Mele e Pere - authentic Italian in Soho

Five of my home boys and I were due to meet up in London, I hadn't seen some of them for a few years and as the older Mr A was down from bonnie Scotland on a job, we managed to get a date in our busy lives for a giggle. I had to find a place that suited the five boys with beer, prosecco for yours truly and filling food. Almost all of the boys are cycling fanatics and so I knew pasta was probably a good option but not always easy to find a decent place.

A small selection of their glass 'apples and pears' 
Mele e Pere ('Apples and Pears') is a restaurant that has been recommended to me by many. It's a good central location and Soho is always buzzing any night of the week. We were sat on the ground floor at a lovely high rustic table and bar style stool seating. 

The menu changes weekly/sometimes daily and on our evening it was particularly hard to choose from.

Hand made pastas were all teamed with delicious sounding sauces, Truffled gnocchi, aubergine with pancetta ravioli and a beef ragu were all making my life a little harder. Luckily it was apparent that the boys were also finding choosing hard none of us could make a decision. 

Some olives were ordered and this seemed to help our thoughts, decisions were made and we went back to chatting about our little lives without noticing the wait we apparently endured before starters...

Because of this we were treated to two tasters of Fried bocconcini of mozzarella with almonds and basil pesto these were oozy, crunchy and yummy!! Close to doing a Notting Hill and 'whomever is the saddest act' it was swooped off the plate and gone in a flash! 

The pesto however was not swiped so quickly and this was gladly finished with these little bites of lightly crumbed olives with a spicy filling. A great difference in flavour and texture these were lovely little things.

I had squid with a smoked aioli to start which were coated in a crisp, light batter and fried to exactness - delicious!! 

For mains I felt I needed some of their home made pasta and I was so right in doing so. These are split into small and large plates so depending how your tummy is rumbling you can chose accordingly. 

My rustic and heart warming bigoli (similar to spag but thicker) with king prawns, broccoli, padron peppers and taggiasche olives was so delicious I could have had the large portion and left stuffed but happy. Coated in a light sauce of what I think was a type of tomato and pepper pesto I could have licked the bowl clean. Luckily I was handed a spoon so I restrained and saved the guys embarrassment. 

The veal was also sampled and I thought worthy of a photograph...

Just look at those courgette chips...

I'm not one for puds often on a week night however one thing caught my eye and I HAD to try it. A scoop of 'Werthers Original ice cream' now Italians know how to do ice cream so this was brilliant.

One mouthful of this and I was transported back to my grandpa's car and excitedly rummaging around the glove box to find the oval butterscotch treats. What a fabulous flavour and one with such a fond memory I didn't want it to end. 

We had a thoroughly wonderful evening. Attentive staff and great value for money - 3 courses, prosecco and service came in at around £30pp (we split the bill equally). Mele e Pere serves up authentic, warming Italian goodness using the freshest ingredients in an eclectic, charming and relaxed environment it's obvious why this place is every local's perfect go to.

Address: 46 Brewer Street, Soho. W1F
Phone: 020 3641 9342

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Pollen Street Social... fabulous dining in the heart of Mayfair

Like the Queen my Dad had two birthday celebrations this year. The previous evening we were at Aqua followed by Pollen Street Social on the Friday. I am slightly annoyed in that I didn't take my camera and was going too, so again I only had my blooming phone which when the food is as beautiful as this I'm now kicking myself, the pics simply do not do the food justice - sorry Chef Atherton. 

Having previously been to Jason Atherton's PSS for Mr D's birthday and thoroughly enjoyed it, we were looking forward to a second seating and also showing Mum and Dad a place that we loved. 

We sat at the gorgeous and buzzy bar and enjoyed a blooming good cocktail (Princess Peach for me, wine and beers for the others). 

From the PSS website
If ordering a beer they come served in these fantastic tankards my picture turned out a bit shoddy so here's a borrowed one and the link to one of my favourite new(ish) bloggers... 

