Monday, 23 November 2015

The Galley NW6

Whisky Tasting with Jura

The Gallery up in West Hampstead is already a delightful neighbourhood haunt with an enviable gin selection and a great range of craft beers. It has just been made even better by the introduction of its new monthly whisky tasting evenings. I went along to a Jura event to see what's in store for the inhabitants of West Hampstead and those who fancy an adventure northwards!

The night was all about getting our senses around 4 whiskies paired with 4 1/3s of beer, quite the journey! And how could you not be instantly attracted to such excellent beer tap presentation!

In the basement bar, sitting in our groups, we were all given a sequence of whisky drams, accompanied by a 1/3 of beer.

Daniel, The Gallery's delightful bar manager and Rishi, the equally entertaining Jura ambassador co-hosted the evening, taking us on an interactive journey aimed at enjoyment of the whole experience not simply the tasting of the whisky.

We were granted the treat of a mid-presentation costume change from Rishi, the explanation of which I missed, but during the transition from his blazer to his checkered shirt, he entertained us with Jura history.

Sticks of cinnamon, pieces of honey comb and other aromatic morsels were handed round to intensify the flavours of the whiskies.

The selection of canapés wasn't quite enough to substitute dinner so perhaps factor this into your eating plans if you want to keep a steady head! These scallop-filled duck eggs were delicious mouthfuls nevertheless.

The Pairings

Jura Origin (10 yr old single malt) paired with Hopf Helle Weiss beer was an easy, honey tinted entry level whisky. 

Jura Superstition paired with Dunkel Lager was a peaty experience balanced by sweet caramel notes.

Durach's Own, a warm whisky aged in ex-bourbon casks for 14 years and then and extra 2 years in sherry casks was paired with Camden Town Indian Hells Lager.

Jura Prophecy, a toffee toned, peaty brandy-casked whisky was paired with the explosively weird Cantillion Kriek Belgian beer. Bright pink and cherry sharp, this pairing was surprising but my favourite of the evening.

Each month, fresh for the new year, The Gallery will be showcasing a selection of whiskies from their extensive 101 heavy collection. For £15 a head, this is a pretty damn good deal!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Diner Soho

A Thanksgiving Feast

Give me an excuse to eat a celebratory meal and I'm probably going to be hands in. Hello Thanksgiving and all the over-indulgence that this American holiday has granted London. Clutch your stomachs because true to US tradition, The Diner has gone all out with it's Thanksgiving menu and is taking no prisoners. 

It was with more of a distracted air than a naiveté that I approached The Diner with my partner in crime for the evening. Whether it was the necessary catching up, the excellence of their company, a long day, or all three, I had not prepared myself for what was to come. What. Was. I. Thinking?! Where were my stretchy (to use the Americanism) pants or my loose and spacious t-shirt? That's what being prepared for Thanksgiving is right? Take a gander at this lot!

First up, welcome to the stage, the appetisers. Fried mozzarella sticks (£6) with chunky, peppery dipping sauce and a generous half of lime. Doing exactly what it says on the tin, these cheesy fingers are sure to whet any appetite (just don't get carried away and polish them all off if you want a chance of being able to stand up after your meal)!

Next in line is the Turkey Frito Pie (£3.50), a bag of Frito's split open, coated in rich, pulled turkey and smothered in generous dollops of sour cream, guacamole and jalapeños. Think nachos US style and a good nibble to prepare your stomach for the onslaught of the Waffle Cobbler.

I'm going to take a short break and introduce you to the Diner G 'n' Teas. A refreshing alcohol-tipped alternative to an ice tea, fully equipped with tea bag for extra infusion!

And so here we have it, not for the faint hearted, or to be honest even the relatively stable. The Waffle Cobbler (£10) is a Frito breaded cream cheese stuffed turkey patty sandwiched between two fluffy potato waffles. While you can be almost certain that this beast will leave you a few stone heavier, it ticks all the boxes for your meaty thanksgiving feast.

To accompany the cobler, choose between fries covered in pulled turkey and chunky coleslaw with deliciously sharp cranberry sauce and macaroni cheese hiding pigs in blankets (both £6).

Last but not least if you haven't destroyed your insides enough, it's time to paint the town red with an attack of the s'more. If you can squeeze any more inside, here we have the traditional toasted marshmallow, graham cracker and the slightly less traditional red coloured melted nutella (ode to Santa or so I believe).

That is all. Phew. The Diner's Thanksgiving menu is self-consciously gimmicky but an all-round entertaining experience. Grab a gang of stretchy-stomached pals and stuff in as much as you can fit! I seriously doubt you're on the hunt for a gourmet meal if The Diner is luring you inside, here it's just a bit of light hearted fun and a hellofa lot of food. Good Luck comrades!

