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My January blues banishing London adventure…

However much I love Cambridge, there’s still a part of me that, a year on, yearns to be back living in London. The air of spontaneity and sheer amount of new and exciting places to visit never ceases to lure me in! Having found a food loving, Cambridge-based partner in crime in Miss Igs, we hatched a plan to banish the January blues by going for a day trip, visiting as many of the new places we’d been lusting over as possible. We soon realised we would need to limit ourselves and I set about making us an itinerary, which looked like this and would take us to Duck & Waffle, E5 Bakehouse, Violet Cakes, Salvation Jane and finally the mecca of the dirty burger…Meat Mission.

Once we’d agreed our route we set about trying to secure a reservation for lunch at Duck & Waffle…we were nervous wrecks waiting for the confirmation to come through, checking our phones constantly (not a rare occurrence anyway ;)), but finally it came and one sleepless night later we hopped on the train to the big smoke and headed straight to Heron Tower near Liverpool Street Station and up the frighteningly speedy lift to the 40th floor!…

I was (literally) in heaven!

We’d seen some chatter on twitter about some not so friendly door staff and a strict dress code and I am very happy to report that we didn’t experience any problems with either and couldn’t have been greeted or treated any better!

We’d been drooling over the menu on their website already so pretty much knew what we wanted to try…

Duck & Waffle menu

Duck & Waffle menu

We felt it only right to celebrate the day by starting with a Winter Negroni…Bombay Sapphire Dry, Martini Rosso, Compari and Anitca Formula, raisin, date and roasted chestnut – rested, bottled and capped…

It was divine and packed a real punch 🙂

We decided to order a few dishes and share them, starting with the foie gras ‘all day breakfast’…

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A slice of toasted brioche, spread with nutella and topped with foie gras, deep fried black pudding balls, gorgeously thin bacon and a quails egg. It may sound a bit random but I am here to tell you that it was AMAZING, who would’ve thought that all those flavours would work so well together, but they did!

Next up we were presented with a paper bag, sealed with the Duck & Waffle crest…

which held our bbq-spiced crispy pigs ears…

and then the dish that we’d both been really intrigued by, and who wouldn’t be…the spicy ox cheek doughnut with apricot jam…

A gorgeously spicy ox cheek concoction surrounded by melt in the mouth, fluffy doughnut and covered in smoked paprika and sugar. My only slight criticism of this dish was that the smoked paprika was so strong that it overpowered the more delicately spiced ox cheek. But nothing was going to stop me devouring my half!

We couldn’t go to Duck & Waffle and not try their signature dish, the Duck & Waffle…

Waffle topped with crispy confit duck leg, fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup…

The duck was so tender and everything worked so well together…the guys at Duck & Waffle really know their stuff!

I was totally bowled over by D&W, it was even better than I had expected, amazing food, friendly service and the most awesome view!

Just check out the private dining room…

Duck & Waffle private dining room.

I would recommend it to anyone and probably will bore everyone senseless by doing so for the next while!

We eventually dragged ourselves away to continue on with our day’s itinerary, next stop E5 Bakehouse situated in an archway close to London Fields Station, where they bake artisan breads on site as well as delicious looking cakes and coffee…

Much to our amusement we found ourselves in the middle of a photoshoot for a Scandinavian start up company and stayed a lot longer than anticipated thanks to our photogenic hands (luckily they were more interested in our hands and our addiction to our phones than our faces!). We finally managed to leave after signing a release form and being promised cloud based fame, not forgetting to pick up a loaf of Hackney Wild, a delicious pain de campagne style loaf, on the way out.

Our next stop was Violet Cakes, who tempt me daily on Twitter with their cake porn…

It was great to see where the magic happens and although it was very sweet, the atmosphere was slightly lacking during our visit :(. We sampled a very yummy (if slightly overpriced at £2.80) cinnamon bun…

Our penultimate stop was Salvation Jane, sister cafe of Lantana (which I love and blogged back in 201o here). Our visit turned out to be at a bit of a strange time of day, when lunch had finished and dinner was yet to begin, and we had the place practically to ourselves…

We were happy enough to sit back and relax and peruse the menus for next time! I was also very happy to discover that there sold Little Creatures, a pale ale brewed in Freemantle, Australia, where I spent a very memorable birthday a few years ago…

It was probably a good thing that we didn’t get to eat at Salvation Jane as we needed to save as much room as possible for our burger eatathon at Meat Mission

Meat Mission is the newest member of the Meat Wagon, Meat Liquor and Meat Market family. I don’t know how I’ve managed not to visit any of the above, that is, until now!

