Banana bread

IMG_9144Every house has bananas that have gone ripe…I hate throwing food like that away so always make a banana loaf when the bananas have become ripe. It’s hard to find a recipe that doesn’t have too much sugar so I used the BBC Good Food one and combined with a few extra ingredients to make it tastier so we can all enjoy…

  • 225g plain flour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g soft margarine
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 ripe bananas
  • Chopped almonds
  • 2 spoons of honey
  • 3 tsp of baking powder

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Butter or line with baking parchment a cake tin – any is fine
  2. Put flour, sugar, honey, margarine and eggs into a bowl. Blend with wooden spoon or whisk until well mixed.
  3. Peel the bananas and mash. Stir into flour mixture with the baking powder and almonds.
  4. Put into prepared tin, and bake for 1 hour. If necessary cover with foil to prevent burning. Test with a skewer to see if the cake is done. Turn out onto wire rack to cool a little before cutting.
  5. Stores well for 2-3 days or longer, sealed, in the fridge.

Japanese lunch at Roka – vegetarian delight

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As a lover of all Japanese food and the fact that it was next to my clients office, Roka seemed like a perfect spot for a business lunch. I have to admit it’s one of the best restaurants I’ve been to in a long time and I can’t wait to go back

The food was absolutely divine, we had a selection of dishes which were all beyond fantastic. The service to second to none and I liked the design and style of the venue….the layout of the restaurant is one whereby the food is at the centre. The grill is located bang in the middle and it is possible to sit around it and observe the chefs at work. We opted for a table.

My colleague ordered a variety of dishes including several vegetarian options:

  • Prawn and vegetable tempura with dips
  • Broccoli
  • Various maki including mushroom ones
  • Soy glazed tofu – blocks of firm-on-the-inside, but crispy-on-the-outside tofu with crispy garlic crisps on a sea of soy.
  • Asparagus with sweet soy and sesame dressing
  • Rice hotpot made in a casserole pot of glutinous rice and chicken – they did a veg version
  • Softshell crab with roasted chilli dressing
  • Chicken skewers with spring onions

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Food-wise Roka delivered more than I expected. Flavours were pleasant and ingredients fresh. I loved it and can’t wait to back for a special occasion!

One Aldwych afternoon tea – or not!

I loved Willy Wonka’s Charlie and Chocolate Factory story – Those words are so full of magic and warmth that you cannot help smiling. You have read the books or watched the movies or even seen it live – it’s just such an amazing story! When I heard about a themed afternoon tea at One Aldwych, I was intrigued to see how it would be put together…

We were given a themed menu which was decorated with quirky illustrations dedicated to a different family: Charlie and his granddad Joe, spoilt brat Veruca, gluttonous eating Augustus Gloop, Violet Beauregarde, a girl who chews gum all the time and TV loving Mike Teavee. The menu had a list of the treats we had to look forward to.

The adventure starts with the Charlie cocktail, served in a glass teapot with bubbling liqud and smoke coming out. I opted to try the teas: smooth caramel tea which included vanilla and caramel chunks and jewelled apple tea which had wild strawberry leaves, caramel, and apple pieces.

First up was the savoury selection; These included horseradish and roast beef on onion bread, cucumber and chive on wholemeal bread, cured smoked salmon and lemon mayonnaise on rye bread, a heritage tomato tart and a leek and stilton quiche. This is where I felt it was most disappointed as I had advised them of our dietary requirements weeks before saying that we do not eat beef and there were two vegetarians who do not eat eggs in the party. When we mentioned this again, we were only given the cucumber and chive sandwiches and the tart. This was a real shame as most other venues are obliging….and happy to make other options out. When we were asking if we wanted seconds of any, we were brought a small plate of options and had to ask for more which is a shame. This is one of  the smallest amount of sandwiches I’ve had at an afternoon tea – especially considering this was by no means the cheapest! And the options not great for a veggie!

2014-11-16 14.57.42On the sweet side, prepare for a real feast and our main reason for choosing this afternoon tea! This is where the real Charlie and the Chocolate Factory magic really shines through in the sweets, from pear drop and rhubarb and custard candy floss to blueberry brioche, vanilla cheesecake and mango filled golden egg and Eton Mess, which was washed down with chocolate caramel milk in a retro style bottle.

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There was also a little basket was blueberry brioche, scones and cocoa bean financiers. The scones weren’t great – nice enough but not what you normally get at an afternoon tea!. The brioche was tasty, and the financiers really delicious, like mini brownies!

The selection of sweet treats was just so entertainingly made that we all loved to look at it but the tea itself was disappointing! Especially as this wasn’t really a cheap tea at £34.50 per person and we weren’t left feeling full – maybe full of sweet treats but that was it!  I feel that there are much better places for tea including The Atheneum Hotel.

Breakfast at Hoxton Grill

As something a little different, my boss suggest a breakfast for our work Christmas treat – great idea and fun as you can totally enjoy some good food. I found a newish place near Old Street station – Hoxton Grill.

Hoxton Grill is located in the Hoxton Hotel in the trendy Shoreditch area. The Hoxton Grill is quite a cool place, at the entrance of the hotel/ grill you have big sofas where you can relax, read a newspaper or a book and meet your friends, perfect for mornings.

