Dinner at Zengo, Le Royal Meridien Hotel, Dubai

Our trip to Dubai was filled with some of the most incredible food I’ve tasted. The quality was exceptionally high at every spot we tried. I’ve heard a lot about how great the service in Dubai but the flavours… Oh the flavours! We had so many new favourite dishes. From the very best crème brûlée at La Petite Maison to hot fluffy pitta bread to swirl in bowls of incredible garlicky, zingy hummus beiruti, we truly feasted.

 

I’ve found myself using the words “favourite” and “best” way too much since I came back from Dubai. I genuinely can’t stop. We ate SO many beautiful things and I just can’t stop telling people about the food. We treated ourselves to some of the best restaurants and the food was just consistently incredibly high quality and packed with flavour! Our Dubai trip was predominantly about relaxation and eating and, for that, I have no regrets!

A foodie highlight of our trip was our meal at Zengo, one of the Pan Asian restaurants at Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort. It’s a hotel that the Doc has stayed in many times and so he was keen to take me there on our first trip to Dubai together. On this occasion, we didn’t stay there but we had an epic dinner that I just have to share with you! SPOILER ALERT: You may get hungry, sorry!

Here’s what we ate:

Citrus fruits, togarashi, pickled onions dill oil, lemon gel

Too often when something is listed as “spicy” on a menu, in fine dining restaurants, I find that spices are used VERY cautiously. Chefs, I get that you don’t want to overpower flavours but spices (and not just chilli) can be a burst of flavour and warmth that bring a dish to life – if the menu says spicy we know it’ll be spicy (or at least we hope so when we order it!). When our first dish at Zengo was brought to the table, I wanted to get up, run into the kitchen and give the chef a HUGE hug! WHAT A REVELATION! A chef who isn’t afraid to pack food with flavour and a generous amount of chilli.

I love fresh tuna and this seared tuna was just utter perfection with its spicy crust and tangy freshness. Dotted between the tuna were delicate slices of fresh sweet pineapple and zesty lemon, which married perfectly with the tuna. This is about as good as any starter gets – fresh, zingy, spiced with togarashi (a Japanese spice chilli blend) so well balanced! I honestly think I could have had plate after plate of this and left Dubai as a very happy, very full lady. Delicious!

Next up, we had the Angry Zengo Maki Rolls – Tuna, avocado, cucumber, sriracha sauce

More tuna, yes, but so different from the last dish! This was another sublime take on something that can often be quite simple. These maki rolls were incredibly fresh and full of flavour from the kick of sriracha. They had been garnished with a crispy topping of tempura crumb, which added some crunch and texture. An absolute triumph and up there with some of the tastiest maki rolls I’ve ever eaten! My lunchtime Itsu sushi order, al-desko, will never be the same!

Our final raw starter was the salmon sashimi which had the perfect amount of fattiness but next to the other starters, it couldn’t compete. By no means was it bad, it was definitely very good quality, it just paled in excitement next to the other dishes! I loved how beautifully it was presented, on ice with edible flowers and hot wasabi.

Moving onto hot starters, Chicken karaageChicken thigh with Korean chili sauce and sesame seed

Succulent chicken coated by a light, crispy batter came with a tangy, spicy dipping sauce. Whilst I presume this dish was probably fried, I liked that it wasn’t at all greasy and actually pretty light despite the very generous sized portion!

I washed this down with a fruity Cherry Blossom mocktail of hibiscus, cherry and lemonade to rehydrate. But of what we had to drink, the Doc definitely ordered best. He’s a huge fan of Negronis and it’s almost always his drink of choice for a pre-dinner drink. Zengo’s Mango Negroni didn’t disappoint – the mango juice was actually frozen into a large ice cube, so it melted slowly, releasing bursts of mango with each sip.

After our starters we were in for a bit of a laugh – our waiter came over and asked: “How was your meal? Can I bring you the dessert menu?” Awkward much?! Either we had eaten more than is socially acceptable for most people for starters, or he was utterly confused. We laughed, told him we were keen to try the mains and deliberated over what to order. Zengo has an extensive menu from curries, to wok-fried dishes, hot dishes cooked on the Robata and grilled items so there was a lot to choose from!

After much umm’ing and aah’ing and a few peeks over at the dishes on nearby tables, we went for the BBQ lamb ribs, the Chicken coconut and the US prime tenderloin.

