potatoes, Wild Damson Sauce
Roasted Spelt Grains, Garlic Chives
Watercress and Broccoli Microleaves
Tinctures of Fig Leaf and Pickle Aromatics

 

 



The third and final course was dessert, where we were invited back to the bar area and each handed a gold sheet of paper- which we were instructed to press against our lips before we collected our glass of Bailey's from the bar. Part of the whole experience as they say...

Not sure about Oli, but I totally rocked the Gold Lip look! - should have listened to instructions (tsk, tsk).



An array of colourful desserts was presented on glass mirror tabletops - and a very delicious selection it was indeed.

COURSE THREE

Pomegranate Molasses Cake
Flourless Mocha Cake
Single-Varietal Chocolate and Bailey's Truffle
Brown Butter Cream Sauce
Tonka Bean Crumble
Freeze Dried Raspberries and Yoghurt
Fresh Violas, Raspberries and Blackberries






Overall an interesting and memorable experience.
And before I forget, a HUGE THANK YOU to Mr Oliver Denton for obtaining the tickets and taking the beautiful (and much clearer photos)!
I am still relying on my humble Iphone 5 whilst I wait for my new camera to arrive - exciting times.

Time to get back to nursing this headache and prepare for another week - maybe some more dessert will help.

The Cheekster, signing off x