Wednesday, 30 April 2014

AFTERNOON TEA AT THREADNEEDLES HOTEL

It has been a while since I've had a nice, relaxing afternoon tea, and what better time to do so than with Emerald Street's Two-For-One Afternoon Tea offer.
After browsing through the list of participating places, we decided on Threadneedles Hotel, a five-star boutique hotel. Based in The City of London, Threadneedles is an Autograph Collection hotel, which was formerly a Victorian banking hall.

Upon being greeted by reception, we were then shown to a spectacular stained-glass, domed lobby.


 



The English Afternoon Tea launched by Threadneedles was themed to celebrate England’s Great Britons, which include homage to six of the Greatest Britons of all time, as chosen by the British people for BBC2. 
Created by Executive Chef Stephen Smith and his pastry team at Threadneedles, the charming tea menu is filled with imaginative recipes in honour of Sir Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth I, Princess Diana, Sir Isaac Newton, Admiral Nelson and John Lennon. 
The tea includes a choice of three of the six delicious pastries and cakes, created in the spirit of these English icons, served with tea, a choice of fruit and savoury scones, and selection of finger sandwiches: tuna and sweet corn mayonnaise, egg mayonnaise with mustard cress, chicken with whole grain mustard mayonnaise, and smoked salmon with cucumber and soft cheese.
The selection of teas was not quite as extensive as other venues, but they had the standard teas such as Earl Grey and English Breakfast. I went with my usual Jasmine tea.


 

When our food was served, we played a short guessing game with our waitress as to which cake represented each icon.

 




Our tummies started to struggle at the second tier, what with all the richness of those cakes, but we eventually devoured all that was laid before us. Except maybe bits of the savoury scones which we both found a tad bit too salty.

Overall a truly fun and enjoyable experience in an elegant setting.
We both left feeling rather satisfied, albeit slightly high on sugar and carbs - what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The Cheekster, signing out x


Sunday, 20 April 2014

BAILEYS FEASTER EGG HUNT, HARVEY NICHOLS

This Easter, we attended Baileys one-night-only, immersive dining experience held exclusively at Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge.
An extraordinary adults-only theatrical adventure and Easter egg hunt, the 21st century setting of the store was transported back in time to the elegance and artistry of the 18th century Rococo movement.

Half a year since I attended my first Baileys Chocolate Luxe event at the Bar Chocolat pop-up in Covent Garden, I was eagerly looking forward to what they had in store for us this time.

Running a couple of minutes late after a slight confusion over the meeting point, we registered ourselves at the entrance on Sloane Street - each of us handed a delicate golden feather and a safety pin.

Upon entering the doors, the actors dressed as royalty, courtiers and subjects, jumped straight into action, leading us through to the main store in search of a Baileys Chocolat Luxe Easter Egg and the true meaning of true chocolate indulgence.

 


 


To get us more involved, we were taught about 'mannequin etiquette' (sounds much more sophisticated when you say it with a French accent!) - each of us flaunting our most elegant poses as we received amused glances from other intrigued customers shopping in store.

 

We then entered through a chamber where we were split into two groups. In the first half we were brought into individual changing rooms. I was faced with a Cinderella-esque situation where I was requested to put (ram) shoes onto her feet to see which fit best - whilst she kept coaxing me to push 'harder'. Trying on shoes would definitely not be what I would have visualized if I was on the other side of that curtain.

In the second half, we played a game of musical chairs, where I was the first to be kicked out - my big derrière clearly let me down.

 

And after that, we all regrouped under the 'tent' to play a game of charades...

 


 


 


 

 


Mannequin Etiquette!

 

We were then finally brought up to the Fifth Floor Terrace to indulge in our six-course Easter feast created by the Chiappa Sisters.







 


 Saffron & pistachio mozzarella croquette, pistachio crumble, cherry consome, rosemary crostini, raspberry balsamic vinegar puree, green roquette.

 Crushed fennel seed, lemon & black pepper tuna, pickled red onion, shaved fennel, pink grapefruit gel, black olive tapenade, watercress puree, mint cress.

 Roasted Chicken Marsala poached figs, roasted porcini mushrooms and a prosciutto crisp with patata dolce puree, virgin olive oil and rucola.





 Baked Charlotte Potato & Truffle Gnocchi Smoked potato puree, chestnut gel and parmesan cream with shaved chestnuts and micro parsley.

Chocolate & Venison Ragout Potato cream with juniper berry crumble and truffle toast.





 Sweet Lemon & Vanilla Pannacotta Italian amaretti crumble, sweet basil puree, strawberry & mint relish with basil cress.




| Baileys Chocolat Luxe Easter Egg by Lucie Bennett |

A rich Belgian chocolate equivalent to egg and soldiers, served with a glass of Baileys CHocolat Luxe. Created in partnership with Baileys Chocolat Luxe and young British chocolatier and Cake of the Year 2013 winner, Lucie Bennett.










I very much enjoyed most of the courses, with the exception of the pannacotta that had too much gelatin in it. 
The Baileys and the chocolate egg were undoubtedly extremely rich and indulgent, I don't think any of us at the table actually managed to finish it - maybe I should have wrapped up the remains and stuffed it in my bag...

