Last Week’s Food Adventures

There’s nothing like sitting down to a delicious meal you didn’t have to cook yourself after working all day (or a perfect cup of tea after an long afternoon shopping, for that matter!). Note: I wasn’t completely lazy this week. I cooked a beef stew on Sunday afternoon and even baked some chocolate chip banana bread that someone (with plenty of help from me of course), devoured pretty quickly.

But I also made it to:

PINCHITO, SHOREDITCH
http://www.pinchito.co.uk/

Carolina’s birthday called for a girl’s night at tapas and cocktail bar Pinchito in Shoreditch where our charming Spanish waiter brought us a few rounds of free shots to top off our tasty Hemingway daiquiris or, in Leslie’s case, her usual double shots of straight tequila that she sips from a glass.

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I was a bit too distracted with giggling and talk of travel adventures to take any food pictures but it was tapas galore, from fried chunks of salty brie to roasted duck with berry sauce to croquetas de cocido madrileño and other Spanish delights. Here’s a round of shots instead:

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After all those tapas, the six of us managed to plough through a red velvet cake from Hummingbird Bakery. We spared a slice for the man with the free shots and left behind a trail of chocolate crumbs. Here’s the birthday girl:

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It was a tiny little place with dim lights and random photos of colourful Barcelona images and other things Spanish on the walls. Drinks were good. Food was good. Staff were friendly and let us stick around for about four hours. If it wasn’t in the far away land that is East London, I’d go back more often!

CAFE NERO, GLOUCESTER ROAD

Who knows why, but the next morning I woke up earlier than usual, so I decided to take my book and have a relaxing tea on one of the comfy seats at Cafe Nero (which is a chain and everywhere you look) on Gloucester Road since it’s on my walk to work. I like the atmosphere in the morning, even though the tea isn’t great. In fact, the whole experience isn’t really even worth mentioning apart from the fact that I wanted to share this little instagram photo:

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It was like the devil/angel situation that morning. I wanted to be the the guy on the couch, but it was time to look alive and be the guys at the table.

ADDIE’S THAI, EARL’S COURT
http://www.addiesthai.co.uk/

When I lived in Earl’s Court, I discovered this little gem on Earl’s Court Road. It’s easy to pass by and now that I work just around the corner, we get take away for lunch occasionally. Dimple and I went there for dinner the day I was at Cafe Nero. I am obsessed with the pad see ew and we usually split veggie spring rolls.

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Again, I didn’t take food pictures (I know, I know… I’ll do it properly next time!) Addie’s is a great little place. They serve Bankok-style “street food” which is delicious and super cheap with pretty big portions as well.

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Reserve a table or get there early. We got there the minute they opened at 6pm so it was still relatively empty. By the time we left, it was jam packed with people waiting for tables.

THAI TASTE, CROMWELL ROAD
http://www.thaitaste.co.uk/

It was a week for Thai food, I guess, which is always a good week. Thai Taste is on Cromwell Road, worth a wander in if you’re in the area. They’re a bit slow with the service, but the food is good. A bit more expensive and a bit smaller portions than Addie’s though. Came here for lunch with some colleagues and no pictures but thought I’d mention it anyway! I’m always open ears to Thai food recommendations in London so leave them in the comments if you have any.

JOE AND THE JUICE, KING’S ROAD

Another chain, which I don’t usually write about as you know, but it’s a place I often find myself after an afternoon of shopping because it’s convenient, the sandwiches are good and the juice is even better. It was freezing on Saturday afternoon so I nipped in here to write a few snail mail letters and enjoy a freshly squeezed apple, ginger and strawberry juice. Plus, it has comfy seats and they let you hang out as long as you like, which are always a plus.