We arrived for an early dinner at 6pm and got to choose out seat. We wanted to make sure we didn’t miss out on the BEST thing on the menu so asked our lovely waitress for her advice…she told us that the Dead Hippie burger was the must-try burger and highly recommended the monkey fingers ‘battered fillets of marinated chicken slathered in house-made chili sauce with blue cheese dip’. We finished off our order with a 2 pint flagon of Brooklyn Lager, which was so big it took a joint effort to pour 🙂 and some deep fried pickles (or gherkins to me).

The Monkey fingers were ridiculously tender and had a good after burn on them, which worked really well with the blue cheese dip. The mysterious dead hippie sauce was a nice addition to the burger, a kind of tangy mayo. Although it was definitely a good burger, I think I’d put the idea of it on such a pedestal in my mind that it would have been bloomin hard for it to measure up!

Full to the brim and overflowing with inspiration we got on the train back home to the Bridge. Hopefully the first of many ‘research trips’…we’re already planning the itinerary for the next so watch this space!

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The 3 Horseshoes, Madingley…

As a family who love food, we use every birthday as an excuse to get together and go out for a nice meal together. I’m lucky enough to usually be the decision maker and having heard great things about The Three Horsehoes in Madingley, Cambridge, I was excited to pay them a visit on a lovely Summer’s evening…

We were seated in a lovely light conservatory at the back of the restaurant and presented with this stunning menu…

and here’s some photographic evidence of just how stunning it was. Starting with the cured and cold smoked tuna with truffle-bonito jelly, crumbs, miso, mustard seeds, gherkins & seaweed…

Mackerel roll, elderflower jelly, gooseberry compote, sea herbs and English mustard…

I had real difficulties choosing my main course but finally whittled it down to the chargrilled monkfish, soba noodles, spinach-nori roll, soy, salmon eggs and samphire…

a piece of artwork in itself, very tasty artwork mind you!

My brother had the roast pork belly, apples, onions ‘4 ways’, black pudding and ‘patatas bravas’…

and my Dad chose the roast canon of lamb, fried lamb belly, stuffed vegetables, crunchy provencale crumb, sheep’s cheese, olive, anchovy & red wine sauce…

I was particularly chuffed to see that they also had Little Creatures Pale Ale on the menu…

The portion sizes were very substantial but there’s ALWAYS room for dessert…

and we just couldn’t resist the Momofuku’s crack pie *snigger*, a rich, super sweet condensed milk creation with passion fruit curd & mascarpone…

We practically rolled out of the door, into our awesome ride…

Delicious and extremely interesting food, faultless service and a lovely setting…it’s not a cheap night out but if you fancy a treat then I highly recommend that you get yourself down to the Three Horsehoes tout suite!

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The hole in the wall…cooking doesn’t get better than this!


I grew up in a very sleepy village halfway between Cambridge and Newmarket where the highlight of the year was observing the annual stampede of visitors to Anglesey Abbey during it’s annual snowdrop season! So I was delighted when I heard via Twitter (yes I am an addict) that Alex Rushmer of Masterchef 2010 fame had chosen another, equally sleepy village just 5 minutes away, to open his first restaurant! He has breathed new life into a little old village inn right next door to my friend’s parent’s house called The Hole in the Wall, whilst still retaining many of its traditional features…

As soon as I found out about the location of the restaurant I called my parents who were only too happy to accompany me. They’re great fans of Alex, and had watched avidly as he battled it through to the Masterchef final. Coincidentally, I also found out that the last time they visited The Hole in the Wall was 27 years ago on the very first day that they moved to the area!

We were greeted warmly and looked after by our lovely waiter, who we later found out had only started work there that day!

The menu was short but so packed full of amazing sounding dishes that I even had trouble deciding between the 5 starters and 5 mains…

After much prevarication both me and my Dad chose the pork belly with caramelised shallot and cider sauce…

and my Mum had the ham-hock terrine with piccalilli and pork scratchings…

Both were delicious and left our mouths watering for the next course.

