Remember how I boasted about enjoying the Côtes du Rhône at home this summer? Well I’m back to do it all over again, but this time with a festive hat on and a bottle of Rasteau wine in tow. I was lucky enough to be sent a beautiful Christmas hamper including a bottle of Rasteau wine, as well as some delicious cheeses, chocolate etc to enjoy alongside it.
Côtes du Rhône at Christmas
Picture this – a village nestled deep in the heart of the Southern Rhône Valley, perched on a sun laden hillside with ancient Château ruins. This is the village of Rasteau – the wine’s namesake.
This November, the Rasteau appellation celebrates 10 years of being recognised as a Cru (recognised for its quality and distinctive terroir) of the Cotes du Rhone; the highest accolade given within the region. It’s well known for producing a small, yet impressive, selection of both still and fortified wines.
Typically, Rasteau red wines have a spicy warmth, which in my opinion is perfect for this season. They’re also ideal for food pairings, such as stew, charcuterie, blue cheese, slightly spicy dishes and chocolate – so I know what I’ll be doing with my bottle. If you’re looking for a bottle or two to adorn your table this Christmas, I’d suggest you take a look next time you’re perusing wine shelves (whether they’re virtual or physical).
This time last year, long before lockdown was even a thought in people’s minds, I was holidaying it up in the South of France. Provence to be precise. I was basking in the sun, enjoying everything the region had to offer – food, laid-back culture, stunning scenery… and of course, wine.
Funny story, I actually didn’t drink wine until I met my now husband. His family are wine lovers, who coincidentally shared their passion with me. In fact one of my best memories from recent years is holidaying with them for the first time; travelling around Provence to different vin yards, tasting the wine on offer, and getting an in-depth understanding of the people and their craft.
Enjoying Côtes du Rhône at home
I’m by no means a wine connoisseur, but I can get by. One of the areas I know more of (thanks to it being my father-in-laws favourite) is the Côtes du Rhône region. The Côtes du Rhône Villages is a French wine Appellation d’Origine Controlle (AOC – you’ve probably spotted this on your bottle of wine), in the southern wine region of France. They produce red, wine and rosé wine, which only 21 select areas can claim the ‘village’ title to.
I was lucky enough to be sent some amazing bottles of wine (which you can see in my photos) from Côtes du Rhône, as well as some delicious cheeses, bread etc to enjoy alongside them. We enjoyed this with the rosé on one of the hotter days this year, with the 21 Stories of the Côtes du Rhône podcast on in the background, it almost felt like we were back in the South of France.
If you’re anything like me you’ve probably spent the last few weeks window shopping – both physical and online – for potential Christmas gifts. I don’t like to make it easy for myself though. I enjoy visiting as many shops as possible, so I can make sure I get a good idea of what’s on offer this year. But that’s time consuming and if I can help anyone save time, or recommend something they haven’t thought of, then my blog’s work has been done. So without further ado, here is 2018’s ‘The Scandi Lover Gift Guide’. And I’ve made sure to pack it full of my favourite products from the year. Enjoy!
As you can see I’ve focused on brands and products from a range of price points. I’ve included items I have in my own home, so you know that I can vouch for their quality and assure you that they are worth purchasing.
I included three of my favourites books this year, as I think they fit perfectly into any Scandiphile’s lifestyle – you have interior design tips for the home by Bungalow5DK, timeless fashion advice by Pernille Teisbaek, and a tour of Copenhagen with recipes by Trine Hahnemann.
I also added some bits for the home, to create that perfect ‘hygge’ feeling. What better way to do that than with a glass of something delicious, some candle light, and a mini urban jungle? And who could forget the accompanying Christmas food? Liberty has such a beautifully packaged selection this year, I couldn’t resist suggesting them.
I cook a lot of Japanese food at home, and I’m pretty good at it, if I do say so myself. So when a new Japanese restaurant opens up in London, it takes a lot to get me out of the house and believe in the hype. Well hello Inko Nito, a Japanese fusion robatayaki (fireside cooking) restaurant based in the heart of Soho. I was recently invited to their press event, and after reading the contemporary menu I was intrigued. In fact I was more than intrigued. I was drawn in by the promise of flavour explosions – and an umeshu negroni – all in a minimalist scandi setting. Basically, my dream kinda restaurant – I was there with bells on!
What did we eat?
Edamame, soy, mirin, ginger, sea salt
Avocado, quinoa, edamame, green bean, apple wasabi dressing
Romaine lettuce, spicy cashew nut miso
The cali; Portland crab, avocado, wasabi tobiko, yuzu mayo
The veggie; avocado, yuzu, garlic, crispy rice
The chirashi; salmon, yellowtail, wasabi shiso
Panko fried chicken, chili garlic yogurt
Fried shrimp, spicy Korean miso, sesame seeds, lime
Tofu kara-age, miso mayo, nori
Chicken wings, ume-boshi, green chili, mint, sansho
Bone marrow, smoked soy, garlic toast, shallot
Prime beef short rib, peanut chilli oil, spring onions
Baked potato, yuzu kosho sour cream, spring onions
THE SWEETEST THING
Charred coconut soft serve, soy, pocky, Japanese granola
Final thoughts on Inko Nito London
I wish I could go into detail on how much I enjoyed the individual dishes we ate, but no one has time to read a blog post that long. Instead I’ve highlighted my personal favourites (above) and will give you a short summary.