Dragging myself and my stomach behind me, I arrived home and all but passed out on the sofa, but that's all in the spirit of the Thanksgiving feast right?!

We were invited as guests of The Diner but as always, the scribblings reflect the truths of my stomach!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Festive Feasting

A Tasty Trio

Winter is here, all hail Winter and I'm not one for shying away from the cold. Having acquired a stupidly large bobble hat and entertaining a mild obsession with chunky knit jumpers, a little bit of a chill isn't going to prevent me from leaving the confines of my flat. This is particularly true given the wondrous range of festive fun and frolics in London this winter. 

Get your diaries at the ready, I'm going to give you a little low-down!

* * *

For the mulled wine fiend, Yelp has created one of the greatest ideas of the year, a Mulled Wine Festival! (Well done Yelp, all the applause)! 
Featuring a multitude of stalls offering mulled wine, mulled cider and mulled mead, you'll have your work cut out making your way around. There'll also be mulled jelly shots and mulled ice creams to get involved with (I'm keeping an open mind) and of course, the prized festive mince pie.

When: 12th -14th November
12pm - 9pm
Where: Covent Garden Piazza
Tickets: Free if you post on the app or a £10 donation to Connection at St-Martin-in-the-Field

* * *

For South London festive feasting, Taste of London is back and this time with their winter version, featuring an enormous array of London restaurants, chefs, artisan producers, baristas, mixologists and as many of you wonderful food loving explorers who can make it! Don't forget to fill up your wallets though, you'll find yourself munching through your tokens at an alarming rate.

When: 19th - 22nd November
Where: Tobacco Dock, Wapping
Tickets: £15 on sale at 

* * *

 For West London Scandi festive feasting, Little Feast has arrived in Shepherds Bush. Food is in the form of wood-fired pizzas, slow-roasted meaty flatbreads, cheeses, waffles, burgers and more tasty treats. 
From the 13th, you can go grab a Christmas tree and watch the unveiling of their giant advent calendar. In keeping with the Christmas spirit, carol singers, choirs and jazz bands will keep the mood festive while there's an adults only 'dirty santa's grotto' .. I'll leave that there for you to ponder!

When: Nov 5th - Dec 23rd
Where: Shepherds Bush Yard
Tickets: Nope, freeeeeeee! (Also, sign up here and you'll get a free winter warmer on arrival)

Now go have all the festive fun and frolics. I'll see you on the other side!

Thursday, 5 November 2015


A Frith St Favourite

Enter Barrafina and all things Spanish in Soho. 1st in the Barrafina clan, this one is fresh, bright and decorated with that royal blue and white which makes even the dreariest of days a distant memory. This is another one for timing your visit carefully or be willing to wait your turn as it's no reservations and seats are like hotcakes here on Frith Street.

We caught the end of a lunchtime service and ordered at lightning speed, miraculous given that we would have devoured everything on the menu given the chance. A firm favourite of many a trusted source, I'd been eagerly awaiting my trip to Barrafina.

To start we ordered crispy curls of squid and creamy croquetas. With a healthy squeeze of lemon we soon polished off the lot, a delicious reminder of our now distant holidays. (Hello November, now I'm ready for you)!

The ice counter was piled with the catch of the day, awaiting its fate in the pan. With it in view, our waiter pointed out the pieces of fish that would be making it onto our plates at any moment and we sat, eager as beavers.

First up was the show-stopping dish of the day, rich squid ink risotto with tender grilled cuttlefish. This dish has reached the Little Brown Book hall of fame for its perfect balance and true tasty stations.

Mouth watering pluma Iberica with confit potatoes and sweet heritage tomato salad continued our Spanish journey. With an open top counter we could watch the chefs at work and sit in the centre of the action, just where I like it!

Regardless of stomach space, dessert was a must. The chocolate tart was perhaps a little too rich and heavy on the chocolate front for one, but an excellent two spoons job. With lunch polished off, we made our way back outside, tipped our caps to Chotto Matte (another firm favourite) and sauntered off home still dreaming of cuttle fish. 

54 Frith Street, Soho, London, W1D 4SL 

Mon - Sat 
Lunch | 12 Noon - 3pm 
Dinner | 5pm - 11pm 

Lunch | 1pm - 3:30pm
Dinner | 5:30pm - 10pm

Tuesday, 3 November 2015


Happy Place

I've had an ongoing love affair with Lisa's for some time now. If I'm not tucked into a corner of this Swedish hideaway on a Thursday night in Notting Hill, it's most likely because I have been abducted and carried off to a faraway land, kicking and screaming. London can be a crazy place, so those special pockets of escape should be treasured. Here is mine. 

