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Category: Reviews

Village East

Time for another Bermondsey Street special – there are so many good restaurants to be found on this little street near London Bridge. No doubt the area will change once the redevelopment of London Bridge station has finished, so get down there while you can before more people discover it!

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Village East is at the far end of Bermondsey Street – it’s a deceptively large restaurant with a busy bar area, with a buzzing vibe. I’ve eaten here several times over the past couple of years, and whilst it’s a bit pricey I haven’t been disappointed. They used to have an incredible soft shell crab burger on the menu but that’s been gone for a while – please bring it back! It was great!

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Fried chicken and waffle stack with red cabbage slaw

The menu seems to be largely American-inspired, with some quirky dishes thrown in. The steaks and meat burgers are a reliable choice, but nothing special. I’m not usually one to recommend a salad, but here the salads are hearty, fresh and filling. The superfood and herb salad, with added grilled chicken, always hits the spot.

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Superfood and herb salad – bulgur wheat, alfafa sprouts, bull’s blood lettuce, broccoli, butternut squash, red cabbage, pumpkin seeds with added chermoula chicken

If you’re looking for somewhere with good food, good atmosphere and an extensive alcohol offering, you can’t really go wrong with Village East.

Mamma Dough

“Proper” pizza is all over London. From Pizza Pilgrims to Franco Manca, there are numerous claims to the best pizza this side of Italy. I think when it comes to pizza, it all hinges on your personal preference. What is your favoured ratio of cheese to tomato? How innovative should the toppings be? And, importantly, how thick and fluffy is the dough?

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My preferences are for as thin and crisp a base as possible, with more tomato than cheese. I honed in on this when in Naples, and now I’m convinced this is the authentic Italian way and won’t be told otherwise. Thus, my pick for the best pizza in London is Mamma Dough. It also happens to be extremely close to my flat – the best pizza in London in walking distance? It’s just meant to be.

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Mamma Dough Honor Oak

Not a pineapple in sight, the Honor Oak branch of Mamma Dough is a stone’s throw from the station in what looks like an old bank – big windows, cavernous ceilings, columns. The menu is small and, importantly, cheap. Pizza shouldn’t be expensive – it’s simple to make and source.

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Mamma Dough’s buffalo magherita

My go to is the buffalo margherita – I like to keep it uncomplicated – but I’ve sampled a slice of the devil, the john o’goat and the beatrice, and they were all extremely tasty too.

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The devil

The sourdough base is so light and crisp – absolutely perfect for me – and you won’t feel at all bloated or heavy afterwards. Which is exactly how pizza should be. No food comas here. Keep an eye out for the specials board, including the guest wines. I’m no doubt about to become a regular.

Hush 

Whilst 2016 was the year of brunches, 2017 is set to be the year of afternoon tea. Don’t worry though, there’s still plenty of brunching to be had and reported. But to whet your appetite…

Afternoon tea is an odd custom – originating amongst the English wealthy classes in the 1840s… i.e. people who had nothing better to do. Sweet little cakes, sandwiches with the crusts cut away, and absolutely no biscuits.

Nowadays afternoon tea is taken to mark a special occassion, usually at an upmarket hotel, rather than an every day observance. And there’s plenty on offer across London. To celebrate a friend’s birthday, we decided to try an afternoon tea with a ginny twist at Hush Mayfair.

Served in the bright and airy yet sumptuous upper dining room, upon arrival you’ll be served with a gin cocktail involving berries, and you’ll be brought the teas to choose from. There were 5 or 6 on offer, all sourced because they go well with gin. There are non-alcoholic options on offer, but you’re paying for the gin really.

Shortly after you’ve polished off the gin cocktail, the food and tea itself arrives – a tea stand packed with sandwiches (smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise, cucumber, and chicken open sandwich on ciabatta bread), plain and fruit scones, several different types of jam and macarons. It’s not too heavy but equally you probably won’t need dinner afterwards.

