There are certain London restaurants where it is almost impossible to get a reservation at a reasonable hour especially if you don't tend to plan your life half a year in advance. Arguably in most of these cases this is more about the hype, location and supposed "be seen at" factor surrounding said restaurant than indicative of the standard of food served there (prime examples are spots like Duck & Waffle, Sexy Fish and various other fancy central London restaurants) which means I rarely make the effort to attempt to score one of these sought-after reservations. The Palomar however is a seldom exception to this rule. Serving the food of modern Jerusalem with similarities in the style of cooking to other favourites of the blog, Ottolenghi and Honey & Co, but coming with an extra unique twist by fusing Southern Spanish, Levant and Northern African elements, it may take a little bit of effort to score a table here or in my case may result in you eating at a slightly odd time but oh my is it worth it...
I mean I should have hated the place- even three weeks ahead of when me and my friend were looking to book a table for a belated birthday dinner there were no reservations left other than at a very awkward "are we having dinner or lunch or late lunch" time at 3:30pm on a Sunday - not that it bothered me too much, Sundays are after all for throwing out the usual time and space confinements, after all who doesn't like to get wasted at 11 am when a bottomless brunch calls. Another slight negative was that even with a reservation in hand we failed to score one of the much coveted bar seats. Usually a bar seat is of course not what one would go for when a lovely table for two, as we got on this occasion, is available, however at The Palomar watching the chefs work their magic as they plate up and prepare the dishes is very much part of what has given The Palomar it's excellent reputation and though I got to see glimpses of it I can sadly not report on this part of the dining experience, being tucked away in the more tranquil dining room at the back. That is however not to say that The Palomar relies on this sort of spectacle to be classed an outstanding restaurant, in fact my meal was so fantastically good that it was hard for me to imagine (though undoubtedly doable) how sitting at the bar would have made it an even better.
Why? Well the small plates served here are of an absolutely stellar quality and more experimental and playful than my other Middle Eastern favourites. Yes, culinary purists might raise an eyebrow at their, amongst London foodies infamous Polenta Jerusalem style - decadently rich polenta served in the cutest of metal pots and coming with an earthy and moorish mix of asparagus, parmesan, mushroom ragout and truffle oil but Jesus Christ it was one of the best things I've eaten in a looong time, so many flavours, cooking methods and culinary influences skilfully combined into something so incredible that we basically inhaled it and had to refrain ourselves from ordering another round. Even a simple sounding starter of 'Kubaneh' or Yemeni pot baked bread served with tahini and velvet tomatoes was far from it- a beautifully fluffy rounded loaf similar to a brioche, so inviting that I fully committed to the gluten induced pain to follow, proving also perfect to mop up every last bit of the rich tahini and fragrant tomato sauce reminiscent of a smooth gazpacho. Though technically a very simple starter of some bread with dips, it was in its execution nonetheless quite mind blowing, combining temperatures and textures in ways like I've never had them before and once again illustrating a fine and capable hand in the cooking produced here.
This trend continued with the rest of the small plates arriving at our table. A delectable dish of beetroot carpaccio topped with burnt goats cheese, hazelnut brittle and pomegranate molasses vinaigrette elevated this humble veg into something quite extraordinary while a dish of josperised aubergine, an aubergine grilled under a high heat and combined into a silky baba ganoush like paste with a feta emulsion, tomato, fresh oregano, crispy shallots and pine nuts, was like no aubergine I have ever had before- unexpected, delicious and once again completely worth the hype. That is not to say they only know their veg here. My plate of juicy prawns on a bed of smoky beetroot, labneh, basil and chilli was perfectly prepared, fresh and once again winning with it's unusual flavours. Can you tell I love the place already?
Ok, The Palomar isn't cheap, in fact a little pricier than the generous set menu at Honey & Smoke and on a similar level of dining in at Ottolenghi, but it is no doubt worth every single penny. This is hands down fantastic, imaginative, modern yet satisfying food that stands out even in a restaurant scene as diverse and competitive as that of London. Yes, it is going to be a total pain to get a reservation here and may not be cheap but listen to me and pick up the phone to book yourself a place here asap. You won't regret it. I am already earmarking a return for a bar seat even if it means it may have to wait a couple of months.
