Dach & Sons

I’ve been very lazy recently and haven’t written any blog posts in a while. It all went downhill after we got back from our wonderful vacay in NYC (more about that soon). When we got back to London, the days were shorter and colder and work seemed to be getting longer and longer each day. But, I am decidedly back on the blogging wagon now and hopefully it will force me out of my winter hibernation mode.

A few weeks ago a good friend of mine from school moved to London, and the best bit about it is that she is living in North London too, a mere 15 minute bus ride away! So as I was riding the c11 to check out her new pad and it was taking me on a little jaunt around my local area, I was amazed by how many cool restaurants and local hangouts I never knew existed. This weekend I set out to recify this situation and planned an evening in Hampstead.

I love Hampstead, say what you want about it (yummy mummy land, ladies that lunch etc), but it’s such a lovely village with the heath right there, gorgeous shops (where I always seem to pick up a bargain!) and nice restaurants. We had wanted to check out Dach & Sons, an American style hot dog and slider joint, for a while.

Dach & Sons opened earlier this year and it serves American style food as well as a selection of beers and bourbons. It’s run by the same people who do Purl and the Whistling Shop, both of which I love, if you haven’t been- you must! The decor is a cool diner type vibe and the staff are super friendly and helpful.

We tried the signature hog-dog ‘the daschund’ which is a homemade frankfurter and the beef sliders, both of which were yummy!

I was feeling a little under the weather so I didn’t try any of the cocktails, but I saw some sublime looking mint julips being made. Unfortunately until I shift this yucky cold I’m sticking to soft drinks. But I was obsessed with their tall carafe style glasses- I really want them for my house!

The sides were pretty special as well, we had coleslaw which was delciously tangy and fries which were right on the money. They even have homemade ketchup!

The dessert menu is very enticing as well, with all the familiar favourites. We opted for the apple pie with homemade toffee icecream, both of which were scrupmtious

My only disappointment was that I didn’t get to check out their speakeasy style bar upstairs- as I didn’t even realise it was there until I looked at the website today!

Afterwards we went to watch a film at the Everyman cinema in Hampstead. As much as I love going to the Odeon and eating a bucket o’ popcorn, the Everyman is just a much more civilised way to go to the cinema. Comfy armchairs, table service and the option of wine is so much nicer. We saw Argo, which I would highly recommend, and not just because I love Ben Affleck.

Next time you’re looking for a new restaurant to try, do expand your mind to North London, there are so many gems. Dach & Sons and a film in Hampstead made for a very nice wintery date night. Enjoy x

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Bubbledogs

Champagne and hot dogs are easily two of my favourite things in this world. So when I heard some months ago about Bubbledogs I was more than a little excited.

Located on Charlotte St, Bubbledogs is a champagne bar which serves gourmet hot dogs. It’s the new venture from James Knappett, previously head chef at many a fabulous restaurant in London. We had eaten at Marcus Wareing when James was heading up the kitchen there, so knew that Bubbledogs would live up to the hype.

Firstly the bubbles. Bubbledogs serves ‘grower’ champagnes which is like a boutique hotel of the champagne world. They’re made by smaller independent producers rather than the big champagne houses. You can order the champagne by the glass or bottle and starting at £6 for a glass, it’s fairly reasonable.

And then the dogs. Ah the hotdogs… they were faboosh! We tried the BLT, where the normal T for tomato is replaced with a T for truffle mayo.

We also tried the New Yorker, which was a classic hot dog in my mind, topped with delicious onions. It was a little different to what I was expecting as the onions had a bit of spice to them, but I loved it. The great thing about the hot dogs is that you can choose either a beef, pork or veggie dog,which I think gives Bubbledogs an edge over other concept restaurants (like say Burger and Lobster) as it means my veggie friends can visit (yay!)

The side dishes were also to die for, particularly the tater-tots, I could eat them, with a good helping of ketchup, all day long.

Bubbledogs is the restaurant of the moment currently, so if you’re going to try it out, be prepared to queue. We went for an early lunch/brunch at around half 12 on a Saturday and managed to get a table straight away, but people were queuing already as we ate our meal. I do think it’s worth the wait though, it’s super cosy, the service is very friendly and the food is scrumptious!

