A Delicious Dinner at Iberica

Whenever my parents come to London, I take them to my favourite restaurants, so this time we ended up at Iberica in Marylebone for some of the best Spanish food we’ve tried in London. (Yes, I know, the second food post in a row…!)


Jorge was there too, of course. He’s the one who introduced me to Iberica back in June when we went for the first time. You may remember the blog post detailing our tipsy lunch. We sat by the bright front windows, mid afternoon with sun pouring in to light up the interior which made for some nice photos.


This time we went for dinner and sat in a cosy area upstairs. It was atmospheric with dim lights (although that didn’t help with the quality of the photos!)


We settled in with a complimentary bottle of champagne (thanks Iberica!) and picked through the menu. We already knew most of what we planned to order since the food we enjoyed last time was so delicious we wanted more of the same.

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We started with olives and bread with olive oil for dipping. Then we shared a board with of three types of jamón, which came from three different areas of Spain, each with slightly different flavours. Following closely behind were the gooey croquetas de jamón with their crisp outer layer. Then we had one of our favourites – pulpo a la Gallega – octopus with potatoes and paprika. Yum!


And what are Spanish tapas without a dish full of pimientos de piquillo? You never know when you might pull out a spicy one! Of course we added a Spanish omelette to the table. We also went for something new: fried chorizo lollypops with pear alioli sauce which were fun to eat and full of flavour.

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My mom and I washed it all down with some daiquiris (which came in glasses with the straws “magically” stuck to the condensation on the outside).


Dessert followed. We all shared a tarta de Santiago and a tarta de la abuela.

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Not only is the food delicious, but the decor and atmosphere are really inviting and the staff are fun, friendly and attentive. They seem to enjoy their jobs, which makes a difference!

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Eventually it was time to head home, but we’ll be back before long, I am sure! Maybe we’ll try the Canary Wharf branch next time…

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Leave me your best London restaurant recommendations in a comment, pretty please!

A Healthy Lunch at Ottolenghi

Last Saturday’s rain was relentless. My parents were here from New York and my dad left my mom and I alone to spend the day together (ie – he didn’t want to be dragged around the shops!). So we were out and about, dodging puddles and rain spray from cars, trying on silly glasses and enjoying some rare mother-daughter time.

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In the Spring, Jorge and I were lured in to Ottolenghi on Motcomb Street by the piles of baked goods beckoning us from the windows to find plates of delicious and colorful salads filling the counters inside.


That warm and sunny day, we sat outdoors in the small quiet courtyard sipping fennel soup and dipping in pieces of fresh bread. So Ottolenghi popped into my mind again as a place to take my mom when we were in the area hunting for lunch.


Not only is it healthy, but it’s also delicious.


It’s a tiny little place so they only have one big communal table inside. We managed to get a seat with a few fellow diners and ended up shuffling around to fit more people in. Sitting outside would have been preferable but unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans and everything was soaked. While we surveyed the menu, we started with some tasty juice – carrot, apple and ginger – which was tangy and sweet and refreshing.


The menu might change every day. It had a date on top. Also, they didn’t have the fennel soup we enjoyed before, so we looked over our options.


One of the deals was that you choose a main and two salads. I was going to go with the croquettes but they had run out so I chose the “lamb, pistachio and bulgur kebab with green tahini sauce and parsley”. My salads were “butterbean hummus with dukkah, basil, rose petals and parsley” and “grilled fennel and courgettes with sweet pistachio relish, dill, lemon, goats cheese and watercress”.


My mom also had the lamb dish but for salads she chose “basmati and wild rice with sultanas, nuts, lemon, chilli, spring onions and herbs” and “roasted aubergine with saffron yogurt, hazelnut, pomegranate seeds and mixed herbs”.


All of it was filling and delicious. The only disappointing thing was that we were too full for dessert!


It was time to head back into the rain. But there’s always a next time! Next time, dessert will be mine!


Where’s your favourite restaurant in London for healthy food?

A Scandinavian Supper at Madsen

There are so many restaurants in London I sometimes feel a bit guilty going back to the same one twice, let alone three or four times, but there are a few we can’t stay away from and Madsen is one of them!


