FOOD REVIEW: Squiffy Picnic at Cahoots

Photo: fb.com/larryjdotphotography

If you’re looking for a way to have an alternative afternoon then a Saturday Squiffy Picnic at Cahoots, the underground blitz-themed bar in Kingly Court, might just be for you!

We were escorted to our seats by a dapper chap wearing braces after we managed to work out what we had to say to the guy on the front door – tip: say you’re here to see “The Captain”! All of the tables were laid out with picnic blanket tablecloths and pretty little plates with some crudities & hummus to get us started.

At our table, we were given teacups filled with a tea—flavoured cocktail and two little brown lunch bags filled with four sandwiches in each; smoked salmon, salt beef, cucumber and jam. As we relaxed into our chairs that wouldn’t look out of place in your front room, the band started to play. They were a three piece and really brought the whole experience together nicely. We were then brought a picnic hamper overflowing with goodies including grapes, apples, tomatoes, shortbread, tea cakes, Victoria sponge, sausages and a really really delicious pork pie! The options at this point were between ale, white, red, rosé and sparkling English wine. At £46 per person we chose the red wine but for £72 you can have the sparkling wine, these come in little 375ml bottles which is a nice touch.

Once that hamper was cleared our second one arrived which contained two hip flasks holding Sipsmith Sloe gin and two individual mini tonics. A small platter of cheese and oat cakes finished the picnic off wonderfully. The food is all quite simple but it works with the vibe of Cahoots and the Squiffy experience.

Suddenly three hours had gone by which seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. It really is a great – and certainly different – way to spend the afternoon and the atmosphere was lovely. This would be such a great date place and would definitely impress –  you can even enjoy the Squiffy Picnic on a Sunday. So what are you waiting for? Time to get squiffy scoundrels!

Cahoots | 13 Kingly Court, London, W1B 5PG

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FOOD NEWS: Christmas comes to The Shed & Rabbit

This Christmas, Chelsea restaurant, Rabbit and their sister Notting Hill restaurant, The Shed will be offering the perfect festive feast to revive tired shoppers and fill them with Christmas cheer. With an array of Yuletide treats including woodcock pate, black truffle and manor farm cheddar fondue and venison cigars the Gladwin brothers will have Santa Claus himself flying down from the North Pole just to tuck in.

The star of show during this decadent dinner will be London’s Number One Mince Pie – using the Gladwin brother’s very own grandmother’s recipe, The Mince Pie Jammie Dodger. The mince is flavoured with several ingredients including apple brandy and veal suet to enhance the festive flavour. A pudding so perfect it will have Scrooge himself shouting Merry Christmas from the rooftops.

Rabbit | 172 Kings Road, London, SW3 4UP | www.rabbit-restaurant.com | Twitter: @RabbitResto

The Shed | 112 Palace Gardens Terrace, London, W84RT | www.theshed-restaurant.com | Twitter: @theshed_resto

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FOOD REVIEW: Free Flowing Thursdays at The Exhibit, Balham

The Exhibit in Balham is something of an all-round creative hub. It has a jam-packed social calendar filled with everything from art events, fitness classes, quiz nights to film which means that you can plan your week around it. In fact, you can spend your entire week there if you so choose, but chances are you’re bound to get a little hungry and thirsty. Rather handily, this is where their all-day restaurant and bar come in just nicely (yep, it’s got those too) and their newly launched Free Flow Suppers.

Exclusively for Thursdays – the most sociable (and thirstiest, apparently) night of the week – from 6pm till midnight, The Exhibit’s first-floor restaurant will serve bottomless bubbles for an hour-and-a-half from when you order your food (a minimum of two tapas dishes per person) for a bargainous £20 a head. Who can possibly say no to that?

And with that, we got tucked in. The menu is a delicious array of tapas alongside a few main dishes and a little something sweet. We could have practically ordered every tapas dish going they all sounded that good, but went for the recommended four tapas each (and then one extra for good luck). Our final choices included the pan fried padron peppers, patatas bravas with aioli, breadcrumbed goat’s cheese with slow stewed cherry tomatoes, fish tacos with an extra helping of smoked salmon, tempura squid, macaroni cheese with truffled mushrooms, jamon croquetas and finally, the deep fried braised pork in a potato ball (because the waiter practically ordered us to have it). It would be impossible – and totally unfair – to pick a favourite when all were so outstandingly more-ish so we’ll just say all come highly recommended and you won’t go wrong with any. We greedily finished with a cracking rhubarb crumble complete with heart-warming ginger custard and a chocolate mousse we wished wouldn’t end.

Oh and yes, one more glass of bubbles for the road. Because if you’re going to free flowing Thursdays at The Exhibit you need to do it right after all.

