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Cuban bar and restaurant in Camden, The Cuban

The Cuban Review

September 4, 2014

Bang in the middle of Camden market, amongst the rockabilly boutiques and cybergoth shops is The Cuban; a South American bar and restaurant. Downstairs the atmosphere is buzzing with people clinking down tequila shots and strutting their stuff on the make-shift dance floor by the mini stage.

A quick elevator ride transports you upstairs to the much quieter official dining area, although food can be eaten throughout the venue if you are looking to talk with your friend/parent/Tinder date then avoid downstairs. The live music is great fun and all around us people were getting drawn in and twirling each other round, Samba style but it is loud, very loud. The cocktails are mostly rum-based but range from Mojitos in a variety of flavours, the best being the Vanilla Mojito, gold rum infused with vanilla pods, to Very Cuban Berry; Bacardi 8yrs rum, muddled raspberries, blueberries & blackberries sprinkled with cinnamon dust, fresh lime juice & balanced with mango syrup.

The food is tapas focussed with dishes like Fried Green Plantain & Sweet Potato which came out served as crisps, and Quesadillas.

The winning main was the El Presidente Whole Baby Chicken which is marinated in white rum, sweet & dry vermouth, triple sec and maraschino liqueur, and a few special spices. Unfortunately the Patacon con Todo, whole plantain, deep fried then flattened to a pancake, topped with guacamole, sour cream & tomato salsa was a disappointment and tasted like a piece of cardboard. The ‘Cajun Fries’ we ordered came out sans the Cajun so were just plain white unseasoned chips.

The rustic looking décor and live music makes for a great hang out place to drinks cocktails and to whip out your Salsa moves on the unsuspecting crowd but it isn’t really the place to go for a quality dinner.

www.thecuban.co.uk

Posted by Charlotte Knight at 10:26 am | Comments »
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Eelbrook, Eelbrook Common

Eelbrook Review

September 3, 2014

You might remember that a couple of weeks ago we told you about the new all-day eatery that has just opened on the edge of Eelbrook Common, aptly named Eelbrook, well not one to say no to checking out a new restaurant The Handbook sauntered over to Fulham to do just that.

The venue itself is somewhere between a café and a restaurant with twinkling lights, large windows, plain white walls and white tables and chairs. A scattering of cushions and flowers provide splashes of colour, but the minimal décor is so minimal that in places it almost looks unfinished; the spirits for example sit in a shelf which looks like basic ply board nailed together. I can imagine though, come the summer or a warm crisp autumn morning the terrace would be a lovely area to catch up over brunch and feel smug that you are not one of the runners going round and round and round.

We visited on a Tuesday night, they had a few bookings that night and despite the room not being filled with chatter there was still a warm atmosphere. Our first waiter seemed to have stage fright and only muttered a few words before handing us slightly dog-eared menus which was a shame as the dishes (created by Brett Barnes) deserved more than flimsy paper. Once another waiter had come over and talked us through the menu, which is primarily British but with European and North African influences we felt more relaxed.

We started with the crisp pig’s ear, it had a wonderful texture and was a generous portion but the flavour was rather lost; but never mind the chunky beef tartare was delicious and worked well with the thin rye crackers it was served with.

We followed this up with the grilled wild bream, vegetables and pistou (like pesto but without the pine nuts), it was beautifully cooked with a crisp skin and whilst it would make the perfect light supper alone, we couldn’t help but order  a side of salt crusted aura potatoes and aioli and were very glad we did. The Elwy valley lamb rump served with coco beans and sauce vierge was also a highlight, with my friend claiming it was superb.

For pudding I had the blackberry sorbet and it was heavenly with that wonderfully intense autumnal flavour, one scoop and it took me straight back to afternoons spent scouring the hedgerows as a child.  My friend went for salted caramel chocolate fondant and I have to admit I had food envy, it was rich, dark with a molten fondant and a hidden salted caramel centre, everything you could want from a pudding.

