The Shard is home to six restaurants, all boasting amazing views of the capital. I’ve been to the bar in Aqua Shard on several occasions for drinks, but had never dined before. So I was thrilled when my boyfriend treated me to a surprise brunch at the venue for our anniversary. When dining at a sky-high venue, it’s always hit and miss if the weather will be on your side. On the afternoon we visited, London was suffering from questionable weather, but we managed to get a clear enough view for the first hour of our meal before the rain came down. We were fortunate enough to be given one of the best seats in the place, with seats looking out over the River Thames, St Paul’s Cathedral and the rest of the City.
We were opting for the weekend brunch set menu, which features 3 courses and two amuse bouches for £48. I made sure I had eaten a light breakfast to prepare myself for such a big meal early in the day. Our first amuse bouche was pumpkin soup, which was lovely and creamy and tasted sweeter than I anticipated.
To start with, I opted for a brunch favourite – Tor Bay Lobster Benedict (Cackleberry Farm Egg, Roasted Lobster Hollandaise and Sea Greens). The serving had just the right amount of Hollandaise sauce so as not to overpower the egg and lobster. The seagreens were an unusual, but good accompaniment.
For my mains, I went for another fish dish – Crispy Cod Cakes (Pickled Lemon, Samphire and Cucumber Salad, and Spiced Kelp Aioli). As a regular consumer of fish cakes, I was pleased by the quality and the accompanying sides gave the flavour a different approach than usual.
In between the mains and dessert, we had another amuse bouche of Yoghurt Sorbet and Crispy Strawberries, which really cleansed the palate. For my final dishes I decided on the English Bramley Apple Crumble (Toasted Almond Crumb and Nutmeg Ice Cream). When it arrived, it was a very different crumble to I’m used to – sort of a deconstructed twist on a traditional favourite. Although the portion was small, the rich sweetness made it very filling and was the perfect end to the meal.
Overall, we had a fabulous brunch. The weather wasn’t on our side, but we still got to enjoy a decent amount of times with good view before the rain came down. The service was good and the menu choice offered something a little different from the usual brunch offerings.
- Aqua Shard, Level 31, The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, London Bridge, SE1 9RY. Nearest station: London Bridge. Weekend brunch is served from 10.30am-3.30pm. For booking, visit the Aqua Shard website.
For more of Metro Girl’s restaurant reviews, click here.
Returning to Borough Market this December is the hugely popular celebration of cheese. With Londoners planning their festive cheeseboard, this is a great place to get inspiration for your next special dinner. This annual late-night shopping event offers Londoners than chance to meet over 20 of the market’s cheesemongers and explore a huge range of cow, goat and sheep’s milk cheese from UK and international producers.
On Wednesday 12 December 2018, ‘An Evening of Cheese’ returns to Borough Market. Expect to see cheese stalls taking over the market, with experts on hand to advise you on your festive cheese needs, including cheese recipes and drink pairings. There will also be a cheese-based cooking demo in the Market Hall’s Demo Kitchen.
Among the world cheeses taking part include:
- Drumlin – Heritage Cheese (Ireland).
- Oude Beemster Gouda – Borough Cheese Company (Holland).
- Canarejal Cremoso – Brindisa Ltd (Spain).
- Roquefort – Mons Cheesemongers (France).
On the night, market traders will compete in the ‘cracking of the parmesan wheel’, while local choirs and carol singers will bring some Christmas cheer.
- An Evening Of Cheese takes place on 12 December 2018 from 6pm-9pm. At Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, SE1 1TL. Nearest station: London Bridge. Free entry. For more information, visit the Borough Market website.
- Borough Market is open every day during the Christmas period from 5 December until 4pm on Christmas Eve – including Sundays.
To find out what’s on in London in December, click here.