We finally decided to have the halibut fillet with smoked haddock and mussel chowder with spinach…

The chowder was packed full of flavour and just begged to be mopped up with some fresh bread, which was happily provided as soon as requested.

The summer lamb served with flageolet bean and sundried tomato cassoulet and artichokes was tender, pink in the middle and cooked to perfection…

And my chicken and chanterelle risotto with thyme, Suffolk alpine cheese and mushrooms was one of the lightest, tastiest risotto’s I’ve ever had…risotto just doesn’t get better than this! (I apologise…but I had to get my Masterchef quip in somewhere). The chanterelles had a great bite to them and the chicken melted in the mouth…the perfect combination…

My parents had heard on the village grapevine that the ‘portions were small and it was a bit expensive’ but I’d have to disagree on both counts. Firstly, we were pleasantly stuffed and secondly we definitely felt that we’d received value for money. The starters were between £6 and £8, mains £13-£17 and the desserts were £6-£8, which was probably a little on the pricy side. However we were very well looked after and had a lovely evening…it wasn’t just your standard village pub meal!

Anyway…one thing I’ve been brought up to believe is that…there’s ALWAYS room for dessert! So, after quite a lot of menu perusal and some waiter interrogation to make sure we were making the right choices (my family take our desserts very seriously), we opted for the chocolate and blackcurrant delice, which was a thick layer of chocolate torte and a layer of light, creamy blackcurrant mousse, topped with a tangy blackcurrant jelly…

And the greengage clafoutis for two. Our lovely waiter had warned us that the clafoutis, although described as ‘for two’ could easily be wolfed down by one. We didn’t want to appear greedy so we shared one but I wholeheartedly agree with him and could have definitely polished one off myself because it was so delicious! It was basically a very light, sweet Yorkshire pudding with this seasons juiciest greengages nestled into it, served to the table in it’s pan and topped with creamy vanilla ice cream mmm…

At this point we were fit to burst but always a sucker for some sweeties we were chuffed to be presented with a plate of petit fours…

Tangy fruit jelly squares…a posh version of Terry’s York Fruits, soft nougat that was chock full of nuts and some liquid caramel filled truffles. We did consider hiding our plate and pretending we’d been forgotten so that we could snaffle another helping but we chickened out and instead indulged in some petit four adulation with one of the waitresses. 

By the time we left it was dark outside and we were pleasantly full of delicious food. We even got a glimpse of the man himself working away in the kitchen. Alex should be very proud…The Hole in the Wall is a great little place with a compact, seasonal menu made up of the freshest, tastiest dishes, cooked to perfection (obviously! It’s no mean feat getting through to the final of Masterchef so I wouldn’t expect any less! J). We feel very lucky to have such a treat just down the road and can’t wait to return for our next instalment!

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Da Polpo…the newest kid on the block.

If you’re a twitter obsessed foodie or even a foodie obsessed twitterer and you live anywhere near London you can’t have missed the Russell Norman shaped whirlwind that has hit soho in the last couple of years. His restaurant dynasty has grown from Polpo, opened in 2009, to include Polpetto (2010) and Spuntino, which opened earlier this year to rave reviews! And only last week the newest kid, Da Polpo, arrived on the block! As addicted to twitter as I am, I was unbelievably excited to be in the right place (on twitter) at the right time, when @polposoho announced that Da Polpo was opening earlier than expected and 50% off bookings were being taken for bank holiday Monday! I dropped everything and dialled the reservation line continously until I got through…I’m a stubourn bugger and once I’d got the idea in my head I was not going to give up without a fight!

I eventually got through and secured a table for 2 for 3pm on Bank Holiday Monday, late enough to have recovered fully from any kind of hangover a bank holiday Sunday may have produced 🙂 I wasn’t even entirely sure who I was going to take at this stage but hey, worst case scenario, I’m sure I could always eat enough for two!

Da Polpo’s exterior was pretty unassuming and I nearly walked straight past but once through the doors the recognisable Polpo quirkiness and ever-friendly service was very apparent. We were actually greeted by Russell himself and given the guided tour of both floors before deciding to settle upstairs.