I would be interested to go back and see what Eelbrook is like during the day, not just for the baked eggs but also because perhaps the minimal décor works better flooded in sunlight, that said the food did win us over at this little eatery. 

www.eelbrook.com

Posted by Emily Gray at 10:51 am | Comments »
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London Fashion Week Afternoon Tea at The Ampersand

London Fashion Week is fast approaching and style-savvy folk all over the capital are preparing themselves for a week of models strutting their stuff, adorned in the latest garb. Fashionistas will be drooling, not only over the clothes this year though, but at the introduction of The Ampersand’s new fashion inspired afternoon tea.

The gorgeous apparel-themed pastries come in the shape of High Heeled Biscuits with a white chocolate and lemon curd "cat walk", a Gingerbread Dress, Sugar Handbag with caramelia mousse, Raspberry and Pistachio Macaroon, and Blueberry Milkshake.

There are also savoury options like Glouster old spot ham with sauce gribiche, H.Forman & Son London smoked salmon, dill and cream cheese and Coronation Chicken.

Of course no afternoon tea would be complete without a warm selection of plain and white chocolate scones, served with Devonshire clotted cream and homemade strawberry preserve – fashion never looked so appetising!

The Afternoon Tea costs £32.50 per person or £44.50 per person with a glass of Champagne and is available from 6th September - 21st September. To book a luxury afternoon tea please call 0207 591 4414 or email drawingrooms@ampersandhotel.com

www.ampersandhotel.com

Posted by Charlotte Knight at 10:49 am | Comments »
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South African restaurant in Camden, Shaka Zulu

Shaka Zulu Review

September 2, 2014

Filled with towering statues and tribal prints, Shaka Zulu, has created an immersive dining experience that makes you feels like you have skipped the 12 hour plane journey and landed bang in the middle of the Rainbow Nation.

The cocktails are great and even boasts a Rum Blazer which was voted ‘CNN Top Twelve Unusual Cocktails in the World’ thusly awarded as you get a mini pyrotechnic show at your table as they prepare it for you, be warned though, it may look pretty but it kicks harder than a mule. If you can bear to share a cocktail, you definitely should because they are served in creative vessels like a (ceramic) hyena’s head which holds Mandela’s Guests; raspberry vodka shaken with raspberry liqueur, rhubarb jam, lychee puree, balanced with fresh lemon, apple and cardamom syrup.

Shaka Zulu is named after a great warrior and Zulu King, which makes sense as you look around at the walls of tribe warriors lining the walls, there is even an adorable Young Warriors Menu for kids. There is an emphasis on exotic meats here like Crocodile Cigars, Springbok Carpaccio and Ostrich. If you want to get in the spirit but aren’t feeling too daring then the Zebra Steak is a way in, tasting like a blend of the best of red and white meat.

If the idea of chomping down on wildebeest isn’t your idea of a great time then I wouldn’t look to the vegetarian options as it appeared that not much thought was put into those dishes. The Halloumi skewers are just cubes of halloumi, red pepper and onion served on a bed of sour onion. It apparently comes served with a ‘ginger and soya glaze’ but it was so runny it appeared to just be soya sauce. As a starter the Smoked Corn Soup is delicious though but isn’t on the main menu so make sure to ask if you want it, there is also a special menu for celiacs.

The Selection of Home-Made Ice Creams is perfect for adults and children alike as it is 6 ice creams cones served in miniature form. The Passion Fruit Crème Brulee is nice but nothing to write home about.

Later in the evening performers dressed in traditional tribe outfits go round the restaurant dancing and beating on drums getting everyone in the party mood, just try and resist getting into the rhythm! Shaka Zulu gets full marks for entertainment and great décor, throughout the night I saw more than a few people taking snaps of the great interior. Unfortunately sometimes the food fell a bit flat but is a great place to go for cocktails and if, like me, it is the nearest to South Africa you’ll be getting this year it is definitely somewhere worth checking out.

www.shaka-zulu.com

Posted by Charlotte Knight at 10:37 am | Comments »
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South Place Hotel in Ibiza

It might be the end of summer for us but in Ibiza it isn’t, unlike us it is still a balmy 29 degrees….29 degrees. And making the most of this is boutique hotel South Place, who is leaving London and going in search of warmer weather to host its first annual pop-up party at Sands Resort on the stunning Playa d’En Bossa on the 28th September. 