I don't eat at fancy restaurants all the time, in fact due to my regular spending on clothes and other useless stuff it tends to be more for special occasions rather than a regular occurrence. However that doesn't mean I don't make other tasty food discoveries in day to day life that are affordable and sometimes even more delicious, moorish and addictive than the most sophisticated of three course meals! Below a few recent discoveries that I hope you will give a try too to mix things up a little!
MY NEW ICE CREAM OBSESSION: MAGNUM WHITE CHOCOLATE IN A TUB
There is no denying that a classic Magnum ice cream on a stick is pretty fantastic anyway, particularly the double caramel and white chocolate kinds, but this little tub of ice cream as spotted in my local Iceland blew just about any competition, including my favourite Ben & Jerry's and Haagen Dasz, completely out of the water. So what exactly makes it so special? Well it's basically a massive, massive magnum- the creamiest vanilla ice cream encased in lots of thick vanilla speckled white chocolate with some more shards of white chocolate mixed in for good measures, all coming together to form an utterly heavenly combination.
On the package you are instructed to crack through the shell after a 10 minute wait to make the most of the ooey gooey mixture though I seldom make it to that point once I get this beauty out of the freezer. It's a dessert you won't want to share and a sweet treat you will buy time and time again. Not only one for white chocolate lovers but a truly fantastic ice cream and welcome addition to the freezer isle!
RESTAURANT QUALITY THAI AT HOME WITH ROSA'S PRAWN RED THAI CURRY RECIPE
I've recently become somewhat obsessed with Thai food, with red curries quickly replacing pad thai as my ultimate to go to dish. This new found love however hasn't come in cheap with me more often than not caving in and ordering it in from Deliveroo or Ubereats, in the end spending over a tenner for a meal I inhale in ten minutes. That is not to say I won't revert back to this again in the future, heck sometimes even the thought of chopping a single vegetable is too much to handle and only a takeaway will do but what I found most satisfying here is that a dish so full of flavour and, in my mind at least, impossible to recreate properly at home actually turned out to be super easy and cheap to make and bloody delicious at that.
I was lucky enough to stumble across an amazing recipe from my favourite Thai restaurant in London, Rosa's, online (you can watch their brilliant founder Saiphin Moore make the red curry with salmon instead of the prawns that I used here) and also happen to live on the same road as an Asian supermarket which made finding ingredients that are a little more obscure such as lime leaves easier than say only having a Sainsbury's or Tesco at your disposal. However worry not other than this one slightly more exotic component you will find everything else in the Asian section of a run of the mill supermarket. Prep is equally easy with the whole thing done and ready to eat within five minutes and after just one watch of the super easy to follow video.
As you are making it yourself you can of course tweak things slightly to your taste, I for one choosing noodles rather than rice, with the end result so damn tasty and close to the best Thai curries I have had (most of them indeed from Rosa's) that I couldn't quite belief my cooking achievement which probably only made everything taste even better. So what are you waiting for? In my case at least this curry has been added to my regular cooking repertoire and I can't wait to dish it up to friends that will have no idea just how easy it is to make!
NOVELTY FLAVOURED AMERICAN OREOS THAT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND
I am a big fan of novelty flavours when it comes to just about anything sweet, one of the highlights of my New York trips tragically their wealth of weird and wonderful Ben & Jerry's flavours (Boston Cream pie anyone?!) and Oreos are no exception. I am not a massive fan of standard Oreos, I mean they are ok but not a biscuit I'd ever scream "Oh I fancy one!"about but the clever people working there do know how to make an Oreo that tastes like something utterly different and brilliantly so.
