The best kept secret

I was recently asked to be a guest food blogger for Big Fish English blog, who provide language learning skills for those looking to improve their English. Check out my first blog post that hopes to bust the myth that British cuisine is lagging behind the rest of Europe in terms of gastronomy:

http://www.bigfishenglish.com/2015/07/23/the-best-kept-secret-by-terri-bloore/

Fazenda UK

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Fazenda is a little cafe run by an Italian husband and wife team based on Leydon Street by Petticoat Lane. Located off the main drag and rather unassuming from the outside, regulars  come here for good coffee, home made food and service so friendly it feels like a family.

The cafe is small based in a tall slim townhouse and easy to walk by.  As we walked in we were immediately welcomed by the son (I assume) and sat down on a small table in the corner of the cafe. We were immediately given water and bread before being asked to come up to the counter to make our selection. We were asked to choose from the ten or so dishes that are home made in the kitchen below. We had an option of a pasta bolognaise type dish, braised cabbage, roasted peppers, roasted aubergine, pasta salad, apple and feta salad and beef in a creamy sauce. It is a rather nice concept as we were encouraged to try a wide selection of the dishes on offer. The baked aubergine was stuffed with cheese that was soft and creamy against the rich smokey aubergine, the pasta bolognaise was not in a thick sauce but more with chuncks of rich meat that stuck possessively to the pasta, the roasted peppers were served in really good quality olive oil and had a distinct smokey flavour and finally the apple and feta salad included sweetcorn and raw peppers – delicious.

I do need to mention the coffee and cake too before I wrap up. There are coffee sacks placed on the stripped back wooden floor, which are bought in from Rome. You can see the owner grinding the coffee throughout the day so that it is fresh for all the customers no matter what time they crave a caffeine kick. My Americano was delicious. They serve a good variety of cakes – again homemade – the huge Victoria sponge with strawberries caught my eye.

The owners are passionate, funny and treat you like family. The food is all made to traditional Italian recipes and always home made on the day. The prices are pleasing too. Since the first time I was introduced here I have recommended to colleagues and friends and all have fallen in love like I have. But please don’t tell everyone, this place is a delicious secret. I can’t recommend this place enough!

Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives this place:

Food                                Atmosphere             Service

5 Stars4 Stars5 Stars

Gourmet Burger Kitchen

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I really do try to avoid chains, not only because I find that the food and service lacks much creativity but also because I like to support the smaller, local restaurants in whatever area of London I am in at the time. However when my friend invited me to lunch in Spitalfields Market and proposed Gourmet Kitchen Burger – mainly as there didn’t look to be a queue – I agreed.

I like burgers but will only usually eat them if I make them myself so I was a little hesitant. On the menu, there were a good thirty burgers to choose from. You are asked to go to the counter and order and help yourself to free peanuts. This seems a little unnecessary to me but its seems quite popular looking over at other diners gnawing on them in anticipation of their meal. It’s a bit like a posh McDonalds in format.  I ordered a naked burger which is served without the bun with salad and sweet potatoes fries. My friend ordered the burger with cheese and bacon.

The food was served quickly and the burgers were very thick and tasty – so I know realize why this place caught on. The sweet potatoes fried were lovely but the regular fried were like matchsticks which we prefer a little thicker. Again just preference. It’s never going to be a local for me but I would not be adverse to trying again. I think if there was a waiter service throughout, they called the burgers for what they really are, rather than ‘hip’ names like ‘The Don’ and ‘Taxi Driver’ and scrapped the complimentary peanuts – just seems a little try hard to me- I would rate even higher. But hey the food was quick, tasty and good value so I can’t complain.

           Food                              Service                           Atmosphere

4 Stars2 Stars3 Stars

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Lazy Bones

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Lazy Bones is a hot dog and burger restaurant in Farringdon with trendy bare brick spot, tucked back from the main street in a small courtyard. It is an unsuspecting place from the outside but once you step through the floor you can see this is a gem if a place.

The menu, although limited to hot dogs and burgers, has a variety of twists on the classic. All of the dishes are homemade so a little rustic looking – nothing wrong with that! We ordered a naked burger, a cheese burger and a halloumi burger with fries, salad and sweet potatoes chips.