When we were there the lovely Sandia was telling us that they have now started doing a kitchen table tasting menu experience, which sounds fantastic, I’ll definitely be back to try that soon.

Bubbledogs. 70 Charlotte St. London W1T 4QG. Enjoy x

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Back to School: Cambridge

I am very very lucky to still have a big tight knit group of girlfriends from school. I moved all around the world growing up and went to lots of different schools so I feel very fortunate coming out of that experience that I’ve stayed close to my Surrey girls. But we’re not so little any more and some of the girls are even proper adults and are doing grown-up things like getting engaged! So we all headed to Cambridge this weekend to celebrate this recent exciting news.

 

Being such a big group of friends we had the UK university scene pretty well covered when we were all studying and I used to especially love going to Oxford and Cambridge to visit the girls who studied there. I went to uni right in heart of central London and whilst LSE was fantastic in it’s own way, there is definitely something to be said for the idyllic setting of an ancient university town.

So before we went for drinks in the evening we spent some time wandering through the cobbled streets, exploring the colleges and pretending to be students again. Term had just started and there was definitely an autumnal back to school feeling in the air.

On our travels we saw this little guy acting like top dog at one of the stalls in market square. Which I love by the way, it’s like Borough market, but with reasonable prices.

We all participated in my favourite Cambridge activity, buying fudge from The Fudge Kitchen; having far too many free tasters along the way.

If you’ve never been to Cambridge before, you really must visit. It’s a beautiful town and so close to London (only 45 mins from Kings Cross!), making it the perfect day trip destination. As the days grow shorter and it gets colder, I keep thinking about how beautiful it would be to visit Cambridge at Christmas time. It’s definitely on my December to-do list. Enjoy x

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Brasserie Zedel

A few weeks ago on a dreary rainy Saturday afternoon the boy and I decided that we wanted to go out and try somewhere new for dinner. I was experiencing the tail-end of a flu that had gone on for longer that I would have liked and needed some hearty grub to make me feel better. French food was just the ticket and we had heard about Brasserie Zedel from a few friends so wanted to give it a test run.

Zedel is a big Parisian style brasserie right next to Piccadilly Circus. As well as the brasserie, the complex also has a bar, a cafe and a little cabaret/jazz venue. The whole thing is underground at it’s quite overwhelming in size, but this does have certain advantages, namely being able to rock up at 7pm on a Saturday night without a reservation.

I loved the decor of Brasserie Zedel, its quite grandiose and very very French. It reminded me a little bit of the Wolseley, but without the price tag. It’s a very big dining room but the partitions which make up the different sections stop it from feeling overwhelming.

The menu is your typical French brasserie faire, for starter I had a lardon and egg salad which was lovely and the boy had seafood food which was divine. Amazing prices are a running theme on this menu- but honestly I have to mention the soup in particular as it astounds me every time I remember- the soup was cheaper than a soup from Pret (that’s right, cheaper than Pret people!!)

The mains on offer are, again, quintessentially French. I had confit duck with a side of green beans which was everything you would hope it would be- so crispy on the outside and yummy and tender inside. The boy had Choucroute Alsacienne which basically was a platter of sausages, nice but not really my cup of tea.

And then the desserts, ooh la la the desserts… they come with a mini jug of DIY chocolate sauce- what’s not to love!?

The boy had an ice-cream sundae complete with wafer and chocolate cigarette. I had my favourite- Profiteroles which were really good. I don’t think they quite match the profiteroles at le relais de venise, but then those don’t come with a mini jug of chocolat chaud!

As you can see, I enjoyed every last mouthful.

All in all, I think Brasserie Zedel is quite a rarity. It’s not common in central London to find a restaurant where you can get a 3 course meal with wine for £30 a head. The food is good quality and beautifully cooked and the service is friendly. I will definitely be returning the next time I have a hankering for some French flavours. Enjoy x

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Mid Week Meal

A few years ago I went through a phase of doing ‘recipe of the week’ where I made a new years resolution to try at least one new recipe every week. My recipe of the week craze actually lasted longer than I thought it would and was relatively successful. But like most good things, it eventually came to an end as we came out of winter and I got busier/a little bit exhausted from the effort of it all.

