The Barbary

This weekend was all about new favourites.

The team behind Palomar has opened their second restaurant concept in Covent Garden at Neal’s Yard, one of my favourite little spots in the city. For those of you who have not been, its a perfect spot for a date night.

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I’ve had Barbary on my list for a while and finally A and I landed up there on a Saturday evening. Might not have been the best choice of day considering the fact that they don’t take reservations but the vibe, people and the lovely wine definitely transported us to the Barbary Coast.

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We finally got our two seats at a 24 seater kitchen table and I was possibly behaving like a little kid who had been left free to roam in a candy store all night. I literally wanted to try everything on the menu. But before that, I gave myself a bit of history lesson and quickly read up on the food culture and traditions of the Barbary coast which are made up of some beautiful ingredients and some great traditional cooking techniques. The spices, seeds and seasonal fruit and veg seem to define the menu which changes depending on the season of course.

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We got a couple of dips to begin with along with the Moroccan cigars. They were crispy golden spring rolls filled with a delicious sea food mince.

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The baba ghanoush was creamy and velvety with a perfect smoky aubergine flavour
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I lately have got a thing for pickled beetroot and this was even better as it came on a bed of whippy thick yogurt

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The msacabha chickpeas took me down memory lane as they reminded me of the white peas my granny would make when we visited her after school. This would be my staple Friday lunch. A tiny squeeze of lemon and they taste divine

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The fluffy cauliflower charred on the ends and served with this jeweled tomato and herb dressing is an absolute must

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The black salmon dukkah was possibly the best thing on the menu. I couldn’t get enough of it as my fork kept going back to the plate even when the fish was over. The glossy marinade with honey and all the crunchy seeds was something that I would love to recreate in my kitchen

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The salmon gets to feature twice!

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The chicken was juicy tender and A’s most loved dish of the night

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The monkfish skewers was the special for the evening. I love anything that’s cooked on a charcoal grill and this was no exception. The cooking technique seems to bring out the flavour of the meat for me. The skewers were garnished with this citrussy olive oil reduction which added a bit of zing to the fish

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Last but never the least the knafah was ordered to put the sweet tooth to rest. This dessert is as sweet as it can get. The crispy rice noodle cake dipped in honey with a sprinkle of pistachio and a touch of orange brought a swing to my spoon and a satisfied sparkle to my eye

This has got to be your next culinary destination. You can find them here  https://thebarbary.co.uk/

 

 

 

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Barrafina

Seem to be getting the Monday blues and Tuesday grey’s at the same time.  Think I know what’s the instant cure. 

Headed to one of our favourite restaurants and its bloody damn good, that’s why we don’t mind the wait. It’s the best for a reason and I am sure you will agree after what you are going to see. Trust me if you haven’t already visited, you are definitely missing out. 

Barrafina on Drury Lane, that’s the one we go to, is a whole load of deliciousness on your plate. 

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 We started off with the specials for the night- miso grilled aubergine. For some reason most people I know (and probably those that I don’t either) aren’t big fans of the vegetable but this one was wiped clean in just under 2 minutes.

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Next up we got our prawns. I know its a sharing concept but with food this good no one was willing to share their piece.

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The courgette flower stuffed with goat cheese and a drizzle of honey is my favorite dish on the menu. Trust me order a couple as you wouldn’t want to share this one.

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The pork belly literally melts in your mouth. Its gooey yet crispy if you know what I mean.

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The harrisa chicken wings perfectly fit the definition of comfort food done well

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We forgot about the calamari but then reminded ourselves about the concept- food comes when its ready with finishing touches from the head chef standing right in front of you.

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The crab bun is another one that features on our order every time we visit. The squishy brioche bun and the beautiful crab will only leave you ordering another one.

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At this point we were soo full and soo aware that a massive leg of lamb was on its way. The chef was specially cooking the lamb for us as it wasn’t a part of the menu on the day. There was no way we could have refused. Of course we were not able to finish it and I think the chef saw the look on our faces. I wasn’t willing to leave a piece of meat this juicy & tender. Barrafina doesn’t do takeaways but a small exception was made for us this time around.

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As I always say, there is a separate compartment for dessert. We ordered the orange sorbet and the torrijas. Both exceptionally amazing. The orange sorbet is like having a calippo in an orange and the torrijas is cakey, carameley, nutty……mmmmmm

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Decided to take some pictures along the way.

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Too cool for school……maybe

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Posing failed. This is what happens when you eat and drink too much.

White on White

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Finally, I am back!

Been collecting a few posts recently but just didn’t get down to sharing them with you.

I am quite fascinated with co-ords and have bought a few lately. Thought I’ll share one of my favourites with you. I absolutely love this white on white combination as it works perfectly during the day and blends well into the night. However, I think I might wear this with a pair of trainers and a turtle neck sweater because London weather will not permit me to walk out like this anymore. Sadly, I’ll have to give my Rossis a miss. The silver gold version might not be available anymore, I bought mine from the Harrods summer sale but the ones below are uber sexy for the winter.