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And finally, your gin cocktail of choice arrives – these look small but, believe me, they are potent. All named after characters from children’s literature – harking back to the tea parties a small girl might host with her teddy bears and Barbie dolls – I went for the Tinkerbell… I can’t resist absinthe. And we all left full of tea, full of cake, and decidedly ginny. An afternoon well spent.

(Girls: don’t miss the ladies’ bathroom – it’s an incredible powder puff pink experience…)

Villandry

2016 has been the year of brunches, so it was only fitting to celebrate the festive season with my best friends over a bottomless breakfast. After considering the multiple possibilities (mainly based on how long we’d get unlimited booze for) we chose Villandry St James’s.

Villandry St James’s is located in one of the grandest parts of London, between Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly – close enough to be in the thick of it, but detached enough to feel precious and private.

They offer a bottomless champagne brunch for £40. Prior to my visit, I’d only had a two course brunch (and was very pleased at that), but Villandry go one better. Their brunch is three courses. Three courses of breakfast heaven.

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Pastries and champagne

To start, they bring baskets of pastries – a mix of classic, pain au chocolat and pain au raisin, along with tea and coffee, orange juice and, of course, champagne! And they do not neglect their top-up duties – my glass was never less than two-thirds full.

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The Villandry Full English: scrambled eggs, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, bacon, sausage, spinach and sourdough toast

After you’ve dusted off the pastries, your main order arrives. Villandry St James’s menu offers all the classics: Eggs Benedict, Florentine or Royale, the Full English and (the millenial mainstay) poached egg avo toast. Bearing in mind the copious amounts of champagne, I went for the Full English (but swapped the beans for spinach… just so I had a little green on my plate). I don’t know what kind of sausage it was, but it was the best sausage I’ve ever had.

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Poached eggs, spinach and avocado toast

Finally, just when you’re getting a bit tipsy and feeling a little full, the sweets arrive – all in miniature. There’s a macaron, a salted caramel brownie, pannacotta, a fruit tart, a meringue – all delectable.

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My best brunch of the year? Quite possibly. Or it might just be the champagne talking…

Eat Tokyo

London is awash with culinary variety – name any cuisine, and you can have it. Name any mash up of flavours and originations, and you’ll find it. Sometimes, that makes it hard to find something pure, traditional and simple. Something that sticks to the tried and tested basics, and is all the better for it.

There are so many sushi restaurants in London, not to mention the takeaway outlets that have made sushi so accessible. But, I’d heard the best sushi in the city can be found at Eat Tokyo. They have several restaurants across London, including in Soho, Covent Garden and Notting Hill. You’ll be lucky to get a table at these (although according to the website you can make reservations).

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Tuna and salmon sashimi, with a side of tofu miso soup

We opted for the quieter Holborn restaurant – it has a tiny shop front, and a winding staircase at the rear leading to an upper level with several tables packed in. We were sat in a little raised, semi-private alcove, and presented with an overwhelming menu. I was half tempted to let my instincts run wild and could have easily ordered seven or eight dishes. This would have been mistake – the portions are very generous, and you don’t want to spoil this experience by eating too much.

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Mixed tuna maki

So instead, I went for some old favourites – mixed sashimi, and tuna maki rolls. Both came exquisitely presented; the sashimi was a kaleidoscope on a bed of perfect sushi rice. The fish itself was delicate and delicious. I wholeheartedly agree with those who have recommended Eat Tokyo to me: if you want simple, uncomplicated sushi, this is the place to come.

Ottolenghi

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I love Ottolenghi. I love the cookbooks and I love the Guardian/Observer features, and I love the food. Who would have thought that cauliflower cake can actually be outrageously tasty – a staple Sunday cook up for me for weekday lunches. Even Bridget Jones likes Ottolenghi (and he’s actually released a recipe to match the one referenced in the latest film). I’ve been dying to go to the restaurant in Islington for ages, so when a work colleague suggested we meet for Sunday brunch/lunch, I jumped at the opportunity.