Joe and the Juice

BLUEBIRD CAFE, KING’S ROAD
http://www.bluebird-restaurant.co.uk/

The Bluebird, built in an old car garage on King’s Road, has a great reputation in Chelsea and I’d been there before and enjoyed it. So, I was surprised that this was the disappointment of the week. Jorge and I popped in for an afternoon tea. The staff were awkward and distracted and there was a crazy kid running everywhere whose parents were pretty useless at keeping him under control. The atmosphere was all a bit chaotic. So much for a relaxing tea…

202, WESTBOURNE GROVE
http://www.202london.com/

We spent Saturday afternoon in Notting Hill, stopping at the fabulous Brit-country-chic Stumper & Fielding shop before wandering around Westbourne Grove. The plan was lunch at Granger & Co, but the inevitable queue was too daunting, so we settled on 202 where there was still a queue, but at least it was inside and snaked through shelves of coffee table Taschen books full of fashion, interior design and architecture to keep us entertained. It was well worth the wait. We had eggs benedict with parma ham, roasted potato fries and some of the best garlic spinach I’ve ever eaten. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. The fruit crumble with ice cream on top looked delicious but we behaved and stayed away. Definitely a place I’d go back to, and great for people watching as it fills up with Notting Hill’s well-heeled crowd. (Again, no pictures. Didn’t plan on writing about any of these-sorry!)

CAFFE FRATELLI, SLOANE SQUARE

Yup, I know, another chain. And again, nothing to write home about. This one is simply convenient and it’s great for days when it is warm outside because it sits at the corner of Duke of York Square. Good for a quick lunch stop or a lazy afternoon tea and magazine.

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EL GAUCHO, SYDNEY STREET
http://www.elgaucho.co.uk/

This tiny little place is tucked away in the Chelsea Farmer’s Market on Sydney Street.

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Thumbs down to the tv playing football, but the gaucho decor is fun. We had, of course, big juicy steaks that were delicious, some fries that were not so delicious and some spinach that was definitely tasty (though not as amazingly memorable at the spinach at 202)!

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The freshly squeezed orange juice was pretty memorable though and we had a nice night out. I actually have food pictures this time. iPhone food pictures, but at least they are pictures, right?

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The dessert was tasty too – particularly the dulce de leche bit which reminded me of Colombia.

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Where’s the best steak you’ve ever eaten in London? I think mine, that I can remember so far, was possibly the Electric Cinema restaurant on Portobello Road or maybe Maggie Jones on Kensington Church Street…Like the Thai recommendations, I’m always open to good steak!

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And what have I learned from all of this? Probably that this week I should cook more… Maybe it’s time for another Hello Fresh order?

 

Three Days with Hello Fresh

Ever come home from work and look around the kitchen feeling uninspired to cook anything more ambitious than a Waitrose meal ready to pop in the oven? That’s pretty much every night for me. So I am fully on board with the concept of Hello Fresh, especially for their encouragement of incorporating a bit of creativity with weeknight meals.

At the beginning of 2012 when the company first launched in London, I had the pleasure of reviewing Hello Fresh. They were fabulous then and even more fabulous now. And I’m not just saying that because they gave me three nights of free food!

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What’s it all about? You choose a number of days and how many people you want to feed. Hello Fresh then puts together a box of fresh ingredients for you along with a few recipes they select. The quantity of the ingredients matches pretty much exactly to the recipes included. Each night, you cook something new!

delivery

The recipes come on sleek black colorful cards with pictures of the ingredients on the front along with all of health information (ie – Kcal, fat, carbs, protein) and on the back an easy list of instructions that are also illustrated. It’s affordable too as well with 3 meals for 2 people costing £39 (or £36 for a vegetarian box) and free delivery in mainland UK.

My three recipes this time were:

  • Chicken Paillard with Crushed Rosemary Potatoes, Rocket and Gremolata
  • Roasted Coconut Cod with Shiitake Mushrooms, Mange Tout and Egg Noodles
  • Roasted Chicken with Chorizo, Pearl Barley and Cous Cous Jumble

Here’s a better look at the recipe cards and my finished masterpieces:

Chicken Paillard with Crushed Rosemary Potatoes, Rocket and Gremolata

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chicken 1

Roasted Coconut Cod with Shiitake Mushrooms, Mange Tout and Egg Noodles

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Roasted Chicken with Chorizo, Pearl Barley and Cous Cous Jumble

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How did I do? Our favourite was the coconut cod. Such a mix of flavours! But they were all delicious!

