Due to various events that happened over the course of 2012 Christmas was never going to be a straight forward traditional affair. While this year has obviously meant that a death very much overshadowed a time of the year that is all about family, this year has also seen my find an amazing group of friends that have become like a second family to me. With my mum in Germany this year this meant that I spent these festive few days with exactly one of those great girls, Chu, and had one of the best Christmases, though undoubtedly most unconventional in my 20 years of celebrating this festive season and with a Singaporean and a German cooking in London the food was always going to be interesting . As someone that doesn't eat red meat and is more accustomed to eating out, it wasn't that easy to come up with a special and more importantly tasty three course meal but I of course was willing to take on the challenge!
For starters I got inspired by my Scandinavian roots, I am after all quarter Finnish, and introduced Chu to the wonders of Gravadlax, a smoked salmon that is cured with dill and served with an amazing honey mustard sauce. We had ours on blinis and with sour cream- for me the perfect non meaty starter!
I have always seen myself as a bit of a mac n cheese connoisseur, with the one I tried at Spuntino (laced with leeks and spiced with a hint of mustard) topping the list of the ones I have tried so far. I have always wanted to create my very own twist on this rather simple recipe so set out to find a variation, rich enough to replace a meat based main and special enough to suit the occasion. After some google searching I came across a recipe for a blue cheese and fig mac n cheese and immediately liked the combination of these rather unusual components! The full recipe can be found here and I would fully recommend trying this surprisingly simple recipe at home, the flavours working incredibly well together, the sweetness of the figs wonderfully counterbalanced by the saltiness of the gorgonzola, making this a moorish and satisfying main that I shall definitely add to my recipe repertoire.
For dessert I wanted something simple and not too heavy considering the cheese coma that we faced post mac n cheese. I love Baileys but always think that Christmas is really the only time when it is appropriate to chip out on a bottle and thus wanted it to be at least part of our dessert (also meaning I could obviously drink the rest). Poured over some of our favourite ice cream flavours, Chu thankfully introducing me to the wonders of Haagen Dazs pralines and cream , and topped with some chopped up crunchie because hey who can say no to a bit of honeycomb, this dessert may not win me a place on the Great British Bake Off in its sophistication but was a delicious end to a great evening!
With Chicken Shop having become a little
bit of a regular haunt of mine (it is after all in my neighbourhood and that
apple pie is really that addictive) I was more than excited to hear that its
creators, the Soho House group, had churned out yet another new
establishment in Notting Hill. Far however from becoming chainy, once more Nick
Jones and his team have perfected a new concept, in this case an all American
diner, and have reinterpreted it for London’s restaurant scene. Attached to the
Electric Cinema and bang in the middle of Portobello Road, not usually a
culinary destination, the electric diner focuses on classic American junk food
but done well and imaginatively with a young chef from Chicago reinterpreting
uniquely American dishes usually hard to come by in London like the Bologna
Sandwich, honey fried chicken or chopped salad. Like all Soho House operations
I have visited, the interior and concept is translated flawlessly, dark red
leather seats, exposed bricks, low lighting and the pleasure of watching the
kitchen at work from one of the bar seats show a truly successful and welcoming
restaurant interior. Food although not cheap comes in massive portions, I for
example suitably stuffed after my fries that came with a fried egg and a
positively addictive gooey cheese sauce and tangy mayo on the side, a simple
dish that like everything here was executed perfectly without being too stodgy.
It is also crucial to leave space for desserts, the Diner showing one of the
best selections I have seen in London that once again come in huge American
style portions. Particularly the chocolate pie with whipped vanilla cream,
reminiscent of a gigantic and creamy Oreo cookie and the towering Mille-feuille
were real winners and would see me come back for these alone, a real heaven for
someone with a sweet tooth and not your average afters options that can get a
little boring. With a varied menu and many things still to try I will
definitely make the trek West again and most importantly arrive with a big