Pic from Eating my own words
Once we went through to the restaurant we were sat on the edge of the dining room right next to the fantastic dessert bar (if in a table of 2 I urge you to do this for your puds). You get to interact with the chef's and watch them putting the restaurants sweet treats together, a really clever concept that Pollen Street Social is now famed for.

From the PSS website
What is so apparent throughout service was that every staff member was only looking after two or three tables. Therefore the staff interacted with the diners ours was a particularly enthusiastic Aussie whom was lovely. It's clear staff are looked after well and enjoy working here. Because of this attentiveness we were never once left waiting to be served thus meaning the evening went exceptionally well.

From the PSS website

Waiting for us at our table was a birthday card signed by Chef Atherton which I thought was a lovely touch and unexpected. It is always worth saying the the restaurant that it's a special occasion as they're always happy to do something for you. 

When seated and orders taken we were presented with two types of warm home made bread (a perfect sourdough and white), a cod roe paste (yummmy!!) and soft unsalted churned butter. Next to these were two Harry Potter-esque books. We didn't have these the previous visit so assume you only get these with a la carte and not tasting menu...

This opened to reveal our amuse bouche...

(pic taken from another of my faves The chic Brulee)

Crispy pork skin - some of the best scratching I have ever come across. This was light, airy and not in the slightest bit greasy. Parmesan biscuits with a tomato, anchovy purée and caraway crackers with smoked cheese were the other two. Equally as good but not quite as memorable as the bad stuff! Lots of interesting textures and flavours, a great little pre meal. 

All the ingredients are found or produced in the UK and therefore the menu reads as a celebration to British produce - fantastic!! After wondering what the table next door were eating I spied what it was and mum and I ordered exactly that: 

Roasted Scrabster lobster, chanterelles, Iberico ham, young leek. The little lobby came out to say hi before being plunged into the pot (you don't have to see this if you don't want to). A handsome little chappy sat proud in his box whilst being talked about where he came from and to show diners that what you're getting is as fresh as can possibly be...

He was then whisked away and turned into a delicious lobster-rich broth with cubes of chorizo and sweet leeks. The lobster was cooked to perfection and pulled away easily from the shell. Such a treat and one that will be hard to beat! 

For mains I was stuck between several things and therefore asked for our waitresses opinion. 'Lamb, definitely' and so my decision was set in stone. Rack of Lamb (from the Lake District), braised shoulder, fregola in basil, olive powder, artichoke and tomato chutney was placed in front of me and I was pretty happy. 

Two plump pink lamb cutlets arrived with crisp skin. Some of the best and most tender lamb I have eaten in a long time. The little round fregola pasta was delicious eaten with the slow roasted shoulder which was bread crumbed and lightly fried. Tomato chutney was a little sweet for both mum and I however I could see that this would work well for other tastes. Overall a fantastic dish - thank you lovely waitress for your suggestion!! 

Both Dad and Mr D opted for the Cote de boeuf 1kg for sharing, served with duck fat chips and salad - I can vouch that the chips were blooming good!!

We were then served a pre dessert which was a refreshing melon and chamomile tea sorbet with yoghurt foam and lime zest - delicious and perfect for pallet cleansing. 

Mr D and I both chose the selection of five sorbets... which are all fantastic but it is rather huge so they should definitely say this is for sharing!! I chose out of the 15 (!!) flavours, raspberry, key lime and apple, melon, one I don't remember i.e. I didn't love it and pumpkin - get this if you go it's incredible!! 

Upon leaving Dad was presented with a gift... he hadn't yet opened it however two years ago for Mr D's it was a beautiful square of chocolate cake decorated with gold leaf. Another lovely touch to a perfect evening - even if we were all a little sleepy from too many cocktails the evening before!! 