QUEENS Skate Dine Bowl has added a new attraction to its versatile venue – a rinkside bar and diner. The Sin Bin offers beers, cocktails and burgers just moments from the action on the ice. What’s special about QUEENS is that you can do more than ice skating on its indoor rink – it also offers opportunities to play ice hockey or go ice karting or curling.
I went along to the launch last week to try the Sin Bin’s cocktails and burgers and make my second attempt at curling. Despite being rinkside, the bar is thankfully lovely and cosy with heaters warming you up after you’ve been chilling on the ice. The long, slender space has a dive bar vibe with plenty of seating, including many stools looking out on the rink. The rinkside setting means people who don’t feel confident on the ice can watch their companions in action from a more comfortable, non-slip space.
When it came to drinks, we decided on cocktails from their menu of creative originals, mostly reasonably priced around the £7.50-£8.50 mark. I tried a lovely, sweet Silver Angel (Finlandia vodka with peach and passion fruit topped with fizz), while my boyfriend opted for a St Lawrence (Woodford Reserve with maple syrup, lemon juice and a dash of bitters). I continued the vodka theme with a Henrietta Fizz (Grey Goose Poire vodka with pear, strawberry and fresh lemon topped with fizz), which was deliciously light, something that would make a great aperitif.
The food menu is from MEATliquor, who have already established a diner at QUEENS. MEATliquor’s full menu is available to Sin Bin diners, including popular favourites, Hot Mess (hash browns with blue cheese sauce, jalapenos, buffalo sauce and pickles), deep-friend mac ‘n’ cheese, and chicken wings. During our visit, my boyfriend and I had the cheeseburger (beef patty, cheese, red onions, pickles, lettuce, French’s mustard and ketchup) and the halloumi and mushroom burger (halloumi, mushroom, red onions, pickles, lettuce, French’s mustard and ketchup) respectively. When it comes to food of a ‘fast’ nature, I don’t always have high expectations, however we agreed our burgers were really tasty and I could have easily eaten a second. Our burgers were accompanied by some delicious Cajun fries, with the seasoning really giving them an extra something.
During the evening, we stepped on to the ice for a spot of curling. I had tried it a year ago and was pretty bad. However, this year the shoe grips were slightly different and I felt a bit more stable on the ice. This time, we also had access to brooms as well as the curling stones. We were given instructions by experienced curlers and managed to pull off a pretty good game for a bunch of amateurs. It was a lot of fun and definitely offers something a bit different to your usual night out with a group of friends.
As well as the various ice activities, MEATliquor and the Sin Bin, QUEENS also has a bowling alley and arcade. There’s currently plans to expand the site further with five private bowling lanes, the Liquor Lanes, in the near future.
- The Sin Bin @ Queens, 17 Queensway, W2 4PQ. Nearest station: Queensway or Bayswater. Open Sun-Thu 12pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-12am. For more information and booking, visit the Queens website.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you would have noticed the huge rise in popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets in recent years. This autumn, a new pop-up offering plant-based food will be coming to Clapham. The Meet will be serving indulgent comfort food along with vegan cocktails.
The Meet will launch on 2 November 2018 in an urban, industrial space of railway arches in Clapham North. The pop-up is a new concept from chef Dominic Taylor, former Executive Chef of London favourite, The Jam Tree. His menu will feature popular millennial dishes revamped into indulgent vegan alternatives. Committed vegans, healthy eaters and experimental foodies alike will find a dish to whet their appetite.
Expect sharing plates, burgers and late night bites. During the weekend, there will be bottomless vegan brunches and Sunday roasts. Among the breakfast choices will be cold press juices, ‘uppers’ (Chai seed and acai Bircher muesli pot) or ‘Avo go’ (crushed avocado on garlic sourdough toast topped with jalapeno spiked pico de galo). Meanwhile, among the lunch dishes will feature Seitan and Jackfruit zingy herbs and spices to transform recognisable meaty dishes into unexpected vegan delights. Meanwhile, the extensive drinks menu features fresh pressed juices, vegan cocktails, vegan wines and craft beers. The cocktail menu will comprise vegan reworkings of classic cocktails.
