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Eating New York

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Eating New York

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I write this sitting on the flight to New York in stasis mode, having metamorphosed into a sedentary lump.  The invisible but insidious radiation, and the already- breathed air must be to blame for my lack of concentration:  I’ve started five films, and finished one – a saccharine, brainless comedy. And in this reduced state, my thoughts revolve around my stomach (more than usual). The looming flight attendant and her trolley are causing spikes in adrenaline –so attuned to the possibility of food delivery am I that I’m reacting pavlovianally to the click of the locker doors as the meals are unloaded. By flying west, I’ve gained time.  More time equals more meals. I had breakfast and lunch at home, but the grey boredom of airports requires food for stimulation. The pre-flight, Prêt snack ritual has been observed.  But that has not deterred me from munching through the 5pm dinner (chicken, and sticky-toffee pudding - and not bad actually. Better, in fact, than the recent attempt at a repast at The Palomar – see my review). 

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In-flight entertainment is clearly not being served by the screen in front of me, but instead by the rotating supply of snacks from the “Wonder Wall”. These fill the flight with purpose: I must try every one of these matte- packaged, faux-healthy snacks.  Initially, I feel pride as I conquer them: a nut-free, oat bar so small that I need to have two just to make sure I document the flavour correctly; a tiny packet of popcorn that is apparently “cheese toasty and caramel flavour” (too weird not to try); some vegan sour sweets (only four in a pack - what a tease, two please); olives; hand cut crisps that promise to be artisanal (I’m sold); two-bite bars of Himalayan salted chocolate that barely register due to their shrunken format.

At 11pm UK time, I’m served afternoon tea (a selection of cakes, a scone, and some mayonnaise-suffused sandwiches). I persevere with these.  There’s no stopping me now.

It’s half an hour until landing, and reality is beginning to set in. I’m surrounded by a shameful nest of wrappers: unequivocal evidence of my greed and boredom.

Pride has turned to nausea.  

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After a day of recovery, I launched myself on to the NYC dining scene. I’m mainly vegetarian, so most restaurants set out below are either fully plant-based, or vegetarian/vegan-friendly. This is by no means an exhaustive list but an account of the places that I enjoyed (with one rather off-putting experience).

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The Fat Radish

Vibe: Vegetable-focused Modern European cuisine in an earthy chic paradise.

Highlights:  Though not vegetarian, the vegan and vegetarian options are numerous and innovative (refreshingly not pasta or risotto). Order several of the sweet pea pot pies which are so good I’ve had to replicate them twice since returning to London. The Macro plate and banoffee pies are also must-eats. Booking is essential.

Lowlights: None. 

Good for: vegans/vegetarians/restricted diets

Where: Lower East Side

http://www.thefatradishnyc.com

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Jajaja Plantas Mexicana

Vibe: Vegan innovative Mexican style cuisine in a vibrant, bustling urban cafe

Highlights: No one at my table could get enough of the nachos with vegan chorizo, fermented black beans, turmeric vegan queso fundito, spicy vegetable relish, and vegan sour cream. The crispy chayote ‘fish’ tacos with chipotle almond butter and pickled red onion are also deliciously different.

Lowlights: no booking, and the tightly packed restaurant mean that you should avoid peak meal hours. Service also slows drastically during these times.

Good for: vegans/restricted diets/casual dining/adventurous eaters

Where: Lower East Side (near China Town)

https://www.jajajamexicana.com/

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Root & Bone

Vibe: rustic-modern take on Southern-American comfort food.

Highlights: The buttermilk biscuits are freshly baked, and so light they melt on your tongue. The side of honey butter just helps them slide down even more sweetly. Crispy topped and golden, with unending tangles of molten cheese, the mac and cheese is amongst the best.

Lowlights: The fried chicken. I may have gone with warped expectations – I had primed myself for strips of chicken breast coasted in thick crispy-crunchy breadcrumbs (especially good at London’s Mother Clucker). However, what arrived was a basketful of dismembered chicken body parts. The rebellious wing bone protruding uncomfortably from the thin batter was enough to put me off. However, this may just be a personal dislike.

Good for: comfort food/family gatherings

Where: East Village

http://www.rootnbone.com/

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Talde

Vibe: Casual Asian-American cross-over cuisine in a dark wooden pub from Top Chef contestant, Dale Talde

Highlights: I’m not a big meat eater, and I never eat chicken wings. However, I make a very rare exception for the Kung Pao wings which are ridiculously sticky and succulent – order many. The Pad Thai puts most to shame with its zingy freshness too.

Lowlights: The bibinkga divided opinion with its eggy coconut texture. I came around to it after the third mouthful.

Good for: inventive cooking/vegetarians/brunch/casual dining

Where: Park Slope, Brooklyn

https://www.taldebrooklyn.com

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By Chloe

Vibe: Airy, female-flocking, vegan café (also in London)

Highlights: The salad portions are generous – my favourite is Spicy Thai which, with its kale base, crispy wontons, apricot-glazed tempeh and spicy peanut dressing, is a mouth workout in a bowl - but every mouthful is worth savouring. The tempeh-lentil chia classic burger and kale-artichoke dip are also major hits.

Lowlights: The London branch is not restful as you have to wait for your name to be shouted out to pick up your food. The NYC branch I visited was great.

Good For: vegans/vegetarians/healthy eating/casual meals

Where: West Village

https://eatbychloe.com

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Van Leeuwen

Vibe: artisanal vegan and dairy ice-cream served from wholesome butter-coloured trucks and stores around NYC

Highlights: the vegan honeycomb is a sludgy grey but don’t let that put you off. Made with cashew coconut and cocoa butter it is ambrosial. The non-vegan peanut butter and marshmallow crunch and Sicilian pistachio are also sublime. 

Lowlights: It’s addictive – I began to think they were stalking me as I managed to go past at least one Van Leeuwen truck or shop every day… and failed to resist each time.