Pollen Street Social is a thoroughly wonderful restaurant. It's top notch food in a relaxed, charming environment and I'm yet to find friendlier staff. It's an absolute must for a gorgeous night out in Mayfair. 
Address: Pollen Street Mayfair, London, W1S1NQ
Tel: 020 7290 7600
Pollen Street Social on Urbanspoon

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Aqua Shard - the best view of London

Bit of a mixed one today...I couldn't help but feel hugely cheated and ever so slightly disappointed in Aqua Shard. It was my Dad's birthday and the bro and I thought I was high time we treated him to an evening out. I wanted somewhere a bit different and a place he would never have thought to have chosen himself. So The Shard was the choice of venue and not quite booking early enough for Hutong I settled on the oddly named (for a sky high restaurant) 'Aqua'.

The views from 31 floors up are second to none. We even popped across the river to Sushisamba for a cocktail and the views there are no where near as good as The Shards. Excuse some pics my phone was all I had... 

At the bar we were lucky to bag a small table right up by the glass and slurped on thirst quenching cocktails taking in London's beautiful starry skyline. If this doesn't make you appreciate our beauty of a city then I don't know what will.  

Telegraph pic
Our table was at 8pm and a little after that we moved into the dining area which seemed vast and expensively designed. It's good to note here that unless you're a romantic table of 2 you'll be further back and therefore not quite as dramatic a dinner as you may have hoped. 

Our table view
The 'innovative contemporary British' menu was surprisingly hard to choose from. Not because I wanted everything written in front of me but because every dish came with something that was either cooked fruit or sweet sounding for both starters and mains. 

They were hugely understaffed which wasn't particularly helping the evening. Seemingly rushed off their feet and some tending to all tables rather then being dedicated to certain areas of the restaurant we weren't particularly 'looked after' as one may expect in an expensive restaurant. Whether this was due to HRH's appearance earlier that day I'm not sure, however It did mean our starters arrived almost 45 minutes after ordering. 

I settled upon the Foie gras and Fat hen terrine, truffle cream, violette artichoke and pickled chanterelle. This was actually rather yummy and started my meal off with a high. Buttery smooth duck liver was excellently matched with some texture from the chicken part of the terrine. Two large shavings of black truffle sat atop the artichoke and cream. This all went rather nicely together and I was anticipating the next course to go down just as well.

Sadly my main of pork with buck-wheat pancake, spiced fruit chutney, black pudding, heirloom tomato with a pork and orange jus simply flattened all my good thoughts of the meal. Everything on the plate was sickly sweet. The black pudding was dolloped onto the plate inside a tomato and in mousse form (not appetising to look at). Sadly nothing was tasted over the powerful sweetness even though the pork however, was cooked well. 

Two of the family chose Venison which was off menu and in place of the lamb. It was slightly laughable at how smaller portion of meat was on the plate. So much so that you couldn't even see it for the vegetables...

As a side we had some steamed greens... which were nice enough however again coming with an overpoweringly sweet taste from the raisins and sherry.

We decided therefore not to have desserts and they kindly presented Dad with a decorated plate complete with candle. Which was rather lovely and took away thoughts of the meal for a few minutes.

Aqua has every imaginable box ticked in the bar area so much so that I would definitely go back for cocktails, wow-factor and the great atmosphere. It's a HUGE shame that they fell so heavily when it came to the meal. The view should not be the only thing I can more or less remember perfectly of an evening. The room is one of grandeur and elegance I just wish the food lived up to this especially when charging around £70pp. 

One thing to note is a trip to the bathrooms is a must. Not many places would you get to wash your hands (or in the men's case take a pee) and battle with potential vertigo. 

Bar -10/10
Atmosphere -8/10
Service - 4/10
Food - 4/10

Address: Level 31, The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, SE1.

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A Paris evening... Semilla and Ballroom Bar

Round the corner from La Pallette is the Rue de Seine which has a good number of fantastic restaurants. One being a fish bar called Boissonnerie which looks delightful...

Opposite and owned by the same people is Semilla which was where I booked in a few weeks before. This modern, simple bistro has a gorgeous open kitchen and a wonderful atmosphere. 