The BBQ lamb ribs were flavoured and cooked very well, however, whilst the portion was very generous and I liked the slight sweetness of the curry-infused sauce, the ribs were a bit too fatty for my liking.

The Chicken coconut, on the other hand, was divine. Marinated charred chicken bathed in a fragrant coconut sauce with a velvety, almost luxurious feel. I loved the slight smokiness paired with the freshness of the fresh mint and coriander salad which it was served with.

Surprisingly, one of the side dishes was up there as one of the best dishes for me. Now hear me out. The main ingredient was tofu. No this isn’t bland, tasteless, sponge-like or boring at all! It was comparable to some of the best pan asian dishes I’ve tried and I defy anyone who says they don’t like tofu once they’ve tried this dish at Zengo! It annoys me when some restaurants treat tofu too simply (I.e. just fried and seasoned) because frankly it is boring. Tofu isn’t full of flavour on its own; it really needs flavour and a bit of attention. Zengo’s tofu is DELICIOUS! Tofu came in a glorious five spice batter. It was peppery, with a soft tender centre yet audibly crispy on the outside. Whether or not you’re vegetarian – oh god you NEED this. This is technically a side dish but I think it would make a great starter. It’s the most flavour packed tofu I’ve ever had!

Our final main was the US Prime Tenderloin, cooked medium rare and serve on a Fois gras sauce and parsnip puree. It was cooked to perfection!

We were pretty full but our waiter advised us that we couldn’t leave without pudding!

We had no idea what to expect when ordering the Pralus Bio Equateur – I still don’t actually know what it means but what arrives was a theatrical show on dry ice of dark chocolate pudding, sweet honeycomb cake, peanut plantain and beautiful honey ice cream. I actually really loved the plantain and icecream most and would have been happy to have had just that. The portion was enormous so I’d recommend sharing puddings rather than individuals.

Our final course, and possibly my favourite of all was the white chocolate semi freddo.

Zengo had this perfected. It was light and refreshing with lime brioche, spicy peanut brittle and a mini mountain of sweet green apple salad – perfect after such a heavy meal! I can’t recommend it enough!

I was so pleasantly surprised by Zengo at Le Royal Meridien hotel – innovative dishes, romantic atmosphere, generous portions and beautiful settings that make it a contender for best Pan Asian restaurant in Dubai! The service was good but not quite as slick as some of the other Dubai restaurants we tried, but the food and atmosphere more than made up for that!

Dare I say it? Well, I probably shouldn’t say so but I like it even more than Nobu (and it’s less expensive!) If you’re in Dubai or planning a trip, book in and let me know what you think! (And don’t leave without trying that seared tuna, ok?!)

What are your favourite spots for Pan Asian food? Leave a comment below or contact me via Instagram. More info needed? Check out the website here.

Our meal at Zengo was complimentary, but as always, my views are 100% my own!

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La Petite Maison Dubai – an incredible lunch

La Petite Maison is somewhere I’ve wanted to try for many years. Seven years to be specific!

When I was at university, each summer I got a temp job to pay for my summer trips. One year, I got a temporary job as a secretary for a wealth management firm in London. I walked past La Petite Maison London on Brook’s Mews, every single day that summer. I heard voices in French and English, witnessed business meetings and saw friendly reunions over impeccable food and wine. It looked beautiful and glamorous – I was nineteen and it looked dreamy. Dining al fresco with food that looked Masterchef-worthy… well, it was pretty as a picture and I wanted in! But I was a student and frankly, I didn’t have a full Celine purse to match the bill! I peeked in a few times and began my restaurant list. I looked away most days but all these years later I hadn’t forgotten it! A couple of times I’d been booked in but plans had been rearranged so, even after I started full-time work, I never made it to La Petite Maison.

La Petite Maison - glass window - best restaurant for lunch in Dubai on the Lifestyle Enthusiast blog

So, when we booked a trip to Dubai, La Petite Maison was at the top of my list of places to eat and the first restaurant I booked. It’s a risky strategy though, going somewhere you’ve put on a pedestal for SEVEN years! I had heard good things but didn’t know if it was worth the hype.

The day finally arrived, we got a taxi to DIFC Dubai and we were finally there to meet my #foodiegoals from 2010!