I think between us, me and my chosen foodie, Owen, are probably the most indecisive people ever…the main problem being that we love food…all of it! We asked our waiter for some assistance and then went with everything he recommended…not too much pressure on the poor man on his first day 😉

First up we had arancini…

which are basically risotto balls coated in crispy breadcrumbs. These ones had the most amazing gooey centre…

Next up, one of their trademark dishes…pizzette. We opted for the white anchovy, olive and basil…

I loved it but Owen thought the strength of the anchovy overpowered the other ingredients a bit too much…saying that, he still managed to wolf it down 😉

The Da Polpo menu is a bit more relaxed in style than it’s older brothers Polpo and Polpetto and includes a special meatball section. Again we asked for our waiters preference and hung on his every word, ordering these spicy pork and fennel beauties…

accompanied by a heritage tomato salad. The following photograph may look like a mere bowl of tomatoes…but man! even their tomatoes were a taste sensation!…

However the piece de resistance for me was the chilli and garlic prawns…

We savoured every last morsel, asking for extra bread to mop up the delicious garlic, chilli oiliness left behind so as not to waste a single drop! I have a feeling we could have killed a vampire at 50 feet afterwards but they were most definitely worth the risk…nothing a packet of chewing gum couldn’t fix!

Finally we chose an affogato al caffe each…a shot of espresso poured over a single scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream…

The perfect end to an amazing meal! The 50% off was of course an added bonus, however we both loved the meal and agreed that we would have happily paid full price for such delicious food and friendly and accomodating service. I for one will be returning very very soon!

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The Hip Hop Off at Mason & Taylor…

Thanks to Qype, I was lucky enough to get a sneaky preview of Mason & Taylor’s first ever ‘single hop real ale & craft beer festival…The Hip Hop Off! I’d heard a lot about M&T, which opened in December and was especially intrigued by their beer tasting flights, which are served in gorgeous 1/3 pint glasses in trays of either 3 or 6.

It was a day of new beginnings for me as I took my first ever trip on the (not so) new East London Line to Shoreditch High Street…merely a hop (apologies for the pun), skip and a jump from Mason & Taylor!

The sun was shining and upstairs was buzzing with an after work, long weekend, celebratory atmosphere, so I was a bit disappointed to be led into a fairly dark, empty basement…little did I know that this is where the Hip Hop Off magic was all set to happen…10 ales were rigged up on a specially constructed water-cooled gravity racking system in preparation for the festival the next day.

Now, I’m not what you would call a serious beer drinker, I don’t know if I should shout about it but I’m more of a lager fan myself. However, just listening to M&T’s beer aficionado, Steve Taylor, wax lyrical about it made me feel that I was well on my way to becoming a convert…what that guy doesn’t know about beer just isn’t worth knowing! His enthusiasm is completely infectious and I felt like we were in very capable hands, as he talked us through the 6 beers we were sampling…

Amongst others we tried Kernel’s IPA Citra, Thornbridge’s Kipling and Brodie’s Pink Pride, which contained fresh raspberries, adding a very fruity dimension without any stereotypical ‘fruit beer’ sickliness!

we also got to sample some of the food that they’d be serving during the festival, which had all been prepared using hops in some way or another…

My photography is shocking but I can verify that the duck breast, which had been smoked using citra hops was absolutely delicious!…

as was the venison that had been cured in hops and served with a chocolate and barley sauce…(meat and chocolate…how can you go wrong?)

Although the Hip Hip Off was a special event for the Easter weekend, M&T’s beer selection on a normal day is pretty darn impressive… ‘12 draught beers and ales on tap at any one time and a seasonal list of 40 bottled beers which changes every 2 months’. They source all of their beers through independent breweries including a couple of my faves…Kernel and Camden Town. They also serve up a tempting menu of small plates of food…ideal for sharing and soaking up some of the stronger  beers! :).

I feel it’s my duty as a newly converted beer drinker to sample more of Mason & Taylor’s wares very soon…let’s call it homework!