Alongside the spacious interior at Inko Nito, you’ll find a pretty vast menu, but don’t let that deter you. Honestly it’s the kind of restaurant where you’ll enjoy any dish that you order. A lot of well known Japanese flavours are featured on the menu, as is to be expected. However you’ll also find a whole bunch of innovative and moreish fusion delights to please your palate. Would I go back? Definitely! Price-wise it costs around £30pp, which isn’t too bad for a decent meal in London. In fact since I was invited to the press launch I’ve already been back with friends, and paid with my own money. If that doesn’t say how much I enjoyed eating at Inko Nito London, I don’t know what will.
It can be pretty tough visiting a new city or country. You’re not sure where to eat, what to see, or even where to stay. Well I’m here to change all of that with my handy guides! They’re full of tips, tricks, and the best places to go. So stop worrying about how you’re going to make the most of your time in a new place; here are my recommendations for spending 24 hours in Brighton!
24 Hours in Brighton
Stay at: Ibis Brighton
Located a few doors down from the station, this Ibis features artwork by local artists, and stunning views of the town. They also offer breakfast and a 24 hour drinks and food menu, which you can take up to your room. Tip: book a room and ask for a sea view.
Go loco for ‘Cafe Coho’
Big, healthy and tasty – that’s Cafe Coho‘s offerings in a nutshell. My recommendation: the berry pancakes, and a healthy juice shot.
On possibly one of the hottest days of the year, I decided to brave the tube. Why? Because at the other end of the line, Galvin at The Athenaeum was calling. Based in the Mayfair hotel, the restaurant comes from Michelin-starred London chefs Chris and Jeff Galvin. Known for their French-inspired menus, the brothers have stepped away from their trademark for the first time. All in favour of championing Britain’s delicious homegrown produce, and supporting independent farmers across the UK.
We arrived feeling slightly overheated, so of course a drink was in order. We headed straight to the beautifully designed THE BAR at The Athenaeum. Plush interiors cooled us down, whilst the small nooks invited us to take a private seat. Our choice of drink, gin & tonic; from their substantial collection of premium gins. As we sipped away, and nibbled on bar snacks, we chatted about what we would order on the menu.
So what did we eat?
Terrine of ham, chicken and foie gras with red onion marmalade
Chunky meat and subtle flavours complimented well by a sweet marmalade.
Smoked duck, plum, poached egg & hollandaise
A step-up from your usual ‘benedict’ – I definitely had food envy after stealing a bite of the smoked duck.
Fish pie (daily special)
Fish pie is one of my go-to comfort foods, so I can be critical. That said, I was let pretty satisfied after trying this one. It was packed full of cod, prawns and salmon, with a thin layer of mashed potato. My only con was that it didn’t use eggs, and I would have liked to have seen some smoked fish in the mix.
The roast here comes with the option of chicken, pork or sirloin beef. Ben went for sirloin, which was cooked pink and seasoned well. It was superbly tender and melted in my mouth – I couldn’t resist trying some.
Dessert/Cheese buffet (unlimited)
A novel idea, the dessert buffet was full of well-known favourites and a few surprises. I was personally delighted to see ‘Apple, pear & almond tart’, which I piled onto my plate alongside sugary meringues and freshly whipped cream.
The Weekend Lunch Menu comes with unlimited bubbly.
Final thoughts on Galvin at The Athenaeum
Our visit to Galvin at The Athenaeum was the perfect way to spend a Summer afternoon. We were completely won over by the bar, and as you can tell from above we fully enjoyed our meal too. My only regret is that I filled up on my starters and mains, and I would have loved to sample more of the desserts and cheeses (I was too full to try any) on offer.
Would I go back? Oh yes! After experiencing the weekend lunch menu I’d love to see what else Galvin at The Athenaeum has to offer. Perhaps afternoon tea, or dinner? Almost definitely drinks and bar snacks!
I’ve always loved Lebanese food, so when I heard a new restaurant was popping up I just had to try it. The latest addition to Belgravia is Abd el Wahab, situated on Pont Street – the first branch to open outside of the Middle East. The elegant interiors of the restaurant compliment the neighbourhood well. Pplenty of thought has gone into the decor, and it’s contribution to the dining experience as a whole. With a ‘living wall’ of plants, tons of natural light, and comfy chairs, I was suitably impressed. Now all they had to do was win me over with their food…
Our menu for the evening
Moutabbal (smoked aubergine dip)
Stuffed Vine Leafs
Sojok (sliced spicy sausages)
Pan Fried Eggs with Kawarma Meat
Kebbeh (deep fried ball stuffed with minced meat)
Final thoughts on Abd el Wahab London
The hot & cold starters are not to miss at Abd el Wahab, and I would recommend eating them with plenty of friends and family. Why? Because it means you get to order and share even more! Luckily for us we were able to try all of the dishes. My personal favourites were the ‘Pan Fried Eggs with Kawarma Meat’ (we all agreed it would make a great brunch food), the ‘Sojok’ (ever so slightly spicy), and the ‘Hummus’ (because, hummus).
However, the stars of the show are admittedly the desserts. The ‘Maamoul Flake’ was a masterpiece, which was quickly devoured…once the appropriate amount of photos had been taken, obviously. And the ‘Baklawa’ did not disappoint my cravings for the honey soaked pastry. In fact I enjoyed it so much I may have just stolen some from the table next door.
My personal opinion is that some cuisines are so good you don’t need to go to an upscale restaurant to enjoy the best of them. Lebanese is one of these cuisines. That said, if you live in West London or you feel like something slightly more fancy, then Abd el Wahab is the place for you.
Would I go back? If I was in the area, I’d love to stop by for coffee and baklawa. Or perhaps some prosecco, if appropriate (when isn’t it?).