Good for: vegans/vegetarians/innovatively flavoured ice creams

Where: multiple locations

http://www.vanleeuwenicecream.com/

 

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Black Seed Bagels

Vibe: pared down, fresh out of oven, open bakery

Highlights: multi-everything bagel – get there early in the day to get it piping hot from the oven

Lowlights: Addictiveness – I once ate 4 black seed bagels in a row.

Good for: breakfast on the go, vegans, high-carb gluten-full diets

Where: Nolita, Battery Park City, East Village

http://blackseedbagels.com

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Levain Bakery

Vibe: stripped back, no-frills bakery for some straight-to-the-point indulgence

Highlights: Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter chip cookie – thick, crunchy on the outside, fudgy inside loaded with an abundance of peanut butter chips – there is a reason it has been named best cookie in NYC. 

Lowlights: Lines for the bakery can get rather long, so go at a strategic, off-peak time

Good for: over indulgence and sweet-tooth satisfaction

Where: West 74th St, Harlem

https://www.levainbakery.com

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El Luchador (Tacos vs Burritos)

Vibe: Hole-in-the wall, cheap, simple and brilliant Mexican food haunt. London could do with mowing down its innumerable greasy kebab joints and replacing them with this.

Highlights: the pollo asado burrito. Spicy, fresh, busting with flavour and filling 

Lowlights: None

Good for: late night cravings, fresh Mexican food, done well (a rarity in London), vegetarian, vegan

Where: Lower East side

http://elluchador.nyc

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A Tuscan Anti-Christmas

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A Tuscan Anti-Christmas

A Tuscan Anti-Christmas

I know, despite my family's secularity, that, traditionally, people rush to inspect their suspended stockings bursting with treats. I check my socks before I slip them on for the morning walk - the closest Ill get to that is a scorpion, most likely dead around this time of year, but you can never be sure. 

A Tuscan Anti-Christmas

 

Breakfast: a succulent amalgam of a hand-torn chunk of last night's panettone, a dried fig, a boiled egg I hadn't managed to eat the day beforea savoiardi biscuit (or two - they comprise egg, sugar and a touch of flour, but mainly air, so one clearly isn't going to hit the mark), and a palmful of my brother's Krave cereal. This package claims to be a kind of roulette, where you never know whether you'll be hit by the flavour of caramel or hazelnut or milk or white chocolate.  But each nugget of Krave tastes universally like the same sweet chemicalsI wash all this down with a swig of lemon soda.   

A Tuscan Anti-Christmas

 

Apparently, the most shocking thing is that we dont have a tree. Enough wildlife manages to creep its way indoors without our having to rip up part of the countryside and insert it in the living room: two summers ago there was a gorgeous infestation of gem-like bugs that clustered against window panes. The ribbons of evergreen Cyprus trees that twist round the patchwork hillsides is the closest we get, I suppose. 

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It takes a couple of hours after shouting its time to go’ before everyone assembles by the car. In a twist of fate sharply influenced by my mothers taste, we all seem to be wearing navy pea coats this year. The words Christmas’ and jumper’ do not dare fall into the same sentence.  

 

Being in the car doesn't actually guarantee that were going to move. First on the agenda is an argument, the rules for which are 1) it has to be founded on minute pedantry, 2) someone has to get out of the car (or at least threaten to do soin order to flounce and revel in the argument that he/she has set in motion, and 3) shouting levels have to rise above 80 decibels.   

A Tuscan Anti-Christmas

 

Before we can reach our lunch destination we have to endure the downside of being immersed in the majestic, rolling Tuscan countryside.  It is a requirement that each passenger feels on the point of throwing up.  The car twists around hair pin bends, cliff side meanders until finally we reach a little town, and the place where the oldest human settlements of central Italy were discovered, dating back to neo-Paleolithic times, only 80,000 or so years before Jesus was born. 

A Tuscan Anti-Christmas

 

The square around which the town is built is aglow with winter sun, and empty apart from the bench where a squad of oldies tend to gather (but not speak).  Christmas has managed to invade, but in a rather awkward fashion with snowmen made out of plastic cups jarring with the baked yellow ochre of the traditional farmacia and chapel. The combined scent of cheese, blood & boar bristle wafts across the square from the local macelleria 

A Tuscan Anti-Christmas

 

Vincenzo, who bears a semblance to Mario (from Mario Kart), stands in front of his restaurant toward the back of the square. Over his belly plumped with years of his own tagliatelle all'aglione - a mark of his own kitchen excellence - a stained apron is stretched taut. He beams, and booms: Buon Natale. 

A Tuscan Anti-Christmas

 

No menus for us. Instead we let Alessio reel off the daily selection despite the fact it is a very close variation of that of the day before, and the day before that, and that of summer fifteen years ago when we first stumbled upon Da Vincenzo 

Bruschetta al pomodoro - nothing like the weak imitations found in the UK, the tomatoes are plump, and bleed their tangy and garlic infused juices into the unsalted bread. And, of course, all is doused in Octobers verdant olive oil.  By the time we leave, our joints are more than lubricated, and squeak-free. 

The food is simple, and all the better for it. This is a cuisine without pretence, with no picky squiggles of sauces or cream-laden pastes. It is food that needs no justification.  

Pici allaglione - the hand-rolled, worm-like pasta which is a local delicacy, and perhaps what influenced Dahl's The Twits. 

Zucchini alla griglia  simple, yet not to be underestimated - almost peppery in their charred perfection. 

Ribollita - the twice cooked soup, at the heart of which sits a sponge of soup-saturated unsalted bread. 

Filetto di manzo  tender beef, crisp on the exterior and molten in the middle. 

Patate aroste - whose name is a thin disguise for the fact that they are simply media to bear oil, and all the better for it.  

 

No dessert, no Christmas pudding, no pies, no chocolates, no candy canes, no crackers, no turkey, no stuffing. Welcome to the anti-Christmas.

