Classic Gingerline – Secret location

This will no doubt be my shortest blog post ever.

This week I finally attended a Gingerline ‘immersive’ dining experience. In a nutshell it takes place somewhere along the Overground route – affectionately known as the Gingerline.

You receive a text at 6pm with instructions on where to go in time for a 7pm kick-off. You’ll then enjoy a five course meal plus some other surprises which I’m unable to disclose so as to not spoil it for those still yet to go.

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All I can say was its a really interesting experience and the food was fantastic. It’s a bit bonkers so if you’re feeling brave grab yourself a ticket as they sell out pretty fast.

 

Indian Essence – Petts Wood – Kent

Think about your local curry house. I expect there will be a chicken tikka masala on the menu, imperial mints or foil wrapped chocolates that come with your bill and perhaps even coconut ice cream in a half shell – which incidentally I love.

Indian Essence in Petts Wood near Bromley is not your typical neighbourhood Indian. Run by Saturday Kitchen regular and Michelin starred chef  Atul Kochhar and  experienced restauranteur Jitindar Singh the team behind this eatery is first-class.

Awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand 2015-2016 the restaurant is located in a small suburb of Kent where my company’s second office is located. It’s unassuming from the outside and blends in with the other boutiques and cafes nearby.

When we arrive there’s just one other couple eating. It’s Friday night, and me now being used to packed central London, I wonder if we’re in for a quite night. By the time we leave every table is taken and people are waiting at the door to come in. A colleague who lives in P-Dubz (as we affectionately call it) says people drive from far and wide to come to this place. When I try the food I understand why.

Tonight I am with four friends (also work colleagues) as part of my ongoing birthday celebrations. They’ve sneaked over in the daytime to choose a table and decorate it accordingly and say the staff were helpful and accommodating. We experience the same this evening – its slick, professional and attentive. The restaurant itself is bright and modern with an open kitchen to view the incredible culinary work going on.

They have a cocktail list – excellent. As with everything on the menu these are not standard cocktails – they come with a twist – Spiced Kir Royal and Masala Mary for example. Wines are offered by the glass and bottle but also carafe which provides a happy medium.

After a delicious aperitif we move on to the food. There’s an a la carte and tasting menu (only available for the whole table), and a set dinner menu is available Monday to Thursday.

There’s lots of fish on the menu: seabass, scallops and snapper plus rabbit, goat and guinea fowl. As I said this is Indian food in another league. We all order different things with the promise of sharing.

Over the course of the meal I sample Samudri Kazana (scallops, king prawns, squid and red snapper in a delicious spring onion sauce), a melt in the mouth goat curry cooked with crushed peppers, a zingy tandoori monkfish with oven roasted tomatoes, and railway lamb curry (tender lamp rump served with a lamb samosa and masala roast potatoes. All of it is amazing and is presented beautifully.

A delicious black daal and chickpea and potato vegetable dish (served in my current fave receptacle – mini copper saucepans) accompany this heavenly food. It’s the flavours I can’t get over – everything is so fresh and different. It’s such a change from the rich gloopy sauces I normally pick. One friend – normally ultra chatty eats in silence – lost in her dreamy kebab platter.

I was presented with a special birthday pistachio kulfi and offered complimentary drinks for our table – hugely appreciated after such great hospitality already.

Food of this quality means you’ll pay a little bit more than the usual curry house but if you want a special occasion restaurant or want to try something a bit different I would recommend you hop on the train to Petts Wood and give this place a try.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hoxton Hotel – Amsterdam

Last weekend I reached the landmark birthday of four decades. I wanted to celebrate in style and if possible do so abroad, and somewhere I had not been before. I picked Amsterdam.

The Hoxton Hotel has two places in London, one (obviously) in Hoxton which I’ve not been to yet, and another in Holborn, a stones throw away from my office. I’ve had drinks and lunch at the Holborn outpost and really liked the atmosphere. It’s chilled out and relaxed, with clever styling and fantastic attention to detail. I hoped the Amsterdam outpost was going to follow suit and it really did.

The hotel is located in Herengracht – a classy area of the city littered with boutique shops and cafes. It’s comfortably away from the overly touristy area full of chip shops and tat but is only a ten minute walk from the boat rides, train station and museums.

The building is a beautiful converted barge house overlooking the canal and cobbled streets. Inside the decor is mid century/vintage with a members club vibe about it. Leather chairs, industrial lighting and quirky ornaments come together in a mismatched yet stylish way. There’s even a vintage photo booth for guests to use, which we of course did.

The clientele is mixed – different ages and nationalities mingle with locals for cocktails, brunches and weekend breaks.

The hotel staff are hugely friendly and massively helpful throughout our stay. There’s water and milk in the room which is replenished daily and free wifi too. Guests can call anywhere in the world for up to an hour – something I’ve never come across before.

Rooms here vary hugely – ‘shoebox’, ‘cosy’, ‘roomy’ and ‘concept’ offer a range of different sized rooms to suit budgets and needs. We have a roomy twin and its pretty big. Lovely big windows overlook a courtyard, furniture is plush and eclectic. The beds are massively comfortable, something that can’t always be said for hotel stays.

As with the rest of the hotel nice touches can be found in the rooms – a Roberts radio (playing jazz on arrival to our room), vintage paperbacks, stylish lighting and traditional Delft ceramics – it’s all right up my straat.

Gorgeous Pen and Ink products are found in the bathrooms and throughout the hotel, plus drinks and snacks can be purchased at reception at supermarket prices to take back to your quarters. We’re left a handwritten welcome note and bar of Stach chocolate which is also available to buy downstairs. On the morning of my birthday – I am left a box containing a helium balloon outside my door. Little touches do make the difference.

