Friday, 27 November 2009


This is a little Hom-age to the Master of the Wok, Ken Hom, OBE. The celebration for his award could not have been more magical. It started in Paris where the British Ambassador invited him to the Embassy to receive his OBE. A splendid building, and the former house of Marie Antoinette as I understand it, it was the perfect setting for the ceremony and the first of many glasses of good champagne. Ken then jetted to London, where he has many friends and close associates, for the reception. Shanghai Blues, a rather swish resturant in central London, was the perfect venue for the reception. Here, Ken welcomed a host of celebrities, starting wtih Cherie Blair, who was so nice to talk to and very friendly, and her lovely mother Gale Booth, then Ainsley Harriott, Angus Deayton, June Whitfield, Antonio Carluccio, himself an OBE, Rosemary Shrager...and more. Even Fay Maschler was able to come, and that meant a lot to Ken. The first two canapes were from Ken's own range of new foods for Tesco, the duck spring roll and the sesame prawn toast, then we tucked into Shanghai Blues' own canapes. Please join me in sending Ken your congratulations, this is a real achievement. Well done Ken!

Thursday, 19 November 2009


When I read that Aqua was going to open in London, I knew it was already too late to approach them to do their PR - anyway it helps if you are American in order to bag their PR - enough said. So the next best thing was to eat there. Decisions decisions. Aqua Nueva or Aqua Kyoto? Both sounded appealing, so the first visit was to Aqua Nueva, the Spanish Aqua. Again the choice here was restaurant or tapas counter? It was the restaurant this time. I did dislike being given a two hour slot to finish a meal though , when the place was busy but there were plenty of empty tables, and I was not well pleased to be sat in the back part of the restaurant, which is very bright, and very narrow, because most of the area is taken up by the tapas counter. I would have much preferred the larger room at the front, with its subdued lighting and more relaxed atmosphere.

Still, I was in great company, and that was important. Sharing a meal with someone who truly appreciates good food and wine makes all the difference. Service was checkered but pleasant, but let's concentrate on the food. This is a good restaurant, I liked the menu, lots of very assertive flavours and unusual choices, such as roe deer and partridge, well executed. If they lacked the wow factor, there was no reason to complain either. This is very Modern Spanish, in fact, it's more European with a nod to Spain, but nevertheless I liked it. Scallops were juicy and the gutsy mushroom gravy went well with them. Duck breast was cooked to my liking and for this I thank the kitchen - I do hate it when a chef imposes that the meat must be cooked rare 'otherwise it will spoil'. Good desserts - try the Ganduja with white chocolate ice cream, and dont worry, it's small enough not to pile on the calories. Prices are OK too. The wine list was not interesting in the least, and not very Spanish either. So I was pleased to find a red Jumilla 2003 at £23, which ended up being the same wine the waiter would later recommend. This is stunning for the price, velvety and full bodied, with a kick at the end, from a very good vintage. Unless you want to blow £150 in a bottle of Brunello (which is a wine for meditation, which needs to be open well in advance, and should be sipped rather than drank in a noisy restaurant) then go for the Jumilla. But with the dessert, a list of sweet wines was presented, with suggestions of what to drink with what. The best PX was out of stock, so we settled for the house Pedro Ximenes, still excellent, and at £6 a glass, a real snip.

A word of advice: stay away from the champagne cocktails and stick to a glass of champagne or other drink. The rose champagne cocktail was a sickly concoction of rose syrup which ruined a perfectly good glass of champagne and was topped with dry roses pot-pourri style - ghastly! I did not try the ginger champagne cocktail, and perhaps just as well......

Next time it's the tapas counter - and I will be ordering a plate of Pata Negra, even at £18 a plate I still think it's good value for this superlatively fine and melt in the mouth ham.