A Tuscan Anti-Christmas

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Berner's Tavern

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Berner's Tavern

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Berner's Tavern  

Over volcanic hills, swinging round vomit-inducing hairpin bends in the gravel tracks, we drove.  Across the timeless, verdant countryside we whipped our car, through countryside which had bubbled up thousands of years ago and stayed the same - until we found the ivy-embraced, craggy little farm which was threatening to crumble into the landscape.  Behind the building, little puffs of white sheep scuttled in the distance.  A bucolic idyll.

Then I opened the car door and stepped out.

The air was noisome, salty, and thickly perfumed with urine, stale sheep’s wool and rain-dampened hay.  Milena waddled out of the house.  She came closest to the embodiment of a Horacian hag I’ve ever witnessed.  She beckoned us over to the farmhouse and to cross the threshold protected from the weather with a muddy flaxen rag. Her rugged face remained humourless.  As we moved closer, the intoxicating stench intensified to migraine-inducing levels.

Berner's Tavern

 

Blinded by the darkness and the stink, it took a while to adjust until.  Eventually we could make out shelves upon shelves supporting waxy rounds in various shades of yellow.  Milena waddled closer to us, now bearing a heaving barrel splashing out sheep’s milk.  It was fresh from that morning – she woke up every day at 6 to milk the ewes.  The curds in the barrel were similar in appearance to something a baby might have regurgitated.  She scooped them up and dolloped them into curved wicker moulds, her hands gnarled, stubby and deeply mottled with purple knotted veins.  In their curved, rib-like shape they had adapted to her craft.  She pressed the curds into white, curdled mulch that wobbled in the moulds. After much squeezing and puffing she tipped the substance out of one of the moulds to produce a quivering and uncertain, nude, white, ricotta peak.  The other, a pecorino-to-be – our future round of pecorino - she set aside to coagulate.

We returned a couple of weeks later to pick up our pecorino, for which Milena extorted a princely sum (and only then did a smile play at her lips).  She instructed us to let it ripen for 4-6 months until it had reached its requisite level of maturity.  And so it rested in our kitchen, weeping oil and dispersing its urinous, hay-like scent: a little, coagulating piece of Tuscany.  It eventually reached vintage state, rock solid, and flavour fortified to the max.  (It was tasted and eaten by me with a sense of obligation rather than pleasure.  It turns out I prefer the pasteurised shop-bought version after all.)

Berner's Tavern

Tenuous as it may seem, when I left Berner’s Tavern a couple of weeks ago, I found my opinions to be rather similar in state to the freshly born pecorino cheese – swirling and raw and mildly uncertain.  So instead of writing about it immediately, I let my thoughts settle and ripen over time until I had something more definite and salacious to carve up to be consumed by the reader.   My experience left me pulled in multiple directions.

Since we could only get a very late booking for the restaurant, my dining companions and I had booked a table in the Punch Room bar beforehand, located, like Berner’s Tavern, within The Edition Hotel.  We called to warn the bar that we would be about 20 minutes late, only to be notified, upon arrival, by an unsmiling blonde that our table had been given away.  This was vaguely reasonable, except that they were incapable of providing a concrete time for when we might get a table.  An hour later we were led into a bizarrely half-empty bar.  The timing would not have been an issue had a similar situation not occurred at dinner - this time, their fault.  Hypocrisy was in full swing: we made sure to arrive on the dot for our booking at the restaurant.   Alas, the table was not ready – so, like many restaurants who wish to exploit their customers by sending them to the bar, Berner’s Tavern followed suit.  We ordered drinks expecting the table wait to be brief. Alas, it was not.  We waited 45 minutes – an appalling amount of time.  There was no compensation.  And no apology.  The unrepentant manageress seemed to think that the honour of bestowing a “booth” table upon us would mollify us.  Funnily enough, it didn’t – in stark contrast with the paradigm set by Le Caprice where truffles were brought to our blissfully unaware table at the collapsing of a soufflé in the kitchen.  At Berner’s Tavern, however, customer care does not appear to exist.  The charm and grandeur of the painting lined, high-ceilinged cavern is simply not enough.

Berner's TavernIn terms of food (when we eventually got round to it), Berner’s Tavern lacks the precision and care of Atherton’s other venture, Little Social (read review here).  My beetroot- smoked salmon was good, but lacked thought: pretty, thinly sliced, delicately smoked salmon with the crunch of macadamia and radish.  However, much needed acidity was overlooked, and the promised lemon purée failed to make an appearance.  One dining companion was satisfied with his prawn cocktail and the other’s Moroccan lamb was warm and delicately spiced.

Berner's Tavern

 

Berner’s Tavern prides itself on its grandeur, celebrity restaurant status, and accomplished chef/restaurateur at its helm.  Thus its pedestalled position makes it open to scrutiny.  Call me a pedant, but pluralising the already pluralised Italian pasta, ‘orecchiette’ to ‘orecchiettes’, is poor.

Berner's Tavern

The dish itself wasn‘t bad and the ingredients created a pleasant umami flavour.  However, it needed something extra to tie it together, and it also arrived inexcusably lukewarm.  My friends were satisfied with their dishes, though – the macaroni and cheese with braised ox-cheek and bone marrow and brioche crumble was a particular success.

Berner's Tavern

 

Unfortunately, the tardiness of the meal and poor customer service meant that dessert was not sampled.  The manager did come over at the end to apologise, dealt us his card, and promised it would not happen again.  He offered us an unwanted drink on the house, but it was too little, too late.