Like house music? Great, because they have Harri and Domenic of Subculture the longest running weekly house and techno night in the world, who will be keeping the party going. There are also rumours of another special guest who is so super special that for legal reasons their identity has to be kept under wraps...

Sands Resort is located one of the islands most famous beaches, you can stroll straight out of the turquoise sea onto the dance floor – men, start practising the classic Daniel Craig/James Bond scene, girls, scout out the best bikini.The resort has been there for 20 years so this party makes up part of their decadent year of celebrations!

So before London gets dark and rainy, head to the white isle and dance until the sun goes down, heck dance until it comes back up again. 

For VIP entrance email members@southplacehotel.com.

www.southplacehotel.com

Posted by Emily Gray at 09:30 am | Comments »
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Make Mine a Martini

Make Mine a Martini

September 1, 2014

Come next month, your beach-read addled brain will, no doubt, be crying out for some intellectual stimuli. So we’ve found you a suitably improving tome. No don’t stop reading… it involves alcohol.

Make Mine a Martini by cool food writer and broadcaster Kay Plunkett-Hogge is a round-up of 80 of her favourite cocktails and 50 delicious canapés compiled as a guide to planning the perfect party. Recipes from her favourite bar smiths around the globe include everything from the Martini to the Margarita alongside mouth-watering bites such as Vodka & Caraway Cured Salmon, Pork Crackling with Rosemary & Fennel and Cervice Shots plus plenty of boozy stories and anecdotes.

A former model agent and movie co-ordinator, Plunkett-Hogge also runs a bespoke catering company for the fashion industry, Kay Cooks For You – the ‘You’ being clients including photographer Alasdair McLellan, titles such as UK and American Glamour and French Vogue and brands from River Island to Stella McCartney.

Sure to leave you shaken and perhaps a little stirred…

Published by Mitchell Beazley from 1 September

Posted by Stephanie Hirschmiller at 10:36 am | Comments »
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Dan Loftin

The Great British Cook Off

August 29, 2014

What could be better than a chef cooking for you? Two chefs cooking for you and battling for your approval that’s what. Oh and the profits going to Action Against Hunger too.

Happening over at Almeida, The Great British Cook Off will take place on the 29th September and will see host head chef Tommy Boland sharpening his knives, making his chef whites extra white and cranking up the heat as he prepares to take on head chef Dan Loftin from sister restaurant Kensington Place. Each will be cooking up 3 dishes: one meat, one fish and one sweet dish which diners will score out of 10 not knowing who has cooked what, it’s all very Great British Menu-esque.  

Dishes include wild rabbit terrine with pickled carrots, rabbit liver parfait, sorrel and hazelnuts, fillet of turbot with peas, herb gnocchi, palourde clams and samphire and Amalfi lemon with meringue and raspberries, but we can’t possible tell you which chef is behind each dish – we don’t want to sway any opinions/it’s top secret.

Drinks are provided by Boutique Brands including GVine G&T Martini with reduced grape tonic on arrival created by Kensington Place’s bar manager Imants Zusmanis. Food critic Joe Warwick will be hosting the event, presenting a range of live and silent auctions and providing an interactive running commentary of Tommy and Dan as they work hard in the kitchens.

Let’s just hope they cook fairly – we don’t want any sabotage. 

www.endhunger.actionagainsthunger.org.uk

Posted by Emily Gray at 10:42 am | Comments »
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Chef at the open plan kitchen in Vauxhall pub The Black Dog

The Black Dog Review

August 28, 2014

By all appearances The Black Dog in Vauxhall looks like any other pub, even inside it rocks a kind of shabby chic design with tables crammed just a little too tightly together but this is where the drawbacks end.

