Thursday

The Shed - Notting Hill Gate

Picture taken from the Shed website 
The lovely Miss Clapton was back from her time off to explore Africa (lucky duck) after a long slog of learning Law. Within days of her return it was her birthday and therefore a hugely needed catch up and gift exchange was in the diary for this week. 

We settled on booking 2 places on 2 separate evenings, Monday and Wednesday, due to her being a lawyer and those in the world of law know, dates and times cannot always be kept. So this was the best way of 'locking her in'.

'The Shed' has been hugely blogged, written and talked about recently and considering it only opened towards the back end of last year it has somewhat of a fantastic reputation. Ran by two (rather saucy) brothers, one front of house, the other firing up the burners in the kitchen. It's a great atmosphere from the minute you step in (if a little hot!).

The menu is made up of plates set at £7-10 which they encourage you to 'share' and advise that 2 people should have around 5 plates between them from the 'fast' and 'slow' cooking options. Like most places, I found myself in a dilemma and basically wanted everything on offer bar a sultana dish (although I could be converted!). So we had approximately 21 dishes to choose from. Hmmmmm...

The restaurant is super cute, nestled just off Notting Hill Gate you'll find a somewhat tranquil and unexpectedly cosy venue which serves up some pretty outstanding food. We were sat at bar style seating upon some tractor-seat stools- far comfier than they sound! The whole venue displays farmyard memorabilia, the main bar at the front houses a whole tractor bonnet to sit under and a large John Deere sign adorned the walls behind us along with rustic paintings, furniture and the staff wear relaxed clothing with beaming smiles. I already like this place... 



Miss C ordered their 'daily loosener' which was a cocktail (not a laxative as it may sound!). This consisted of Chase Vodka, Blood orange, Rhubarb and Mint, nice and refreshing. I, a glass of their home-grown 'Nutty sparkling wine' - they own a vineyard in Nutbourne. This was delicious and very, very drinkable! 

The thirst quenchers helping us with our decisions, we decided on trying some of the 'mouthfuls' which are individual bite sized starters for £1.50 each. 

Firstly the Beetroot crisp, goats cheese and pear jam. A great texture combination and also flavour. Another one to add to the canapé ideas!




Rabbit spring roll, a great sign of things to come. A really clever little amuse bouche. The rabbit was super succulent and the flavour that was packed into this little parcel of light pastry was absolutely amazing. It also looked rather awesome too. Both of these were excellent value.



We then went onto our main dishes... the waiter puts your chosen dishes through to the kitchen as he deems right, so usually lighter ones come through first etc. 


Scallop, smoked cauliflower, Kale, red onion, mint and mussels was the first dish out. Cooked perfectly the scallops went really well with the lightly smoked cauliflower purée. The kale added a nice depth of iron to the dish and the onion and mussels acted as a chunky relish to give a crunch and some acidity. Super little starter dish - my only issue was that being a 'sharing plate' why give 3 scallops?!  


Next up was the winner of the evening for both of us, Hake, wild garlic, leek, potato and salsify. We started scoffing this dish before I took the photo hence it looking a little 'eaten', oops. The veggies were in 2 forms, an incredibly smooth mash consistency and also cubed. This sat underneath a well cooked, good portion, of delicious crispy skinned hake. What really stood out on this dish, was the wild garlic flowers which had been fried gently so that they were crispy and really, really enjoyable to eat. 


Veal pattie, Tahini Honey yoghurt, pistachio and mustard leaves was our first carnivorous meal of the evening. These packed a juicy punch and were a welcome hearty addition to the meal. I actually could quite happily pop back for a plate of these at lunch. 


When entering the restaurant, there was scrawled on the blackboard that 'delicious spring lamb' was now on. Encouraged by this we ordered Lamb chips, parsley, lemon and harissa. Two large fish fingers appeared and once bitten into they had the most amazing flavour. The lamb was sweet and super tender, when plonked into the African sauce another dimension was added of spice and zingy-ness.


Feeling as though we should eat our 5 a day, we settled on our final dish which was spring greens, shallots and a mushroom dressing. The shallots were soft and caramelised and went really well against the earthy mushroom. As a side dish, this was super tasty and definitely a combination to try at home. 

Overall? A fantastic meal, incredible locally sourced produce cooked exactly how they say it is - 'with flair and fun'. 

122 Palace Gardens Terrace  London W8 4RT, 020 7229 4024. Walk ins welcome. 

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Tuesday

Colombia Road flower market


My lovely Miss G and I had a Sunday morning without the men in our lives and decided to make a date to go and visit the flower market on Colombia Road. This filled me with huge excitement as I am an absolute flower fanatic and I find nothing more gorgeous to fill your home - especially at bargain prices! 