On the whole, a thoroughly enjoyable experience - I do love a mix of theatre and food to get me in the Easter mood.
I just realized that I didn't buy any Easter eggs this year...looks like a trip to the shops for (reduced) Easter eggs will be on the to-do list tomorrow!

Hope everyone is having a lovely Easter weekend - that time of the year where eating chocolate for breakfast is not frowned upon...

Happy Easter!



The Cheekster (nibbling on chocolate hot cross buns), signing off x


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

THE BACKBENCH #1, KOYA

Celebrating its 4th year anniversary since it opened in 2010, Koya is undoubtedly still one of the best places in London for comforting Japanese food.
After failing to get an evening reservation, I opted instead for the afternoon sitting at 1.30pm. Having rushed after finishing my dance class, I arrived slightly flushed and earlier than I expected. I was the first guest to arrive and perched myself at the end of the back bench, in front of the open kitchen.


When all the other guests arrived, Chef Junya Yamasaki gave us a short introduction of the concept behind starting The BackBench - the opportunity to go further than their blackboard to bring a Koya-style tasting menu.
And then it was finally time to eat...


| Fresh Kombu & Bramley Ponzu |

Kombu is an edible kelp or seaweed commonly used to flavour Japanese soups, noodle broths and stocks (dashi). Served in a shot glass, it had a refreshingly sour taste from the ponzu, a citrus-based sauce, which was a nice start to our Koya tasting experience.

| Jellied Eel, Wild herbs & Miso Soup |

Fusing Japanese cuisine with a traditional English dish - jellied eel consists of chopped eels boiled in a spiced stock, which is then allowed to cool and set that forms the jelly, and usually eaten cold. This was topped with delicate pieces of edible wild herbs. The broth was so delicious that I couldn't resist from tipping all my rice into the bowl to soak up all the goodness. 
And washed it all down with a warming bowl of miso soup.


| Sansai Tempura |

Different from the usual prawn and vegetable tempura that I have eaten, this dish used sansai, which refers to wild greens/vegetables which are gathered for eating. 
A couple of them had an intriguing sour flavour to it. The leaves were nice and crunchy, just like eating crisps, but better.
Not too greasy and a really great dish that I would be happy to snack on any day.

I don't usually drink in the afternoon, nor do I drink much sake, but I decided to order just one cheeky glass - Miyasaka Masumi "Arabashiri" First Run. 
A seasonal sake made in spring, it had wonderful pure and fruity flavours with sweet and vibrant notes - I know what I'll be ordering from the sake list next time. 


| Scottish Seaweeds, Pot Roasted New Jersey Royals, Wasabi & Butter |

Served in a huge pot, it was quite fun digging through the salt, hunting for those hot, steaming potatoes. After shaking off the salt, we dipped them into our bowls of melted butter, with a tiny hint of wasabi on the side.
I was tempted to eat the seaweed, but then I would have probably ended up with a mouthful of salt.



| Soft-Boiled Egg & Nettle |

There were two separate egg and chicken dishes, and the egg dish was served first - I guess that solves the chicken and egg question?
A lovely soft egg centre, and the nettle was really thin and crisp.

| Grilled Chicken & Calçot |

This was one of my favourite dishes. Grilled over low charcoal heat, the chicken meat was so juicy and tender, with a slight smokey flavour. Served with some sichimi on the side, this may be one of the tastiest chicken dishes that I have had in a while.

| Braised Boar, Burdock & Parsnips |

I've had my share of pork belly throughout the years, but not very often had a wild boar version. I don't usually eat the fatty layers, but I cleaned every bit off this dish - the meat was soft and tender and the fatty layers had a firmer texture than what I was expecting, which was tasty. The burdock, another wild and edible, nutritious plant, and the parsnip were also well-cooked. All of them marinated in a delicious sweet-flavoured sauce.

| Eel & Ramson Udon |

And of course we couldn't have missed out on their handmade udon noodles in their light and warming soups. This was topped with a tantalizing piece of eel. Instead of being heavily marinated in teriyaki sauce like other places where I've tried unagi dishes, this was grilled, which enabled us to have a better appreciation of the clean flavours of the meat. Eel meat is generally quite rich due to its high fat content, but when cooked slowly the fat can be drained out, producing a beautifully prepared dish such as this.

| Otsukemono |

Like the kimchi in Korean cuisine, the Japanese have their own version of pickled vegetables called Otsukemono (漬物, tsukemono). Japanese pickles play an important part in the Japanese diet - commonly used as a garnish, relish, condiment, or such as in this case, a palate cleanser. 

| Botamochi & Innes Brick |

And finally our last course of the meal, dessert!
Botamochi (ぼたもち or 牡丹餅), named after the spring flower, botan, and are traditionally made during the spring higan. It is a Japanese sweet made with sweet rice and sweet azuki/red bean paste. I do love red bean, and I enjoyed the sweet flavours, paired with the smooth and tangy flavour of the cheese.
And we were also served a nice tipple of sake to wash it all down, and a pot of green tea after as well.




And not forgetting one for the scrapbook...thank you Chef Junya!


A really enjoyable and intimate dining experience, and definitely worth trying if you get the opportunity. 
Their next date is Monday 19th May, which I believe will be just as amazing as this one.

The Cheekster, signing out x

Square Meal