Sunday, 30 November 2014

#LDNBLOGGERSTEA AT LANCASTER LONDON

First and foremost, I must admit that I have been rather lackadaisical in updating my blog for the month of November... - although I have been away on holiday, so I guess that would make a valid excuse!

As it's the last day of the month, I'm going to squeeze in one last post for November - the latest #LDNBloggersTea that was held at Lancaster London.
I haven't had afternoon tea for ages, and hearing that Chef Ben Purton was now the Executive Chef there, I knew that this was a treat not to be missed. It was about a year ago when I last had afternoon tea at The Royal Horseguards Hotel where Chef Ben was at previously, and it was one of the best afternoon tea experiences that I have had.

With a glass of champagne in hand, we slowly made our way through to the room, walking along the mini Red Carpet specially prepared for us by Chef Ben. And there was a photographer as well, which was a really nice touch - looking forward to seeing the photos!
Located just round the corner from Lancaster Gate Underground Station, our private room had a great view overlooking Hyde Park.
Okay, I was probably too distracted by the food and champagne that I forgot to take a photo of this view, so you will just have to take my word for it...

We each calmly found a seat around the long table, before whipping out our cameras and phones with excitement - the kind of environment where bloggers can feel most at home without getting judged by 'normal people'... 


At the end of the room was a table laid with some snack pairings and MORE Laurent-Perrier champagne... 

I will have a whole bucket of that please... 


Along the end of the room were a couple of tables which were specially prepared for photography purposes. Good lighting and no obstructions - Chef Ben really knows the way to a bloggers' heart! 

I had abstained from having lunch beforehand knowing that I would be having an indulgent afternoon, so I was actually quite hungry - it took some willpower for me not to start nibbling on the cake displays... 



And considering that we are less than a month away from Christmas, there stood a stunning Christmas tree at the corner of the room, with our goody bags underneath it.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... 

My brain has had this tune on auto-play since the start of October. 

After our photo-taking session and a good half hour of mingling and socializing, we all returned to our seats before both Melanie and Chef Ben gave their short welcoming speeches.

And then it was time for some actual eating...

We started off with some sandwiches:
Lancaster London's smoked salmon, egg and wild cress and cucumber.
These were accompanied by wild mushroom, chicken and tarragon tartlets, and roast beef filled Yorkshire pudding. 


We then moved on to the deliciously warm scones - plain, raisin and Christmas pudding. 
I have never had Christmas pudding scones, but after having this I must say that I was definitely a fan of it! Can we have this at every afternoon tea, please?
These luscious little scones were served with a choice of Lancaster London's marmalade, homemade strawberry jam, and Cornish clotted cream.

And after staring at those colourful cakes for the longest time, it was finally time to devour them...
The sweet bites selection included:

White chocolate and raspberry lollypops
Passion fruit and raspberry macaroon
Caramel and hazelnut tranche
Apple and honey cupcake
Lemon fruit tart

Being a huge fan of macaroons, the passion fruit and raspberry macaroon was undoubtedly my favourite amongst the rest.

There was also a lucky draw in between whereby the grand prize was a gorgeous gift box of Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé.
No, I didn't win it... but congratulations to Sara who did! :)
At least we all had a lovely afternoon of free-flowing bubbles mmm...

And here's one more look at that stunning Christmas tree where we each grabbed our goody bags before heading our separate ways. 

Thank you to the wonderful Melanie for doing such a brilliant job at organizing the event, and to Chef Ben and all the staff for being such hospitable hosts!

And to all the other bloggers that I met, albeit some very briefly (!), it was lovely to meet all of you.
This was my first #LDNBloggersTea, but it most definitely won't be my last.

The Cheekster, signing out x




Saturday, 1 November 2014

LE CHALET, SELFRIDGES

Having missed out on the previous On The Roof with Q during the summer months, I was curious to check out Le Chalet, particularly after having a glimpse of the desserts on offer.
Yes, it doesn't take much to lure me in, especially when there are sweet treats involved. 

Operated by Des McDonald, the pop-up winter restaurant can be found on the Roof of Selfridges, and offers the best seasonal and locally sourced ingredients with a view of the bustling Oxford Street.