The room is bright white and airy, with French art everywhere. The white interior has splashes of colour from vibrant Mediterranean vegetables piled high around the open kitchen. There are antique style Taittinger champagne boxes and elaborate salt and pepper mills! It’s the epitome of #interiorgoals on Instagram! The bar is clad with rose gold and copper accents and despite the rise in popularity of bare tables in London, here, the white tablecloth is back, unapologetic and back in action, broken up with simple burst of bright veg and pepper mills!

La Petite Maison - Chef's bar vegetables - best restaurant for lunch in Dubai on the Lifestyle Enthusiast blog

La Petite Maison - salt and pepper mills - best restaurant for lunch in Dubai on the Lifestyle Enthusiast blog

La Petite Maison champagne boxes - best restaurant for lunch in Dubai on the Lifestyle Enthusiast blog

We had been advised upon booking that, given that it was Ramadan, there would be no alcohol served. Whilst we perused the menu we went for a glass of Limonade Noire instead – a thirst-quenching refreshing mocktail of rosemary-infused honey, lemon, activated charcoal and soda water.

Limonade Noire at La Petite Maison, the best restaurant for lunch in Dubai on the Lifestyle Enthusiast blog

Menu at La Petite Maison, the best restaurant for lunch in Dubai on the Lifestyle Enthusiast blogFor starters, we opted for a full-flavoured black olive tapenade which was served with perfect crispbreads. The irony-rich flavour of the olives made a strong match for the bread but they paired like they were made for each other!

Olive tapenade with crisp bread at La Petite Maison, the best restaurant for lunch in Dubai on the Lifestyle Enthusiast blog

We decided to share the whole sea bream in Papillote for our main. It was described as fish en papillote with olive oil, lemon and herbs. It was presented, whole before being filleted and served with a fresh shaved fennel and chive crunchy salad. This was some of the tastiest fish I’ve ever had, with bold but not overpowering flavours of confit lemon skin and herbs aux Provence. A side of Dauphinoise potatoes completed it! A glass of white wine would be so good with it but the Limonade Noire was a surprisingly good match!

Of course, the fish was perfectly cooked and a triumph of a dish. There were lots of “mmms”, “aaah my god” and “this is so delicious!”. Our plates were spotless at the end – despite the large portion we polished it off!

Fish, herbs and olive oil in papillotte at La Petite Maison, the best restaurant for lunch in Dubai on the Lifestyle Enthusiast blog

The potatoes were oozy, rich and creamy and worked surprisingly well!

Potato Dauphinoise at La Petite Maison, the best restaurant for lunch in Dubai on the Lifestyle Enthusiast blog

Potato Dauphinoise at La Petite Maison, the best restaurant for lunch in Dubai on the Lifestyle Enthusiast blog

Potato Dauphinoise at La Petite Maison, the best restaurant for lunch in Dubai on the Lifestyle Enthusiast blog

We were offered the dessert menu, and I thought back to all that time ago, where I had walked past the London restaurant and peered in at the desserts. They were so pretty and had wowed me. I couldn’t come all this way and not eat pudding. We were full but we had to! I can always find space for dessert, can’t you?

We had a slight mix up and ended up swapping a cheesecake but ended up with the best Creme Brûlée and apple tart EVER! I never go for creme brûlée as it’s not that exciting – I find it pretty much the same wherever I have it and find it can be lacking in flavour… but the Doc loves it and I’m now sooooo happy he suggested it! Honestly, it was the most creamy, soft, almost custardy perfection with a thin crisp sugar audibly crackly topping. The apple tart was up there too, finely sliced sharp apple delicately topping very crispy, sweet puff pastry. La Petite Maison definitely know good pud!

Tarte Tatin at La Petite Maison, the best restaurant for lunch in Dubai on the Lifestyle Enthusiast blog

Creme Brulee at La Petite Maison, the best restaurant for lunch in Dubai on the Lifestyle Enthusiast blog

Creme Brulee at La Petite Maison, the best restaurant for lunch in Dubai on the Lifestyle Enthusiast blogWe loved our meal so much, with faultless food, generous portions for a fine dining spot and impressive service, I have no doubt we will be going again one day when we are next in Dubai.

Art deco bar Creme Brulee at La Petite Maison, the best restaurant for lunch in Dubai on the Lifestyle Enthusiast blog

Flowers Creme Brulee at La Petite Maison, the best restaurant for lunch in Dubai on the Lifestyle Enthusiast blog

So yes. It’s been seven years since I got my first glimpse of La Petite Maison in London and whilst it’s been many years and I’ve had many many many meals since, I still haven’t made it to that Brooks Mew’s London branch of this restaurant. That’s got to change ASAP as if it’s anything like it’s sister restaurant in Dubai, well, then we may have just found my new favourite French spot for us, outside of France!