Suitable for: business meetings, celebrations, friends, family, smart dates

Price: ££££

Food: 5.5/10

Ambience: 10/10

Customer Service: 2/10

Loos: 9/10

Berner's Tavern

 

 

Square Meal

Berners Tavern - London Edition Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

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Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

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Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2) After donning chef’s whites for the second time, proudly hooking my tea towel into the tie in what I thought was a professional way, I spent Day Two in the cold section i.e. meat and fish.  Valentina took me under her wing, overseeing my making of duck beignet – duck sausage sliced and dipped in flour, then egg yolk, and then in panko crumbs.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

 

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

This was done again for the golden nuggets of molten goat’s cheese for the beetroot salad.  It was at this point that I realised one of the reasons why everything in Le Caprice kitchens run so smoothly: Tupperware. Tubs upon tubs upon tubs, gallons, half gallons and smaller take out ones all stacked ceiling high. Everything goes into Tupperware, and not in any haphazard order, but only after it has been perfectly portioned.  The beignets were laid out flat, no overlapping, tortellini were five to a container, and duck for the crispy duck salad (my favourite) was carefully weighed out to the last gram.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

After wrapping halved lemons in gauze, I went off to 11 o’clock lunch: fluorescent Thai green curry. I chatted more to some of the chefs and waiters, finding out how long they’d been there, whether they’d always loved food, enjoyed cooking etc.  Some dreamed of opening their own restaurant, their own bakeries.  One chef said he prefers the food at KFC…

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

I met Valentina upstairs preparing for service in the cold section (to my relief, no fires of Hell that day). Mike came over, took a bowl, filled it with a handful of Mooli (white radish), julienned carrot, beansprouts, and finely chopped spring onion, and drizzled it with a sweet chilli dressing and swirled it all around.  Then he took a punnet of perfectly portioned boiled duck breast, sprinkled it with some sort of starch, and dropped it with nonchalant cool into a pool of sizzling oil.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

A couple of minutes later, he dropped the duck portions into a stainless steel bowl to drain.  Crisped to perfection, they rattled around as he drenched them with the stick soy-honey –hoisin sauce.  This was poured onto the salad, scattered with torn pomelo and chilli cashews and topped with the watercress.   “You’ll be making this today, try it first,” he said.  I began to gorge myself: sticky, sweet, crunchy, acidic, salty, spicy.  So good.  Three quarters of the way through, I noticed that he had handed me two sets of cutlery.  Pretending that I hadn’t seen them, I continued feasting.

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Service began. The crispy duck salad was the most popular dish.  Pressure was on.  Receipts rolled in, along with pressure and excitement.  Every now and then Mike would ask: “How many minutes Sophia?”  I whipped up the dish, pestering Valentina with questions to make sure it was perfect, and then I’d transport it over the pass to be inspected by Mike.  “Good work,” he said.  Though it was probably the simplest dish on the menu, I cannot describe the thrill of the satisfaction.

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Service continued until receipts began to peter out, and Valentina and I chatted the whole time.  She’s from Romania.  None of the meat here tastes like home, she told me, where her family keeps, raises and kills their own animals.  We discussed art, her love of drawing, and how she never had the time when she was working in the kitchen.  She adores baking (chocolate and pistachio are her weaknesses), and yet lamented her lack of time for experimenting.   We discussed our favourite blogs and recipes and desserts, and she described a recipe for a delicious lemon pudding that she promised she would let me have (if you’re reading this, Valentina, please send it to me - I’m desperate to try it!). Although she enjoyed working in the kitchen, it seemed that some of her creativity was held back.   The hours are long – five shifts a week, including one double shift.  Hours are from seven until four, and then some evenings, when the shift ends, later than one a.m., depending on last orders.  The adrenaline from service sometimes prevents her from sleeping for at least two hours – something I can completely understand as I was buzzing from only a couple of days in the kitchens.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

I spent the next three days in what can only be described as the Elysian field of the Underworld kitchen: pastry.  Nicky is head pastry chef, and she couldn’t have been lovelier. She told me that I could make anything that I liked from the menu.  This is the kind of thing I fantasize about.  So, I made plum tarte tatin,

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

apple and blackberry tartlets,

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

 

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

rhubarb crumble pies,

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

lime parfait, white chocolate ice cream, mint chocolate chip ice-cream, focaccia, brioche, carta di musica, orange and cinnamon palmiers,

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

pistachio macarons,

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

and the truffles that I lust over in the time between visits to the Caprice.  For the latter, she handed me the recipes and set me free.  I boiled the sugars and cream together for the ganache, and whisked in the passion fruit puree, before pouring it over the chocolate to melt it – luscious and glossy, it would have been a sin not to steal a spoonful, and another.  I piped this into chocolate shells where it set.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

The same was done for the caramel truffles, but these required hand rolling in dark chocolate – a lengthy process, but well worth it.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

The effort of rolling the several hundred truffles was reduced slightly by a simple reduction in the number of caramel truffles i.e. I, together with my partner- in- crime, Blair (see below), gorged myself sick.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

I was then asked to place the Caprice brioche burger buns in plastic bags to freeze them.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

Peta (senior pastry chef at The Ivy) took me over to the seal wrap machine.  “Put the edge of the bag here and press the lid down for a couple of seconds.  Don’t let it suck the air out,” she instructed me.  It seemed simple enough.  She left, entrusting the hundreds of fluffy, burnished, seeded buns to me.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

It worked perfectly the first time, and the second.  I became arrogant, and was distracted by the bustling of chefs behind me.  I turned back to the buns - but they were no longer buns.  Six wrinkled and deflated solid misshapen things stared back at me.  Panic stricken, I hid them behind the back of the machine.  Thinking better of this, I pulled them out, but if I threw them away someone would notice.  I considered telling Peta, but shame prevented me.  So I prised the layers of shrink-wrapped plastic apart in an attempt at bun CPR.  I almost convinced myself that they appeared slightly rejuvenated.  Wracked by embarrassment, I even considered rushing to the office, squeezing past Mike and hiding them in my bag.  In the end, I placed them down the side of the freezer hoping to give the impression that they’d been crushed by something else.  Those buns continue to haunt me.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

I accompanied Nicky upstairs for service.  Pastry service is much calmer than savoury.  The dessert menu at Le Caprice is also decadently extensive, so it was rather like watching a piece of art work being created as Nicky worked her way through the receipts.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

This beauty, a yuzu and cherry mousse with pistachio macarons, was invented by Nicky herself only a couple of weeks before.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

Part of the thrill of being a pastry chef, she said, was the injection of creativity.  Every two weeks, she has to present a new dish to the board of tasters who are apparently very blunt when voicing their opinions.  The dish cannot be similar to anything else on the menu, nor any of the other menus of The Caprice Holdings Group.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

It happened that Judi Dench was in the house that day, and one of her party ordered sugar brioche doughnuts with chocolate sauce and strawberry jam.   I had made the dough, stamped into little rounds and portioned it into Tupperware earlier.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

I poured these out into the oil, and under Nicky’s direction, flipped them continuously.  They puffed up gloriously into golden brown globes.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

I drained them and rolled them in white sugar until they glistened.  Nicky arranged them on a plate and I shouted ‘Service!’

