Being back in my natural habitat – restaurants – feels so good and enervating. I’d highly recommend making some plans, and, in my limited experience, restaurant teams are ultra covid conscious and so palpably delighted to be able to welcome guests back. It may just be my halcyon approach: it feels like that there’s a stronger, if more physically distant, bond between diner and server.
Even if the weather is cold and wet, rest assured us hardcore restaurant lovers will still be honouring reservations, and so must you. If you don’t fancy turning up, make sure you tell the restaurant to give them enough time to offer the table to hardier spirits.
Special mention must go to the divine, newly and fulsomely planted and, importantly, mostly canopied, garden of Native at Brown’s in Brook Street. The mushroom with fermented onion served with housemade waffles is a must. Try too Native’s cocktails especially the Negroni made with their own foraged ingredient vermouth. https://www.nativerestaurant.co.uk
Who doesn’t love Claridge’s? I discovered post Native that there is a chic, affordable new way to have a taste of Claridge’s kitchen: at their epicerie, where a takeaway cappuccino and two madeleines from executive chef Martyn Nail’s kitchen cost £4.50. https://www.shop.claridges.co.uk
My favourite, non local, cafe is back: Queens of Mayfair with its Georgian bow windows and glamorous decor including green and gold wallpaper (far superior to Lulu Lytle of Soane’s now notoriously pricey interior) . Unequivocally the best coffee in London and the only cafe in London serving Difference Coffee who only buy some of the best and rarest coffees in the world at auction.
For the coffee curious try the Geisha Esmeralda experience: it is a delicate, floral coffee that is drunk in a wine glass, The whole performance from grinding the beans by hand to making the coffee with a V60 drip filter, the height of coffee geekiness, is mesmerising to behold. Queens serve the best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted (apart from my own) from Hedone Bakery. https://queensofmayfair.co.uk
Best things I ate this week
Lucky Balham has a new restaurant/delivery business: Burning Rose. Pad Thai is the bellwether of a Thai kitchen and from the tangy aromas redolent with lemongrass and deeper, earthier spicing, I know this is going to be deeply satisfying. It is a harmonious blending of sweet, sour and umami savoury with the intoxicating mix of fish sauce, tamarind and palm sugar, a good number of king prawns, tofu and stick noodles cooked to just chewy perfection. Though, a little more peanut crunch wouldn’t have gone amiss.
The heady aromas do take me back to the food stalls lining Bangkok’s main park where I was once lucky enough to be shown around by David Thompson himself. Burning Rose’s Chef Matthew Albert worked with Thompson and it shows. The co-founders are ex Leon and DeliverooJohn Vincent and Cengiz Rahmioglu and have serious ambitions to expand beyond Balham. https://www.burningrose.com
Haskapa Powder is being billed as the new super food. It certainly makes a change from blueberries flown in from the other side of the world. Haskapa, made from a tangy/sweet berry has four times the anthocyanins, naturally occurring plant pigments that give fruit and vegetables their colour and three times the antioxidants. A spoonful a day in overnight oats is ideal. This is a recipe courtesy of Niki Webster of www.rebelrecipes.com Home Mix 100g oats qith 250ml coconut milk kefir, 1tsp vanilla essence, 1tsp Haspaka berry powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon: leave overnight and add 2tbsp coconut yoghurt (I use Coconut Collaborative), extra coconut kefir to loosen if necessary and top with 10g toasted coconut flakes). It is great for one’s cognitive powers, blood pressure and boosting. immunity. https://www.haskapa.com
Choice bounty selected by Sarah Louis Fairburn who only started her Lincolnshire based hamper company Imp & Maker in December 2020. I was gifted her Ultimate Staycation hamper for a feature for Femail’s Inspire pages. It is designed for meeting your arrival in the remote (and only available holiday cottage) you panic-booked which may be in a gorgeous setting but has no food shops of any repute nearby. The multitude of treats in the hamper include the most enormous Tomahawk steaks and instructions on how to cook these colossi to medium rare perfection alongside Melody potatoes in a hessian bag transformed into delectable potato dauphinoise topped with grated Lincolnshire Poacher; Turner Hardy Lively Spiced Tomato juice and Edwards Potato vodka, acorn-fed Bellota Iberico ham and chorizo, British Blue eggs with astonishing yellow yolks and much, more more.
For weekday nights, I am trying not to drink alcohol and am very taken by wine writer Matthew Jukes new creation Jukes 8, the colour of a sophisticated rose. It is a cordial made with apple cider vInegar (delightfully present in the taste), watermelon, melon, apple, pear, raspberries and cucumber. What makes it even more special is its pink floral box designed by Matthew Williamson with inimitable style. https://www.jukescordialities.com