Wednesday, 26 February 2014

MEET THE MAKERS, BREAD STREET KITCHEN

 Whilst tending to my aching muscles after 5 hours of dancing, I received a notification on Twitter from Bread Street Kitchen, saying that I had won a pair of tickets to Meet the Makers with Grey Goose at  the following day.
A good reason to let my muscles have a rest and indulge in a nice little reward!

After a little confusion over meeting entrances, my cousin and I finally found each other, and proceeded to the upstairs bar.
We were handed the menus listing the cocktails we would be drinking that evening, paired with some nibbles to accompany each drink.

 

| Selection of paired sharing platter |
- Salmon Tartare on toast with chilli and coriander -
- Mini sausage roll with cheddar & wholegrain mustard -
- Chocolate orange Mousse with honeycomb -

We enjoyed and savoured every single bite - it was a bit hard to resist eating them all before the drinks arrived...!


| French Solution |
- Grey Goose, French white wine, wheatgrass -

I don't often drink much vodka, but I liked this - nice balance of acidity and it wasn't too strong.
I can be a bit of a lightweight...


| Wake Up |
- Grey Goose La Poire, Fresh lime, Rosemary and Cointreau with La Poire marmalade -

This was our favourite cocktail of the three that we had - an expected choice for girls who love sweet things!
La Poire was specifically created to reflect the taste and freshness of an Anjou pear.
The drink was really crisp and light with a lovely aroma of fresh pears, with the added sweetness from the marmalade.
I'll definitely be on the look out for La Poire in future...

 

| Renault |
- Grey Goose Le Citron, Red vermouth Benedictine and Orange bitters -

Clean, fresh zesty flavours from the lemon, not quite as fruity as the previous drink, but a great drink nonetheless.
And it also went really well with that heavenly pot of chocolate mousse...


Kestas working his magic behind the bar...


 

Kestas was very friendly and attentive throughout the evening, talking us through each cocktail that was served.
He even let us keep the menus and Grey Goose cocktail stirrers...more stuff to add to my scrapbook (!)
 
Overall, a great evening, and we will hopefully be back again soon for more delightful creations.

Meet the Makers runs every Tuesday from 6pm - 9pm at £20 per person.
(Click here for upcoming events)

The Cheekster, signing out x


Saturday, 22 February 2014

CHECK ON PRESENTS THIS IS ENGLAND

"This is England" is a pop-up hosted by Check On, that lets guests experience a selection of truly British dishes from some of Check On's favourite places around the country.

We arrived right on time at 7pm and were seated towards the back of the the room, although food wasn't served til about 8.15pm.
I could hear my tummy (g)rumbling as we anticipated the arrival of our food...

Prior to each course being served, we were also handed out little brown slips which contained some bite-sized information on the dish. 

 

| George's mums house, Helmsley, Yorkshire | 
- Yorkshire puddings with onion gravy -

A nice little start to our meal - hot from the oven and drenched in delicious gravy.
I could do with a full-out Sunday dinner now...



| Port Issac, Padstow, Cornwall|

- "Stargazy" Cornish pasty with mackerel and crayfish - 

These cute mini pasties came served in brown paper bags. I haven't eaten a pasty in a long time, and this just rekindled my love for it.

 
 

| Tiptoe farm, Northumberland |

- Heritage potatoes with chives & crisps - 



| Grimsby Dock, Lincolnshire |
- Haddock fish cake with tartar sauce and poached egg -

A dainty little fish cake served with an even tinier poached egg balanced on top of it - crunchy batter on the outside and really moist and flavourful on the inside.


 

| West mersea, Coast road, Colchester |

- Oyster, ale and beef cheek pie -

I'm not quite a fan of oysters, but I thought that this was an interesting combination, using the oyster shell as a base.

 


| Ginger pig farm, Levisham, North Yorkshire |
- Roast belly of Tamworth pork with Yorkshire rhubarb and parsnips -

Delicious tender meat - pork belly just never lets me down. I'm not usually too keen on rhubarb, but the combination wasn't too bad. I did like the crispy parsnip.


 

| Swainson house farm, Goosnargh, Lancashire |

- Pressed leg of Corn fed chicken with caramelised cauliflower Lancashire cheese - 

This was probably my favourite course of the evening - very unlike me considering there was a pork belly contender.
The chicken meat was so soft and tender, and the pairing than with the creamy cauliflower cheese was just perfect.

 

| Trinity college, Cambridge |

- Vanilla English cream with burnt sugar - 

The consistency was a bit more runny than I was expecting, but tasty nonetheless.