12 Balham Station Road, SW12 9SG | www.theexhibit.co.uk

Twitter: @theexhibit

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FOOD REVIEW: Aladino’s, High Street Kensington

You could be forgiven for not knowing much, if anything, about Alexandrian cuisine after all, it’s not exactly common here in London, but after reading this, you won’t be forgiven for not trying it. The food of Egypt’s second largest city draws on its cosmopolitan background with traditional Egyptian dishes heavily influenced by Lebanese, Turkish and Greek tastes and spices. And the place to try such food is at Aladino’s, a fine dining neighbourhood restaurant in High Street Kensington. It’s an elegant affair without the stuffiness. Staff are polite and attentive whilst restaurateur Aladin himself is a warm, friendly chap that will have you sampling the entire bar if you’d let him persuade you.

We began with some pre-starter nibbles: a delicious trio of hummus, smokey baba ganoush and flatbreads we practically filled up on because we couldn’t resist how good they were. For starters we ordered the succulent King prawns in a light, crispy coating and the goat’s cheese and beetroot ravioli which hands down was one of the tastiest dishes we’d had in a long time. Our mains of sea trout with spiced beure blanc, brown shrimp, sea purslane and slow-roasted tender shank of lamb which just melted off the bone were just as much crowd-pleasers as their predecessors. Desserts were probably not necessary if our full stomachs were anything to go by, but certainly couldn’t be missed. The 70% Valrhona chocolate delice with summer berry compote and pistachio crisp was an indulgent delight whilst the mango parfait with tangerine coulis, creme chantilly and meringue was surprisingly light and just the perfect amount of sweet. We finished off the simply wonderful meal with a deliciously drinkable glass of German Riesling, converting us fully to dessert wine drinkers.

Aladino’s is a place not only for the locals, but also for those that want to feel like a local. We were made to feel part of the family at Aladino’s and couldn’t find one thing to fault, it truly was an exquisite meal from start to finish – we can’t recommend you visit Aladino’s enough and get better acquainted with Alexandrian cuisine.

www.aladinos.co.uk | 38C Kensington Church Street, W8 4BX

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FOOD REVIEW: L’eto Caffe, Brompton Road

The LDN Social L'eto caffe

We’ve often walked past L’eto in its various locations and stared longingly at their glazed fancies in the window but the saint on our shoulder always got the better of us. Little did we know then that they also serve up dinner and so, in an attempt to rectify the situation, we found ourselves making our way to the L’eto Brompton on Brompton Road – just a short stroll from both the V&A Museum and Harrods.

We begun with an impressive trio of bruschetta topped with avocado, mushrooms & tomatoes and the insanely delicious grilled sweet potato with sesame and teriyaki sauce. For mains we tucked into a fresh plate of crab spaghetti and the chicken teriyaki with ginger & oyster mushrooms, heavenly with each mouthful. Desserts came from the display – all sitting finely in the window just begging to be picked. We selected the strawberry tart – a tower of cream and fresh strawberries – and a soft hazelnut chocolate fancy that was pure indulgence worth every calorie.

A special mention should also be given to the extensive drinks menu. We began with an absolutely divine Apple & Elderflower Collins from the Cocktails List and a non-alcoholic Jasmine Lychee Ice Tea which we could have sipped all night long. We chose to finish our meals with pots of the Jasmine Tea and the Ginger, hand-prepared using fresh sticks of cinnamon, chunks of ginger, cloves and honey – so delicious we plan on recreating at home.

In keeping with the area, interiors are plush and decadent whilst still managing to be cosy with a homely feel. It’s safe to say we wholeheartedly fell for L’eto Brompton and we think you’ll rather like it too. It’s an ideal spot for either a sit-down meal or a quick piece of cake and tea – both we’d highly recommend.

L’eto have locations in Soho, Belgravia, Fulham, Mayfair, King’s Road and Brompton. For further details, visit www.letocaffe.co.uk.

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COMING SOON: Shuang Shuang

Opening in Chinatown towards the end of November will be London’s first specialist Chinese hot pot restaurant, Shuang Shuang.

In case you need a bit of clueing up on your hot pots – they’re generous pots of simmering stock traditionally sunk into the table which is then used to cook an abundance of ingredients. It’s a dish that across Asia is shared between friends and families, with every region offering up their own take.

Shuang Shuang’s menu starts with snacks including Canton’s Orange Squid (sourced for a Chinatown favourite), Duck and Sour Plum Skewers and Xin Jiang Spiced Ribs. Moving on to the main event, you take your pick from five different broths to create your very own individual hot pot. Choose from Bird Berry (made from a rare breed of black-fleshed chicken and dried Chinese berries), Mala (Sichaun peppercorns and dried chilli), Herbal River (created with prawn heads and lemongrass), Lamb Tonic (lamb bones and Chinese pickled cabbage) and Monk’s Broth (with soy milk, turnips and mushrooms). Broth chosen, begin picking your ingredients from the passing conveyor belt to cook for yourself. Choose from fifty or so ingredients including Sea Bass Slices, Queen Scallops, thinly sliced free-range British Beef and Pork, Pumpkin slices & Wood’s Ear Mushrooms and Chinese Pea Shoots and Mustard Leaves. Be as brave and adventurous as you want or alternatively, have the recipe cards available to give you a helping hand in recreating China’s most loved combinations.