- The Meet launches on 2 November 2018 (soft launch from 25 October – 1 November). The Meet @ Fu Manchu, 15-16 Lendal Terrace, Clapham, SW4 7UX. Nearest station: Clapham North. Tuesday – Friday 5pm-10pm, Saturday & Sunday 11am-9:30pm. For booking enquiries, visit The Meet website.
For the latest guide to what’s on in London, click here.
Launching this October is a rather special afternoon tea for families. Judith Kerr’s beloved children’s book The Tiger Who Came To Tea has been charming readers since 1968. Like many, I owned the book as a children and loved my parents reading it to me.
From this week, The Savoy hotel has teamed up with publishers HarperCollins to create a unique children’s afternoon tea inspired by the classic book as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. This food and drink extravaganza will be the five-star hotel’s first dedicated children’s afternoon tea offering in its 129 year history. The variety of treats are drawn from the tea that Sophie and her mum shared with the visiting tiger. The Savoy’s pastry team have dreamed up an enchanting menu served on bespoke chinaware inspired by the book. The stunning china will also be available to buy from Savoy Tea.
The menu is as follows:
- Sophie’s Sandwiches
Peanut Butter & Jam Bites; Red Leicester Cheese Whirl; and Honey Roast Ham Finger Sandwiches.
- Tiger Scones
Freshly-baked stripy scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam.
- Treats with the Tiger
Sophie’s Tights (Blue and pink Battenberg), The Milkman Special (Vanilla yoghurt, raspberry compote), Mummy’s Cookie Crumbs (Dark chocolate cookie dipped in chocolate); Tiger Food (Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting); and Owp! (Handmade marzipan tiger).
Accompanying the food will be a choice of hot or cold drink, including Vanilla Black Tea; Blackcurrant & Hibiscus Tea; Tiger Hot Chocolate (Served with cream and tiger stripes) or Orange juice.
The Tiger Who Came To Tea menu will be available for children at the first two sittings of Afternoon Tea in The Savoy’s iconic Thames Foyer. Adults may prefer the Traditional Afternoon Tea, Champagne Afternoon Tea and High Tea, which will continue to be offered.
- The Savoy’s special edition The Tiger Who Came to Tea at The Savoy, Strand, Westminster, WC2R 0EZ. Nearest station: Embankment, Charing Cross or Temple. Available Mon-Fri afternoons for the first two sittings from 8 October 2018. Price: £40 per child (aged 5-12years). Dress code: Smart casual. For more information booking, visit The Savoy’s website.
To find out what’s on in London in December, click here.
This post is taking part in #CulturedKids, sharing cultural blog posts aimed at children. Thanks to Catherine at Cultured Wednesdays for getting me involved.
Chips and dips are the staple of any party. A great snack to stave off hunger in between meals. When it comes to regular crisps eaten solo, I can take it or leave it. However, I’ve always loved chips with dips. When it comes to dips from the supermarket, we’re usually limited to the likes of guacamole, salsa or houmous. Here’s where Hipchips comes in, a casual dining destination offering chips and dips.
Located on bustling Old Compton Street, Hipchips is an interesting concept restaurant with a simple premise. It stands out from other eateries because it offers snacks. Having opened in 2016, it caters to those looking for a mid-afternoon or evening snack rather than a meal. While the premise sounds strange, think of comparing it to a savoury (or sweet!) version of an ice cream parlour or cake shop. The menu is very straight-forward – a choice of sweet (cinnamon sugar) or savoury (salt) chips and a huge selection of dips. The chips themselves are made from a variety of seasonal, heritage potatoes, such as Highland Burgundy or Shetland Black.