Service was incredibly friendly, like any good East End hipster joint, and was incredibly efficient, unlike most hipster joints. The food came out within ten minutes of ordering and the quality of the ingredients really come through. Since our first visit, we have tried it a couple more times, who needs my five star rating?

If you like good quality meat, cooked how you like it for a very good price it is a must!

               Food                           Service                      Atmosphere

4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Bull and Hide

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We wanted a change for a casual lunch around Liverpool Street  and decided to go this The Bull and Hide, a gastropub located a five minute walk from the station. The pub aims to provide patrons with high quality British food, worldly wines and a range of craft beers, ales and ciders.

There is a bar on the ground floor and the restaurant area on the first floor, where we were taken to dine. It was 12.30 but we were the only group upstairs which made a for an odd atmosphere until a few more diners turned up. The menu is simple showcasing seasonal British classics. We ordered the fish and chips, the cheese burger and the ham hock and champ. Please note menus change on occasion based on seasonality and chefs discretion.

Service was shakey as we seemed to have a newish waiter who was a little nervous but our orders all came out correct and in good time. The fish and chips were enormous and clearly cooked to order, the burger was cooked medium and was juicy and the ham hock and champ was the star of the show. The ham was tender and slightly salty which worked with the creamy mash. Delicious.

The décor was modern yet sticking to a  gastropub theme with duck egg blue walls, wide open windows and stylish golden lamps.

Food was great, simple, classic and seasonal. Service was a little inexperienced but fine over all and atmosphere was dampened as it was so quite.

              Food                               Service                 Atmosphere

4 Stars3 Stars2 Stars

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Jamie’s Italian

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We are a huge fan of Jamie Oliver’s cooking – who wouldn’t be, he makes cooking sexy again and campaigned for kids to eat healthier –  so we thought we would give Jamie’s Italian a try. We went to the branch in Seven Dials on a lovely summer evening. We had a reservation but the majority of people just walk in and wait for a table, while having a drink at the funky little bar. I quite like that about the place, relaxed, simple and fun – just like Jamie’s cooking you could argue.

We were seated by the window and served by an Italian waiter – or at least he did a convincing accent – which made the dining experience even more authentic. We ordered a bottle of red and checked out the extensive menu. The menu sticks to the traditional Italian cuisine courses, antipasto, primo, secondo and dessert and offers hearty Italian dishes with a Jamie Oliver flair – simple yet tasty!

We ordered the cured meat plank to start which included mozzarella, prosciutto, pickles and chili jam and was served on top of two tomato tins – a really nice touch! The platter was great, not too filling but very moreish.

For main course we ordered the rib eye steak and the sausage ragu. My steak was cooked medium rare – just how I like it – and was thick and juicy. I ordered vegetables as a side instead of the chips, which were a little lighter. The pasta dish was hearty, served in a rich tomato sauce with a generous amount of herbed meat in it.

The place is always busy and gives a lively atmosphere to the lace. The waiters are always keen to talk you through the menu, the food simple yet creative and it actually sticks to authentic Italian dishes. A great place for a casual dinner with friends or even a date spot! As a result Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives this place:

              Food                            Service                            Atmosphere

4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Brew House Kitchen‏

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We came across The Brewhouse and Kitchen by chance on a cold an rainy day when we met for lunch ahead of a Matthew Bourne production at Saddlers Wells and were looking a quick and tasty bite – out of the cold – near the theatre. Our usual’s were packed , so we thought we would try this pub and hope for the best. We were impressed immediately, as we were warmly welcomed in and seated. We were given an extensive menu of homemade British dishes – anything from burgers, fish and chips to quinoa salads.

I was on protein only diet and the waiters did their best to accommodate my dietary requirements. In the end I went for a simple salad with a lovely piece of salmon on top. Rather than overwhelming it with dressing and ruining my diet they seasoned with an array of spices. Nice touch. We also ordered  ‘beer can chicken’, their specialty  beer marinated chicken that melts in the mouth and is served with chips and coleslaw. The waiters were cheerful and helpful in suggesting foods to suit our tastes. We went at lunch time and there was a nice relaxed atmosphere. I have been later in the evening and it has more of a pub feel but they still have an area reserved for diners.

