Where to Eat in London: Rita’s

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Rita’s | Lunch & Dinner | London Fields, Hackney | Website
– reservations available –

Birthday’s can either be ridiculously indulgent, or something you would rather forget about entirely. Clearly, I favour the former. In fact each year I have a ‘birthday week’. It’s not an original concept, but it’s something I like to spoil myself with…because if I can’t do it for my birthday, when can I? My ultimate form of indulgence is food, so in the lead up to my birthday I book myself into several of the best restaurants I have on my ‘to-visit’ list. This year Rita’s was one of them.

Rita’s is a tiny hidden gem in the heart of Hackney, whose subtle pink hues transcend their website into the restaurant itself. I arrived with five friends on a Tuesday evening, after making a reservation several days earlier. The restaurant was quiet and it did get busier during the evening, although it still wasn’t at full capacity. We were seated at the rear of the restaurant, close to the kitchen and bar. Some might say it was the perfect location. I would agree.

Even after several days of examining Rita’s menu, I still found myself unsure of what to have. Everything sounded amazing, and I didn’t want to commit to one dish. So after a cocktail (or two), we all decided to share some sides, and promised that we would allow each other to sample our individual dishes. Our waitress helped me finally decide on the Patty Melt Deluxe (a firm favourite at Rita’s) with a side of fried cheese. The fried cheese was soft with a crunchy outer, and was seasoned well with a mixture of salt and herbs. When my PMD arrived I was a little confused as to how such a casual looking dish could be so popular. That was until I took my first bite. The beef melted almost instantly in my mouth. For someone who so often suffers from food envy, I knew I had made the right decision. The onion marmite and bone marrow butter add a completely new dimension to the American staple. The PMD is decadently greasy and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish my meal. Thankfully the salty, crunchy ‘crispy fried crushed potatoes’ helped cleanse my palette, allowing me to go back for more. This would be my last meal request.

Of course we ordered dessert, although again we all had to seriously consider our options. In the end we all went for the Dulce de Leche Beignets…because, who wouldn’t? Mine arrived with a birthday candle, and was presented by the chef himself who proceeded to grate foie gras over top (yes I went for the additional foie gras). The beignets were light and crispy, with a generous helping of dulce de leche. Honestly I could only finish one, so I took the other home for later.

Would I visit again? Of course! Although I know I would go against my ‘try something new’ motto and have the Patty Melt Deluxe again…and again…and again. Granted I would mix it up a little, as I have my eye on the Oreo Pie!You can read more of my restaurant reviews on Zomato.

Where to Eat in London: No.11 Pimlico Road

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No.11 Pimlico Road* | All-day Menu | Belgravia, Chelsea | Website
– reservations available –

Londoners are often considered to be adventurous types, but actually you’ll find that most of us are creatures of habit. We tend stick to the areas that we live in, letting out sighs of annoyance when our friends ask us to meet on the opposite side of the river. I myself have fallen victim to this apathetic attitude in the past. However recently I have been making the effort to visit parts of London I usually wouldn’t. This of course means discovering new places to eat, which happens to be one of my favourite ways to get to know a borough. So when No.11 Pimlico Road invited me to try their Sunday Brunch/Lunch menu, I was happy to accept.

Situated in Chelsea, No.11 Pimlico Road is a modern European restaurant come bar, offering an all-day menu. The interior is casual and stylish, with marble tables and plush seating. It’s easy to see how they won the Casual Dining Design Award for ‘Best Designed Casual Dining Pub 2014’. Everyone knows a blogger needs good lighting, and a clean canvas – No.11 delivered. We were seated at the back of the dining area by a window, with plenty of space.