Thanks to Mr F, we managed to nab a table for dinner on a busy Friday evening. Cutting it quite close on timing, and after dodging the hordes of people on Oxford Street, we eventually arrived at the Christmas Express Lift. 

 

We walked down a path lit with pretty fairy lights before entering the cosy candle-lit restaurant which takes inspiration from a traditional ski chalet - decorated with wintry ferns and timber branches.


We were sat at our little table in front of the open kitchen, which thankfully had much better lighting - which is always works for me.
We started off with some champagne, or rather 'I' started off with some champagne...can't let a good glass of bubbly go to waste can I?

 

Followed by a delicious Gingerbread Slipper...


Moving on to the food, we ordered several starters to share between us. The peppered tuna was nicely seared around the edges, with a nice hint of spicy heat from the pepper and wasabi. A really pretty dish that was nice and light to start with. The cured salmon was served with some crisp breads on the side and beetroot and orange which added some zest to it. The Cornish crab dish was also very fresh with a nice hint of spice from the mustard. The fourth starter that we had was the oxtail and winter root broth with herb dumplings - not quite as pretty as the other starters, but it was one of our favourites. Warm, hearty, and perfect for the cold wintery months.


| Peppered tuna, wasabi avocado |

 

| Scotch cured salmon, beetroot and orange |


| Cornish crab, pickled celeriac, Colman's mustard |

 

| Oxtail and winter root broth, herb dumplings |


For mains, we had the venison and pork dish. The slices of venison were quite tender with a nice tinge of pink in the centre. I've never heard of "neeps" before, but later informed by Mr F, with his Scottish heritage knowledge, that it was basically short for turnip, otherwise known as a swede by others...? Maybe I should just refer you to Mr F for further clarification... 
I wasn't a particular fan of the "neeps" and the sauce... probably for the same reason that I don't like cranberry sauce with my Christmas dinner...
But that's just me, and I'm sure this will appeal to other people's tastes and preferences.

The pork was really tender and moist. Although not mentioned on the menu, the meat used is actually pork belly, which some may find quite fatty. I generally like pork belly dishes, so this dish gets a tick from me. Topped with some crunchy crackling and black pudding on the side.
We also ordered a couple of sides to share - broccoli with chilli and garlic, and the cabbage and chorizo.

| Smoked Highland venison, black pepper "neeps" |

 

| Spit roasted pork, chorizo cabbage, apple sauce |





And then it was time for the highlight of the evening - the main purpose of our visit, before we became distracted by the rest of the menu. As usual.

The dessert menu has been specially designed by Siobhan Ambrose, Head Pastry Chef for Des McDonald Restaurants. 
The general rule for me is to always order more desserts than the number of guests at the table, or to be exact, double the amount. I'm glad that Mr F and I were in agreement on this matter.


The first was the steamed chocolate and toffee sponge - served warm, it was nice and moist, contrasted by the cold and creamy scoop of ice cream. The second was the apple streusel tart, which had a light and flaky pastry, and served with a warm jug of creamy custard.
The black forest cheesecake was the prettiest dessert amongst the four that we ordered. Smooth and creamy with a nice oreo biscuit base, topped with sweet and crunchy meringue pieces. Overall a stunning looking dessert.
My favourite dessert was probably the eggnog snow egg. The trick is to first crack the crunchy layer at the top, before cutting into the light and fluffy egg white below. A simple process that dessert lovers would naturally understand, unlike some... (Sorry Wilkes, I couldn't help myself!)
A really great way to end the evening.

| Steamed chocolate and toffee sponge |


| Apple streusel tart with lashings of custard |


| Black forest cheesecake |

  

| Eggnog snow egg |



On the whole, I was rather pleased with the food and experience at Le Chalet, and I would definitely recommend a visit. If you're not quite feeling hungry, they also have a delicious list of drinks and chocolate cocktails (!) that look pretty tempting...
A great place to stopover if you're shopping in the area, or just looking for a warm escape from the wintry chill.

I'm starting to get that festive feeling, and now that Christmas is less than two months away, I feel that it is now the right time for me to start humming Christmas tunes...

The Cheekster, signing out x