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

Each of the waiters was friendly, each with a strong personality, one more so than the others.  He waltzed into the kitchen, chest puffed, flicking his slicked and coiffed hair, and as he whisked away my dish to transport it to the realm of the diners, he burst into rather monotonous and very loud song “All of me loves all of you, la la laaa la laa la la laaaaaaa”.

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Le Caprice has no dearth of famous diners, but what I found more interesting were the eccentric ones.  “No shortage of those,” Nicky said.  One man apparently had come the week before for the pre-theatre menu.  He pored over the menu studiously and ordered three courses.  He didn’t touch one of the dishes, and made himself a sandwich from the bread basket instead.  There is also a regular whose reasons for coming to the restaurant are somewhat particular: he comes in once a week, sits down at the table, reaches into his bag, and pulls out his own packed lunch.

Friday came almost too quickly.  I spent the morning slicing brownies (and eating the off cuts, obviously),

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

learning how to segment oranges, painting carta di musica,

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

and trying absolutely everything from chocolate delice to caramel popcorn ice cream.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

Nicky had whipped up a batch of popping candy mint ice cream and was handing it out to all the chefs.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

It was also the last day for three of the chefs: Mike was moving on to become head chef of his own restaurant, Lauren, after four years in Le Caprice was moving to its sister restaurant, Daphne’s, and Valentina was taking a break to explore.  Champagne was cracked open, toasts were made.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

The vibe was convivial.  “We’re all like brothers and sisters,” Nicky had said to me, and I saw this for myself.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

Mike kindly invited me to join them for drinks afterwards.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

At 5 o’clock, I untied the bow of the striped blue apron, unpoppered the floppy white shirt, and changed out of the elasticated black trousers.  I ascended the stairs for definitely, hopefully, not the last time – like Persephone, I had had more than my fair share of the pomegranate, and the Underworld had me in its warm, savoury, sweet clutches, or rather tongs.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

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Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

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Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

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On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1) Only a blue tinted portal  - the one way door into the depths of the Underworld - suggests the behind-the-scenes drama of the kitchen, and, if you’re looking at the right time, slivers of stainless steel and the flurry of chefs’ whites.  Once seated, silver bowls of bread materialise quickly.  The waiter is charming, with perhaps a glint in his eye. Food arrives, plates tucked into invisible crevices in his arm.  You’ve ordered the salad to start  - the radicchio is cold and crisp, beetroots bathe in just the right amount of truffle honey dressing, and nestled in the middle is a golden nugget – crunchy on the outside but releasing molten goats’ cheese as soon as it is pierced.

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

 

You might acknowledge this or you might not.  The meal continues.  Mains come and go.  You order dessert.  One of your dining companions goes to the loo.  Dessert arrives immediately after his return.   Fresh mint tea, or an espresso, and the meal’s over, and you leave the buzzing Art Deco-style emporium.  Did you stop to think how many people it took to make that one salad?  How many spats arose over that chorizo?  That the waiter had been closely observing your departure to the lavatory and had announced it to the entire kitchen: “Hold dessert - he’s in the loo!” I didn’t, until a couple of weeks ago.

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

I swanned in at 9am on Monday, through the revolving door.  The chic black and white décor was the same, but that is where the familiarity ended.  No excited chatter, no heads turning from tables to scrutinise who has entered (anyone famous?), and no one to slip my coat off my shoulders and guide me to the seats with which I possess a lifetime of acquaintance.  Instead: tables denuded of their usual crisp white tablecloths, stacked on top of each other, naked legs in the air, and chairs piled up across the room.  I wove my way through the maze of disarray, and with some trepidation approached the blue portal.

The door swung shut behind me.  One way only.  Then I descended into the Underworld.  Mike, the senior sous greeted me with a pile of freshly folded chef’s whites.  No room for glamour here; only baggy elasticated-waist black trousers, a floppy, short-sleeved, double-poppered shirt and a stripy blue apron.  I scraped my hair back and tied it up: number 1 fear was having a customer send food back after semi-choking on a long brunette hair.

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

Mike then gave me a tour of the various stainless steel divisions that comprise the underground empire.  First: “veg”, which featured cauldrons/baby bathing tubs bubbling furiously,

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

as well as vats of overnight-maturing stock.

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

Next: “meat”,

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

which included bricks of pork belly cut at perfect right angles,

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

blocks of already cut frozen meat defrosting, their crimson juices dripping into the sink,

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

 

octopuses splayed casually,

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

and blue-gloved hands peeling back pimpled chicken carcases for delicate dissection.

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

Last: “pastry”, on the ground floor, tucked away to the side and from which billows of homely sweet pastry  and freshly baked bread filled the room.

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

I, however, spent my first day on “sauce”, upstairs, where Lauren was juggling béarnaise sauce for the fish, and caramelised apple for the pork.  Prepping hedgehog mushrooms for the risotto was my job, scraping the mottled brown fuzz from under the mushrooms’ umbrellas. I was standing in front of the stoves from which service takes place: flames flashed through the grill suspended from the ceiling, oil hissed from four vats in the corner, and hot plates were churning the air above into a haze – as close to the fires of Hades as any mortal can get.  After a couple of hours of herb picking and carrot peeling, Lauren mentioned lunch.   “Get there quick,” she said. “The waiters are greedy”.  She never goes, and nor do many other of the chefs.  So chefs are never hungry and waiters are – or so it seemed in the case of Le Caprice.  She spoke the truth: after stumbling down dead ends, I found the staff room where waiters were hunched over plates heaped with minced meat sauce, rice and salad.  Presentation wasn’t quite the same standard as that on the other side of the door.  I had arrived on the scene too late – only a puddle of minced meat was left, and a waiter was scraping the remains of the rice onto his already piled high plate.  He looked down on me pityingly and redistributed a few grains from his plate on to mine.  I wasn’t actually interested in eating rice, but the gesture was there.