 

| Tavistock Abbey, Devon |

- Scone cake with tea jelly and raspberry jam - 

The scone cake was nice, if not a tad bit dry. I was intrigued by the wobbly tea jelly though, which I happily finished. Although I don't think our neighbours were too keen on it as I eyed some leftovers on their plates...
An interesting twist on English tea.



| Woodbridge farm, Dorset |

- Dorset blue vinny cheese on toast with dorsetshire sauce - 

I was initially a bit hesitant to eat my share, as the thought of the pungent taste of blue cheese puts me off. This coming from a girl who loves durian with a passion...strange I know.
Eventually I took a whole mouthful, and the flavours surprisingly grew on me. I didn't throw it up, which I guess was a good sign!


 

Overall, a really great British cuisine experience, getting the tastes of different regions under one roof.

Their 5 week residency that launched on February 10th takes place at David Moore's pop-up restaurant Pied Nus in Marylebone. It runs every Monday until 10th March, so grab your tickets fast!
I also forgot to ask if I could keep the brown information slips, which I took anyway - oops. I am now happily pasting them into my scrapbook diary.

To view my post on my previous visit to the Pied Nus pop up restaurant itself, click here.

The Cheekster, signing out x



Sunday, 16 February 2014

VALENTINE'S DAY SPECIAL

As every single person should know, Valentine's Day has always been the dreaded, over-hyped, day of celebration of love and romance.

iheartinspiration.com

After failing to get tickets to a supperclub with a couple of my friends, I decided to do a rather unorthodox thing...

Who goes on a first date with an absolute stranger on Valentine's Day?
I do. Well, at least this would be a first.
It felt like just another average day anyway, with the addition of hordes of people rushing around with last minute bouquets of flowers and chocolates.
Being a bit of a 'veteran' in online dating... (god, that makes me sound old!). Okay, let's quote it as 'seasoned' (much better). 
 Let's run through the basics...



 Profession: Finance (decent job)
Age: 26 years old (a bit younger than my norm, but acceptable)
Height: 5ft 11" (>5ft 10" *tick*)
Sports: Surfing (good physique, maybe?)
Physical (based on photos): Decent number of photos, but none quite as clear as I would have preferred - average (hopefully looks better in person?)

 It's always a risk accepting date proposals online, and even riskier business going on a first date. On Valentine's Day.
This could either go REALLY well, or HORRIBLY wrong...
But that's okay, I had a back-up plan.

We agreed to meet outside Topshop on Oxford Street. I arrived earlier than expected, a tiny part of my brain recalculating the risks at hand whilst waiting for him to arrive.
10 minutes later than we had planned to meet (minuses points for punctuality - or I'll let it go this time as he was a London newbie)), T appeared standing near the entrance in his work suit, with an enormous golf umbrella in hand.
Less buff in person, and not quite the hot date I had in mind, but I thought I'd give him a chance - maybe his personality will overcome his lack of looks?

Our dinner reservation at Lima wasn't until 8PM (more details of my competition win here), so we seeked shelter from the rain at Opium Bar and stayed for a couple of cocktails.
6PM - a couple of hours to unwind, and enough to buy me time to decide on whether he would be a worthy date for the evening.





The topic of age was brought up, as despite studying his online profile, I always re-clarify in person - we were both 26. I love looking younger than my age (thanks to my Asian genes), but apparently in the past some guy thought that he was in his late 40's, and had burst out laughing, having been told his real age.
I failed to stifle a laugh, as admittedly in my mind, I would have made the same presumption.
T gasped in shock. Lack of discretion - oops. 
(discreetly glances at number of wrinkle lines on his forehead)

He had just recently moved to London, so my personal knowledge and experience in London became the highlights of our conversations. 
I am the kind of person that loves my technology - iPhone, iPad, camera, and all other bag essentials. 
T had in his hand a (Samsung?) mobile phone from the dark ages (okay, maybe a bit of an exaggeration there), which was even incapable of taking photos. 
Hopefully with my brief influence, he will obtain a proper mobile contract soon.

Somewhere in between our conversation, T remembered that he had a small gift for me.
I 'aww-ed' a bit inside...before he revealed a shiny tin-foiled object in his hand - a miniscule piece of brownie that his flatmate had baked the night before.
I politely accepted it and carefully placed it in my bag - unsure if he deserved brownie points for that. Pardon the pun.

Conversation seemed to be flowing smoothly, so we proceeded onto Lima for dinner.



Being new to London, this was sort of a little introduction to the great restaurant experience in London for T.
I flashed my Sony NEX-5T camera from my handbag, as I do, and T was curious to have a go at it. 
I watched over cautiously as his inexperienced hands gripped and maneuvered the lens - the tension was relieved when it was back in my safe (and overly protective) hands.
T was very patient with me as I had pre-warned him about my habits of taking photos of my food. My fierce 'warning' look is enough to raise fear in those who dare to eat before I give my approval. 

Conversation continued on, as I explained about my (not-so) interesting life as a pharmacist, and was giving him a quick consultation and advice about the 'man flu' that he seemed to be coming down with. 