It is always a sign of a confident kitchen team when the kitchen is open plan, as you can combine a perfect opportunity to snoop on the cleanliness and preparation of your food with a pre-meal show. They should be confident as the food, although simple, is surprisingly good with fresh flavours coming through easily and as they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Cauliflower and Cheese soup is a great take on a classic English dish, and although scalding on arrival, was delicious when it cooled. There is nothing better in my mind than taking something healthy and deep-frying it so thumbs up for the Courgette Fritters starter spiced up with a sweet chilli sauce.

The mains feature dishes like ‘Ginger Pig’ Toulouse sausages with mash potato and Savoy cabbage, and Lemon sole served with beurre noisette and new potatoes. The staff throughout the night is friendly and helpful and the venue was buzzing all night, as for every customer that finished and left, a steady stream was headed in.

We ended the night with a delicious Pecan Pie with cream, and Brownie with the correct squidge factor required of a faultless brownie. The Black Dog is located a 5 minute walk from Vauxhall station and even has a garden, when (if) the sun shines you can also take-away any of the food and drink from the pub across the road to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens – not a made up name. Be aware the pub is only open on Saturdays for private bookings though!

www.theblackdogvauxhall.com

Posted by Charlotte Knight at 10:39 am | Comments »
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Mont Blanc Chalet

You’re going skiing and you want decadence? Well prepare for an opulent overload with the launch of the most luxurious chalet. Ever.

Yes that’s right, ever and it’s brought to you by Consensio Chalets, Chalet Mont Blanc is opening in the French resort of Megève on the Jaillet Piste. This isn’t just some log cabin though, oh no it has ski in and ski out access and 7 en-suite bathrooms (which sleep 12 adults and 4 children); but let’s get to the super fancy stuff. Like the fact that it comes with a chauffeur, an infinity pool, calming spa, hammam, hair salon and an indoor pool with jet streams, cool huh?  Oh and a nonchalant helipad.

After a day on the slopes or (if you’re like us a day in the chalet’s spa) then it’s time for cocktails on your mezzanine floor bar, or revel in the glory that is your home cinema whilst your private chef prepares your dinner using wines from your own private wine cellar, obviously. Little ones are looked after by The Consensio Little Concierge who will fill their holiday with pizza making classes, snowman building competitions and crazy snow dances – is there an age restriction?

www.consensioholidays.co.uk

Posted by Emily Gray at 10:26 am | Comments »
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Grass Roots

I hate to break it to you but autumn is coming, it’s just around the corner, waiting to pounce. So it’s time to give summer a send-off until its return next year and what better way to celebrate the wonderful British summer than with a four course meal? 

Step in Caravan in Exmouth Market with their Grass Roots event happening on the 8th September who are doing just that. For their second quarterly dining session they will be serving a four course feast championing seasonal, home-grown and local ingredients, using ingredients from King’s Cross Skip Garden, a community garden charity youth project which grows fruit and vegetables for local cafes and restaurants.

Hosted by Caravan’s Executive Chef and Co-founder, Miles Kirby, the night will include live music on the terrace and a Skip Garden Honey Cocktail on arrival before guests sit down to dishes such as Salmon ceviche with pickled radish, chilli, lime, furikake, popcorn black rice, along with hearty mains including Grilled Welsh lamb leg with charred spring onions and aubergine relish and to finish the night, puddings will include Semolina cake served with Skip Garden honey, rosemary cream and seasonal berries. To go with the meal they will also be serving up bespoke cocktails including the Border Herb Martini which uses herbs grown in Caravan’s own herb garden.

So make the most of the last of the long summer evenings, dance to the DJ sets on the Exmouth Market Terrace, indulge in the cocktails and dig in to the food… summer isn’t quite done yet.

Grass Roots at Caravan Exmouth Market on Monday 8th September is £38 per person. Sittings will be at 7pm, 7.30pm or 8pm, and with only 50 places available, booking is essential. Tickets: 020 7833 8115 / restaurant@caravanonexmouth.co.uk

www.caravanonexmouth.co.uk

Posted by Emily Gray at 10:46 am | Comments »
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