Breakfast is available at an additional cost in the hotel restaurant Lotti’s but guests receives a breakfast bag each morning left on a hook outside the room. A banana, freshly squeezed orange juice and granola with yoghurt is a perfect start to keep you going till you head outside for something more substantial such as Dutch pancakes.

One watch point – a DJ plays in the bar till late downstairs some nights so unless you plan on joining the party, maybe request a room on one of the top floors.

There are so many great options for accommodation in Amsterdam including hiring a houseboat. If you’re looking for somewhere in a great location with a bit of a twist then give the Hoxton a try.

 

 

 

Fischer’s – Marylebone

Today I am just two days away from my fortieth birthday. One of my closest friends is taking me for a surprise brunch at an undisclosed location.

We arrive on Marylebone High Street and a few possibilities spring to mind – The Ivy Cafe or Daylesford perhaps? We’re then standing outside Fischer’s, somewhere I’ve read a lot about recently, but hadn’t clocked the location. I am both excited and thrilled at my friend’s choice.

This place is run by the Delaunay/Wolseley /Brasserie Zedel gang so they know what they’re doing particularly when it comes to morning foods.

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The cafe has a distinctly nostalgic feel. Dark wood and brass are surrounded by vintage pictures from Germany and Austria. A huge clock dominates the dining area, and you almost feel you could be in a European train station cafe of yesteryear.

We are here for breakfast but like the group’s other outposts the vibe is informal, despite the stunning setting. One table are having lunch while another finishes a leisurely plate of poached eggs and pastries.

In another surprise twist my friend’s parents and sister turn up to join us in the celebrations. More dishes for me to view then….

Granola, fruit and muesli are all on offer but I’m not here to eat that I’m afraid. There’s so much to choose from – a sausage sandwich, rosti, kippers and pancakes. Three of the group go for an omelette offered with a selection of fillings.

I choose the Eggs Arlington (smoked salmon) which is one of the best versions of the dish I have ever had. Its delicious – the poached eggs are perfectly cooked and the smoked salmon generous.

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So if you’re in a Viennese cafe, to not eat some form of pastry would be criminal. We ponder the menu and question the lovely Hungarian waiter about some of the items  we don’t recognise.

I remember in Great British Bake Off when the contestants made something called a Gugelhupf. I can still recall Mel and Sue delighting in this rather fabulous word. I want to try it so choose an exotic pineapple & coconut variety. Fearing it might be dry I am pleasantly surprised. The inside is full of delicious pineappley jammy goodness, the ultra moist sponge is covered in coconut. I need to return to eat this again.

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Other sweet treats around the table included Florentines, an epic strawberry and custard doughnut and a raspberry Benedict.

There is so much to choose on this day-to-night menu you could return here many times for a variety of meals and occasions.

There are German and other Mittel European wines on offer plus a dizzying array of coffees and teas.

If my birthday celebrations continue in this vain I will be very happy indeed. I am off to Amsterdam tomorrow so hope to share some of my culinary discoveries on my return.

Auf wiedersehen!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gilbert Scott (plus more)

Tonight I am dining with my fellow Food Journalism colleagues as part of our ten week course.

We’re in Kings Cross at the fabulous St Pancras Renaissance Hotel – a Gothic Revival masterpiece – said to be one of the most impressive examples in Britain.

Named after the architect, The Gilbert Scott is a Marcus Wareing outpost and today is the first time I have visited one of his restaurants. I discover that Scott actually came from a little place called Gawcott, the next village to where I was raised, which was an interesting discovery….

The building itself is beautiful and you soon forget you are just a few minutes away from the chaos of Kings Cross station. The restaurant with its high ceilings, limestone pillars and gilded features feels opulent yet has a relaxed informal feel about it.

We are here to eat but before that we are experiencing something pretty exciting. Our tutor Nikki has arranged for us to visit the kitchen during service and meet with the Head Chef. After watching too many programmes about sweary chefs I expect to descend into the depths of hell and enter a furnace of a kitchen with tempers flaring, amidst inflated egos.

Instead the kitchen is quiet, serene and so much smaller than I expected. A chef’s table overlooks the entire space for those who want to fully immerse themselves in the experience.

We are greeted by Head Chef Mark Froydenlund who is charming, funny and incredibly relaxed – the antithesis of what one would expect in a chef in that position. He takes questions from the group and despite it being the restaurants fifth birthday that night, seems happy to spend time with us and find out what we’re all up to.

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We then move back upstairs to sample some of the kitchen’s creations. We’re eating from a set menu which provides a nice introduction to the food on offer. Looking at the menu – ingredients are clearly crucial, something we had discussed with Mark beforehand. Crabs from Dorset, Scottish scallops, Sicilian tomatoes and Cumbrian pork – straightaway you know that huge effort goes into sourcing the best produce.

I choose a hen’s egg on a bed of brendade with a bacon crumb. Now I admit I didn’t know what brendade was but threw caution to the wind and ordered it anyway. It’s actually an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil which was delicious and not overpowering in the slightest.

For my main I chose a Cumbrian pork fillet in a tangy barbecue sauce on a bed of apple slaw and buttermilk. The barbecue element was spicy and packed a punch, but was offset by the sweetness of the apples.

Both dishes were light and tasty, and everyone else’s meals looked delicious too.

I didn’t manage a dessert as had to leave a little early but would no doubt have succumbed had I stayed.

Staff were discreet and charming and everything you’d expect and hope from a restaurant of this calibre.

I’ll certainly come back when time is not such an issue and I can ponder the entire menu in all its glory.