Depending on your mood or tastes, deciding on the chips is the easy part. While there’s a huge range of dips to choose from, you don’t have to limit yourself to one flavour. Hipchips offer a variety of menu options, from a small chips and two dips for £4.95 to the large portion with six dips for £12.95. My friend and I were interested in trying both sweet and savoury and up for experimenting.
Before picking up your first chip, I recommend setting the boundaries on ‘double dipping’ if sharing with a friend. The chips can be pretty big so one dip is not always going to cover it. Although I’m usually not mad about beetroot, I was pleasantly surprised with the Beetroot and Lemongrass Marmalade, a lovely combination of sweet and savoury thanks to the Nuoc Mau (Vietnamese Salted Caramel) and Crème Fraiche. I really enjoyed the Veggie Ceviche (Chunky Tomato, Lime, Coriander, Red Onion and Chili), which had a nice kick. However, my favourite savoury dip had to be the Baba Ganoush (Smoky Aubergine Dip with Lemony Yoghurt and Garlic).
Moving on to dessert dips, I was spoiled for choice. As someone with a sweet tooth, I was torn between the flavours when it came to a favourite. Every month, Hipchips develops a different dip, with the August offering being a Banana Mousse with Rum Caramel. The combination of banana, rum and caramel was a winner for me and I anticipated I was going to love it before trying it. Thankfully, I was right. I thought the Peanut Butter and Jam swirl was particularly interesting. Taking a popular sandwich filling and turning it into a dip is a clever concept. Meanwhile, chocoholics will also enjoy the Campfire S’more (Chocolate Mousse with Marshmallows), one of the chunkier, thicker dips that can be a bit trickier to scoop, but worth the effort.
Overall, Hipchips is a quirky concept that is a great place for a stopgap in between meals. It’s fully licensed selling a selection of wine, beers and ciders so could be a sensible option to those looking to line the stomach on a night out. The staff was friendly and can give you helpful menu descriptions if you are struggling to decide. Worth a pitstop next time you’re in Soho feeling peckish.
- Hipchips, 49 Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 6HL. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus. For more information, visit the Hipchips website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
Disclaimer: Metro Girl was a guest of HipChips for this review. However my views are, as always, honest and my own.
Beso London is the newest foodie addition to the West End. Billed as a Moorish restaurant, the menu takes inspiration from Morocco and Spain. The new establishment is headed up by founder chef Khalid Dahbi, who has worked in Michelin-starred Le Meurice and L’Arpège in Paris, Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, the Gaucho, and Bibendum Restaurant. Situated on the fringes of Covent Garden at the less hectic end of Shaftesbury Avenue, Beso is a refreshing addition to the area’s culinary offerings, which tend to be dominated by chain restaurants.
The venue offers a choice of outdoor and indoor tables. The night of my visit was hot so the terrace was understandably in high demand, so we decided to dine indoors and were thrilled to be offered the Chef’s Table, aka the Firebar. The space features low-lighting, modern art and subtle mosaic detailing, giving a contemporary Moorish feel. Although primarily a dining destination, there is also seating at the bar if you just fancied a quick drink or pre-food cocktails.
Pulling up comfortable bar stools at the marble Firebar, we had a great view into the kitchen so could see and smell the food being cooked. The beauty of sitting at the Firebar meant Chef Khalid could explain the dishes to us and show us the individual ingredients being added. Reading ingredients on a menu is one thing, but being able to see the quality and quantity of them being added to your food was really enlightening. We kicked things off with a glass of Cava with some nibbles as we decided between going off the menu or opting for ‘the Beso Experience’. My friend and I were up for a culinary adventure so after stipulating our dietary requirements, signed up for the experience, which translates as small plates of Beso’s best dishes using the freshest ingredients that day.