Trousers      Double Breasted Waist Coat     Shoes

For those of you who know me must be wondering where is the food. Yes, I didn’t come back home empty stomach. We did stuff ourselves up with some eggy cheesy brunch.

Thanks for stopping by! Food to follow.

Tree to Bar

As always the food seems to have taken over my last Caribbean adventure, however I haven’t forgotten to blog about our choc-tastic experience.

Our very own Hotel Chocolat gets all its indulgent, velvety stash from the Rabot Estate in St Lucia. This cacao plantation owned by Hotel chocolat is responsible for all of our guilty pleasures.

A and I decided to do something different this time around and not just lie on the beach and turn into brownies . The Tree to Bar tour set up by the Rabot Estate was a great experience and made the holiday even more special. If it wasn’t for A’s love for chocolates we wouldn’t have done this but i am glad he pushed for it.

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It was fascinating to learn about a hundred different types of cacao and how they start to creep up from the tree trunk. The pods not only come in this beautiful deep red but also in an orange, yellow, green and burnt red- a good method of recognizing the type of cacao pod.

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Don’t quote me, but i think this was No. 95. This pod isn’t ready just yet to harvest as the indentation hasn’t turned slightly yellow.

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If I am wrong this man will definitely kill me. Mr Cuthbert was the man responsible for imparting all the knowledge about the plantation and the pods, and boy did he take his job  seriously. He was so passionate about his job that it reinstated my belief in the idea of no matter where you are in the world but if you enjoy what you do it just makes the journey a little more worthwhile. I was compelled to pay attention to each word he was saying.

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The fun bit had only just started, these two men showed us how to graft our own cacao plant and once the plant was ready to face the real world and become a tree we would get a call from the Rabot Estate asking us if we would like to visit again and do the needful. I am soo ready to go back to St Lucia!

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Tadaaaaa……… Choc-xited much!

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The beautiful beans that are left out to dry. The farmers are meant to be extremely efficient as St Lucia is a rain forest and its very rare that a day goes by without a couple of passing showers. We witnessed one just while we were there and in no time all the beans disappeared.

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This is one of my favourite pictures. Hands of a hard working man with his livelihood.

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The second part of the tour involved us making our own chocolate bar with cacao nibs, cacao butter and sugar.

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Me at work. This better be one hell of a bar.

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I was tempted to lick the whole pot

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I think the gentleman read my mind and got me a spoon

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Those white things that you see are cacao beans and all the amazing chocolate martinis that we slurped on were made using cacao in its raw form

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Having a bit of a Murad Osman moment with the gigantic pitons. Someone’s trying to be original, maybe not!

I did say a little farewell to St Lucia at this moment but that definitely didn’t mean that I wasn’t coming back.

Until next time! Sparkle on!

 

 

Sticks & Sushi

The glorious sun decided to make a short appearance over London town last weekend before the dark clouds took over.

We wasted no time and decided to walk to Covent Garden to grab some sushi for lunch. There were a couple detours on the way to pick up some nutella cupcakes from hummingbird and a photo opportunity to capture one of my first no fur or puffy jacket appearances this year. I usually feel frozen for 8 months of the year.

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I absolutely love these jimmy choo’s and can totally live in them. Leather jacket from Zara, sweater from Uniqlo, leggings from Nike and of course my favourite boy (may be talking about my photographer or bag)!

We made it in time for some sticks and sushi. The walk took a bit longer as we decided to explore the glorious streets of London. They never fail to disappoint and I always seem to discover something new.

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Sunday lunch without a cheery drink is not allowed. I went for a yellow juice while A went for a beer.

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While nibbling on the scrummy edamame beans with spicy sauce we discussed the new restaurant openings around town. Went to a couple last weekend.

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The crispy ebi bites arrived in no time and before we knew it they were all gone. I could have ordered another one but didn’t want to be too greedy.

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We ordered some of our favourites, spicy tuna, California roll and the prawn tempura roll.

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The California roll was so fresh and the crab, avocado and spicy soy made for a delicious bite.

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The star of the day was the crispy tempura roll. Who doesn’t like a bit of crunch.

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Finally we got the chicken meatball and lamb chop sticks. They both will be ordered again however I might get a couple more of the lamb next time. I like mine medium to well and you have to ask for it otherwise they are served medium.

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We ate to our hearts’ content and decided to walk back home to burn all those calories. A’s got a one up on sticks and sushi as this was his discovery.

I would recommend booking as they were really busy even after the usual lunch hour.

Chicken & Quinoa Spring Salad

Its not only the clothes that start getting a tad bit happier and brighter during this time of the year, its also the food.

The breads , soups and pastas are replaced with salads, smoothies and sushi.

To cheer up our after workout Saturday afternoon I came up with an easy and quick quinoa and chicken recipe. I had some mini chicken fillets in the fridge and this preferred protein goes well with quinoa.