A LITTLE LONDON OBSERVATIONIST DISCOUNT

Hello Fresh have offered us a special LLO reader discount. So if you’re keen to give it a try, visit the Hello Fresh website, choose your meal plan and enter the code LITTLELONDON at checkout for £15 off your first order. Let me know if you go for it and what you think. Enjoy!

Hello Fresh

It’s 10pm and I’ve just gotten home from working overtime. The doorbell rings. It’s a man standing there with a smile and two paper bags full of food for me from Hello Fresh. They’d been kind enough to arrange a late delivery.

The bags contain food for the next five days as well as five recipes for which the exact ingredients have been included. If I need 2 carrots, that’s what I’ll find in the bag. One clove of garlic? I find one clove of garlic. You get the picture. I unpack.

I find a personalised note inside and a little bag of chocolates.

The recipes come on sleek black cards with plenty of photos and step by step instructions that are super easy to follow on the back.

(Recipe card for My Thai Green Curry with Chicken Sweet Potato and Basmati Rice, courtesy of Hello Fresh)

Here’s mine:

Recipes for the week are chosen by chefs and nutritionists. You choose the size of your bags and meals. The recipes come to you as a surprise. My recipes were:

1.) More-ish Mozzarella Chicken with Rustic Tomato Sauce and Penne

2.) Tangy Toasted Thai Rice with Fresh Prawns and Cucumber Salad (<– favourite!)


3.) My Thai Green Curry with Chicken, Sweet Potato & Basmati Rice (<– least favourite – too spicy for me!)
Oops – Forgot to take a photo of the final meal for this one. It was a tiring week…that’s my only excuse!

4.) Mamma’s Secret Beef Bolognese with Spaghetti


5.) Millionaire’s Shepherd’s Pie

As a side note: I had a happy flatmate this week because I made him help me eat everything!

Hello Fresh Positives: Surprise recipes are great because you end up cooking new food you may not have thought to otherwise; you keep the recipe cards so you can use them over again if you like them; recipe cards super easy to follow; time saver; orders are well organised; healthy food choices approved by nutritionists; forces you to cook when you otherwise would have tossed something in the microwave which is a good thing for me; can choose size of order; free delivery; food is brilliantly fresh; everything is given in portions so there is less waste; people who work at Hello Fresh are lovely and accommodating.

Hello Fresh Negatives: Surprise recipes can also be negative  because you may end up with something you don’t like; they don’t currently cater to vegetarians or special diets at the moment; no minimum sign up period – 6 days notice to cancel an ongoing weekly order; if there’s leftovers, you have to eat it for lunch the next day rather than dinner because having the fresh food in the house means you have to cook every night.

Would I sign up? Yes, but not every week or I would choose the smaller plan so there’s not so much pressure to cook proper recipes every night, however delicious they may be!

Also, just for fun and games, I’ve decided to pick the brains of Caitlin Arnold from Hello Fresh for you in a mini London-y Q&A:

LLO: As food is important to you, can you recommend a favourite restaurant choice with some fresh and healthy options for those lazy days you don’t feel like cooking?
CA: I love Cah Chi – delicious Korean food. My favourite thing is the dak bulgogi with a side of sigumchi namul – barbeque chicken with a side of steamed spinach. So good.

LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery and why?
CA: I saw the musical Wicked in London in 2007 and it changed my life. I have seen it four times since then.

LLO: Share one memory or moment that could only have happened in London.
CA:  I went to Ministry of Sound to see Sander Van Doorn in 2007 and it blew my mind.

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Full disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. I was given a week’s worth of free groceries from the company Hello Fresh with a promise to review their services for you.