Food was impeccable, and service was attentive and professional throughout - we both really enjoyed the dishes that we had selected.
(Click here for full post on Lima)

Towards the end of the night, the couple that was sat opposite us got 'caught up' in a romantic moment, and started making out across the table.
I looked away out of politeness, but then burst out giggling when I saw T do the same.
In my mind I had decided that our night was definitely not going to end on a romantic note. 
When it was finally time to part at the station, we both courteously bid each other goodbye with a hug and casual brush of the cheeks.

Overall, it was a fun and relaxing date - probably because I had no expectations from the very beginning.

I love a worldly man who can excite me with knowledge and personal experiences - which in this situation, it seemed the other way round.
To be fair, the date didn't go as bad as you think - T was overall quite a gentleman, and he did share his enormous umbrella with me even when I did have my own...
T seemed like a genuinely nice guy, but just not the right one for me. 
So I guess for now, it's the single life for me. 

www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

At least I have my Grand Cru Duo from Le Patisserie Des Rêves in the fridge to look forward to.


That brownie is still sat in my bag.
Crap.

The Cheekster, signing out x



LIMA, 31 RATHBONE PLACE, LONDON W1T 1JH

I've been wanting to try this place, even before it was awarded its first Michelin star - the first Peruvian restaurant to win a Michelin star.

By a stroke of luck (and some very high positive hopes), I won a last minute dinner for two on Valentine's Day, courtesy of Ruffl #SpontaneousLove!

 

I didn't really have any solid plans for Valentine's Day - the simple life of a singleton.
Although I did have a date that night, more details of which you can find in my other post here.

I received the a notification of my win at 4pm, so I had plenty of time to get all prettied up to enjoy a much anticipated dinner, and hopefully a smooth-flowing evening with my blind(-ish) date!

We arrived right on time and were warmly greeted by the GM Ludovic, where we were then shown downstairs to our cosy table by the corner.



For drinks, we both ordered the Valentine's special cocktail, and a bottle of Malbec (2011 UCO Malbec, Mendoza Valley, Argentina).



I really liked the delicious soft breads and dip that had a nice hint of tangy and spiciness.



| Octopus Olivo |
- Braised octopus. Organic white quinoa. Botija olive. Red shiso. -

Tender pieces of octopus, full of flavour, carefully placed on soft beds of quinoa. Loved the pretty lilac-coloured dots of Botija olive purée.



| Scallop Tiradito |
- Hand dived scallops. Rocoto ají pepper. Chia seed. -

Beautifully presented like a colourful mosaic. I've never had a scallop dish that has been sliced so thinly - a lovely smooth and melt-in-your-mouth sensation, with a nice spicy kick from the pepper.
I took my time and savoured each and every mouthful.




| Suckling Pig "andes" |
- Giant corn. Ghoa cress. Piquillo pepper. Green rocoto. -

There was no trouble deciding what I was going to order as my main - the moment I saw 'suckling pig', I knew I was sold. Juicy and tender with a nice combination of textures from the crunchy crackling to the rich and creamy corn.



| Lamb Shoulder "secco" |
- Eco dried potato. Pisco mosto verde. Crazy pea. -

Another deliciously tender meat main course, nicely cooked and marinated.
And at least I now know what the 'crazy pea' was all about (!)




We were both undecided about our dessert selections due to unfamiliarity of the ingredients, so we just followed the recommendations made by the waiter - and some great recommendations they were.

| Lucuma fruit ice cream. Chocolate powder. Annatto. Chancaca cream. | 

I later found out what the ingredients actually were:
'Lucuma' - a subtropical fruit native to the Andean valleys of Peru.
'Annato' - derived from the seeds of the achiote trees.
'Chancaca' - a typical Peruvian sweet sauce made of raw unrefined sugar crystallized with honey.

And it tasted just as delicious as it looked.



| Cacao porcelana Peru cacao 75%. Cinnamon cream. Blue potato crystal. | 

My first time eating 'blue potato', which is a hybrid potato variety with blue flesh and skin with a slight purple tint - nice crunchy, crisp-like texture.
Really rich chocolate flavours, definitely a must for chocolate lovers. 



| Pisco Sour |

And finally we were served some refreshing glasses of Pisco Sours. I really do love Pisco Sours, but had unfortunately reached my alcohol limit and could only handle half a glass.



My second experience with Peruvian food, after Ceviche, and I'm absolutely loving it.
I only wished that I had more stomach space to try more of the dishes!
We were also well taken care of by the waiters, who were prompt and efficient throughout the evening.

Overall, a truly memorable experience, and an unexpected Valentine's surprise thanks to Ruffl and Lima London.
It has now been added to my list of restaurants to recommend in London.

The Cheekster, signing out x


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