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I normally try something different but liked the look of the French Toast with pecan butter with a portion of portobello mushrooms which tasted delicious. It was a huge wedge which was soft and cooked perfectly. The added pecan butter gave it a sweet nuttiness to finish off the taste. My boss went for the Veg English breakfast which was huge but looked good.

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I also had a latte and fresh juice. If you are in the area, it’s worth going here – you’re not rushed and can enjoy a leisurely breakfast or brunch. It’s also a great place for business as you aren’t rushed out.

Spice Kitchen, W Hotel for veggies

It’s been a while since we’ve been somewhere nice to eat but December has been full of fancy dining;  First up: a recent client team dinner at Spice Kitchen at the W Hotel – it was a great night – from the superb and attentive service to the delicious food with a vegetarian menu.2014-11-27 23.11.13

It’d be perfect for a meal with friends, colleagues or a romantic night for two.
The Spice Kitchen has a ground floor cocktail bar and restaurant upstairs via a winding staircase. It’s quite contemporary yet traditional with dark browns and gold hues amongst mood lighting, lounge music and a wall of spices. We started off with cocktails and wine – the Malbec was to die for before heading to a booth-style table. This was perfect for the eight of us as we could all be near enough to speak and listen to each other!

The food was gorgeous!! South East Asian street food presented beautifully in lots of sharing plates. Each mouthful sublime. At £28 per person we tried the tasting menu – two of us had the vegetarian one and the rest went for the normal one.

  • Avocado Summer Roll, Sriracha Emulsion
  • Fragrant Mushroom Egg Roll and Galangal Emulsion – deliciously tasty
  • Vietnamese Vegetable Soup – not nice at all
  • Charred Pineapple and Lime Market Green Salad with Radish Cherry Tomatoes, Sesame Seed Vinaigrette
  • Wok Charred Carrot Cake Chili Bean Sauce
  • Pineapple Fried Rice
  • Pad Thai – I added this as it wasn’t on the tasting menu and so glad I did….best pad thai I’ve ever had and it had a whole fried egg on top!

Dessert was amazing: Ovaltine Kulfi Banana Brulée Spiced Milk Chocolate Sauce – it was the perfect finish to the meal.

The tasting menu was the best choice for a first visit, slightly smaller portions of a large range of dishes, allowing us to try something from each section of the menu. Great sushi, tapas style starters with a modern twist. The main was Thai inspired with the best pad-thai ever.

At the end of the meal we were stuffed and extremely satisfied. It’s more expensive restaurant than those in China town but worth it!

Chotte Matte – fun times

Chotto Matte was a venue I’d wanted to try for a while so booked it to celebrate our 6th anniversary. The restaurant/bar brings together the best of Japanese and Peruvian cultures serving up Nikkei cuisine, colourful cocktails, and live music. So after a disappointing meal at Coya where I ordered the wrong dishes, I was hoping this one would be much better. And it did surpass expectations.

The location on Frith Street is huge – and as soon as you enter, your eyes are drawn to a vast, UV-illuminated mural created by Tokyo-based graffiti artist Houxo Que – incredible! The kitchen has a number of stations, including a sushi and ceviche bar as well as a Japanese Robata grill area serving barbecued dishes. There is also a bar menu of small eats (tostaditas) with a variety of toppings for those who fancy a few snacks with a drink.

We had:

  • Cone of cassava and sweet potato crisps, with an accompanying yellow tomato salsa and guacamole
  • Tostadito: Heritage tomato huacatay aburi with Kumquat, coriander cress and chive oil.
  • Donburi – an oversized bowl of cooked rice with corn, avocado, spring onion fitters, mushrooms and daikon sauce on top
  • Sautéed chilli and garlic vegetables

The food was tasty with some unique flavours – the dishes were small and tapas style. I’d recommend adding a main dish as the dishes were small and tapas style which was a shame considering the prices. I’m glad I ordered the Donburi as it was a good accompaniment to the other dishes.

Chotto Matte is quite priced but a fun place to discover some interesting cuisine in the heart of London. It’s a cool place to go with the girls – you will definitely have a good night out.

Business lunch – Cucina Asselina

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I just started a new contract and wanted to take my client out for lunch. I’d been eyeing up the Italian restaurant at ME Hotel and as it was across the road from the office, it was a perfect choice for a business lunch.

 

The restaurant is stylish – oak panelling, copper lamps, tall ceilings, huge alcove windows and the stunning glass-encased wine display – all adds to the light and airy feelThe restaurant prides itself on serving artisan-style Italian food with exceptional Italian service. The staff have an expert knowledge of the menu, ingredients and drinks which is a refreshing change to the Italian chains.

 

The bread board delivered ahead of our mains was a feast for our eyes and appetite. Soft, salty focaccia blocks, crisp breadsticks and sheets of Sardinian paper bread accompanied by olive tapenade and olive oil. This was followed by semolina gnocchi with basil pesto and asparagus. It was cooked perfectly – al dente and delicious. It melted in your mouth and despite being heavy was a great lunch dish.

 

Cucina Asellina offers a little taste of Italian with plenty of style and plenty on the plate. We left Cucina Asellina feeling stuffed, happy and impressed. Next stop the radio rooftop bar!