Monday, 31 October 2011

Review: Mango Tree, Victoria SW1X


I've long been a fan of the Mango Tree but had been years since I'd last been - it's on Grosvenor Place near Buckingham Palace, Victoria and Belgravia and I don't find myself around there very often.  But I was seeing a friend who was staying in town close to the restaurant so it was a perfect opportunity to go.

When you walk in you can smell the flavour from the word go - the restaurant is always busy, and feels almost like a hotel or corporate space when you walk in.  Make time to go and have a drink at the bar first, as it's more intimate and a nice way to start.  Booked through toptable, the Mango Tree always has excellent deals on - we got 50% off the food bill. As an FYI, the restaurant's food is always excellent value due to the toptable offers - but they make up the bill with drinks.  Their cocktails are brilliant, but are between 8 and 15 pounds each so don't guzzle them down.  Unusually for a pan Asian restaurant, they have a very good wine list.


Even the prawn crackers in this place are good, which are on the table when you are seated.  I had the Tom Kha soup (coconut milk based, with chicken, mushroom and red chilli) which was gorgeous and has inspired me to have a go making it, and my friend had the giant prawn spring rolls which were presented beautifully and tasted divine - they didn't scrimp on the amount of prawn - it made up most of the roll!

For main, I had the garlic chicken with cashew nuts and onion (not that adventurous but always a good dish to test out a restaurant) which was cooked to perfect, and the sticky rice accompaniment was exactly as it should be.  Good portion size, enough for you before your guests start pronging their forks in!  Now, my favourite bit - Mango Tree does have a great dessert menu.  I had the cooked Mango with vanilla sticky rice which was sensational.  Service wise, it was very good considering how busy they are too - although they did keep asking if we wanted our plates cleared when we hadn't finished (pet hate) - the restaurant was packed and had a small queue by the time we left.

Overall this place is fantastic, great for large or small gatherings and considering how central it is, it's fantastic value.  Great broad menu with something for everyone - as spicy as you want it to be.  Recommend with confidence!

Style: 7
Service: 6
Pricing: 9
Taste: 9
Fun Factor: 8

Book here Mango Tree, 46 Grosvenor Place, Belgravia, SW1X 7EQ

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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Recipe: Leek, Potato and Pancetta Soup


Continuing the potato loving... making soups is a new venture for me, ever since I stumbled across the Covent Garden Soup recipe book a few weeks ago - they are ridiculously easy to make and you really can put whatever you want in them, great for clearing out the cupboards.  Plus, they freeze well.  I use my leftover takeaway boxes to make servings and keep them in the freezer.  Perfect for a cold autumn evening - plus if you're a bit of a tidy-nut like me, it's quite therapeutic to 'waste not, want not.'  This recipe came about after making a standard leek and potato soup, and wanting a little more punch/flavour..

Ingredients:
(for 4-6 portions)

. 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
. 1 large onion - preferably a few days old for additional sweetness
. 225g/8oz of boiled-till-soft potato (sweet potatoes work brilliantly too)
. 2 large leeks - sliced
. 2 pints of vegetable stock - homemade is best, but if bought buy fresh not granulated/OXO
. 150ml of cream, creme fraiche or unsweetened yoghurt
. Salt and ground black pepper
. 100g of pancetta (bacon and salted ham works well too)

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Having boiled the potatoes, heat the oil in a large saucepan and lightly fry the pancetta and onion (and spice if you wish - suprisingly cumin or a pinch of cinnamon tastes amazing).  Add the leeks and potatoes after 2 minutes. After a few minutes more (when the ham is cooked pink and the onions are softening) add the vegetable stock and allow to boil.  Simmer until the vegetables are soft/tender - test using a fork.

Pour mixture into a new, clean pan and add the cream/yoghurt.  With an electric blender (you will definitely need one of these, for sanity's sake) mix until ingredients are altogether.  Heat until cooked through, and serve.

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Friday, 28 October 2011

Recipe: The Perfect Roast Potatoes


If you aren't a potato lover in my family, you might as well have three heads.  Being brought up as a true meat and two veg English girl - we know our 'spuds' and know we like lots of them.  Here is a great, simple roast potato recipe that even I have managed to stick to.  I think it started life as a Delia Smith recipe, but has been handed down on various pieces of paper, each time adding something to it in a Chinese whisper type fashion.