The nearest tube to get here is Bethnal Green and then a short 10 minute walk along main roads to the market (B on below map).



We decided to head over early doors to avoid the crowds. However, last Sunday was a particularly fine British day and therefore the crowds were out in their hundreds already by 11am. 

The trick here is to wander down the stalls and suss out what you would like to buy first, then see which have the better quality flowers on, what offers they have and which cheeky chappy you'd like to buy your blooms off - think Eastenders market men with their witty sales lines... we kindly got offered one stalls mans 'Justin Beiber' look alike apprentice as our 'body guard for the day'. From him, I bought a beautiful Orchid...salesman's technique - 1, my wallet - 0. I also bought some STUNNING antique looking roses and a beautiful Azalea bush for the terrace at home, all totalling a reasonable £20.

The flowers are so beautiful... and I have never seen so many... 


Tulips in every colour imaginable







Turn off the market and make sure you have a look at the rustic cafe's and shops that permanently reside on Colombia Road itself. Towards the bottom there's a super cute cafe that is literally a hole in the wall with a shelf outside selling the most delicious pastries... 

 


Not the best photo but its so small I couldn't take a decent picture!

An abundant of little nick-knack antique shops surround the area, although be warned they are not as affordable as the flora! These all are filled with so many beautiful and unusual little things that it's hard not to walk away with a trolley full of goodies. There is also the most gorgeous bakery in the small square and a quaint fabric shop which has every pattern imaginable lining the shelves for all your 'Susie home-maker' needs.





We decided on having brunch and luckily stumbled upon a table at the very popular 'Campania Gastronomia', which is directly on Colombia Rd. This is a high contender for being one of the best in the area, serving food lovers delicious Italian antipasti within a tiny room full of rustic charm.




3 pictures above courtesy of colombiaroad.info

Cured hams hang from the ceiling, blackboards fill the walls with the choice of dishes available that day and a table brimming full of salads, pastries and cakes takes centre stage. All stylised in a way that would have taken a lot of effort to put together but looks like it took 10minutes, exposed bricks and industrial lighting throughout... It's exactly the type of place I find lots of inspiration for my dream home.

We were there early, therefore this meant we were able to enjoy the brunch options for the day. Eggs dominated the menu, served in a number of ways, also an italian style 'full english' and many pastries. 

I settled upon, the Italian cured ham, eggs, sourdough and rocket. Somehow they managed to make the most incredible eggs I have tasted...I couldn't work out any different form of cooking but they certainly weren't swimming in grease, and seemingly quite 'healthy'. A smattering of good quality olive oil was also in addition and was delicious when eaten with the ham, toast and runny golden yolk. Seriously, this was also some of the best cured ham I have ever tasted, and for £8, this is something I would definitely go back for.



Miss G went for scrambled eggs with fresh chilli, tomato, sourdough and rocket. Again another polished off meal made with exceptional produce and full of flavour.


Overall a gorgeous morning, made better by the beautiful British weather and the beautiful flowers that now fill my home.

Campania Gastronomia: 95 Columbia Rd, City of London, E2 7RG

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Monday

MEAT Liquor

London's quest to have 'the best burger' is an ongoing battle and new joints seem to be opening up every week claiming to have the better patty mix-to-bun ratio. Aware I am a little late jumping onto this band wagon, Mr D and I finally made it down to Meat Liquor for a knock out burger fuelled meal. 

As this is also a no bookings restaurant, at 11:45am a queue was already forming and so we joined the back for 15 minutes until opening. As soon as the doors were opened we were seated immediately. 

Entering the restaurant at lunch time you are thrown forward about 9 hours into a dark, underground club like atmosphere. Cue, some of the worst food pictures I have ever taken, I only had my phone... so apologies I do not do some dishes justice!


Proving just how dark it is in there...

The menu is split into sections:

Fries
Birds
Bulls
Rabbit food
Sweet stuff

Annoyingly you want it all...Reading up on other blogger's websites we had already a vague idea of what we wanted to feast upon. 

Our platter arrived:

A LOT of food... 



Bingo wings, chicken wings in the house hot pepper sauce served with a blue cheese dip. A high contender with our favourite wing place of choice at The Big Easy. Mr D being king of the wings was pretty happy with these, they had a good crunchy fried skin and succulent chicken meat was smothered in a tangy hot sauce - mmmmmm.