After I’d clambered upstairs again, I found Lauren setting up for service. Surfaces were clear and sterilised (almost obsessively), drawers of condiments and herbs were fully stocked and arranged neatly, a bowl of sterilising hand wash was on standby, together with separate boards for fish and meat, sauces in bottles, and plates stacked high under the oven to keep warm.  A sliding fridge contained all the ingredients, perfectly portioned and ready to be cooked.

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

At 12.30 service began.  Mike assumed his position in front of the counter.  There was an energy in the air – no stress, just adrenaline.  Unsurprisingly, January is a quiet month.  Most of the regulars are on holiday, Lauren explained – a quiet lunchtime service equals roughly 60 covers, no small feat in my book.

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

There was no Hell’s Kitchen vibe, none of the head chef shouting which had entertained me in countless episodes of Masterchef. Receipts began to roll in.  James was also on the pass – he’d only been there a few months as part of his course at chef school.  Duck eggs were fried, pork fillets were fried and roasted, cod was cooked on the hot plate, and chicken escalope, prawns, and shoals of Thai baked sea bass were juggled and whisked onto the pass.  The dishes were placed underneath a heater to keep them warm until service was shouted, and the dishes were collected in a particular order so that the last picked up is the first to be delivered to the women at the table.

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

I’d done a mild version of service previously when I did work experience in Villandry’s pastry kitchen – even then, I found slicing cakes for service stressful, so I was rather pleased that my only job was to peel back the palm leaf on the Thai baked sea bass and drizzle it with sweet chilli sauce.  Halfway through service, a third chef was called up to the pass.  Dishes were flying off the counter, and rather disappointingly  (for me) from a drama perspective, everything was in sync: receipt read out, food fired/baked/grilled/roasted, service shouted, garnish scattered, dish scrutinised by Mike, and then whisked off by the waiters into the diners’ realm.  If there were any drips, not enough dressing, or lack of crispness he notified the chefs, but this was a rare occurrence, and the spirit was a jovial one rather than strictly hierarchical.  Every ten minutes or so, as if by clockwork, a man would appear to conquer the ever-mounting pile of dishes.  I had squeezed myself into a corner to take in the action but even then it was difficult not to be in someone’s way.  Every now and then Mike would pass me something to try: sea parsley, a slice of Perigord truffle, an onion bhaji, parsnip and apple soup, hot smoked salmon, celeriac rémoulade, Bouillabaisse sauce… I could almost hear my metabolism weeping. The highlight occurred at around 1.30, mid-frenzy.  James slid a bowl toward me overflowing with the most golden and crisp pommes allumettes.  I stared at him briefly in disbelief and attempted to pace myself while failing utterly to disguise my greediness.

On the other side of the door : inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 1)

Service peaked at around 1.30, and the frenzy began to simmer down.  The third chef on service dropped out, and around 2.30 Lauren began to tidy away.  Enervated and relieved, we descended to the basement kitchen.  I spent the rest of the afternoon crying as the pile of halved onions in front of me grew.  To be continued...

 

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Spring at Somerset House - Restaurant Review

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Spring at Somerset House - Restaurant Review

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Spring Restaurant - Review The architecture of Somerset House is majestic and heavy, with its rather hefty air of hard work and gravity still redolent of the government offices it used to accommodate.  But march through the entrance and turn right and along the frowning edifices, and you will find yourself in Spring – and an atmosphere so utterly opposite it might make you gasp.

Spring Restaurant - Review

Airy, high-ceilinged and painted in pastel shades of green and blue, the dining room really is spring-like in feel.

Spring Restaurant - Review

The various light fittings remind one of frog spawn or aubergines or berries, and the origami petals arranged in gently dispersing circular dandelion drifts on the walls imbue the restaurant with a spirit of lightness.

Spring Restaurant - Review

Spring Restaurant - Review

The attire of the staff has provoked much comment: there seems to be a nautical/operating theatre theme.  I liked the waiters’ striped t-shirts, and while I wasn’t convinced by the tents worn by the women at reception, their colours nevertheless worked together.  However, the woman whom I took to be the maître d’ was, on the other hand, wearing a dark forest green skirt and top combination that did not harmonise with the other staff members’ apparel, and looked both sombre and dowdy.

Spring Restaurant - Review

The menu is not long and there were elements that required explanation.  Our waitress, who bore a striking resemblance to Toulouse Lautrec’s La Goulue – appropriately for someone working in a restaurant with its potential for gluttony – and a haughty self-importance to match, made us feel a bit reticent about asking too many questions.  She defrosted a little as the meal progressed.

Spring Restaurant - Review

Spring Restaurant - Review

I’m not usually one to order fruit juice, but the pistachio and apple was too good a combination to pass up.  It was sublime too – freshly puréed apple with the warmth of roasted pistachios and just a hint of aniseed.  One retro rhubarb-striped glassful is simply not enough.

Spring Restaurant - Review

 

Spring Restaurant - Review

To start, I had a salad of fennel, blood orange, hazelnuts and radicchio.  The plating was refined and elegant as you would expect from an establishment so concerned with its aesthetic.  I have a weakness for blood oranges too, so this went down well, and the combination of flavours was refreshing.  This dish, however, was listed rather deceitfully under mains, and unless you’re on a 5:2 diet, it is only substantial enough to pass as a starter.