(Taken early at 7pm) 
We nestled in and decided to splash out on booze and get stuck in for a really enjoyable evening. The menu reads fantastically; fresh, varied and split into large and small plates with the option for a tapas-style meal. 

To start I had mackerel with beetroot and watercress (c'est tout). This was incredibly zingy, fresh and light. The fish was hardly cooked at all which made it really enjoyable to eat and weirdly less 'fishy' and the beets complimented this perfectly and also added a gorgeous amount of autumnal colours. A really lovely simple dish to start with using clever complimentry flavours.

Miss HH had the scallop carpaccio, mango and vanilla oil. Another well put together refreshing dish.

Mr D's was the winner around the table - jealous much?!  I loved my starter however his Snail Arancini, pickled girolles and cepes was simply out of this world!

Mr C had Langoustines tartare, consome and cauliflower cream. An interesting texture, full of flavour and another winner. 

For our mains we all went a little adventurous. Two of the table went for the crispy pigs head, mushroom cream, shoots and sherry jus. I was lucky to get a bite of these as they were seriously good and close to being gobbled up rapidly. Really succulent meat coated in a thin crisp breadcrumb, it was like an extravagant croquette. One I could imagine catching on at other restaurants - a clever and tasty way of using normally discarded cuts.  

Mr D chose the hog, served with squash and confit of onions which was super. The fat was sweet and tender and the whole dish was delicious and the sauces were close to being licked off the plate!

I chose the slow roasted lamb shoulder, heliantis (artichoke), chestnuts and salad. A perfect winter warmer. The lamb was some of the best I have eaten. Perfectly pink juicy lamb placed in the pan and served with all it's juices. The pellets of heliantis gave a sweet nuttiness to the hearty meal and had been cooked again in the pan with the lamb juice - mouth watering yet?! I was pleased I went slightly off piste as the fish dishes sounded divine and I could have easily gone for one of these. But on this blustery Parisian evening this was perfect.  

Puds were next up and we were told that Semllia does not go halves on sweet treats by two gentlemen to my right. One chap happened to be friends with the owner, the other, a food writer from The Daily Meal, they ordered the shoulder of lamb to share, and with leftovers offered it to us to take away, claiming this was 'the best they'd ever eaten' and believe me, it was mind blowingly good!! We ordered three three different puds:

Cremeux chocolat/pistache - a smooth chocolate pistachio mousse...just look at how beautiful this is. Not sickly in any way this caramelly, choco delight was my favourite across the three scraping my finger across the plate to get every last bit up.

2 of us had the Apple crumble which was deconstructed with a toasted hazelnut topping and a yoghurt/citron ice cream dolloped on top.

The rogue of the desserts came in the form of a red pepper sorbet with chocolate and a chocolate and hazelnut 'crunch'. The sorbet flavour was so spot on and densely red peppery but with the consistency of sorbet! innovative, impressive to look at and one of those dishes that makes you go 'wow'!!  

Semilla is an incredible little bistro I'm slightly jealous that London doesn't have one. But then again it wouldn't have made this find so special. Our bill €310 so definitely a treat evening although this is for four people and we went for decent wines, cheese and dessert wine (not photographed I think I was a little fuzzy by now)- it is a treat after all...

Make sure you hop in a cab and head to Ballroom Bar. A small but impressive space which is very, very cool - so much so it has won a spot in the world's best 50. The cocktails are incredibly good. If like us you'll have too much fun, lose track of the night and get far too carried away so be sure to take your credit cards with you... you'll most certainly be waking up with an 'oh dear' when looking at receipts!! 

Photo credit here


Address:4 Rue de Seine, 75006 Paris
Phone:+33 1 43 54 34 50
Be sure to book a few weeks in advance


Address: 58, rue Jean-Jacques-Rousseau, Paris 75001
Phone: +33 9 54 37 13 65 
Metro: Les Halles, Etienne Marcel

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