This is the place to come  if you are after a great selection of beers and ciders. Unfortunately I don’t drink beer but their wine section was not half bad either. The bar is in the centre of the pub and restaurant and so is a focal point and also helps to split the drinking area from the dining space, which is needed when it gets busier in the evenings. With brick walls, lots of seating areas and even board games this place is the perfect place to go for a relaxing lunch one weekend. As a result Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives this place:

                 Food              Service                  Atmosphere

4 Stars4 Stars3 Stars

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Shrub and Shutter

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We were invited to this trendy little restaurant in Brixton. Shrub and Shutter is close enough to the indoor market to be still be seen as central but off the main drag of the hoi poli. As hinted at in the first sentence this place is trendy a.k.a bare bricks, an abundance of knick knacks everywhere and mismatched furniture but this place prides itself on fresh, seasonal ingredients to create modern British dishes. The menu changes daily and they provide set menus which give you more limited options but the dishes are so well thought through that this is hardly a problem.

We were seated at the back of the restaurant – meaning you have to squeeze through the narrow hall by passing the admin area where the reservation system is – into a quieter area of the restaurant. We were given a drinks menu with some fabulous little cocktails that were original – and very tasty we found out later.

We ordered the beef carpaccio with pickled beetroots which were served like a light salad. The dressing was tart which worked well with the rare meat. Delicious.

For main course we went for the spiced duck breast with sautéed plums and the halibut on a risotto bed. The duck breast was just to my liking, pink in the middle with a crispy skin. The richness of the meat went well with the fruity plums. The halibut was well cooked and risotto was served al dente. Maybe a little more seasoning was needed but that’s my only critism.

Service was friendly, although as we were at the back of the restaurant we were not as attentively waited on as we would have liked, meaning we had to wait a while for the orders to be taken and dishes taken away. This was no issue however as we were in no rush and the service as I said was friendly.

                Food                           Service                      Atmosphere

4 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

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Restaurant Story

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The name Restaurant Story, is apt for this place as you do feel like you are walking through a beautiful piece of literature that has been creatively drafted to make you never want to finish yet desperate to turn the next page to find out what is coming next.

The restaurant is located in an unassuming space on the main road to Bermondsey from London Bridge. It is very subtle yet modern from the outside, with its wooden circular structure. We were welcomed in  by a waitress and seated at one of the handful of tables in the restaurant. The place is fairly small but each table has the capacity to hold large groups. The kitchen is the main focal point as it is open and close to all of the diners but the decor should not go amiss with its subtle nod to literature, reading and days gone by.

The menu is designed to be a type of story. Starting off with three of four amuse buoche, which are not your general mouth sized bites these were masterpieces.

We went for the ten course menu which sounds huge – and was – but as each dish takes on the ‘story’ element you are left begging for more.

My favourite starters included the seafood dish that was served in a large bowl to share with a selection of crustaceans lying on a  a bed of dry ice. Another was a whole candle made from beef dripping which slowly melted allowing you to dip your bread into the salty liquid at the bottom.

Main courses included prawns that were smoked at your table, scallops with an earthy dill ash and my ultimate favourite ‘the tale of the quail’ which was quail served four ways (including a quail egg) and came with a teapot of stock and a little story to go with it. Deserts were equally spectacular.

The waiters were professional but not too attentive and happy to run through the dishes with all of the enthusiasm as they must have done the first time they explained the dish. It is exciting.

You don’t really need to see the star rating to know that I can wholehearted say I adore this place.

Food                             Service                    Atmosphere

5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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Androulet

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We love this little French place in Spitalfields Market. Androulet is half cheese shop and half restaurant. Androulet serves a whole host of French cheeses and great meat plates. The place is very small so there is not a big selection of hot food. We sat outside as although a cold day there is heaters and blankets which allows you to see the comings and goings in the market.

 We were welcomed by the friendly French staff and we ordered a meat platter with salad, a raclette plate and a & dauphinoise sort of pie. My meat platter hosted a range of cold meat selections including pate, chorizo and ham and was served with a light side salad. The raclette grill game out for us to place the delicious French cheese on and was served with potatoes and gherkins. The cheese pie was oozing with bubbling cheese and was very rich as there was cream included. Not one for those watching their weight!

 We love this little place, the menu is simple and the food and wine menu only has the best quality dishes and bottles. A must try if in the area.

                   Food                         Service                          Atmosphere

4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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