Ok, this might be using a few e-numbers but who cares! I want to be able to taste a cinnamon bun in the shape of an Oreo so let me! These special flavours aren't so easy to find in the UK but you can get the Birthday cake variety in the American section of most big Tesco's while I got my hands on the cinnamon bun flavour in Selfridges. I have to say I was a little let down by the cinnamon bun flavour, maybe expecting a little too much for the steep price I paid (don't judge it was £8) but WOW the birthday cake variety is quite something. As weird as it may sound it does actually taste like all the birthday cakes of all your childhood birthdays in a biscuit form and damn they are moorish! Highly recommended not only for novelty but taste as well. I sure will be keeping my eye out for more extraordinary Oreo flavour combos!
RAMEN NOODLES TO SOOTHE THE SOUL DELIVERED TO YOUR DOOR FROM TONKOTSU EAST
I am quite critical of the ramen scene in London, yes apparently Bone Daddies and the like are decent enough but I grew up in a town with some amazingly authentic Japanese ramen bars (Dusseldorf has a huge expat community that need to eat well!) so have pretty high standards when it comes to this Japanese staple food. However feeling run down and hungover a few weekends ago and flicking through my Ubereats options I thought I'd finally give Tonkotsu East a go. Many of my friends had raved about it before but I don't know with so many exciting dining options near me I had never been quite enticed enough to have a meal out that just involved a bowl of noodle soup.
Starving at home however and in need of some decent grub I thought heck let's give it a go and went for their vegetarian Shimeji, Shiitake & Miso Ramen which entailed Miso-based, konbu and shiitake stock served with shimeji mushrooms, egg noodles, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots and finished off with a delicious half a seasoned, soft-boiled egg. What really won me over here was how everything was delivered with the end product's quality and flavour preserved perfectly. I've had some pretty tragic Ubereats experiences including soggy and cold pizzas, half melted frozen yogurt and rock hard chips. Tonkotsu however has really thought the delivery experience through, delivering you a little ramen kit easily and quickly assembled at home. Indeed in a matter of minutes you can create a beautiful and restaurant presentation worthy bowl of ramen, combining the pot of stock with a container of egg noodles and topping it with all those delicious vegetables and the egg. There is no mish mash of soggy flavours and if things have gotten a little cold just quickly whack it in the microwave for a minute or two. The end result is a legit bowl of ramen full of earthy and aromatic flavours that I can really not complain about. Of course it doesn't beat some of the fantastic versions I've had in crammed noodle bars but it's pretty damn fantastic when you want a relatively healthy takeaway delivered to your house and shows that you don't have to compromise on quality and presentation as restaurant when you offer your food through services like Ubereats and Deliveroo if you find innovative ways to get your food to your diners.
I am a creature of habits when it comes to my weekends in London, like all my good friends know always ready to go out on a Friday night, happily hungover in bed on a Saturday, indulging in an ever worsening ubereats addiction, and pottering around London before cooking for friends on a Sunday, rarely indeed leaving East London in the process. With a busy full time job and trying to fit in the gym, blog and friends it's hard to be as adventurous and more importantly energetic as you would be on a city trip somewhere else and make the effort to discover new places that are basically under your nose everyday.
As luck would have it one of my friends coming down from Leeds for a visit proved to be just the kick up the bum I needed to break up my usual weekend routine, up early on Saturday morning and raring to explore some of London's undiscovered gems that I had been too busy, or admittedly a bit too lazy, to see before.
London has been facing somewhat of a brunch crisis the last couple of years, especially when compared with New York and Berlin's stellar offerings in this department, which is why I was more than overjoyed to hear about The Bach opening about 30 seconds from my flat and which is also why we headed there on the special occasion of me being dressed, up and ready to go on our London expedition Saturday morning.
This is The Bach's second outpost and follows on from their equally appealing first cafe bang in the middle of Broadway Market which first got me interested in their concept after I enjoyed their delicious coffee and watched some seriously amazing looking food leaving the kitchen, wetting my appetite to try their menu for myself. Their Hoxton street branch instantly impresses with it's clean, Scandinavian leaning and wood heavy interior that is more than Instagrammable The menu, near identical to the Broadway market branch, is equally impressive. Think along the lines of Antipodean leaning flavour sensations on a plate, from figs with honey ricotta cheese and pistachio nuts on sour dough, the most impressive veggie breakfast I have ever seen in as chosen by my friend and consisting of cinnamon spiced baked beans, grilled vine tomatoes and courgettes, avocado, sourdough, poached eggs and halloumi, to the absolutely incredible plate of corn fritters served with garlic aioli, chilli jam, thick hot slices of halloumi and smashed avocado I went for on this occasion.