After swooning over the decor for about 10mins, I finally took a look at the menu. Ben and I had already decided on the Sunday Roast, something we don’t often indulge in. I ordered the 28 Day Aged Rib of Beef, and Ben went for the Pork Shoulder. I sipped on an elderflower and cucumber homemade sherbet lemonade, whilst we waited for our meals. Our dishes took a pleasingly adequate amount of time to arrive – I dislike restaurants that serve food too quickly as it makes me doubt the freshness of the ingredients – and when it did we were taken aback by the portion size. Today was a good day to wear a comfy jumper. My beef was slightly pink, and tender, whilst Ben couldn’t stop raving about his pork shoulder – “It just melts in your mouth!” Some might think that all roast dinners are created equal, but this is where you would be wrong. There are so many things you can mess up with a roast dinner, the main culprits being the roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding. How did No.11’s fare? Let’s just say the duck fat roast potatoes were the best I have had in London. The outer was crispy and ever so slightly greasy (the best kind), whilst the inner was fluffy and light. I could have eaten a plateful! The Yorkshire pudding was also good, although I fear that the roasties may have taken most of the glory. The vegetables all had strong flavours, although the roast red onion was a little too overpowering and I couldn’t finish it entirely. Still, I have no complaints, which was made evident by my empty plate (ok, ok, I left a couple of carrots). As much as I wanted to try the Lemon Posset for pudding I couldn’t bare look at any more food, so I finished my meal with a deliciously refreshing pot of white pear and ginger tea instead. Will I be back again? Indubitably! How else would I work my way through their dessert menu?

You can read more of my restaurant reviews on Zomato.

Cocktails and Sashimi at Chotto Matte

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More photos can be found here

It’s not everyday that you’re taken on a tour of a top London restaurant’s kitchen. Yet that is exactly what happened to myself and some fellow food bloggers on Thursday evening, at Chotto Matte. Japanese speakers – no I’m not telling you to wait a minute, that’s the actual name of the restaurant. Funny, right? Offering up a Japanese-Peruvian fusion, their food and cocktails are talked about across London. I’ve been meaning to visit for a while, so when Zomato invited me last week I knew I had to fit it in my diary somehow.

Luckily my foodie bestie V.A was also invited, so we went along together to the swanky (I don’t think I’ve ever used that word before now) Soho restaurant. The interior of the restaurant/bar is ridiculously trendy, but in a very different way to my usual East London haunts. The large mural by graffiti artist Tom Blackford is arguably the centrepiece of the ground floor. We followed it to the bar where we were greeted by the Chotto Matte staff and everyone from Zomato. Head Bar Chef Fabiano Latham was there, as he was our cocktail masterclass host for the evening. He told us all about the Peruvian spirits and Japanese sake used in their amazing cocktails, which we were then given to taste test. My favourite of the evening was the Pisco Sour, purely because I had often heard of the cocktail, but hadn’t had the chance to try one. As we sipped away, Michael Paul gave us a tostadita demonstration and talked us through the concept of the dishes on the menu. We were then given several items to try. Everyone was so excited to try the colourful offerings that they flocked to them likes bees to honey. I particularly enjoyed the strong clash of flavours that were used in the Heritage Tomato Aburi tostaditas, and the careful preparation that went into each dish (such as the Yellowtail Sashimi).

After we had all been fed and watered, we went off in small groups to see the upstairs restaurant and the kitchens. We passed the amazing robata grill and the Nikkei sushi bar, both of which customers are able to sit alongside and watch while the chefs prepare the dishes. I dusted off my Japanese language skills and chatted to some of the sushi chefs, as we watched in awe at them creating miniature marvels. They were incredibly passionate and so happy that we were enjoying the food they had prepared. The kitchen itself was smaller than I had expected, but equally as busy. I am always curious as to the inner workings of a busy restaurant, and Chotto Matte did not let me down.

Thank you to Chotto Matte for accommodating us. You can read more of my restaurant reviews on Zomato, and if you fancy some cocktails/nibbles and a tour of Chotto Matte, Time Out currently have an amazing offer on.

Where to Eat in London: The Cicchetti Bar, at Piccolino

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The Cicchetti Bar, at Piccolino* | Dinner/Bar | Mayfair | Website
– reservations available –

Like most Londoners I avoid Oxford Circus like the plague. Pair that with living in East London and you’ve got one little lady who does not often venture into the dark realms of tourist hell – aka Regents Street. However that all changed when V.A (of Chopstickpanorama) invited me along to Piccolino’s new Cicchetti bar. An Italian friend had actually been recommending cicchetti (Italian tapas) to me a few days earlier, that had to be more than a coincidence, right?

Piccolino itself is nestled amongst a small set of restaurants in Heddon Street, just off Regent Street. The quiet courtyard feels miles away from the hustle and bustle of the main road, which accompanied with the fairy lights hanging above, gives it an almost fairytale-like quality. When we arrived at Piccolino we were greeted by the hostess who kindly showed us down to the cicchetti bar in the basement. The bar has just been renovated in a somewhat contemporary take on art deco. One wall is covered by large sections of mirror, which reflect the bar taking pride of place in the centre of the room. The dark green, black and gold accents won me over straightaway.

