Friday, 21 November 2014

Nigella Lawson on the Meaning of Food

Nigella Lawson
You know me well enough by now that I love my food, thinking about it, eating it and planning my next meal. Seriously I could spend a whole day dreaming about food. 

My next favourite pastime if not eating, is listening to someone else talking about food. So when The School of Life were planning a talk all about food and the guest presenters were Nigella in conversation with Alain de Botten, well let's just say the tickets were booked in a number of seconds. 

The stage was set...
The School of Life
Nigella Lawson
Whilst I sat waiting in the audience I was busily planning my dinner for when the talk had finished. There was logic in me not eating beforehand. You see if someone talks about food the very mention of it makes me hungry, even if I have just eaten. So the master plan was not to eat and build up the perfect appetite. It worked a treat. 

I hadn't previously heard Alain talk before but he was a warm and funny conversationalist. He had his work cut out with Nigella who used her dry wit to have the audience laughing. 
Alain De Botten
Alain De Botten
Nigella also spoke about how we are fixated on recipes. The tyranny of the recipe is wrong it stops people being creative with food, adding ingredient’s they love for fear that the recipe will be ruined. Reading from her own cookbooks Nigella has arguments with herself. Following process and someone telling her what to do is annoying, even more so when you realise that the she is herself. 

Nigella shared some interesting viewpoints and takes on food. 

Nigella Lawson
I had a really wonderful night but the highlight for me has to be having my first ever signed cookbook and better than that in my blogging name. 
Nigella Christmas
Nigella Lawson
I was right that all the talking of food did make me rather hungry, so afterwards we ventured to one of my favourite Italian restaurants in London, Gustoso Ristorante & Enoteca. 

Visiting this restaurant is like eating in Italy the atmosphere is always warm and friendly and well the food speaks for itself. 

As a lover of Italian food, the starters and daily special menu always have an array of foods that I would happily eat, but I am drawn to my favourite Parma ham and buffalo mozzerella (£8.90)
Gustoso Ristorante & Enoteca

Best Italians restaurants London

There are no pretensions here, and the freshness of the food speaks for itself. The scallops are presented beautifully with the roe still attached and cooked to perfection. The seared scallops are wonderfully moist and the creamy celeriac puree has a beautiful flavour. 

For my main I decided to opt for something I haven't previously tried. Roasted breast of chicken, garlic spinach and spicy “Diavola”sauce (£10)
The Diavola sauce has a nice kick of chilli without being too spicy and the spinach is a nice accompaniment to the moist chicken. 

Now one thing that I love Gustoso Ristorante and Roberto especially is that he is a true Italian gentleman. My other half always loves ordering slightly off piste. He opts for Homemade Tagliolini with crab meat, chili, garlic and cherry tomatoes (£13.50) but asks for the addition of mussles.  
Best Italian restaurants London
Changing and adding an item is no big problem, this restaurant works on what a foodie wants and as the food is cooked fresh they can cater for variances. 

The dessert menu (£4.50 – £9.00) has many Italian delights, homemade Tiramisu (£5.50), vanilla ice cream with espresso (£5.00), selection of Italian cheeses (£9), and Viasanto with “Gustoso” biscuits (£8.95). Picking desserts is always a challenge as many of them I would like to try. 

I love Crème Brule’ so I opt for this with mixed fresh berries (£5.50). 

Crème Brule

The restaurant also offers specials and my dinning companion chooses carrot cake with vanilla ice cream. 
Italian dessert

The cake was so good that I almost needed to wrestle the fork out of his mouth to get this picture. 

Gustoso offers a relaxed, unhurried dining experience, with high quality, tasty Italian food with friendly and attentive staff. It is my hidden gem in London and was the perfect way to complete a brilliant evening. 

Who is your favourite chef that you would like to spend an evening with?

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Monday, 17 November 2014

Christmas Getaways - Tromsø

Christmas Getaways

Christmas is a time for family to spend some good quality time together. Over the last couple of years we have created a new family tradition to visit a new place in December to build up the excitement to Christmas. In part we did this as a reminder to my dad who loved travelling and was the first person to introduce me to Christmas markets (Cologne). 

This is the third part in my Christmas getaway adventures. If you haven't read the first two instalments (Copenhagen and Iceland) then have a quick read here and here. The idea is to give you some inspiration for where you could visit and get you in the Christmas spirit.  

Now for those of you who have read Philip Pullman - His Dark Materials epic trilogy of novels, the North and Northern Lights has always held some mystery for me. As a child I dreamt of meeting the armoured polar bears in the ice forts. 
Polar bear
If you haven't read the novels you really must they are brilliant. 

So when we picked Tromsø a city and municipality in Northern Norway with an average temperature around Christmas of -6 and a brilliant viewing platform for the Northern Lights, it seemed the perfect winter getaway. A five hour flight from London we landed in the gateway to the arctic and freezing conditions. 