Recently I felt I was in somewhat of a cooking rut so I started trawling through my recipe books to find something new to make for a mid week meal. I found a recipe for baked chicken wings and a lentil salad in Bills Open Kitchen which looked quite easy so I thought I’d give it a go. In my experience roasting/baking meat works best for me as all you have to do is bung it in the oven at the right temperature for the specified time and it should all be dandy. My occasional psycho chef ways mean that cooking meat on the hob is more of a gamble (last night’s recipe experiment, which I’m not even going to bother to write about as it was such a disaster, was a good illustration of this gamble not paying off).

Anyway, this is what you need for the chicken wings (which I can promise you are very easy and will definitely be a success!):

8 big (or more if they are smaller) chicken wings
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
125ml (1/2 cup) of lemon juice
90g (1/4 cup) of honey
3 crushed garlic cloves
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley

You start by preheating the oven to 200c. Chuck all the chicken wings into a baking dish cover them with the salt and bake for 30 mins. While the wings are baking you can make you sauce (and lentil salad and peaches, but more of that later).

To make the sauce for the chicken you just put the lemon juice, crushed garlic and honey into a little bowl and stir it until the honey has all dissolved. Once the chicken wings have cooked for the initial 30 mins, take them out of the oven and pour the sauce over. I flipped the wings around to make sure the sauce had coated them all over. Then put the dish back in the over and bake the wings for another 20 mins.

The chicken should be all golden and crispy when its done, don’t worry if it looks quite dark, its just the honey caramelising. Sprinkle with your parsley and then serve.

Whilst the chicken is baking you can prepare this super easy and healthy lentil salad to go with it. This is what you’ll need:

200g of ready to eat Puy lentils (I buy these in handy sachets in the supermarket)
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/4 of a red onion finely sliced
1 Lebanese cucumber
100g of feta cheese
Handful of fresh mint
Handful of fresh flat leaf parsley
Sea salt and pepper (to taste)

Mix the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper in a big bowl. Add the lentils in and coat with the dressing. Chop your cucumber with the seeds removed into 4 long strips lengthways and then dice. I usually wouldn’t be precious about this type of thing, but it really must be a lebanese cucumber, a normal one just isn’t the right taste for this salad. Add your cucumber, sliced red onion and crumbled feta into the bowl and stir through. Pop the salad into a serving bowl and top with the fresh mint and parsley. Easy!

Then for pudding I made roasted peaches, an idea I got after seeing it on the Londoner. Like the rest of this meal, this pudding is very quick to prepare and you can do it whilst the chicken is baking. All you do is cut in half your peaches (1 per person) and put them in a baking dish with a drizzle of honey and a knob of butter on top.

Then make a quick topping with:

125g of marscapone
75ml double cream
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Just whisk them all together to make a yummy rich vanilla cream to go on top. It’s enough for a generous 2 portions (or 3 normal portions)

Then while you’re eating your dinner you can put the peaches in the oven to bake at 180c for 20 mins, or longer if the peaches don’t quite look done.

When they’re all lovely and golden taken them out of the oven and just let them sit for a few mins whilst you toast a handful of flaked almonds to go on top. Then just pop your peaches, a dollop of the cream and a sprinkle of almond on a plate and your super easy pud is ready.

This entire meal took less than 1 hour to make which I thought was pretty good given all the different components and the fact that it was a totally new recipe for me. So if you need an easy but impressive mid week menu definitely give this a try. Enjoy x

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A morning at the Paralympics

Last weekend I was lucky enough to spend the morning watching an Athletics session at the Paralympics. After having a wonderful day at the Olympic Hockey a few weeks earlier at the Riverbank arena I was determined to get a chance to experience an event inside the stadium. I tried in vain every day in the run up to the Paralympics to get tickets and it got to the stage where it was clearly interfering with my work, as people I don’t really know in the office would ask me in the kitchen if I’d managed to get tickets yet. Luckily, just as I was developing a serious vendetta against the London2012 ticket website a very lovely friend saved the day and offered me tickets to an Athletics session that she wasn’t able to make.