Deep fried pickles had perfectly crunchy batter and thinly sliced gherkin was coated in this crisp naughtiness, and still resembled a pickle excellent chef-ing skills there- annoyingly, due to health factors, rather moreish. 




Chilli cheese fries... pretty self explanatory but fries, meat chilli, cheese, onions, jalapeños and mustard. OH.MY.GOD. We both agreed that we could have just had this and left very happy, but it was perfect as a side to share. It was absolutely incredible. Perfect amount of spice and the chilli was to die for.




Green chilli cheese burger, beef, cheese, chilli butter, red onions, pickles, lettuce, mustard and ketchup.  Perfectly cooked Medium-rare (as they come unless asked) and a delicious semi-toasted bun, I now realise what the hype was about... this is a seriously good burger, not overwhelming, fall on the floor, oh my god, but very very good. I am still yet to fine this taste experience in burgers - maybe I never will? But the overall taste was quite a punchy one the Chilli butter wasn't hugely over powering but was certainly there!


Chilli dog was our other main...after writing this I now realise our love for all things 'spicy', seemingly having Chilli on almost all dishes...the 'dog' was our least favourite of the dishes. Possibly due to being far too full to even contemplate half of this as we concentrated on the others first. But also as I am not the biggest of large frankfurters...(?!). But I would definitely stick with the burgers or even try the phenomenally mentioned dirty chicken burgers they do on another visit. 



Lunch for the two of us came to £32 which to me, was excellent value, considering the feast we had and included soft drinks. 

74 Welbeck St  London W1G 0BA. Nearest Tube - Bond Street. 

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Friday

Spanish Tortilla

My summer food craving has finally kicked in since the sun has been shining (a bit). Therefore this week Mr D and I have had a couple of evenings where we've enjoyed a tapas style supper or as I used to call it when younger 'picky-bits'. 


Since our gastronomic start to the month we've been on a bit of a spend thrift and therefore this evening I decided to cook Spanish tortilla. Super cheap, filling and easy to cook. It's also perfect cold for left over lunches.
serves 2/3

You will need:

Small oven safe frying pan
500g baby new potatoes sliced thinly skin left on or off
6 medium sized eggs
4 spring onions chopped into small rounds incl. the green tops
1 red pepper finely chopped seeds removed
Knob of butter

Heat your butter in the frying pan over a low heat for 10-15 minutes until browning, add the peppers and spring onions, and cook on low again for a further 5 mins. 

Put your sliced potatoes into a steamer over boiling water and steam until soft (approx 10mins). If you don't have a steamer simmer gently in a saucepan of water until cooked through then drain well. 

Beat your eggs in a bowl and season well. 

Heat your grill on high.

Add the potatoes to the frying pan and make them into an even layer. Pour your egg mixture into the pan and cook for around 12 minutes, on a medium-low heat, until it starts to brown underneath (be careful not to break it when lifting up). 


Put the pan under the grill and cook for a further 3 minutes. Turn it out onto a plate...


Serve with a green salad or as we did with a tapas style mix of foods... yum!


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Wednesday

Chinese roasted belly of pork




This dish smells so good I never want to share it. It's easy to prep and tastes much better if you marinade it over night. However, if you're short of time, an hour before as absolute minimum is also fine. 

Serves 4

1.5kg of boneless Pork Belly skin scored
4 tbsp Chinese five spice
2 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp vinegar

Sauce
1 tbsp honey
4 tbsp light soy sauce
Small knob of ginger, grated


To marinade the meat pour boiling water over the skin side of the  joint (this opens it up and creates blisters making good crackling). Once done, pat dry with kitchen paper.

Rub all the chinese five spice into the skin and flesh of the meat followed by the sea salt. Make sure you rub it well into the scored skin. Leave it uncovered overnight in the fridge.




Once the marinating process has finished take the meat out of the fridge to bring to room temp and heat the oven to 220C. 

Lay the pork on a rack over a roasting tin with about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of it (this catches the fat and stops it spitting over the oven). Cook for 10 minutes then turn the heat down to 180C. 




After about 40mins into the cooking brush on some vinegar onto the skin - this will blister the skin and make it even crispier. Cook for a further 50 minutes. 


Before vinegar



After adding vinegar

Meanwhile make your sauce by adding all the ingredients together in a dish and stirring it up to dissolve the honey. 

Check your meat, if the skin isn't crispy (it will look dark, but it isn't burnt I assure you) then put it back into the oven for a further 15 minutes checking on it every now and then to see how the skin is going. Once crisp take it out of the oven and rest for at least 15mins.





Carve and serve with the sauce, noodles/steamed rice and steamed greens. 



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