As I made my way to the airport, ready to embark on a 35 day summer holiday, I posted this image up on my social media pages. It was only the 1st of July, the 6th of August seemed like a lifetime away, and I had a list of places I had couldn't wait to discover! Mr. S and I were going to London, Ibiza & Formentera and in that time I wanted to get in as much good food & sunshine as possible.
**This is a slightly unusual post as there aren't any recipes, however, there are recommendations on places to eat & dishes I cooked with loved ones. Don't worry my crystal ball tells me that there will be plenty of recipes in blog posts to come, inspired by the wonderful meals I enjoyed!
First we touched down in sunny London, which is a strange sight as the sun doesn't like to shine much over London, so we assumed we had brought a bit of it over from Doha with us, where is shines almost too much! Sunshine transforms London into a different city, you can eat outside in the park, on a rooftop, in someones back garden, by the canal, on a boat...the opportunities are endless. It's short-lived so everyone makes the most of the summer sun while it lasts. My first recommendation came as a bit of a surprise and here's why...
We chose to go here for Mr. S's birthday celebration as it's got a big outdoor space on the canal, delicious pizzas and even more delicious beers! To be honest I was really looking forward to their sage and truffle pizza which I had tried last year but everything changed when I checked out their daily specials board....they had a lentil, lemon marinated broccoli, feta, baby plum tomatoes, onions, pumpkin seeds, lemon zest topped with BARBERRIES! Yes barberries, for those of you who are unfamiliar with what they are, they are tiny dried deliciously sour little red gems of goodness, and are primarily used in Persian cuisine paired with rice. I was curious to know how they tasted in a salad, and to my surprise it was absolutely amazing! Our friends all ordered pizzas and were just as satisfied, though the wait for food can be long on a Friday evening, once you get it all is forgotten.
This lovely little restaurant is set in the heart of Notting Hill and is completely raw, vegan, and gluten free. Mr. S and I decided to go there for breakfast as we were staying just down the road. We ordered Oosha's spiced coconut porridge and the savoury crepe. Both sounded great on paper however Mr. S was a bit skeptical about how a raw crepe would taste like and to our surprise, both of the dishes were delectable! We also had some cold pressed green juices, and I had a hemp milk matcha latte. We were so impressed by this place that we went back again and had their raw pancakes topped with banana ice cream, which just blew me away, they were incredible and kept me full almost all day long! I do have to say that their prices reflect that of the surrounding area but don't let that put you off, if you're looking to treat yourself then Nama is the place to go.
Sesame is the latest venture of the Ottolenghi team, serving Mediterranean & Middle Eastern inspired street food. The first thing I noticed were the beautiful geometric tiles which flowed from halfway up the wall, and covered the entire floor. The menu is very simple, however being a huge fan of Sami Tamimi & Yotam Ottolenghi, I knew that the flavours would be very bold and exciting. I had the Sabick pitta which has roasted aubergine & egg with mango pickle topped with some Zhoug, a Yemeni green chilli paste made with cardamom & cumin. We also shared a cauliflower, tahini & pomegranate salad, and some green beans with sesame & chilli, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of flavour in the cauliflower salad though the green beans made up for it. Overall we both had a scrumptious quick & affordable lunch, one that I would love to pop out the office for, or to have after a busy day of shopping around Covent Garden.
Zardosht @ Cafe OTO
I had sampled some food from Zardosht at Broadway market while I was living in London, and I knew I had to have more when I was back. I did some research and found out that the lovely lady behind the delicious Persianesque inspired food, Soli Zardosht, does the food at Cafe OTO in Dalston everyday! So we ventured east and met our friend Nada for lunch. The space is designed very simply with irregular furniture and has large windows all round which fills the room up with lots of natural light. We checked out the daily specials and I got the lentil & chickpea stew with rice & yoghurt and Mr. S and my friend ordered their famous saffron chicken with couscous and yoghurt. My first bite took me back to our family dining table, the flavours were so familiar and warming it was just like eating home cooked food, made with lots of love and attention. It was refreshing to see quite a few vegetarian options on the menu too!
Mr. S and I were going to a show later that day and decided to take away a couple fritatta wraps to eat beforehand, and we were so glad we did because they were just perfect. Overall I would give this place a 10/10 review because everything was absolutely delicious!
Yet another East London restaurant recommended by my friend Tana, this family owned deli serves the best pizza I've ever eaten in my life. The crust is so thin it's almost like a cracker, and all the ingredients are organically sourced. The interiors look like something out of a design magazine, and transported me to somewhere in Scandinavia with the whitewashed simplicity. All the food is made by the husband and wife team and their son helps out sometimes too! We ordered a large portion of salad, which isn't on the menu but is exquisite and one Story margherita which is a margherita topped with their homemade pesto, one Simone which is a garlic roasted veggie pizza, and Mr. S and Tana had the Parma ham pizza which comes covered in a bed of rocket salad. I have never eaten such a delicious pizza in my life, it was definitely worth having even though i've been trying to reduce my gluten and dairy intake! Story Deli is a must when visiting London, there's no doubt about it.
Home Cooked Meals with Friends
Our friend Dan invited us over to his place for dinner one night, and it reminded me of how much his father had gotten into growing his own veggies. They live in Kensal Rise but when as you approach their house you see hanging vines of string beans, rows of courgettes, fresh herbs and spinach, and that's just their front garden! Their back garden is filled with broad beans, a mini green house filled with cucumbers etc, the list is endless and they all taste exquisite! He made us one of his special salads which consists of all the fresh herbs he has in his garden such as coriander, parsely, chives, mint topped with fresh garlic, green chilli, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt & black pepper. Dan and I made a very simple courgette & garlic pasta topped with feta and chive stuffed courgette flowers, I mixed a bit of the salad into my pasta as it was quite intense to have on it's own, and it took the pasta to the next level. It just goes to show that if you use high quality, fresh ingredients, you don't need to add much to make a delicious meal!
We decided to go to the countryside for my birthday weekend and my lovely friend Hagop's parents were kind enough to lend us their place for the weekend. So we ventured out of London into the lush green fields of Hampshire, on our way we stopped at a berry farm and picked our own raspberries. When we arrived at the house, the first thing I noticed was a beautiful vegetable patch which I was drawn to like a magnet! His parents had grown potatoes, beetroot, carrots, lettuce, an assortment of beans, spinach, sage, mint and courgettes. So we proceeded to pick some veggies to prepare for dinner that night. We roasted the potatoes & beetroot with garlic and sage, sauteed the courgettes with some garlic, stuffed the flowers with goats cheese, mint & chili, and flash cooked the beet greens with shallots and lots of lemon juice. Tana made a gluten free birthday cake with almond flour, coconut, vanilla, lemon, lots of love topped with the raspberries we had picked and some basil. It was a feast, there were only four of us, and it was only the first night!
The next day we decided to have a vegetarian BBQ so we burnt a couple of whole aubergines on the fire to make baba ghanoush, smashed up some avocados for a huge guacamole, roasted some more sage & garlic potatoes and beetroot, made more of the goats cheese filling we had used for the courgette flowers, barbecued some courgettes, mushrooms, halloumi and grilled some bread. It was yet another feast, however there were now 7 of us and we managed to finish most of it. The next morning we made buckwheat banana & blueberry pancakes with a leftover potato, beetroot & beet green frittata, and off we went for a little hike in the forest before heading back to London. This was probably one of the best birthdays I've had, spent with good friends, eating good food and lots of walks in the countryside, what more could a girl ask for?!