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The cake selection – strategically placed in the window!

We arrived at 12.00 and it was already busy. Whilst you wait for your table, though, you can eye up the salads and the cakes and the various raw ingredients for sale at the front of the restaurant. We were shown to a communal table at first but the hostess was lovely and offered us a private table when one became quickly available – it’s little considerations like this that make this place such a good restaurant.

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The Ottolenghi Shakshuka

For me, Ottolenghi breakfast means one thing: shakshuka. And I was not disappointed – the eggs were perfectly baked in a delectable surrounding of tomato and peppers and Labneh, complete with grilled toast. I loved every mouthful and was devastated when I finished it – something this good you never want to end.

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The day’s salad selections

My colleague went for the salad selection – these change daily and with the season, but are always more than just a salad. Ottolenghi truly makes salads and sides great.

I can’t wait to eat more Ottolenghi food – whether that’s in the restaurants or what I’ve whipped up for myself at home.

Morada Brindisa 

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I’ve long admired and enjoyed Brindisa tapas – the endlessly busy tapas bar in Borough Market is most definitely worth the wait. So I was delighted to find out they were opening a more formal restaurant in Soho. This place seems somewhat undiscovered – I went on a Friday evening but it wasn’t too busy, but I can’t imagine it will stay that way for long.

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Tortilla de patatas, crispy fried squid

The menu here is a bit different to the tapas bar, with a few larger plates as well as the to-die-for tapas. We went for a whole mix of tapas, including the tortilla, the seasonal asparagus, crispy fried squid, lamb chimichurri skewers, and the grilled chorizo on toast.

Grilled chorizo on toast; seasonal asparagus with duck egg, mushrooms and manchego

The standout choice for me was the lamb skewers – I’ll definitely be going for the skewers trio next time. It’s a very chilled atmosphere, and somewhat on the pricey side for tapas, but you’re undoubtedly paying for the quality and the flavours. Still hands down the best tapas I’ve had in London.

The American breakfast chronicles

A two week trip to the east coast of the United States featured plenty of history, culture and politics as we travelled from Boston down to Washington D.C. and finishing up in the New York.

These cities each have their individual charms. Boston is historic, compact and young thanks to the multiple colleges in the near vicinity (including my old stomping ground, Wellesley College). Washington D.C. is grand, well-planned and fascinatingly interesting thanks to the Smithsonian Institute (who knew Mr Smithson was British though, eh?!) and of course the seat of power for the vast American political machine. And New York truly is the city that never sleeps – it’s loud and brash and filthy busy, but has everything you could ever possibly dream of wanting.

But one thing these cities all have in common is their exceptional food. On our trip we didn’t have a bad meal, but the highlights for me have to be the breakfasts. I made a point of ensuring we ate breakfast out at least once in each city, and was not disappointed.

Boston

The Trident Cafe on Newbury Street in Back Bay is a popular bookstore and brunch destination for Bostonians. Give your name to the staff at the till when you first walk into the cafe, and then have a browse around the bookstore whilst you wait for your table.

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The potato chuckwagon: shredded potatoes with cheddar cheese and chorizo, mushrooms and tomatoes, topped with scrambled eggs

This place has one of the most extensive breakfast menus I have ever seen, including some eclectic egg dishes that I simply couldn’t resist. I went for the potato chuckwagon because I’d never seen anything like it before… luckily we walked several miles of the Freedom Trail that day to burn this beast of a breakfast off!

If you’re looking for something even more low key, give Paramount in Beacon Hill a try (recommended to me by my friend who lives in Boston and is the biggest foodie I know). This tiny little restaurant operates a system whereby you queue up and order your food, and it’s cooked in front of you. Once ready, you are then shown to a table by one of the hosts.

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Paramount’s blueberry pancakes

It’s noisy, it’s busy and extremely popular with locals and tourists alike. I went for the blueberry pancakes because I couldn’t come to to the USA and not have pancakes!