Spring Restaurant - Review

I followed the salad with sea bass with Jerusalem artichokes and black olive dressing.  All the pressure points of cooking fish well had been thoroughly met, and with flair: the skin was crisp to the point of shattering, and the flesh melted away with minimal cutlery usage.  Tender and perfectly seasoned and combined with the salty crushed olives and tomatoes and crunchy-skinned Jerusalem artichokes, this dish was worth its significant price.

Spring Restaurant - Review

Spring Restaurant - Review

My dining companion ordered the fillet of beef with farro, cavolo nero and shredded radicchio.  The beef was generously portioned and a fine cut, but it was slightly under seasoned.  The farro with pea purée made up for its rather un-photogenic appearance in flavour.

Spring Restaurant - Review

The salad of grilled lamb, chickpeas, radicchio and chilli jam was good without being outstanding, and the vegetarian onion squash with cime di rapa and chilli butter was also flavourful, albeit on the small side - despite our waitress’s assurance that it was a main course. Surprisingly, vegetarians are not abundantly catered for.

Spring Restaurant - Review

Spring Restaurant - Review

The rhubarb element of the winter rhubarb ice cream with meringue and candied ginger dessert looked uncannily like the floor tiles of the women’s loos.  This lavatorial reminder didn’t manage to put me off – it takes a lot more than that.  The ice cream was tangy and tart and contrasted well texturally with the good, but quite ordinarily so, meringue.  The ginger was a wonderful addition titillating the palate whenever a piece found its way on to the spoon.

Spring Restaurant - Review

I enjoy most types of dessert but I am more inclined towards those with substance, which the hazelnut and pear tart with crème fraiche and espresso went some way towards satisfying.  The pastry was lovely and crumbly and suffused with hazelnuts but slightly on the dry side.  The pears were delicious, too.  However, the almost invisible dots of expresso powder were not enough to substantiate the menu’s claim to its existence.

Spring Restaurant - Review

The dark chocolate honeycomb petit fours were a nice touch at the end to accompany our fresh mint teas and coffees.

Spring Restaurant - Review

I’m always sad when a good meal comes to an end, and Spring was indeed a good meal with some especially outstanding dishes.  The service was ok without being exceptional (by the end of the meal the waitress had half-smiled once) while the interior is ethereally beautiful – almost a reason to go in itself.

Spring Restaurant - Review

Food: 8/10

Ambience: 10/10

Service: 6/10

Loos: 9/10

Price: ££££/££££

Suitable for: smart dates, celebrations, family, business lunches, healthy eating

 

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Top 5 Cakes in London - Princi (5)

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Top 5 Cakes in London - Princi (5)

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Princi - Top 5 Cakes in London Princi is a Milanese boutique artisan bakery and pizzeria on Wardour Street, not far from the buzz and bustle of Leicester Square and Covent Garden.  Open late every day, it is a beacon for those looking for a savoury snack or indeed a cup of coffee and a delicious cake.

Princi - Top 5 Cakes in London

With its carefully lit interior and long black marble counter, its airy minimalist styling is stylish and elegant.

Princi - Top 5 Cakes in London

Made in house, the cakes are modern European and Italian in style: there are brownies,

Princi - Top 5 Cakes in London

cannoli, raspberry chocolate ganache cake,

Princi - Top 5 Cakes in London

and there is tiramisu, and  lime cheesecake layered with fig

 

Princi - Top 5 Cakes in London

and there is panettone (made in-house)…

Princi - Top 5 Cakes in London

The sumptuous display seems to stretch on forever.  Thankfully, the glass counter protects the cakes from the customers’ drool.

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Style of cakes: Modern Italian

Price: ££££

Location: Soho

Suitable for: casual dates, late night dining, afternoon tea, lunch, breakfast, friends, family

 

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Top 5 Cakes in London - Pâtisserie des Rêves (4)

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Top 5 Cakes in London - Pâtisserie des Rêves (4)

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Pâtisserie des Rêves - Top 5 Cakes in London Enter the futuristic pink and glass palace, and you feel as though you have stepped inside a fantasy.

Pâtisserie des Rêves - Top 5 Cakes in London

A boutique pâtisserie, its pastries and gateaux are French classics that have been reinvented with a modern twist.  Each cake is given its own spotlight, and those given pride of place on the central podium are enclosed tantalisingly within glass domes suspended from the ceiling. 

Pâtisserie des Rêves - Top 5 Cakes in London

Each example is so finely constructed, it is almost a crime to eat these works of art.

Pâtisserie des Rêves - Top 5 Cakes in London

Pâtisserie des Rêves - Top 5 Cakes in London

Pâtisserie des Rêves - Top 5 Cakes in London

Pâtisserie des Rêves - Top 5 Cakes in London

Pâtisserie des Rêves - Top 5 Cakes in London

Pâtisserie des Rêves - Top 5 Cakes in London

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Pâtisserie des Rêves - Top 5 Cakes in London

Pâtisserie des Rêves - Top 5 Cakes in London

Pâtisserie des Rêves - Top 5 Cakes in London

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Pâtisserie des Rêves - Top 5 Cakes in London

Pâtisserie des Rêves - Top 5 Cakes in London

Style of cakes: Futuristic French

Price: ££££

Location: Marylebone High Street

Suitable for: afternoon tea, gifts,

N.B. ( very limited outdoor seating only)

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Top 5 Cakes in London - Gail's Artisan Bakery (3)

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Top 5 Cakes in London - Gail's Artisan Bakery (3)

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Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London There are a number of Gail’s bakeries now in London, but this should most definitely not put you off.  The interiors are clean in feel with a robust modern rustic ambience. Unfussy, good quality British baking with a wholesome feel, my spirits lift when I see there is a branch nearby.

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

There are maple brioche buns, cinnamon swirls and muffins,

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

sour cherry and chocolate drop scones and lemon drizzle cake, miniature pistachio chocolate cakes,

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

pecan pies,

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

white chocolate cheesecake,

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

brownies,

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

cookies,

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

and, of course, there is carrot cake.

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

The latter is sublime – I can’t describe the disappointment I feel when the last crumb has been chased into oblivion - and the delight that the apple crumble cake instils has already been documented...