There will also be a desserts menu to satisfy your sweet tooth and a drinks list including some rather unusual concoctions (Papaya Milk, Chrysanthemum Tea, Grass Jelly Tea to name a few) and beer from Taiwan, Harbin and Yanjing, as well as an intriguing sounding Chinese pineapple beer.

With the colder months approaching we think a hot pot sounds like just the trick. We can’t wait to stir up a masterpiece.

64 Shaftesbury Avenue | London | W1D 6LU

www.shuangshuang.co.uk

@HotPotShuang

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FOOD REVIEW: Sunday Brunch at Drake & Morgan, King’s Cross

Ah Sundays, we can’t get enough of them. The ultimate lazy day which demands you take it easy and enjoy every last minute of the weekend. And with Sundays comes the important question: what do we want to eat?

Luckily at the new Drake & Morgan in King’s Cross, you don’t have to make such a decision because quite honestly, they do everything. We couldn’t have been more spoilt for choice when we went along the first Sunday after it opened for a spot of all-day Sunday brunching.

We were seated in the lounge area – perfect for those who quite literally wanted to lounge – and were greeted with two Smoked Bloody Marys. Choosing food was a tricky decision, as is the case when you want everything.on.the.menu. We opted for the smashed avocado on sourdough (naturally), a small plate of ham croquettes (soft, fluffy and oh so moreish), a generous helping of scrambled eggs on toast with smoked salmon, the trio of fries (just order these – that’s an order) and an aubergine lasagne – because well, that’s what we were craving! Each dish was as divine as the next and we couldn’t have been more pleased (or full) by the time we put down our knives and forks. Only to pick up our spoons of course after a momentary breather. Desserts arrived in the form of tiramisu and a salted caramel & chocolate tart – the perfect end to a more than polished brunch.

We predict Drake & Morgan is going to be a great big hit. Not only can you not take your eyes off the place (just make sure you visit downstairs when you go) but the food and drinks were exceptionally good and exactly what Sunday is all about.

DMKX at 6 Pancras Square, N1C 4AG | www.drakeandmorgan-kingscross.co.uk

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RESTAURANT NEWS: Drake & Morgan, King’s Cross

Slowly building their empire, Drake & Morgan have unveiled their ninth site in Pancras Square, King’s Cross. The all-day dining destination simply named Drake & Morgan is to be the group’s flagship and is their largest one yet. Spread across two immaculately designed floors, the venue includes two bars and a restaurant, deli and lounge, private dining room as well as a number of kitchen ‘pods’ to make you truly feel like you’re socialising with friends around the kitchen table. There’s also an outdoor terrace should the weather play fair.

Drake & Morgan is open seven days a week for breakfast through to dinner and Sunday brunch. The bar features a sublime cocktail list created by Alex Daulby (Hops & Jigger) as well as an extended wine list, extensive range of craft beer and artisan coffee to-go. Food is overseen by newly-appointed head chef Dave Green (Dean Street Townhouse) under the direction of group executive chef Robert Mitchell and will be divided into meat, fish, vegetables ‘off the grill’ together with a dedicated deli section offering charcuterie and cheese.

Drake & Morgan promises to not only be an everyday escape for those working in the area, but also a destination bar perfect for entertaining. The group have stepped up their game with this opening (just check out the photos below for the proof), it should only be a matter of time before you pay them a visit.

6 Pancras Square | N1C 4AG

Website here

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FOOD REVIEW: Hally’s, Parsons Green

Parsons Green has itself a real keeper.

Along the New King’s Road lies the undeniably charming Hally’s, a Californian-inspired hangout that will have you all smitten the moment you step inside.

We went along for the weekend brunch and were victorious in securing one of the last available tables (Hally’s is a really big deal on those two magical days at the end of the week). The all-day menu features all the classics that will no doubt bring you to a state of indecisiveness.

Luckily, we checked the menu ahead of our visit (yep, we were that keen) and knew exactly what we wanted, going straight in for two of the brunch staples: smashed avocado on sourdough toast with ricotta and feta with a squeeze of lemon and eggs florentine, complete with a side of smoked salmon. Both dishes didn’t disappoint and we were left all warm and fuzzy with the most satisfied smiles on our faces. Be sure not to leave without trying their matcha green tea latte – we’ve been back since just for a cup of the green good stuff.

Hally’s is a dose of sunshine even on the greyest of days. We’re rather fond of it and we think you will be too.

Find Hally’s at 60 New Kings Road | SW6 4LS

www.hallyslondon.com

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