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Reviews of London's Restaurants, Supper Clubs and Hotels, Wine Tastings, Travel Writing, and Home to the Japanese and French Supper Clubs in Islington

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Thursday, 22 October 2009

Grilled Quails with Rose Petals and Bitter Chocolate

Grilled Quails with Rose Petals and Bitter Chocolate

I love this dish and have served it numerous times at home. It works well as a starter for a Middle Eastern dinner or as part of a meze or tapas. Most of the work can be done a day in advance, and last minute preparation should not take more than a few minutes. It looks stunning, and your friends will be highly impressed. The heady scent of roses marries beautifully with the sweetness of the quail meat, cinnamon and bitter chocolate. A real winner! 

Ingredients - (Serves 4)
  • 4 quails
  • Pistachio nuts, very roughly chopped (Optional – to decorate)
  • Shavings of bitter chocolate (Optional – to decorate)
  • Fresh rose petals, preferably red (Optional – to decorate) 
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon bitter chocolate powder 
  • 3 tablespoon rosewater
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Sea salt and black pepper (to taste)
        Rose Petal Sauce
  • 6 tablespoon rose petal jam (from Turkish Grocers or substituted by 125gr apricot Jam diluted with 3 tbsp rose water)
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Generous squeeze of lemon
  • Sea salt and black pepper

  •        Prepare the marinade - mix all the ingredients for the marinade together and rub all over the quails. Place in a dish and marinade for at least two hours or preferably overnight in the fridge.

  •        Make the sauce – mix the rose petal jam or substitute, garlic and cinnamon together in a bowl. Add the olive oil and lemon juice and taste for seasoning. This can be done a day in advance.

  •        Grilling the quails – before serving, place the quails under a very hot grill, breast side down, for 7 minutes. Turn them over and grill, breast side up, for a further 6 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink but is still juicy.

  •        Serving – place a quail on a plate, spoon the rose petal sauce over and around the quail, scatter some roughly chopped pistachios, bitter chocolate shavings, and fresh rose petals over the top. Grind some black pepper over the plate and serve immediately.

London’s Best Independent Cafés – Dose Café

Dose Café

I was recently invited with other Qypers and fellow food bloggers to visit this delightful independent Coffee House on Long Lane, EC1. Dose is a small café, simply but stylishly decorated, and set in a great central location by Smithfields Market.

Run by owner James, his passion and enthusiasm for real coffee are contagious. We were given the low-down on how the perfect cup of coffee should be sourced, roasted, prepared, and drunk.

Dose’s coffee is fairtrade and biodynamic (a concept I had only previously known in wine production) and sourced from Square Mile Roasters; their milk is organically farmed and most packaging used is recycled or biodegradable.

The food on offer was tempting, and their blueberry muffin, which I personally tried, was quite good. Dose’s prices are also reasonable considering the affluent and trendy location.


We had cup after cup of wonderful cappuccini as James patiently taught us how to draw patterns from the hot milk froth. I had always wondered how baristas could do that.


A competition for the best heart shape was organised; it was a fun evening despite my best attempts at a heart looking more like an ill-formed kidney! Meeting some of the faces behind my favourite blogs was an added bonus, like Neil Davey from The Lambshank Redemption.



Most importantly, the experience has made me rethink my ideas about what makes a perfect cup of coffee – the quality and origin of the beans, the water which should not boil, the quality of the organic milk to name just a few of the concepts not fully appreciated at many coffee chains.

A big “Thank You” goes to Eammon, from the Qype team, for organising this wonderful event, and another to James for his generosity on the evening and for serving possibly the BEST cup of coffee in the Capital.


Dose Espresso on Urbanspoon

Monday, 19 October 2009

London Restaurant Reviews - Terroirs

Terroirs (Updated on 21st March 2011)

A recent visit to Le Manoir de Raynaudes, in the South West of France, has re-ignited my love for French cuisine and all things French. I have since then signed up to French language classes and am devouring Julia Child’s memoirs “My Life in France”. The best part of this “francophonisation” process was finding Terroirs, a French bar and restaurant opened in Central London about a year ago.

