Saturday 7 January 2012

Finest dining experiences of 2011

Bright shelving in the Covent Garden branch of Brighton Bill's

After reading my reviews of The Brekky’s Club’s mashed avocado and bacon on toast and Camden Bar’s blueberry pancakes, you'd assume that I only ever went out for brunch. In fact, I've dined at an array of excellent eateries over the past year at all different times of the day - I just haven't been very good at reporting back. So following on from my favourite foodie finds, I decided to end my series of 2011 reflections with a photo gallery of the most memorable meals I've experienced away from my kitchen.

Rather than providing any elaborate flavour descriptions, I’ll let these snapshots speak for themselves. Just like your favourite childhood story before it is transformed into a garish cinema blockbuster, sometimes it’s better to just use your imagination…

Angelina – Paris

Afternoon tea for two Paris style

An afternoon tea to beat Breakfast at Tiffany’s – a white chocolate éclair and the Tartlette Eva, filled with dark chocolate strawberry ganache and vanilla crème brulee.

A cup of chocolat chaud l'Africain

Angelina’s notorious chocolat chaud l’Africain – for some reason I decided the whipped cream wouldn’t be required!

Hand and Flowers – Marlow

Moule mariniere with warm stout and brown bread

A surprising starter to stimulate the senses – moule mariniere with warm stout and brown bread

Slow cooked duck breast with savoy cabbage with duck fat chips and gravy

Tom Kerridge’s signature main course was a winner on the Great British Menu -  slow cooked duck breast with savoy cabbage and duck fat chips (to die for!)

Coffee Club – Bournemouth

Coffee Club baileys and chocolate cheesecake

Quite possibly the only time I’ve been beaten by a dessert - with this Ferrero Rocher-topped Baileys and chocolate cheesecake, the Ambassador was really spoiling me!

Wahaca – Soho

Wahaca pork pibil burrito with chorizo frijoles

I’m a huge fan of the Mexican street food on offer at Thomasina Miers’ restaurant and always order a pot of frijoles – on this occasion the chorizo version was accompanied by a pork pibil burrito.

Alghero – Poole

Alghero chef's special fish soup

This Sardinian restaurant may be a “little secret” to most of Dorset, but it’s a favourite with my family – offering an impressive selection of Italian classics such as this chef’s special seafood soup, it’s easy to understand why!

Joe Allen – Covent Garden

Joe Allen's famous off-menu burger

Joe Allen’s legendary “secret burger” – it seems slightly odd to me to leave a dish as good as this off the menu, but apparently it’s always available if you ask…

RoastMasterchef Live

This “pop-up” diner at Masterchef Live gave me a chance to try Roast’s top-quality meats, but unfortunately I feel they suffered slightly from the stall’s fast-food style (and wooden cutlery!) – I’d like to visit their restaurant above Borough Market this year so I can test out their full dining experience.

Roast pork with winter root veg mash

Sunday lunch to take away – roasted stuffed pork with root vegetable mash and Bramley apple sauce.

Canteen – Spitalfields

I was offered a free meal for two people (and a bottle of wine) at Canteen after tweeting about a disappointing dinner at their Spitalfields branch – the food was good but the waiting staff were distracted and there were long delays between courses. I’m relieved to say that on my return trip there had been a vast improvement  – I’m terrible for nosing at other people’s plates when I eat out, and each one I saw looked equally appetising!  

Canteen roast beef and giant yorkshire pudding

A traditional Sunday roast dinner on a Thursday evening – thickly sliced beef and a gigantic Yorkshire pudding!

Canteen chocolate beetroot cake

Great customer service to help celebrate my friend’s birthday in style – her chocolate and beetroot cake came decorated with a candle (and served with mascarpone cream).

Cinnamon ClubTaste of Christmas

Another food festival, another tiny taster of a popular London restaurant – this time Westminster’s Cinnamon Club.

Cinnamon Club Garam Masala Christmas Pudding

Garam masala christmas pudding with vanilla custard – I loved this modern Indian twist on a festive dessert that I usually loathe!

The Greenhouse – Mayfair

My view from The Greenhouse

The view from my table proves that The Greenhouse’s description of their Michelin-starred restaurant as an “oasis of calm” is an accurate one – pan-fried onion squash pumpkin with mussels and coconut broth (plus a glass of fine red wine!).

Braised beef short ribs with apple and Szechuan puree

A melt-in-the-mouth main course – braised beef short ribs with an apple and Szechuan puree (“pommes boulangeres” served separately).

Bill’s – Covent Garden

Brighton Bill's french toast

With daily specials scrawled on chalkboards and shelves crammed with brightly-coloured jars and packets, the decor of Bill’s is just as appealing as the brunch menu – French toast sprinkled with fruit, walnut yoghurt and maple syrup.

Brighton Bills chocolate brownie milkshake

You may not be surprised to hear that I didn’t order this chocolate brownie milkshake – though I secretly wish that I had!

…and finally, my local chippy

If you’ve read this blog before you’ll know that my boyfriend and I recently moved to London together – but he was born in Liverpool and I grew up in Dorset. One of his biggest fears about moving “down South” as he put it (it’s still North for me!) was whether we’d find somewhere that served “proper chips”…

Classic fish n chip supper

Thankfully his fears were alleviated when we discovered a great place for a battered fish supper just round the corner from our little flat – though there’s still a North / South divide on whether this takeaway treat should be served with curry sauce or mayonnaise!

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