We were offered a selection of cichetti as we waited on two bellinis at the bar. I started with the ‘bruschetta con burrito e fichi’ (Turkish black fig on mozzarella and toasted ciabatta), which was refreshing, but slightly bland. However we followed it with a slice of crispy ‘picante pizzette’ (spicy calabrian sausage, roast red pepper, tomato and mozzarella pizza slice), which had tons of flavour – namely spice. It sat on the verge of being too hot for me to handle, but that made me enjoy it even more. Of course you can’t have Italian without Arancini, and the ‘Arancini Bolognese’ (Sicilian risotto rice fritter, beef ragu, peas and mozzarella cheese) was not a let down. The ‘spiedini di pollo’ (skewered chicken wrapped in pancetta) was tender, juicy, and perfectly salty. It was my favourite, alongside the ‘zucca fritta’ (crispy fried pumpkin and sage) which was so incredibly delicious I was left craving more – the foodie’s sign of a perfect dish. Oh yes, the bellinis! I’d almost forgotten about them amongst the heaps of food I’ve been fondly recalling for you. As far as cocktails go, it wasn’t the best bellini Ive ever had, but it wasn’t the worst.

For my first taste of cichetti I was pleasantly surprised. The experience left me wanting more, as did the menu. I love sharing food and connecting over it, so I can’t think of anything better than heading to the bar after an evening of press events. I’ll certainly be going back, and I’ll be bringing my friends with me.

You can read more of my restaurant reviews on Zomato.

Where to Eat in London: Ping Pong Dim Sum

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Ping Pong Dim Sum* | Dinner/Bar | Stratford Westfield | Website
– reservations available –

Don’t let the name fool you, dim sum at Ping Pong is no game. A few months ago I fell for their cocktails, and some particularly delicious chicken and cashew nut dumplings. I knew that a masterclass wasn’t enough, so when they invited me back to try out their new Autumn/Winter menu I squealed with excitement.

The idea of adding and removing dishes based on the season may not come as much of a surprise to most food lovers, however I still delight at the sight. This time round Ping Pong have added 4 new dim sum dishes, 1 dessert dish and 2 new cocktails to the menu. Naturally we wanted to try them all, but we decided to just go for the lobster dumplings, the vegetable fun guo and the forbidden martini. We also chose a few other nibbles, such as the extremely photogenic soft-shell crab and the black prawn dumplings…alongside some well-known favourites (yes I did order the chicken cashew dumplings again). We rounded off our visit with a couple more cocktails (who ever thought wasabi would work in a beverage?), some coconut mochi and mango pudding.

The Forbidden Martini certainly lived up to the high expectations I have for Ping Pong – this is a restaurant that I often tell people to go to purely for the cocktails – and it was a great start to our meal. The beautifully presented lobster dumplings arrived first, with the rest of our dishes following shortly after. The dumplings were topped with a chunk of lobster, with the rest of the mixture hiding inside the sticky cases. The pink parcels of seafood were both delicate and delicious. Unfortunately the vegetable fun guo failed to excite us, as we both decided they were bland and under seasoned. However the black prawn dumplings were seasoned perfectly (a must for garlic lovers) and the soft-shell crab tasted as good, if not better, than he looked. Although the accompanying sauce tasted as though it had come straight from a bottle – I will leave it for you to decide whether that’s a good or bad thing. The dessert dishes were underwhelming in size (only just big enough for 1 person), but the mango pudding was full of flavour, and the coconut mochi tasted authentic.I realise I haven’t mentioned everything that we ordered but if I had then I’d be here all day, and you’d no doubt be bored before you’d even read half of the post. Nevertheless that doesn’t mean that the quality and taste wasn’t as superb as the dishes I did mention.

I love the whole experience that comes with eating dim sum, and Ping Pong have captured that surprisingly well for a chain restaurant. The service is impeccable and the waiters/waitresses (at the Stratford location) are incredibly friendly. Some dishes are hit or miss, but overall the quality is above average and the cocktails are a must. The only downside is the price – the bill for 2 people came to £70+ which is considerably more than I would usually spend on a casual meal out with a friend at a chain restaurant. That said, I would definitely visit again. There’s not much more you could ask for then sharing delicious food with friends/family. So if my photos and words haven’t convinced you enough (oh the insanity), take a peek at the Ping Pong menu or find a restaurant near you.

You can read more of my restaurant reviews on Zomato.