Having been to Terroirs before, I normally try and sit at their zinc bar to watch the chefs in action and for a more relaxed dinner. The menu is short but offers an excellent spread of fish, shellfish, duck, cheese and charcuterie. This is a place to come with friends and share various dishes over a few bottles of excellent French wine.

On my last visit, I ordered a small selection of dishes together with one of my favourite bottles of wine, a 2007 bottle of Marcillac @ £18.85 (Dne du Cros, Philippe Teulier, Marcillac). Terroirs’ wine list is most impressive - it contains about 200 wines of which 20 wines can also be served by the glass. You will be assured to find a bottle to suit every budget and taste.

The menu is divided into 5 categories – Bar Snacks (Duck Scratchings @ £2.50 are fatty but very moreish, Bread & Butter @ £1.50, a “must”), Small Plates (for sharing like Steak Tartare @ £7 or a Whole Dorset Crab and Mayo @ £12), Cheese (Rocamadour @ £3.50 is divine), Charcuterie (Duck Rillettes @ £6 is one of my favourites), Plats du Jour (more substantial dishes like Brandade de Morue @ £12 or Slow Roasted Belly of Pork @ £13) and Desserts @ £5. My suggestion would be to order bread and butter, which are heavy and chewy, accompanied by a selection from any of these categories.

One of the dishes I order at every visit, is the “Snail, Bacon, Garlic and Parsley” @ £7. This is served on a slice of toasted bread with a delicious Pistou dressing (just like Pesto but without pine nuts or cheese and more garlicky). The combination of flavours is sensational, I just wished there were more on my plate!

Another favourite, “Duck Rillettes” @ £6, is rustic French cuisine at its best, and better avoided when on any diet. Originally made with pork, the meat is cubed or chopped, salted heavily and cooked slowly in fat until it is tender enough to be easily shredded. It is then cooled with enough of the fat to form a paste. They are normally used as spread on bread and served at room temperature.

“Potted Brown Shrimps” @ £7, also served on toasted bread, was very good. Seasoned heavily with nutmeg and paprika as potted shellfish should be, the flavours partnered well with the Morecambe Bay shrimps. 

The “Pan Fried Girolles Mushrooms with a Duck Egg” at £7 was also delicious. The mushrooms were meaty and full of flavour, and the runny duck egg was an interesting addition. 

Other dishes that I had tried in previous visits which I would also recommend are the Steak Tartare @ £7 (well seasoned and fresh), Pork and Pistachio Terrine @ £6 (quite rustic and a substantial portion), Selection of Charcuterie @ £10 (nice cuts but not good value), any of the cheeses @ £3.50 (they are all superb), and Duck Scratchings @ £2.50 (fatty but very good).

I have been impressed by Terroirs in all my visits. At £53.27 for two including an excellent bottle of wine, this is one of my favourite restaurants in London at the moment, and I simply cannot recommend it enough.

Verdict – Rustic, hearty and delicious French cuisine to share, and coupled with the best wine list in town.  Great Service and reasonable prices make Terroirs one of the hottest tables in the Capital.

Terroirs on Urbanspoon

...What Others Are Saying...

Marie Watson-Santarelli on 21st March 2011I already know which restaurant off your blog we really liked, (and it is still our current fave), it's Terroirs. The food is fab, the atmosphere relaxed (downstairs) and the staff are really nice. They did a doggy bag with the rest of our poulet landais for us the last time because we said we were sorry we couldn't finish it. The liver pate which comes with it is one of the richest I've ever tasted. We even had our Corsican wine brought by the Corsican waiter, nice touch!

Monday, 12 October 2009

London Restaurant Reviews - Bocca di Lupo

Bocca di Lupo

Intrigued by all the hype surrounding Bocca di Lupo, I called up my dear Italian friend and foodie extraordinaire Tea (short for Teodora) for a meal at this very trendy establishment. Despite booking well in advance, we managed to get squeezed in for a 6pm sitting last Friday, and were reminded on arrival that our bit of counter should be vacated by 8pm, and no later.