During late November to January the sun remains below the horizon which creates a 'blue twilight' (Polar Nights) which gives a truly unique feeling whilst visiting this special City.

Our aptly named hotel Radison Blu was right in the City centre and had wonderful views over the port. Surrounded by mountains, fjords and islands what a view to wake up too. 
One of our main reasons for visiting Tromsø was to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). I also knew exactly the man who I wanted to take me on this adventure, Kjetil Skogli

Who is this man? I hear you ask. Kjetil is a Northern lights chaser, he captured my imagination when he lead Joanna Lumley and the 6.6 million viewers watching her to see the Northern lights.  

There aren't many times in my life when I have been left speechless, but lying back on a frozen lake in the mountains of Tromsø, in anticipation of seeing the dancing particles of wonder which make up the Northern Lights has to be one of the most memorable moments of my life.
Northern Lights

With clear skies and a heavy wind made seeing the northern lights extra special. There is something magical about standing in the pitch dark, coldness settling into your limbs, across the snowy mountains a ghostly spectacle of light begins to appear the Northern Lights. 

Northern lights
Northern Lights
As well as the Northern Lights Tromsø has breathtaking sceneryIn case you were wondering what the lake that I lay on looked like in the day this is it. 
Another want whilst in Tromsø was to try dog sledding. 

Dashing through the snow on a one horse open sleigh, laughing as we go...... Well in reality I was hooked up to 6 scruffy looking dogs that didn't really resemble huskies, but as they started to pull my romantic view of beautiful huskies was left rapidly behind as one of the most exhilarating rides of my life began. Up and down hills, weaving between trees, jumping over small crevices, crossing narrow bridges over icy frozen streams, whilst in an awe-inspiring backdrop of snow covered mountains and valleys, truely was an experience to behold. 
Dog sledding

Only seconded by driverless husky sleds racing past us with their owners running way behind shouting for anyone to stop them. An amazing experience that had me absolutely sobbing with tears of joy and laughter. Take note this is not a pursuit for the unfit or those of a nervous disposition. 

Everywhere you go outside of the main town, Reindeer are free to roam and it won't be long before any journey you are left waiting for a heard of the Christmas fellows to meander across their very own highway. 
Only Santa knows why he chose them to pull his sled, I would have had  huskies pulling mine any day after seeing them go!

Tromsø is like no other holiday I have had previously it is a truly magical place at Christmas and I cannot recommend a visit enough. 

Watch this space for this years adventures to follow soon. 

Where in the world have you visited that you would recommend?

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Friday, 14 November 2014



There is something about being near the British coastline, that makes me feel alive.

Come spring, summer, autumn or winter I love it for very different reasons. The picturesque views, that change and move with the living tide. The seagulls who sing, playfully swooping to steal your food when your not watching and the wonderful smell that the sea offers.

In winter the mood changes, gone are the majority of the bathers, leaving only the hardiest of swimmers, colours ebb away leaving a greyer tonal range and the blustery wind twists, whips and howls at your back. What's not to love.


Brighton is somewhere that holds wonderful memories for me as a child, running along the pebbles, laughing, trying to eat hot fried doughnuts, visiting the arcades on the Victorian pier and stuffing as many pennies as I could in the slot machines.
For those of you based outside of the UK, Brighton is on the South coast of Great Britain. Brighton is a wonderful seaside town, with sea, food and shopping. With a mix of class and quirkiness Brighton has so much to offer from the little boutique shops in the lanes, artist caves along the beach front to the lovely restaurants and hotels in the Marina.

The Daniel Laurence shop has been a firm favourite for many years having a few of his wonderful sea prints in the house.
Daniel Laurence
Daniel Laurence
Daniel Laurence
The Laines are famous for their small boutiques laid out like a maze full of character and charm. They are split between North and South. Housed within the lanes you will find two firm favourites of mine Choccywoccydoodah and Angel Food Bakery. These are a foodies pilgrim, where any cake you can dream of can be made into a cupcake or a carefully crafted cake. 

Angel food bakery
When you have fulfilled all your shopping needs it is well worth having a wander across to the Royal pavilion built for the Prince Regent, it today houses the finest collections of Chinoiserie (Chinese 
influenced art).
Royal pavilion
Fresh air always has one effect on this foodie the positive craving for food, in this case it has to be fish and chips. Brighton is certainly the place to have it. 
Fish and chips
Brighton offers a wonderful day out regardless of the weather and a different experience is awaiting you for every season. 

What was your favourite outing growing up?


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Monday, 10 November 2014

The Park Tower Knightsbridge

Knightsbridge Restaurants
As London grows colder and the nights begin to draw in, we British change our eating habits. Gone are the salads and out come the comforting foods, soups, stews, meat joints and warming drinks.  

