Category Archives: Restaurants


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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Royal Ascot with Raymond Blanc,
Phil Howard & Bollinger

IMG_6883It’s mid-February and I am sashaying down the impeccable lawn of Royal Ascot close to the finishing line flaunting my black and purple straw hat last seen at my wedding 28 years ago, eyeing up the jockeys and their trainers fetchingly dressed in designer tweeds and most extraordinarily beautiful horses I’ve ever beholden.

My first ever day at the races, what a treat.  I’m doing it in style at the Panoramic Restaurant with its awe-inspiring views from the balcony across the racecourse and woods beyond with the Shard just visible on the skyline.

After several glasses of Bollinger, and another, a honeyed nectar of a champagne with an impressive weight to its mouthful and a host of Rhubarb canapés – most notably exceptionally moreish stilton and walnut sables, we’re seated for feasting.

Raymond Blanc’s starter is a homage to his long love affair with Thailand.  Cornish crab with a fragrant, lemongrass imbued coconut bisque and shards of fresh coconut – clean, fresh and wonderfully redolent of flavours I last experienced in Bangkok.  The dish is accompanied by Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvee AND Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc 2015.

IMG_4944Superb fillet of beef with an extraordinary rich oxtail stuffed potato and field mushrooms with truffle butter and red wine shows off Phil Howard’s prowess of taking the best ingredients and treating them simply to enhance their purity. The Chateau Tour Pibran Pauillac 2009 is a treat.

IMG_6877IMG_6870A deconstructed Black Forest gateau dish with kirsch cherries by Gemma Amor, Ascot Executive chef is a little dated and would benefit from more intense chocolate.  I
concentrated more fully on the Hungarian Royal Tokaji Late Harvest 2013.   Wines superbly chosen by Bibendum.

Did I bet?  Sure, though my winnings sadly didn’t prove sufficient to book a return visit for Lady’s Day at Royal Ascot.


The sheer artistic brilliance and creativity of Massimo Bottura

Oops I dropped the lemon tartMassimo Bottura is simply unlike any other chef I’ve ever met.  He effervesces with creativity and talks quickly and passionately mixing art, jazz, memories , families and humour in a way that is utterly mesmerising.  So I knew I was in for a treat when he cooked  lunch for lucky press last Monday before doing a one-off dinner in the evening too. It could never quite capture the magic of eating at Osteria Franciscana among their incredible collection of modern art with Massimo darting out of the kitchen and Lara Gilmore, Massimo’s brilliantly incisive wife interpreting the dishes, though it came close…. Highlights were my favourite An Eel Swimming Up the River Po – lacquered with the most incredible grape must and the delectable Oops I Dropped the Lemon Tart with the zing of Sorrento lemon off-set with the saltiness of capers from Pantelleria, hot pepper, bergamot and oregano plus sheer decadence of croccantino of foie served with a glass of Sauternes mixed with Massimo’s Villa Mandori balsamico traditionale.