Thursday nights are Jazz nights where Lisa's House Band will whisk you away to that happy place. With a pied piper like draw, the music seeps under the door and gently carries down the street, luring unsuspecting wonderers inside. Everyone is welcome!

 Giacomo Smith (clarinet, sax), Robin Katz (guitar), Dan Oates (violin, vocals), Kourosh Kanani (guitar), Louis van der Westhuizen (bass) and Dave Archer (guitar) are just a few of the talented musicians who fill the room with smiles.  

Goo awn, have a little listen ...

Once you're in, that's it, goodbye evening. Whether you settle in for a plate of meatballs (phwoar), a coffee, cocktails or a bottle of wine, you'll never want to leave.

So there's your Lisa's Thursday night sorted. Now here's your Lisa's weekend morning plan with added extras for maximum feel good factor: 

Step 1) Wake up as early as appropriate on a weekend when the winter sun is streaming through your window.

Step 2) Hop on the tube to Holland Park, grab a coffee from Paul's just next to the station and wonder to the Kyoto garden in Holland Park Gardens. (Don't get a flat white from Maison Blanc, you'll want to spit it out on impact).

Step 3) Skip around, crunch the leaves, spot Lord Holland, sit on a tree stump and perhaps have a cheeky GeoCache hunt (this is one of the greatest games of our time). 

Step 4) Once you've had your fill of nature and begun to work up an appetite, it's time to hit portobello road. Buy some scarves, perhaps an antique door knob, maybe even a bunch of flowers wrapped in brown paper (seriously, I'm giving you Instagram heaven here and I'm definitely not describing the weekend just past...).

Step 5) Tummy is rumbling and it's just in time for brunch. Being prepared, you've already booked a table at Lisa's and you tumble into its warm embrace. Bingo. Swedish meatballs, poached eggs, fried potatoes, smoked salmon. What more could you wish for? Champagne? Sure, why not.

Step 6) Smile, say hi to the people on the next table, make a new friend. Also, watch the new Mento's advert here and stop being a grumpy pants.

So there you have it, one of my little secrets. You'd be a fool not to venture to 305 Portobello Road and say hello. See you there!


Monday - Closed
Tuesday, Wednesday 18.00 - 24.00
Thursday, Friday 11.00 - 24.00
Saturday 11.00 - 24.00
Sunday 11.00 - 18.00

Monday, 2 November 2015

Forest on the Roof

A Chocolate Forest 

Winter is very much just around the corner and with it come the swirling mists (seriously, can't see out of my window right now), wafts of mulled wine and endless snuggle opportunities. Facilitating the latter two is Forest on the Roof from Selfridges and Des McDonald

Brand spanking new for the season of mist and mellow fruitfulness (merci Keats), the top floor restaurant has been transformed, ready to rescue tired and hungry shoppers from Dante's Inferno (aka Oxford Street). 

Take the special express life up to the roof and settle into the comfort of this perfect winter pit stop.

The magic has been ramped up a notch with sparkling lights leading you through a twinkling twiggy tunnel.

When you enter the main restaurant, I challenge you not to squeal a little bit (at least inside) at the divine interior. If there is anywhere to de-stress after your wallet has undergone a minor haemorrhage, this should do the trick.

The menu is bursting with seasonal and foraged dishes but we had other things in mind. Exchanging a quick coffee for a dessert and something a little stronger was the plan and we executed it impeccably with our choice of the utterly guilt-free chocolate forest (£8). (I use 'guilt-free' most loosely),

Chocolate shards, honeycomb, raspberry sorbet and meringue hide the light chocolate mousse, salted caramel sauce and blackcurrant syrup surprise inside. Excessive plate envy also followed and mental note has been made to scour Selfridges kitchenware department on my return.

If you want to smoke (nasty habit, please refrain, it's gross and smelly), or take a warm tankard of tasty but over-priced mulled wine (£9.50) then make your way to the back of the restaurant and settle into one of these sweet little lodges, fully equipped with antlers, heaters and all the sheepskin rugs that you could wish for - snuggles galore!

That's your lot for now, Little Brown Book over and out. (Tomorrow, I'm going to let you in on a secret)!

Opening Times
Mon - Tues 11am - 9pm 
Wed - Sat 11am - 11pm
Sun 12pm - 6pm

Grab your table here or call 020 7318 3287