I love local and seasonal food that is true to its origins and changes with the season. There is a shooting season for everything, pheasant, partridge, grouse, duck, goose, coot, moorhen, deer and even geese.

Anyone following me for a while, knows that I have tried my hand at shooting and thoroughly enjoyed it (shooting clay pigeons), however if it were down to my ability to catch my own food, then I would go pretty hungry. 
Therefore I jump at any chance to eat fresh game from someone else's endeavours. 

So when The Park Tower Hotel in Knightsbridge made contact and asked if I would like to try their autumn hunting Game Menu paired with Dalmore Whiskies, I was keen to tantalise my taste buds. 

I was very thankful that Executive Head Chef, Pascal Proyart was willing to cook for me, and is partial to a bit of shooting himself. 

The reputation of the Hyde Bar precedes itself as one of only a few bars in London to serve the finest whiskies and cigars. 
Finest Whiskies
Now that's quite the drinks collection is it not. The interior of the hotel is also elegantly beautifully with wood panelling, plush leather chairs and their own in house pianist. 
The Hyde Bar
The Hyde Bar
As you know most hotels generally disappoint me on the food front. Mainly I think because they have to cater on mass to so many diners, food is often either boring or sounds much better on paper than what is delivered. Recently though I have found a few hidden London foodie gems in hotels where the food excels. 

Sitting down, a cursory glance over the menu tells me I am in for a treat, with lots of food that I would happily eat. 

For my starter I opt for Game Pâté - with pickled mushrooms and blueberry compote, served with toasted sourdough bread (£14).  
The game pâté was the perfect combination of meats, a wonderful texture and rich taste. The sourdough had a wonderful smokiness and the blueberry compote gave a superb tartness to balance out the richness. 

To accompany the game dishes is a selection of Dalmore whiskies. Now I cannot profess to be a great Whisky drinker, so the idea of matching the food with Whisky was an interesting one. However the male counterparts in my family love whisky, so maybe a taste for it runs in my blood. 

The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve Whisky was poured as the perfect accompaniment with the pâté. 
Surprisingly this Whisky was a great pairing the smoky and sherry like tones complemented the game perfectly.  

Picking the main meal was slightly more challenging there was loads on the menu that we both wanted to try and it doesn't help sitting next to someone who also wants what you want on the menu. So we decided that we would both choose something different and share. 

The roasted Duck breast with confit leg, parsnips, green peppercorn and lime sauce (£20). 
The Hyde Bar Knightsbridge
Where can I start, this was absolutely delicious the duck was cooked to perfection, the parsnip mash with its creaminess was the perfect accompaniment with the tartness of the lime sauce. 

This was a difficult meal to share I would have happily fought my other half to have consumed it all. 

However don't feel too bad I don't think I really lost out. 

The Venison meatball cooked in red wine and tomato sauce with hand cut chips and baby gem salad (£21) was also delicious. The Venison melted in the mouth and the wine sauce was full bodied in flavour. 

The matching King Alexander III whisky with the duck was made the flavour of the duck more prominent. The whisky has a wonderful caramel and berry taste this was for me the better whisky of the two. It matched the food perfectly. 
King Alexander III
All good meals must end with a good dessert and the Hyde bar doesn't let itself down here either.
The Hyde Bar
Vanilla Cheesecake and British Strawberries (£10). Now for me the way that this was described does not do the dessert justice. The cheesecake was wonderfully creamy, perfect crunchy base and the strawberry sauce wonderfully natural in taste, genuine strawberry. Delicious. 

Now my eyes are seriously too big for my belly. I opt for a selection of four cheeses, quince jelly, fig chutney and crusty bread (£15). 
The Park Tower Hotel Knightsbridge
The selection of cheeses had a good mix of soft, strong and more milder cheeses in flavour. The fig chutney and walnut bread for me was the perfect partners in crime. 

A truly wonderful meal. I was in two minds about sharing this place for fear of not getting a table at my new found favourite bar. 

The food in the Hyde Bar is of exceptional quality and the atmosphere of the bar a personal preference to a stuffy restaurant any day. The food speaks for itself. I also might now me a convert to whisky, well Dalmore anyway.  
Dalmore whisky

The Hyde Bar Game Menu will be available from Tuesday 14th October 2014 until Friday 30th January 2015.

Right next door to the Hyde bar is Harvey Nichols and upon exiting the restaurant I couldn't help but take some pictures of the superb Christmas window displays that are truly spectacular. So feast your eyes on a couple of these pics.
Harvey Nichols
Harvey Nichols Christmas
 *I was kindly a guest of The Park Tower Knightsbrige, however in no way did that affect this review I had a superb evening, in wonderful surrounding and even better food.  

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