Not only is this South Ken gem incredibly close to home, it serves up some delicious Scandinavian treats that combine interesting ingredients (as you’ll see in our meals below) and they switch up their selective menu so there’s always something new to try.


Jorge and I first ate at Madsen about a year ago on a Twitter recommendation from an LLO reader (thank you!) and last week was probably our fourth visit. As usual, it didn’t disappoint.

He had a Danish beer and I started out with some elderflower juice – a perfect refreshing drink for Summer.


As a starter, we shared a delicious Nordic salad full of different textures: mixed leaves, cauliflower flakes, roasted hazelnuts, pomegranate and Västerbotten cheese with an apple cider vinaigrette. Yum!


They also brought out a few slices of bread, which tasted freshly baked and with what I think may have been caraway seeds and butter with a bit of sea salt to spread on top.


For a main, I went for the “Lightly salt-cured chicken breast from the grill garnished with a tomato, mint and pickled candy beets salad. Served with a buttery jus.” It came with what we found out was baked mango!


Jorge had the grilled rump steak beef rump steak served with grilled tomato, blackberry sauce and a mild wild garlic purée.


The only disappointment this time around was that there were no chocolate desserts on the menu! The one we had on our first trip (Swedish sticky chocolate cake topped with orange ganache and Madsen’s lingonberry ice cream) was delicious! But we decided to go for scoops of vanilla ice cream with hot fudge from the kid’s menu.


The snapdragons on each table reminded me of our garden when we were kids. I made Jorge open its mouth.


Oh, the little things…

A Snowy Afternoon in Islington

On a cold, windy, snowy Saturday afternoon, Jorge and I contemplated heading to Heathrow and tossing ourselves on the first flight to sunshine, but considering the time restrictions of an ordinary weekend and the fact that it was already late morning, we decided to venture on a 50 minute bus journey over to Islington.


Certainly not any warmer, but somewhere a bit  different.


We decided to warm up when we arrived with some hot lunch at The Elk in the Woods when we arrived.


We both chose the thick, creamy mushroom soup that came with a chunk of butter and fresh toasted bread. Yum!


The decor was, as you would expect, full of unfinished wooden slabs as tables and plenty of skulls on the walls. Elk, I suppose.


And some woodsy green wallpaper.


More elk.


And a wall of mismatched mirrors.


Full of warm food and bundled back into scarves and gloves, we headed back outside to Camden Passage. If it was Summertime (which, at this point, seems nowhere in sight…) Issy’s Milky Way ice cream parlour across the road may have been tempting. Brrrrr!


We wandered past a few market stalls selling quirky tat and vintage dresses and windows full of antique silver bowls and glasses.


Collars up against the cold and eyes squinting in the wind, we found shelter in our next stop, After Noah.


Inside was a jumble of vintage style toys, candies, satchells, wrapping paper, clocks, knick-knacks and furniture.


Model planes, old theatre signs, bed frames with peeling paint.


Signs from shops, greeting cards, games.


Battered chairs, jewellery, coasters advertising brands like OXO with a long British history.


Tables, desks, lamps and mirrors.


An old storage box for keys shoes or love letters.


Mini rocking horses, sets of drawers and a few scattered books.


Every wall was covered with plenty to keep our eyes busy!


They had a pretty little garden out back with pots and plants and glass tiles covering the ground.


Shelves full of satchells, note pads and old dial-up phones attached to the walls.


Thermometers, quirky bicycle pillows that reminded us of Stumper & Fielding on Portobello Road and a few spinning globes.


After we finished there and luckily emerged empty handed, we walked down to the more contemporary Aria on Barnsbury Street.


It’s housed in a beautiful old building that’s completely renovated on the outside but inside is a different story.


It is an interesting shop, but it is full of designers that you find other places as well, like Heals on King’s Road nearer to us, so nothing incredibly original that would warrant a special trip to East London but a fun place to visit if it’s local.


There were brands like Paul Smith, Jonathan Adler, Vivienne Westwood, but a few quirkier bits and pieces as well.