Washington D.C.

We only had two full days in Washington D.C. and had to pack in a hell of a lot of sightseeing, but we made time to go to one of the oldest restaurants in the city, the Old Ebbitt Grill, for breakfast.

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French toast with peach compote, honey pecan butter, Vermont maple syrup and bacon

Just steps from the White House, this spot is a favourite for politicians and tourists alike, and had a suitably grand interior with real old American charm. I went for the French toast which was enormous and so delicious – it was my first ever French toast experience and now I’m a devoted convert.

New York

Just because people don’t sleep in New York doesn’t mean there’s no need for breakfast! Check out Cosmopolondon’s full review of Ruby’s Cafe in New York.

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Thank you USA!

Ruby’s Cafe, NYC

Cosmopolondon has been on a little hiatus for a while after an amazing trip to the United States of America. The USA fancies itself the undisputed champion of good breakfasts, so watch this space for the American breakfast chronicles. One restaurant though, warrants a post of its own, so this week Ruby’s Cafe of New York City is the special guest star.

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Ruby’s is actually an Australian enterprise which started in Soho and recently opened a branch in Murray Hill on 3rd Ave (not far from Midtown where we were staying). We ventured out on a Sunday morning and found the restaurant with a gaggle of people outside. We put our names down and were told there would be about a 30 minute wait.

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We popped a couple of doors down to Birch Coffee for an iced chai latte to pass the time – America does iced drinks so well! Once our table was ready, inside we found the cafe is noisy and bustling (the music might actually be a little too loud for a Sunday morning, but hey, this is the city that never sleeps) but light and airy with plenty of trendy touches, such as succulents on the table and juices served in Ruby’s-branded bottles.

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Green eggs bowl – soft scrambled eggs, spinach, kale, avocado, salsa verde and courgette with a side of smoked salmon and eight grain toast

After two weeks of indulgent American breakfasts (homefries, pancakes, waffles galore!) I was delighted to find some healthier options on the menu – what would you expect from an Australian-inspired outfit in NYC?! I went for the green eggs bowl with added smoked salmon, and my travelling companion had the breakfast bowl (poached egg, salmon, brown rice, greens, tomato and avocado). It was definitely my favourite breakfast of the trip, and one I’ll be trying to recreate at home in SE London!

 

Hawksmoor

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I’ve said before that (in culinary terms) there’s little that pleases me more than a good steak. And recently in London, the words “good steak” have been synonymous with Hawksmoor. It began in Spitalfields, and now has several branches across London. My family went to the Air Street (Piccadilly) restaurant, which has an art deco air. I was tremendously excited!

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Potted smoked mackerel

To start, I had the potted smoked mackerel, which came with a side of melba toast and dressed cucumber. I think my brother won though, having the potted beef and bacon which is served with two enormous yorkshire puddings. Don’t know how you could have room for a steak after that! Our party also sampled the beetroot and hazelnut salad (which didn’t have enough nuts, so Mum asked for more!) and the Brixham crab on toast.

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Excellent fillet steak, with creamed spinach and salad

You can’t come to Hawksmoor and not have steak. Well, actually, you can. There’s also a bountiful seafood selection. But we all had the steak. Obviously. You can share a large cut (see the blackboard or ask your helpful hipster waiter for details of what cuts in what weights the restaurant has available that day). I went for the 300g fillet, and it was heaven. Teamed with creamed spinach – the best I’ve had – and lettuce & herb salad. We also had some of the beef dripping fries (thin!) and triple cooked chips (thick!) for the table.

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Ricotta cheesecake with Haygrove cherries

You’d think after all that food you might not have room for dessert. But you do… my goodness you must! The winner is the ricotta cheesecake for the berry explosion that accompanies it.

It’s only been a few weeks and I’m dying to go back. Not cheap, mind, so probably best kept for special occasions!

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