Before going to the games my knowledge of Paralympic athletics was ashamedly limited to Oscar Pistorius, but I was super excited to get inside the stadium and learn more. But as it was the first morning session for the athletics meet and mainly heats my expectation for what the atmosphere would be like was not sky high. But I couldn’t have been more wrong, the stadium was packed at 9.30 on a Saturday morning and the atmosphere in the crowd was incredible!

Quite soon into the session we had witnessed the first GB gold medal which went to Richard Whitehead in the T42 200m final, a category of event for people who have impairment in a limb. I wish I had of known more about the classification system before I went to the games but I was able to understand the variations  in events as I watched and then did some proper research when I got home. Watching Richard Whitehead win was so exciting because at the start of the race he was coming last and then when he got onto the 100m straight he just blitzed so far ahead of everyone else- incredible!

We were lucky enough to see lots of different events, ranging from wheelchair racing, to discus, club throwing (which I had never seen before- kinda like shot put but they throw a wooden club that looks like a rounders bat), long jump and lots of track races. The track races I enjoyed watching the most were in the category where the athletics ran with a guide as they had a visual impairment. I thought it was fascinating to see how the athletes and the guides worked together throughout the race and appreciating the nuances of the event like the guide not being able to cross the finishing line first

 

The other memorable event was one of the heats for the mens 1500m where the athletes had impairments in their arms. An athlete from the tiny North East African nation of Djibouti (yep I’ve never heard of it either and I even have a geography degree) got lapped twice and finished 7 minutes after all the other athletes. But even  though he knew he didn’t have a chance of getting through to the final he just kept running around the track by himself while the entire stadium stood up and cheered him on. I’m aware that this sounds extremely cheesy, but it was a really special event to witness.

 

To say I enjoyed going to the Paralympics is an understatement- it was awesome! The Olympics makes made me quite emotional at the best of times so the Paralympics was on another level. I’m so glad I got to experience it and appreciate the skill and strength of the Paralympians, it’s something I won’t forget for a long time.

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Cinema under the Kensington stars

Earlier this summer my sister visited me in London and while she was here we decided to check out Kensington Palace. It had just been renovated and most importantly I had never been there, which is quite rare for a London tourist attraction!

The Palace was a great way to spend an afternoon in London. The new exhibitions are interactive and informative at the same time, and the experience far exceeds most other museums I’ve been to in London. The part I liked best was that they have games for little (and big) children in each room and one fab treasure hunt type game about different roles in the court that you follow the entire way through the exhibition. While we visited they had a special exhibition called ‘Victoria Revealed’ which detailed the life of Queen Victoria who grew up in the Palace. I learnt lots about Queen Victoria, mostly that she was a pretty fierce lady- she proposed to Prince Albert rather than the other way round, had 9 children and was queen for almost 64 years.

While we were visiting I noticed that later in the summer they were having outdoor cinema nights in the palace gardens showing royal themed films (naturally!). So I got together a group of girlfriends to go and watch The Young Victoria and continue educating myself about the life of my second favourite English Queen (anyone close to me knows how much of a Liz II fan I am).

The screen was set up in front of the Orangery in the palace gardens. It was an absolutely gorgeous setting and everyone had brought picnics to munch on while watching the film. I really enjoyed the fact that the film was set in the venue at which we were watching, it definitely added a cool dimension to the experience. The event was very well run, super friendly staff, free give aways when you arrive and you could even rent blankets and inflatable back cushions (they really had thought of everything).

I could lie and say it was a glorious night and we watched the film under a balmy starry sky. However being England, it obviously rained. Just for a little bit though, and at quite a crucial time in the film, so there was absolutely no chance of us calling it a day due to a few drops of rain. We just put up our umbrellas and eventually it passed!

The event was run by the Luna Cinema and they run lots of similar nights in beautiful venues all over the country. Check out their website for more details, but to give you a flavour it’s combos like Casablanca in Holland Park, The Artist in Kew Gardens and Shakespeare in Love at Hampton Court Palace.

I thought it made for a lovely London evening, so get a few friends together soon and take advantage of this late summer we’re enjoying to experience cinema under the stars, or you won’t get the chance until next summer! Enjoy x

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