They also had an old pinball machine!


There were some tribal statues.


Some kitchen goodies.






Some interesting table settings with plants potted in china and heart-shaped spoons.


Speaking of china, it was time for tea. The snow was coming down harder now outside the window, in big fluffy flakes. We wandered to the nearest interesting looking side street which happened to be Cross Street where we happened upon a bit of street art.


And then we ducked into the warmth of Chameleon Cafe for that much-needed tea, stuck some business cards onto their wall of cards and then headed back toward the bus stop. I got distracted by trying on a few dresses in Diverse on Upper Street, but it was far too cold for anymore outdoor exploring and the number 19 was just around the corner.

We spontaneously decided to hop off at the grand old Fortum & Mason on Piccadilly halfway home. We amused ourselves with expensive things we couldn’t afford and stopped to oogle the Ascot-style hats:

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I bought some cards by Chase And Wonder, Jorge bought some whiskey and we stocked up on some goodies like a Spanish chorizo spread, some mint sauce and some delicious fruit I remember from Colombia called granadilla which has a hard orange shell that you break and then suck out the sweet passion fruit-like seeds. Delicious. Oh, and some kettle corn style popcorn that we devoured during the rest of the ride home!

La Bodega Negra: Dinner in a Dark Cellar

There is nothing to indicate that La Bodega Negra (literally The Black Cellar) is a restaurant.

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It’s plopped in the middle of SoHo on Old Compton Street and hides stealthily behind the façade of a sex shop, or a live peep show.

 IMG_1875Photo: Leslie, after our afternoon of shopping that ended in four pairs of shoes in those bags she’s carrying

A bright neon sign that says “Come” entices you inside an unmarked door to be greeted by a mannequin in a mask, all dressed up bondage style with leather straps crisscrossing its body and a fake bullet belt.


From there you are welcomed inside and pointed toward a staircase that leads to the basement restaurant.


In a similar style to Gordon’s Wine Cellar, but more roomy, the walls are chipped away creating a cave-like underground atmosphere enhanced by glowing candlelight, a large collection of Tequila and décor like a wall mirror cut out in a silhouetted shape of a woman with a semi lopsided breast.


We kicked off the night with drinks, of course. As expected, Leslie made a beeline for the tequila section of the menu, which she stuck to the whole time. I chose an apricot margarita then a pear one and Carolina decided on something called a Jim & April before switching to margaritas.


The first bit of food we ordered was a Quesadilla Rustica, which was like a sauceless pizza built on a thin tortilla  covered in four cheeses, roasted tomatoes and some herbs. Yum!


This is the point where I got told off for using a flash which means the rest of the food photos are pretty crap and look unappetising  but, oh well – their loss. So, next we went for a round of small tacos that come in rustic looking logs with cut out slits to hold the tacos. They come in pairs. We ordered two soft shell crab, two pork belly carnitas and two braised beef. All delicious.


We shared all the food so we split two mains. The first was Pork Belly which was really tender and laid on top of beans (which I don’t like, so while the meat was good, that wasn’t my favorite).


Then the one I liked the best, which had a paella sort of vibe to it – the Mixed Seafood and Rice Cazuela. It was very delicious, full of mussels, squid and other seafood on a bed of rice but very juicy, almost like a soup.


For dessert we had churros which we were too excited about to remember to take a photo before we gobbled them up. They are lighter than usual because they are made with a waffle iron instead of deep-fried, smothered in sugar and cinnamon and with a chili chocolate dipping sauce.

With two overpriced drinks (£9.50 for a small cocktail) each, we spent between the three of us about £185.00


All in all a good night with great company, tasty food, friendly staff and a fun atmosphere apart from the couple sitting next to use who were outright bickering before storming out…which was, at least, entertaining.


La Bodega Negra fills up quick so book a day or two in advance, especially if you plan on eating around 8 or later. They let you keep your table for two hours though we managed to stretch it to two and a half. Remember you want the restaurant on Old Compton Street (not the café which is on Mare Street).

For reservations, call 0207 758 4100.