Every mouthful was an absolute delight and reminded me of the brunches that first made me fall in love with this meal-time back in the day. This is skilfully and imaginatively prepared, fresh and most importantly delicious food that puts a standard fry up or croissant to absolute shame. Coffees were equally great which is another major winning point for me here considering the lack of decent coffee in walking distance to my flat thus far, and service was impeccable, no new opening wobbles that so many places experience at first.
It is a true testament to how much I enjoyed The Bach that I am already considering rocking up here with one of my plates on my next hungover Saturday, pjs and all, and begging them to let me take a portion of their fritters home with me but failing that, this place is so worth getting dressed and facing the outside world for, even with the mother of all hangovers, The Bach indeed a brunch gem I am absolutely delighted to now have in my neighbourhood.
Next up we ventured into central which I tend to do rather reluctantly on a weekend bearing in mind the mass of tourists and out-of-towners one tends to have to fight on Oxford street. There are however some undiscovered and yummy spots in even the most busy of places in Zone 1. At first however my friend had me looking a little confused when she suggested going to Selfridge's for a chilled glass of wine and some small plates, it of course being a huge department store that welcomes thousands of people through its doors every day, but as it turned out she wasn't wrong about this delightful hidden gem.
Once sat down at Harry Gordon's Bar, aptly named after the store's American founder, you would indeed never really guess that you are sat in Selfridge's basement. Looking much more like a proper Parisian wine bar and shielded from passers-by, you very quickly forgot the hustle bustle around you as you settle in to sip from one of their delightful wine glasses (FYI I am a total sucker for a thin stem wine glass) and enjoy one of their small plates. And the most shocking thing about Harry Gordon's? Doing so is surprisingly affordable! Yes, considering that you find yourself in a pretty high end luxury department store and refined environment, surrounded by a slightly older crowd of couples (and singles) that know their wines, a generous glass of the good stuff will cost you less than in some questionable East London pubs (not naming names but over £6 for your cheapest wine is not ok Owl & Pussycat) and a bloody good glass of wine at that.
The same can be said for their fine selection of small plates which are actually not so small at all and come bursting with flavour- the truffled goats cheese, drizzled with honey, topped with almonds and served with some old school melba toast and the big chunks of patatas (or paprika spiced potatoes to you and me) with more aioli that we went for on this occasion leaving us more than satisfied and set for the rest of the day following our big brunch earlier. This place is the perfect shopping pit stop , a chilled glass of wine and delicious snack from here able to cure even the biggest aversion to shopping on a Saturday in central. Harry Gordon's isn't some dull in-store food offering, no, this place would confidently stand it's own ground compared to far pricier and indeed no more tastier tapas places in London, a great discovery bang in the centre of London I will be sure to revisit on future occasions to come.
Before heading to a house party later that eve and after my first ever stroll around Borough Market ( I know very shameful for a foodie and definitely not the last time I will make the effort to go south of the river to experience it's culinary wonders), it was time for another refuelling of the alcoholic kind. I am a big fan of the Grind franchise in London and have previously written about my interior design crush on their Clerkenwell Grind branch. This time however we gave London Grind a go, conveniently located just a stones throw away from Borough Market.
I had been here previously and, as always with Grind, had been impressed with the on point interior and great coffee but coming here on a late Saturday afternoon, with 80's power ballads and indie tracks blurring out of the speakers and a buzzing atmosphere with a great mix of people getting ready for their night out added an extra special and enchanting touch. I went for a margarita, priced at only a fiver to celebrate Margarita day, which was as good as these get with a perfect balance of sharp and sweet and no overpowering tequila notes but all cocktails here looked pretty fantastic. Take a group of your favourite girls here and taste your way through the well curated menu- you'll be in the best of party moods even before the night has officially started.