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Now for the ingredients, just in case you are in the mood for some quinoa goodness

1 packet quinoa

8 mini chicken fillets

1 red pepper

1 red or white onion

1 tbsp. cajun spice

1 tbsp oil

1/2 lemon

Handful coriander

Handful flaked almonds

1tsp salt

1tsp pepper

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I started off by chopping the onion and red pepper

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Its up to you whether you want chunky chicken pieces or thin slices. I like them thinner so I further sliced the mini fillets into two

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After all the chopping and slicing I added the chicken pieces to the pan along with the oil and the Cajun spices. Make sure the oil is hot before you add the chicken to the pan. Mix well to ensure even coating and cook the chicken for 5 minutes.

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Slide the onions and peppers into the pan

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Mix them with the spices and cook until the veggies soften and start to caramelise. Don’t let the chicken burn, keep swirling your wooden spoon for some sparkling compliments later

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I used the quinoa and puy lentils mix for my salad and followed the cooking instructions on the bag

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Once cooked I emptied out the quinoa into a bowl

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By now my chicken and veg mix was also cooked to perfection so I transferred that to the bowl as well

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Gave it a good mix and squeezed half a lemon over it along with some salt and pepper

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Once I was happy with the flavours I sprinkled a handful of flaked almonds over it. You will be surprised how they add another layer of texture & taste to the recipe

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Finally sprinkled some sparkle with fresh coriander. I absolutely love the smell and the colours of this herb.

I was starving by the time I finished cooking, just look at those colours aren’t they calling out to you.

I grabbed my bowl full and sat in front of the telly to finish off my guilty pleasure – an episode of Marvel Agents of Shield.

 

A Dose of Vitamin Sea

We were millions of miles away from the cold dull rainy London, its not like I don’t love home but it can get quite depressing during the winter months. A quick trip to re-energise yourself with some vitamin sea is much needed.

The second leg of our holiday was at St Lucia which was only a 50 minute flight away from the stunning Antigua. The domestic airline wasn’t the most efficient as we had to wait for over an hour at the airport before we finally got to St Lucia at 10 in the evening. Possibly not the best car ride at night, we encountered far too many hair pin turns as they like to call them and an additional 1.5 hours to get to the hotel. I am assuming the ride would have been more enjoyable in the day as St Lucia is a mountainous island with tons of fishing villages and some beautiful views.

I had already made up my mind about this Caribbean island and Antigua was at the very top of my list, not that the list was very long. I even remember telling A that I am so glad we had more days in Antigua.

However we only had to wait for 8 odd hours till our jaws dropped.

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They dropped and how. We woke up very early in the morning as per holiday standards and there was no one at the beach at 7 am. We could hear the splashing of the waves and the cool breeze was blowing through my freshly washed hair. We had found another pearl in the Caribbean.

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Before we headed for breakfast we were told we could reserve our spot at the beach by keeping some of our belongings on the beach chairs. I didn’t need to be told twice to drop all our sun creams at our preferred location.

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These huts made for some beautiful pictures or perhaps A & I were just over-excited.

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Being greeted with these beautiful colours first thing in the morning would make anyone smile from ear to ear. We had a choice of fresh grapefruit, passion fruit or watermelon. No prizes for guessing but I may have single-handedly finished the jar full of watermelon. The grapefruit was calling out to us but we were bursting from all sides by the time we finished our omelettes.

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We stayed at the sugar mill rooms which might not have had the same view as Hermitage Bay but they were a short walk away from the beach and had fluffy soft heavenly beds. I was almost on the verge of asking if we could buy their bed linen and mattress topper.

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I have a thing for white and dark wood, they make for perfect hotel rooms. I also seem to have developed a liking towards these plantation shutters after our holiday. We have them at our new home but its only after this trip that I have started to warm up towards them.

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I couldn’t get over our ibaby- his and hers. Useful tool for when you are on such a large resort.

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We had a few jaw dropping, eye popping moments, which I have tried to capture to the best of my abilities but it was hard to keep up. Sometimes it was just nice to soak in the moment and be aware of the sensory pleasures that one may not witness everyday.

The beautiful Pitons as the backdrop for the pool had us totally immersed.

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I wasn’t sure if I was in Koh Samui or the Caribbean but we had a crazy tuk tuk ride at Sugar Beach. I wasn’t going to get off so soon and only relented after much convincing from the driver who informed me that this was the primary mode of transport around the resort. Excited Much!

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As most of you may be wondering, where is the food ?!

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The Cane Bar culinary delights came as a refreshing change even though we had enjoyed all the grilled fish, prawns and lobsters prior to this meal. The soft shell crab cut roll with spicy mayo and a hint of mango and the chopped tuna with avocado and chilli were my favourites.

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If 50 shades of blue is your thing I would recommend a trip to the Caribbean Islands. I’ve already started researching my next holiday even though I am not home yet. Its just my thing and keeps me going through the year.

Bye now from the beach. More on some rainforest chocolate adventures in a couple of days. I promise I won’t be too long.