Friday, 13 November 2009


What do you do when you are stuck at Gatwick airport, and have to kill quite a few hours? Treating yourself to the lounge is quite a good idea, as it is an oasis of calm, but if you want to eat something, the choice of restaurants is rather grim. So if you find yourself at Gatwick North (great fun at the moment, once you are there you dont wnat to move as the train is not operating and there is a bus replacement service) here is my suggestion. Walk to the Premier Inn (dont bother with the £2.50 bus, each way!), it's literally a five minute walk, and sit yourself down in the restaurant. This popular little hotspot needs booking, would you believe, as it gets very popular, especially in the evening. I was amazed at the quality of the food and how hard they try. OK, we are not talking Michelin star here, but the Cajun prawns were really tasty, and the portion was plentiful for a starter, and so was the salmon fillet served with very fresh vegetables for the main. The surprise was that this two course dinner was £9.90! What more can you ask for? The succulent lamb from the a la carte was £13 as a main course, and this too was tender, well cooked, and rather delicious. If you are hungry, you want to eat a proper meal without spending a lot, this is a little secret place worth checking out. What's more, you get a breath of fresh air by leaving the stuffy airport for a while! Check it out

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


I have just found this great jingle on the Spaghetti House website it's really funny, they have turned the 12 days of Christmas in what 'my mama gave to me', you have to listen to it, it will put a smile on your face. And whilst you are at it, read the menu, they have this great idea for Christmas, La Tavolata, which is basically a sharing table with lots of food brought to the table, and everyone shares from it. It's a fun way of eating, and it's very good value at £17.95 per person. I am going to have a go as it is not all pasta, there are lots of really good dishes on the selection.


There is this great new menu until the end of November at The Lambert Arms in Aston Rowant, which is on the border of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. So you live in that part of the country or fancy travelling for an hour out of grimy London and breathe some fresh air, this is the place to come. The menu is just £10 for two courses with dishes such as Chestnut mushroom risotto with chives and parmesan, Cornish mussels, Slow cooked ducks leg with fondant potatoes and broad beans, and lots of other tempting dishes. Or you can have three courses for £15. I know the place, it's really great, that's why I am recommending it. And if you have some extra time, why not try the spa, have a massage or a little treat like a manicure, you will come back to London feeling a million dollar, no need to rush, and you will feel like you have had a weekend away.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


La Braccesca is an estate in Tuscany which belongs to the Antinori wine producing family. With a warmer climate and a local grape called Prugnolo - which is a variant of Snagiovese - their Vino Nobile offes a richer, headier experience than Chianti to the north of Tuscany. The wines here have been made for at least 1,200 years but Antinori came relatively late to the region, in 1990. What I really like from here is the superb single-vinyeard Santa Pia, which is a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, exceptionally good, with depth of flavour, smooth and heady. Find it because it's worth it. You can buy it by the case from Berkmann's Wine Cellars and make sure you get the 2004 vintage. It's not cheap though, at about £20 per bottle but it's a real investment.


Sometimes I am tempted to buy foods which are reduced and too good to pass up upon. It was the case with some lovely Gressingham duck breast fillets, which I bought sometimes ago and froze. Out they came of the freezer on a Monday morning, and since I was enjoying one of those rare nights in, I decided to cook them in the evening. I believe simple is best. When the ingredients are good, why mess about with them? Took all the skin off, heated up some very good extra virgin olive oil and quickly seared the breast. Added a splash of brandy, a splash of worcester sauce, a good splash of red wine, and a dash of organic stock. Oh, yes, and some Provencal herbs. Cooked for about 30 minutes, and it was absolutely juicy and tender. Cooked some mixed vegetables in the microwave (oh yes, I do use the microwave when I have to) and then tossed the cooked veggies into the pan where the duck had cooked. They mopped up all the remaining juices and I had a really great meal. Maybe I will suggest it to one of my lovely chefs....

Monday, 9 November 2009


There is nothing better than crack open a really good bottle of wine when it's raining outside, it's Friday night and you dont fancy going out. That bottle you have been saving deserves to be gotten out right now. That's how I came to open one of my treasures, Cupio 2005, an intense red from Le Marche region, one of my favourite Italian regions for unusual wines. A great Rosso Conero made exclusively from the Montepulciano grape, this wine is intense yet very elegant, full bodied and velvety with a very long finish. Unfortunately it's not yet available in the UK, which is why drinking it was a bit of a sacrilege, but it was worth every sip. In fact, it was so good and satisfying that I recorcked it with my vacuvin and finished it on Sunday. It was still perfect.
Until the next bottle comes along......