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The Riding House Cafe…and a tenuous link to Belinda Carlisle

I love observing the building hype of a new restaurant opening. I’m a big fan of The Garrison and Village East so was very excited to hear that they were growing their dynasty and opening a brand new venture…The Riding House Cafe. I’ve been following their regular blogs and tweets closely, saw the arrival of their new signage and seating and have heard all about the trials and tribulations experienced before the launch. The minute I heard that they were taking bookings I jumped into action, not only because my curiosity had been piqued but as an added bonus…they were offering 50% off all food until May.

The day of my booking arrived and I was really looking forward to the experience as all reviews I’d read so far had been positive. Now, I’m one of those rarities…a non-iphone/smartphone owner, which doesn’t usually impact negatively on my life, apart from when I’m lost and the rudimentary map I’ve scribbled on a post it note just isn’t up to scratch! This is the sitaution I found myself in on my way to the RHC, my sense of direction is shocking and for some reason I was sure Great Titchfield Street was closer to Tottenham Court Road than Oxford Circus…duh!

When I finally arrived I was instantly impressed…the place is huge and the decor emits the cool, quirky, stylishness that the other 2 restaurants do so well! We were sat at a corner table with bright red comfy banquet seating. The staff were very attentive and what they lacked in knowledge (i.e where the toilets were) they made up for in enthusiasm.

Everything on the menu sounded amazing, which posed the problem of what to choose. In the end we settled for a carafe of red wine and some bread with deliciously fruity olive oil and artichoke puree to aid with the decicion making process.

We had a couple of small plates to start with…slow roasted pork belly with cumin salt…

Which was so succulent with crackling to die for…perfect for a total salt fiend like me!

We also had tasty chermoula spiced poussin with jalapeno and lemon on a tabbouleh style salad…

I’d had my eye on the steak but was informed that the 8oz sirloin was off the menu and all they had was a 10oz ribeye. Usually this wouldn’t faze me but for some reason I just didn’t think I would do such a large steak justice so I opted for the cheeseburger with smoked cheddar, gherkin and chips…

The chips had the skin on and were cooked to perfection as was my burger. Even though it was delicious it beat me, which is nearly unheard of!

My friend Kim had simple but tasty fish and chips with pea puree and tartare sauce…

We were so unbelievably full but had seen an amazing dessert pass us by earlier on the way to another customer and just couldn’t resist looking at the dessert menu…our powers of deduction brought us to the conclusion that the dessert in question was a hot fudge sundae with macaroons and honeycomb pieces…

The fullness we’d felt moments earlier disappeared as we tucked into the layers of creamy, smooth ice cream, hot, rich chocolate sauce, chewy but crunchy macaroons all topped off with nuggets of honeycomb. I think a quote from Belinda Carlisle would sum it up for me perfectly ‘Ooh heaven is a place on earth’! Heaven, right then and there, was a hot choc fudge sundae in The Riding House Cafe!

I highly recommend you visit…just make sure you’re hungry and leave your diet at the door! I’m going to have to visit again to work my way through all the items on the menu that I didn’t get a chance to try first time round…it’s a tough job but hey, someone’s got to do it!

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De-ja-moo

It’s risky business revisiting a restaurant when your first trip was this epic! But ever since tasting the delights of Hawksmoor during their soft opening week in October, I’ve been longing to return. This time we thought we’d mix it up and go for burgers in the bar.

I’m not going to blab on as I think the pictures speak for themselves. So…sit back, relax and prepare yourselves for some good old fashioned food porn. Behold the mighty meatfest that is the ‘Piggyback Burger’…a Hawksmoor classic topped with BBQ style pulled Tamworth Pork…

Hawksmoor have decided to mix things up a bit and have introduced ‘The Third Burger’, a monthly rotating burger that remains a secret until it’s launch. The Piggyback Burger is only available until the 16 February, so I highly recommend getting you ass down there asap! or follow @HawksmoorLondon to find out what delights will be gracing the burger menu next!

It may be a meat-centric establishment but, trust me, their pudding menu should not been neglected…

I made sure I had space left for the most delicious peanut butter shortbread with salted caramel ice cream…

The cocktail menu is vast and lip lickingly tempting, which makes decision making a tough one. But my personal recommendations are the zingy, punchy and super refreshing ‘Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew’ and the potent, eye opening, must for coffee lovers…’Square Mile Martini’…

The perfect end to another perfect evening…

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