According to my father, it's all in the type of potato.  Use Desiree if you can, as they are perfect for all things baking when it comes to potatoes.  They make great roasts, chips and even baked potatoes.  Price wise, they are not the cheapest but certainly not the most expensive.

Ingredients:

. 250g of potato (Desiree or another 'floury' type) per person
. 20g lard/fat per person
. Salt - cut rough
. Chives or herbs to taste

Preparation time: 25 mins
Cooking time: 50 mins (if making for 4 people) add 10 minutes for each additional serving

First place the roasting tray with the fat in it on the highest shelf of the oven while it pre-heats (gas mark 7). Peel the spuds using a peeler, then cut them into fairly even-sized pieces, leaving the small ones whole. Place them in a saucepan, pour over boiling water, just to cover, then add salt and simmer for about 10 minutes. After that lift one out with a skewer/fork and see if the outer edge is fluffy. You can test this by running the point of the skewer along the surface – if it stays smooth, give it a few more minutes.

Drain off the water, reserving some for the gravy.  Shake the saucepan vigorously up and down (with the top on, obviously). This shaking roughens up the cooked edges of the potato and makes them floury and fluffy – this is the secret of the crunchy edges.

Remove the roasting tray containing the fat (which should sizzle) and transfer to the direct heat (medium) on the hob. Then use a long-handled spoon and quickly lower the potatoes into the hot fat. When they are all in, tilt the tray and baste each one so it's completely coated with fat. Place them back on the highest shelf of the oven and leave them unattended for 40-50 minutes or until they are golden brown. There's no need to turn them over at half-time – they will brown evenly by themselves. 

Sprinkle them with the salt before serving; they lose their crunch if you keep them waiting. If they're ready before you are, turn the oven off and leave them inside - open the oven door if you're worried they'll burn.

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Thursday, 27 October 2011

Recipe: White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake


I was first given this recipe by a friend's mother when I visited her a few years ago - but without the raspberries.  Feel free to leave them out, or use a different fruit (mandarin or lemon rind works well too).  This isn't a dish for someone trying to keep a trim waistline - a real treat!  Totally fool proof as you don't need to do any baking - and requires no scales or measuring.  Worth making the night before to allow the mix to hold and stand in shape.

Ingredients:

For the cheesecake mix:
. 3 100g packs of supermarket brand white chocolate (recommend Sainsburys)
. 1 300g tub of Philadelphia cheese (light or full fat)
. 1 250g tub of Mascarpone cheese
. 1 250g tub of Creme Fraiche (light or full fat)
. 1 punnet of Raspberries, or one tin (fresh is better)

For the base:
. 1 small pack of digestive biscuits (branded or supermarket's own)
. Two tablespoons of butter

Preparation time:
25 minutes

Cooking time:
0 minutes

Directions:

First, heat the white chocolate in the microwave - careful not to burn it (add a little water) and then stir to make a bit-less consistency.  Pour the Creme Fraiche into a large mixing bowl, and gently stir in the white chocolate - don't panic if it gets a bit runny, it will change when it cools and you add the cheese.

Next, stir in the cheeses - tablespoon at a time to ensure you have no bits. Once done - taste (yummy) and add whatever else you want to the mix.  Don't be tempted to use an electric mixer unless you are stuck for time as it can over blend the mix and make it runnier, which is harder to get to hold shape (you'll need to give it more time in the fridge when prepared).  Don't add the raspberries just yet - put the bowl in the fridge to help it start setting.  Now, the base!

Get your butter, recommend 2 tablespoons worth and put it into the microwave for 20 seconds so it goes very runny.  Take 2 plastic bags and put one inside the other, to stop crumbs making it through the holes!  Put your biscuits in the bag and get a rolling pin - and bash away (!!) until you have a fine bag of crumbs.

Take your cake tin (ideally one with removable sides) and tip your biscuit crumbs into the base - you choose how much as you can decide how thick you want the base to be.  Pour the butter into the tin and with your fingers and hands, press the mix together and push the mix around the bottom of the tin until you have an equally spread base.  

If you have the time, allow the base to cool before doing the next step - when the base has cooled; Take out your cheese cake mix from the fridge and fold in your raspberries (recommend draining them first) gently so that every portion would have some in... Now spoon in in the mix on top of the cake tin, and once filled gently spread your mixing spoon over the top to create an appealing top!  I sometimes put dried raspberry pieces on the top - you could also shave some white chocolate on the top.