Bocca di Lupo is simply and informally decorated, tucked in on Archer Street, W1, one of the seediest streets in Soho. It was a runner-up in the Best New Italian Restaurants category of Time Out’s 2010 Eating & Drinking Guide and had received rave reviews by fellow food bloggers World Foodie Guide and Londonelicious to name a few.

The menu is not overly long or complicated, and clearly describes the Italian regions from which each of the dishes originate. I also enjoyed the possibility of ordering various dishes to share as opposed to having my own main course.

We started the evening with “Buffalo Mozzarella Bocconcini” @ £2.50 each. As expected, these were very delicious and creamy.

This was followed by “Crescentini (fried bread) with Finocchiona, Speck & Squacquerone Cheese” @ £5.50 (small). This was ok, although neither of us could taste the fennel in the fried bread, and felt that the accompanying portions of speck and cheese were rather meagre.

The “Shaved Radish, Celeriac and Pecorino Salad with Pomegranates and Truffle Oil” £5.50 (small) was one of the highlights of the evening. The flavours and textures were diverse but came together nicely in the heavily scented truffle oil. I really enjoyed this dish and would certainly order it again.

We ordered two of their pasta dishes, “Tortellini with Cream and Nutmeg” @ £8.00 (small), and “Tagliatelle with Pigeon and Pork Ragu” @ £7.00 (small). They were both good although to my surprise, the vegetarian option was the better of the two. The simplicity of the tortellini was refreshing, with the flavours of cream, cheese and nutmeg completely unadulterated and delicious. The Pigeon and Pork Ragu was also good and rich.


The best dish of the evening was undoubtedly the “Sea Bream Baked in Salt” @ £16 (whole fish). The salty crust in which the fish was baked helped to season the flesh to perfection. It was reminiscent of Baccalá but without the chewiness and dense consistency of this salt-dried fish (cod). A true revelation.

To accompany the fish we ordered a portion of “Grilled Radicchio and Asiago Cheese” @ £6.50 (small). The radicchio had been seasoned with balsamic vinegar and tasted sweet and slightly charred with the melted Asiago cheese (reminiscent of parmesan). We did not think it was an outstanding dish.

For dessert, we ordered the “Rum Baba with Pineapple and Whipped Cream” @ £5.50 and the “Brioche “sandwich” of Hazelnut, Pistachio and Chestnut Gelati (ice cream)” @ £7.00. These were again fine, but rather unremarkable.


I do not know if our mixed experience at Bocca di Lupo was because of my unduly high expectations or possibly because of the impersonal but efficient service we received. The food was good but not outstanding. I would like to give Bocca di Lupo another try when some of the hype finally quietens down.

Verdict – Good Italian food at medium prices in Soho. Impersonal but efficient service. At £126.56 for four, Bocca di Lupo was relatively good value but hardly a bargain.

Bocca di Lupo on Urbanspoon

London Restaurant Reviews - Wahaca


I was one of the 30 lucky Qypers, mostly food bloggers, who were invited to taste Wahaca’s new autumn menu at their Westfield branch.

Having experienced some disastrous meals at other Mexican restaurants in London, I had steered clear of this cuisine until now. I had never visited Wahaca before and was looking forward to the evening ahead.

I was truly impressed by the food I tasted, and feel now a growing curiosity to learn more about this type of cooking. Most impressive however, was meeting and dining with the founders Tommi (Thomasina Miers, winner of 2005 Masterchef), Mark Selby and his wife, the gorgeous Cecilia, who runs Wahaca’s blog. Their enthusiasm, passion and knowledge of Mexican cuisine were contagious, and made our evening memorable.

We had a useful introduction by Tommi and Mark of the dishes that we would be tasting, and the three types of tequilas to accompany them. We started the evening with a lovely dish of “Smoked Herring Tostada” (£3.75) - shredded smoked herring in a Veracruzan sauce (made mainly of olive oil, capers, tomatoes, chillies and various herbs) on tortillas. I enjoyed this and felt that the fish and slightly tart sauce married well.