We began with the starter-esque sharing plates, along with a bottle of a Portuguese white, Fernão Pires Verdelho, Ai Galera, – recommended by the chef – which was a refreshing and delicate accompaniment. Our first dish was some Crispy Chickpeas with Cumin and Paprika; and Moroccan Sardines with Basil and Chichurra. I liked the different approach to chickpeas, which can be quite a boring food if not seasoned correctly, while the sardines were absolutely delicious. Thinly sliced and served cold, the sardines tasted so fresh and were well complemented by the Basil and Chichurra. We moved on to another fish dish, Smoked Mackerel Pate with Smoked Nuts with bread. It was incredibly more-ish (or should that be Moorish! – ha). Continuing the fish dominance, we had an old favourite of Calamari with Crème Fraiche, Lemon Zest and Harissa, with Chef Khalid garnishing it in front of us, really bringing the kitchen action to the table. Adding some vegetables into the mix, we had a delicious Aubergine Salad with Mixed Peppers and Spinach. The Duck Pastilla was a big hit with my friend. A Moroccan dish of duck wrapped in pastry, cumin, flaked almonds and cinnamon, which proved an interesting and tasty mix of sweet and savoury. Read the rest of this entry
Hackney has been a popular social destination for some time, offering a variety of drinking, dancing and dining offerings. Last week, I popped along to one which offers all three, Oslo in Amhurst Road for dinner and cocktails. Oslo is a restaurant, bar and live music venue in a former railway station building by Hackney Central overground. It’s a huge space with high ceilings, with the exposed brickwork and metalwork giving a contemporary, industrial vibe.
Oslo opened in 2014 and offers British cuisine with a Nordic twist, encompassing lunch, dinner, Sunday roasts, weekend brunches and sharing plates. Our visit coincided with the launch of Oslo’s new menu, which features globally inspired dishes. Vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free foodies will find plenty of options to choose from, while carnivores will be pleased with some meatier offerings.
Starting with drinks, Oslo offers a large selection of cocktails, wine and craft beers, as well as the usual spirits. The cocktail menu offers plenty of classics, but many with an Oslo twist – such as a ‘Bull Fashioned’ with rum instead of whisky. I wanted a light, refreshing drink as the evening of our visit was sweltering so I opted for a lovely ‘Jubilation’ (Tanqueray Gin, Elderflower & Blueberry Syrup, Orange Bitters and Prosecco). It was well presented in a crystal, patterned glassware and a sprig of rosemary brought out the flavours. Meanwhile, my dining companion selected a ‘Melon Mojito’ (Havana Anejo Rum, Melon Liqueur, Mint Leaves, Fresh Lime Juice and Brown Sugar), which was a richer, fruitier approach to an old favourite.
Approaching the food menu, we shared a plate of Cod Bolinhos (Cod Croquettes, Seaweed Tempura and Lime Mayonnaise) as a starter. This is the first time I’ve had the dish outside of Portugal or a Portuguese restaurant and I was impressed. It was an authentic and tasty starter and we were actually tempted to order a second round. The crispy seaweed was a good contrast to the soft, chewy Bolinhos. Read the rest of this entry
London is renowned for having some of the best restaurants in the world. The bustling metropolis is a melting point of different cultures, which is reflected in the wide variety of cuisines on offer in the capital.
Borough Market is celebrating our city’s international flavours this August with a series of cooking demonstrations. Taking place every Thursday lunchtime, visitors can learn how to make a range of exotic dishes from top chefs. ‘Migration of Taste’ explores the market’s status as an international market and how world cuisine can be fused with British influences. Chefs will prepare several dishes in front of the audience, with recipe cards available to take home. Visitors will also be able to sample the culinary delights after they’ve been cooked.
- 2 August : Ursula Ferrigno
The acclaimed food writer and chef trained at the Auguste Escoffier School of the Culinary Arts. Ferrigno was taught to cook as a child by her grandmother in Italy and regularly returns to visit family and to teach cookery. She is passionate about Italian and Mediterranean cuisine and using fresh, natural ingredients.
- 9 August : Norman Musa
Malaysian-born Musa moved to the UK in 1994. After opening his first restaurant in Manchester 12 years ago, he also teaches Malaysian cooking across the UK. He will be showcasing recipes from traditional and contemporary Malaysian cuisine.