Allow the cake at least 3 hours to cool (ideally overnight) - put it in the fridge - and then serve!  Enjoy!

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Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Review: Amoul's, Formosa St W9

Letting you in to a big secret now - this is my ultimate local hideaway, a hidden gem!  Anyone who lives nearby will already know it, us locals like to keep it that way - but now that I've started a food blog I couldn't possibly not write about this wonderful eaterie on Formosa St, Little Venice.


This Lebanese restaurant cooks all of it's own food to owner Amoul's specification.  The starter menu is a fabulous mix of pomegranate salads, (amazing) onion soup and falafel mixed plates.  Main courses range from Moussaka and fresh fish of the day dishes - but the all-star favourite is their Poussin, potatoes and garlic dip.  Absolutely amazing and promise you've never tasted poultry like it, pic below.

The restaurant seats around 20 people so you do need to book ahead - and has one large table perfect for a gathering.  It feels very intimate, and a million miles away from the busy streets of London.  Places like this make me feel proud to live in the area - there is nothing I love more than to take a friend here, I've never failed to make them 'mmmmm' and 'ahhhh' over their food!


Also great for breakfasts and lunches, but do ring ahead as they have temperamental opening hours!  They have a fantastic range of gourmet baby food - I'm talking lamb shank and potatoes in a jar... And egg-less ice cream.  Amoul will also show her face, and is more than happy to talk about the food and give you some home cooking tips.  Make sure you go, but don't tell anyone how good it is - we like that it's a little secret!  Price wise, for 3 course and wine for 2 people it would be between £50 and £60.

So, overall our survey says: 

Style: 9
Service: 9 
Pricing: 8
Taste: 10
Fun Factor: 8

Total: 44/50

Book here: Amouls 14 Formosa St, Little Venice, 0207 328 6626

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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Review: The Salt House, Abbey Road NW8


Ooooh our first review!  For those of you who read our sister blog South Molton St Style, you will know that I recently got a new job to start in early November.  Seemed only fitting to go out and demolish some tasty grub as a 'well done me!'  So the boyfriend and I decided to get a taxi in the opposite direction to normal, and head away from town rather than further in - we've been meaning to try The Salt House for a while.

We booked it through toptable.com who had mixed reviews of the place - but overall in concluded that the food was pretty good, the photos of the place were a little exaggerated and the service sometimes left something to be desired.  To be honest, those fifteen-odd words some the place up pretty accurately.

You arrive through the pub entrance, which even on a Tuesday evening was very busy.  There aren't any signs to the restaurant so you have to rely on a member of staff helping you, which is where it gets odd; despite there being 3 wandering waiters, no one said hello so we had to make the introduction - not the best of starts.  With no apology we were taken through the dining room, which is where things got a lot better.


Quaint and cosy, with around 15 tables the dining room is really quite nice.  The menus were, to quote the boyfriend 'fantastic' - ticking the boxes for anyone who likes solid gastro pub food.  We both had the Salt and Pepper Squid to start (tasty, shame there wasn't more of it but for £7 you can't complain).  Squid was well cooked, batter was yummy - would have liked the squid to be thicker cut but that's just because I've come back from Miami recently where their pieces are inches thick!

For mains I had the fish and chips (cannot complain at all, it was fantastic and everything you want from the traditional dish - even the mushy peas were perfectly salted) and boyfriend had the Fish of the Day, which wasn't specified but lets say it was monkfish as it was white and meaty!  Vegetables were slightly soggy and a little cold - but the fish was cooked to perfection.


We went without dessert as we were stuffed - but overall this place is good.  Service lets it down, waited a few minutes more than noticeable for each course and we had to remind the waiter for our drinks. I'd imagine it would get packed up on a weekend as during our mid week visit they were fully booked and a queue had formed when we left.  Certainly one of the best in the area... whether it beats The Clifton Hotel around the corner I'm not sure...  We'll let you know!  Pricing wise, the bill was £58.00 including 4 gin and tonics (hiccup and headache the next morning). We say: go and try it out, very enjoyable as long as you have the time to wait for your food to come.

So, overall our survey says: 


Style: 7 
Service: 6 
Pricing: 8
Taste: 8
Fun Factor: 6


Total: 35/50


Book here: The Salt House - 63 Abbey Road, NW8 0AE, 0207 328 6626


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