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

Style of cakes: Modern British

Price: ££££

Location: Barnes, Battersea, Belsize Park, Bloomsbury, Chiswick, Crouch End, Dulwich Village, Exmouth Market, Fulham Road, Hampstead, King's Road, Notting Hill, Queen's Park, Seymour Place, Soho, South Kensington, St John's Wood

Suitable for: casual dates, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dessert, takeaway, snacks

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Top 5 Cakes in London: Yauatcha (2)

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Top 5 Cakes in London: Yauatcha (2)

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Yauatcha - Top 5 Cakes in London Not just a dim sum parlour, Yauatcha boasts an extensive array of East-West fusion immaculately crafted pâtisserie.  Each entremet looks too perfect to be real, layer upon layer of contrasting flavours and textures, mysteriously put together as if by otherworldly beings.

Yauatcha - Top 5 Cakes in London

Raspberry delice: raspberry, Manjari chocolate, lychee

Yauatcha - Top 5 Cakes in London

Chocolate toasted rice: milk chocolate, toasted rice, soy, hazelnut

Yauatcha - Top 5 Cakes in London

Matcha tart: matcha, yuzu, hazelnut, genoise

The presentation is wonderful, too: in the shop, there are just few enough for you to feel that they have been individually crafted especially for you.

Yauatcha - Top 5 Cakes in London

Mandarin macadamia: dark chocolate, mandarin, roasted macadamia, Sable Breton

Yauatcha - Top 5 Cakes in London

Fig blackcurrant: fig jelly, cassis curd, panettone, marscarpone cream

Yauatcha - Top 5 Cakes in London

Lychee rose Charlotte: lychee mousse, crème brulle, cranberry compote, biscuit a la culliere

Yauatcha - Top 5 Cakes in London

Apple blackberry entremet: confit apple, blackberry compote, jasmine

Yauatcha - Top 5 Cakes in London

Chocolate luxe gateaux: caramelised milk chocolate, marinated golden raisins, liquorice

Yauatcha - Top 5 Cakes in London

When you’ve chosen your designer edible jewel it is lifted into a beautifully constructed casket which keeps the cake in perfect condition, and is tied up with a crisp, woven ribbon.

Yauatcha - Top 5 Cakes in London

There's also a variety of beautifully ornate macarons and hand-crafted confectionary:

Yauatcha - Top 5 Cakes in London

Yauatcha - Top 5 Cakes in London

Yauatcha - Top 5 Cakes in London

Style of cakes: Asian influenced entremet

Price: ££££

Location: Soho

Suitable for: Smart dates, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea, dessert, takeaway, Champagne & cocktails

Yauatcha - Top 5 Cakes in London

 

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Top 5 Cakes in London: Ottolenghi (1)

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Top 5 Cakes in London: Ottolenghi (1)

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Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London Yotam Ottolenghi has become something of a cult figure.  With his innovative approach both to preparation and display, he has redefined the phrase ‘eat with your eyes’.

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

The windows to his deli restaurants are a visual feast, piled high with indulgent delicacies, the cakes and pastries beckoning one inside: raspberry spattered meringues, as big as your face:

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

Maple-iced apple and vanilla cake;

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

Pecan and vanilla pies:

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

White chocolate raspberry compote cheesecake:

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

Plum soaked almond cake:

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

Ricotta and hazelnut cake:

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

Glazed nectarine and blackberry cake:

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

 

– I could rhapsodise forever.

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Restaurants in London

 

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Restaurants in London

And if you feel that you need to earn the right to indulge, there are delicious Mediterranean-style salads in abundance:

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Restaurants in London

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Restaurants in London

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Restaurants in London

 

(and savoury tarts)

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

Style of cakes: British with a twist

Price: ££££

Location: Islington, Notting Hill, Belgravia

Suitable for: casual dates, brunch, dinner, afternoon tea, dessert, takeaway

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Restaurants in London Square Meal

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Snowflake

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Snowflake

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Snowflake Luxury Gelato, London - Review From paneer to pad thai to hummus to tapas to cannoli to burgers  to burritos to sushi  to pizza to goujons to hot dogs to steak frites, to apple pie… If streets had BMIs, Wardour St would be severely in the red zone, but in a good way.  What more could possibly be thrown into Wardour Street’s near boiling-over pot of restaurants?  Something to cool it down, as it happens:  and that is Snowflake Gelato, the ice cream boutique at number 102.

Snowflake Luxury Gelato, London - Review

I had cast an admiring glance over the chic, clean-lined interior of Snowflake last Saturday night.  I’m not one to follow the crowd mindlessly, but a queue was pouring out of the shop despite the fact that it was freezing outside, and I etched it on to my never-ending mental list of places to try.  So when Asad, the owner of Snowflake, kindly invited me to sample the extensive selection (52 flavours) of gelati that he, and his Neapolitan chef, had dreamt up, I leapt at the chance.

Snowflake Luxury Gelato, London - Review

Obviously,  deploying the ‘moderation in moderation’ mantra, the sampling turned into a full-on degustation.  My favourite restaurant in Italy makes its own delicious gelato daily using only local ingredients, so when it comes to ice cream, standards have been set.  Luckily, Snowflake did not disappoint.

Snowflake Luxury Gelato, London - Review

Snowflake Luxury Gelato, London - Review

Snowflake Luxury Gelato, London - Review

With its Italian chef, waiters , and ingredients, it has succeeded in importing some of the essential aspects of Italy to Wardour Street, apart from the sun.

Snowflake Luxury Gelato, London - Review

Of the many flavours that I sampled, the raspberry sorbet,  the coconut ice cream, the honeycomb ice cream, and the hazelnut were the stand outs – all so smooth that I plan to camp out there in a couple of weeks post- wisdom tooth removal…

Snowflake Luxury Gelato, London - Review

 

Food: 9/10

Price: ££££

Ambience: 8/10

Service: 10/10

Loos: N/A

Suitable for: casual dates, friends, night out, late night dining

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