- 16 August : Dhruv Baker
The MasterChef 2010 winner has been inspired by his jet-set lifestyle, having lived in Mexico, India, East Africa and Spain. He will be exploring his Mexican food heritage, along with inspiration from European cuisine for his experimental dishes.
- 23 August : Philip Juma
Growing up as an English-Irish-Iraqi, Juma has quite the rich and varied heritage. Using his experiences working in the capital’s contemporary restaurants, he mixes traditional Iraqi dishes with modern cooking techniques.
- 30 August : Zoe Adjonyah
Adjonyah expanded her knowledge of West African cuisine when she visited her extended family in Ghana. She found inspiration in her grandmother’s kitchen and at the Kaneshie street market in Accra. Known for Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, she is looking forward to bringing visitors on a food journey through West African flavours.
- The Migration of Taste Demonstration Kitchen Residency takes place on Thursdays throughout August. From 1pm-2.30pm. Free. At Market Hall, Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, SE1 1TL. Nearest station: London Bridge. For more information, visit the Borough Market website.
For a guide to what’s on in London in August, click here.
Find out the history of Borough Market.
Last week, I went along to the launch of The Little Blue Door. The opening is a sequel of sorts to The Little Yellow Door, which opened as a pop-up in Notting Hill, but ended up remaining for three years. The concept is a flatshare, where guests can hang out with their pals over cocktails and food and make new friends. Setting up camp in Fulham, this double-fronted property has been transformed from a traditional shop, with a hallway, kitchen, living room, study and even a laundry room, which really gives the venue a homely feel.
Walking down Fulham Road, it would easy to walk straight past TLBD, with no signage except its simple blue door. Entering the venue, you’re in a lovely entrance hall, complete with grandfather clock and a cosy window seat. Straight-ahead is the kitchen – the hub of all house parties. I’ve got to admit I suffered some interior design envy at the kitchen-bar hybrid with its colourful tiles, where you can order frozen cocktails, served in a mini blender. I had a fabulously fruity ‘Shaun of the Dead’ cocktail (Bacardi rum blend, raspberry, cherry and lime). The kitchen features several tables, which will play host to their legendary supper clubs, which were constantly sold out for three years at their predecessor The Little Yellow Door.
When you’re ready to party, the main action is in the living room. It’s an expansive space with a long bar, lots of comfy sofas, armchairs and stools, surrounded by the artwork and eccentric decorations of the housemates, including a taxidermy fox. It took my friends and I a while to realise the ‘vase of flowers’ nearby was actually a hidden cocktail full of straws, so we were invited to have a drink of the flower water, which tasted great! During the evening, we sampled some canapes, including lobster, mezze and the absolutely delicious Cam ‘N’ Bert’ (Baked Camembert served with Truffle Honey, Roast Pear and Sugared Almonds).
The domestic theme follows throughout with the hidden study available for private groups, with gaming consoles and safes for regulars to keep some surprises hidden. Meanwhile, one of the big talking points was the Prosecco vending machine in the back hallway. There’s no need to wait at the bar as you can get your own mini bottle of classic or rose Prosecco in seconds from the machine. Overall, it’s a great venue for catching up with friends. The décor managed to be both homely and stylish and really gave a welcoming feel. The cocktails and food were fabulous, so I’m really looking forward to returning for one of their supper clubs or bottomless brunches.
- The Little Blue Door, 871-873 Fulham Road, Fulham, SW6 5HP. Nearest station: Parsons Green. Open: Wed-Thurs: 6pm-12pm, Fri: 6pm-1.30am, Sat: 11.30am-1.30am, Sun: 11.30am-6pm. Tel or Whatsapp: 07538 229 096. Email: Justknock@thelittlebluedoor.co.uk. For more information, visit The Little Blue Door website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.