Well, who would have thought that Harvey Nic would be so good for Sunday lunch? Seeing a world of informally dressed people rather than the D&G clad ladies one sees during the week, was a pleasant surprise. And yes, you could actually get a drink at the bar rather than elbowing your way through. Champagne was flowing everywhere (really - where is this recession?) . Anyway, the lunch was very good. Carpaccio of Angus beef was tender and succulent with a horseradish foam a la Blumethal (so good, wish there was more foam) and the halibut was great too, so was the sea bream. Two course lunch including a bloody mary or a bellini for £19.50 which seems good value, but beware - there is a hefty 12.5 percent service charge on top, a small cup of coffee is £3 and the wine list is among the most expensive in London. Harvey Nic are really missing a trick - they should allow customers to choose from their copious 'bin ends' in the wine department next door, and serve that wine at retail price. But if you want a recommendation from their current list, the Picpoul de Pinet, a little known white wine from the Languedoc, light and delicate but very elegant, was fairly good value at £21.50. Still, thebill came to over £90 with no dessert and no bottled water. Hello??!!!

Thursday, 5 November 2009


Yes, it's time to celebrate. I have organised a fab wine tasting dinner at the all new Pescatori restuarant in Charlotte Street on Monday 30 November. The restaurant is not new as such, but the chef is, the menu is, and it's really good.
If you have come to my dinners before, you know that they are great value and that are attended by lovely people too.
This one on 30 November will offer four great wines from the Antinori estate, and three courses to include Cacciucco, the Tuscan speciality from the sea town of Livorno, where the dish originates from. It's like a bouillebaisse, full of flavour, using fish and seafood, it's just a fantastic dish. Couple this with the best Peppoli Chianti Classico (the one you dream of) and you have a food and drink pairing beyond comparison.
hope you will come. find out more on


Just found a great new cup of coffee at Tossed, it's fairtrade, it's organic, and it's delicious. Can't get enough of it.

Also they now have these great Teapigs - funnily shaped teabags, but full of flavour. Wish they had the liquorice one, i tasted it somewhere and really liked it .

More later.



A new kind of breakfast ‘on the go’ which is indulgent and filling yet healthy and low in calories, is coming to Tossed, the next generation of healthy eating venues springing up around London. With the cooler Autumn weather, a ‘good for you’ breakfast is just what your body needs to feel and stay energised during the day.

Succulent, lean bacon and other toasted baps, tasty porridge, healthy muffins and cakes, luxury freshly roasted Arabica coffees and herbal teas turn breakfast into a feast fit for a king to give you a head start for the day.

The Classic Bacon Bap is delectable and guilt free, made with succulent lean bacon and contains 50 percent less fat than other baps. The Mushroom, Spinach and Scrambled Egg Bap is a great brain food to kick start the day, packed with foods full of iron, protein and energy, whilst the Ham and Egg Bap is the perfect protein fix to keep hunger at bay until lunchtime. Priced at £2.50 each, and with a vegetarian option at £2.25, they make proper breakfast an affordable treat.

For those craving a morning sweetness fix, as well as healthy sugar-free cookies, sweetened with fruit juice and made with low GI (glycemic index) whole wheat flour and no diary product, there are also indulgent cakes and muffins with a difference. These contain no animal products, are also log GI and low in Fat, and provide a wheat free option using spelt instead. Cookies, cakes and muffins are just £1.95 each.

Together with a new luxury range of gourmet coffees and teas, using organic, Fair Trade, 100 percent pure Arabica beans roasted to order and whole leaf organic tea temples for a fresher brew, Tossed is taking breakfast to a whole new level. Indulgence meets health not only in a porridge bowl, but also in a bap or cake.

What’s more, Tossed is launching two new loyalty cards, where with just four hot drink purchases the fifth is absolutely free, and with just four breakfast purchases, the fifth is also free.

Tossed are located at: 101 St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden, WC2N 4AZ Tel:0207 240 3599; 10 Sheldon Square, Paddington Central, W2 6EZ Tel:020 7289 2516; Monsoon H/O, The Yellow Building, Notting Hill Village, 1 Nicholas Road W11 4AN Tel:020 7243 4103; 31-33 Baker Street, W1J 8EJ, Tel:020 7486 8555; Westfield London, Ariel Way, White City, W12 7GE Tel: 020 8740 9613. On-line order service and office delivery available.