To follow, we had what I think was one of the best dishes of the evening – “Black Bean and Chicken Soup” (£6.75). Served with shredded chicken, diced avocado, feta cheese, cream, ancho chillies and totopo (a type of corn tortilla), these were topped by a creamy and rich soup of black beans. The contrasting combination of flavours and textures was a revelation despite the odd appearence, with the ancho chillies giving a spicy but sweet, almost chocolatey quality to the dish.


The “Huitlacoche Quesadillas” (£3.75) with corn, mushroom and cheese, were also good. Huitlacoche is a fungus that grows on the ears of corn, it has a very pungent earthy flavour reminiscent of mushroom and corn. I could easily have a few of those with some cold beer.

Their “Winter Fuerza Salad” (£6.90) was next, a combination of roasted butternut squash, spelt, diced orange, ancho chillies, feta, avocado, and other ingredients. This was a hearty salad, combining two of my favourite salad ingredients – butternut squash & feta. I will certainly try this again.

To accompany the salad, we also had “Pork Pibil” (£3.75), a traditional Mexican slow roasted pork dish from Yucatan Peninsula, marinated in a lime based sauce and slow roasted in banana leaves. This was one of the highlights of the evening, the meat was succulent, sweet and tender.

Wahaca’s “Vegetable Pipian” (£7.75) was our next course. Pipian is a traditional “mole” type sauce used to accompany poultry. It is popular in the North East region of Mexico, consisting mostly of ground nuts, garlic, onions, chillies, and chocolate. Wahaca’s  vegetarian take was intriguing and bursting with flavours of fresh herbs and ground green pumpkin seeds. The addition of rice and mushrooms was a good alternative to the usual chicken. I loved the richness of this sauce soaked up by the fluffy rice and meaty mushrooms. This was a truly warming winter dish I look forward to trying again.

This was followed by “Baja-California Fish Tacos” (£7.75), crispy fried fish goujons with chipotle mayonnaise in a delicious tomato salsa served on large tacos. This was an easy going dish that anyone would struggle to fault but not particularly memorable in comparison to some of the other dishes.

The enchilada with “mole” (£8.75) was creamy and rich, and partnered well with the tender pieces of shredded chicken, rice and other ingredients. This was a meaty alternative to the earlier Vegetable Pipian; a sophisticated sauce with hints of chocolate, chillies, onions, and garlic.

Next on the list was the “Fish a la Veracruzana” (£9.95), a parcel of Pollock fillet slow cooked in a Veracruzan sauce  (made mainly of olive oil, capers, tomatoes, chillies and various herbs) and served with coriander rice. The accompanying fresh salsa was a nice addition to the green rice and fish.

The last of our main courses was the “Vegetable Burrito” (£6), made of toasted flour tortillas filled with coriander rice, and served with corn chips and tomato salsa.

For dessert we had a platter of hot, crispy “Churros y Chocolate” (£3.40). I remember having similar ones in Madrid, although there the hot chocolate was much denser. I found Wahaca’s particularly good and preferred the less glutinous texture of the rich hot chocolate. This was the perfect ending to a wonderful Mexican meal.
We also tasted three of their finest tequilas – a Blanco, a Reposado and an Añejo (aged version). They had distinct characteristics and were smooth and partnered well with the evening’s dishes.
It was a great event for which I would like to thank the organiser Chris from Qype, and Tommi, Mark & Cecilia for their kindness and hospitality. It was also a great pleasure to meet people whose blogs I had been inspired by: Su-Lin of Tamarind & Thyme and Mel and Kelsie from Travels with my Fork.

Verdict – Inspiring Mexican Street Food to share at reasonable prices. The management have a genuine understanding and passion for Mexican food which is reflected in the delicious dishes on offer. Highly recommended.

Wahaca on Urbanspoon

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