Open kitchen Creme Brulee at La Petite Maison, the best restaurant for lunch in Dubai on the Lifestyle Enthusiast blog

I couldn’t recommend it more if you love French food and are visiting Dubai! It was, to me, like Aubaine but with miles better service and food!

What’s your favourite French restaurant? Where should I try next?

La Petite Maison Dubai is located in the DIFC area of Dubai. More details can be found on the website here.

 

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Becoming BFFs with Raymond Blanc at the Chelsea Flower Show 2017

Chelsea Flower Show is somewhere my mum has ALWAYS wanted to go. Each year when it’s broadcasted on the BBC, she’ll exclaim “we should go one day”. One day. That’s an expression that pushes things out, doesn’t it? One day in the future… To me, that’s where you don’t make active plans and often end up missing out. So when I had the opportunity to go this year, with hospitality tickets, needless to say, I had no hesitation in saying “YES PLEASE!” and asking my mum to join me. And boy were we in for a treat!

You may remember from my March round-up post that I’d been included in a Mother’s Day e-Book in collaboration with Raymond Blanc, one of my all time favourite chefs! With this, I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to attend the Chelsea Flower Show with two tickets to the hospitality area at the 2017 Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show, Jardin Blanc. Jardin Blanc was inspired by Raymond’s aim to create an area to truly kick back and relax within the stunning gardens. What resulted was truly some of the best hospitality I’ve ever experienced. And in bigger news, as this post title suggests, I’m just going to put it out there that I’m probably Raymond Blanc’s new BFF! But I’ll get to that…

The sun was shining, it was hot enough for summer dresses and lots of sun cream, and we were seriously looking forward to it! With the weather in our favour and our passes in hand, Mum and I made it to the show, just in time for breakfast, which was included in the Le Lily package. Faced with a sumptuous feast of croissants, savoury muffins, fresh fruit and granola, and best of all a breakfast cassoulet of haricot beans, lardons, sausage, tomato fondue and baked egg – we were prepared for a great day. We washed it down with refreshing freshly squeezed juices. For mum, fresh orange, and for me the fresh cold-pressed blend of Rhubarb, Pear Kale, and Ginger. I felt immediately like I was on holiday!

This place is an absolute Instagrammers dream; everywhere you look there’s something beautiful! Seriously, you can’t make a turning without seeing a creative display or sensory experience. The show gardens, of course, have been carefully created with different themes. They attracted the crowds in a big way, and we found ourselves joining the queues to see them!

The crowd was something that really surprised me. I had expected the Chelsea Flower Show would be generally a population of much older people but I was so wrong. There’s a great blend of young and old, couples, groups of friends and duo’s like Mum and me too!

Even if you’re not so green fingered (I wouldn’t consider myself to be at all – I can hardly keep a basil pot plant alive…) it’s an incredible place to be. There are contributions from familiar names that you may not have expected (like Mary Berry!), as well as lots of corporates.

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Our favourite was the Great Pavillion, a marquee bigger than all three floors of Topshop Oxford Street put together, filled with the world’s best flowers! We had fun posing by the exhibits and looking at awe at the plants towering over us! We both adored the contribution from Marks and Spencers, which included a fountain made of flowers, as part of their Mediterranean themed exhibit. We absolutely loved it.

Before we knew it, it was time for lunch. We went back to our home for the day, the exquisite Jardin Blanc. Just walking in, you can’t help but have a smile plastered on your face. With live music by “Wandering Hands Band” an acoustic trio of singers, guitarists and a truly brilliant Saxophonist, incredible cocktails, and a garden wonderland of beautiful props, it was the perfect place to relax in the sunshine.

From a vegetable, kaffir lime leaf escabeche amuse-bouche to the strawberry and vanilla vacherin dessert, the ingredients for our lunch were locally sourced and the menu was designed by one of my all time foodie heroes, Raymond Blanc!

I opted for the roasted guinea fowl, served with redcurrants and lime, with a slow-cooked ballotine of pan roasted breast and spring veggies. Mum’s artichoke barigoule with citrus bulgur wheat and braised fennel was the clear winner though, delicious and beautiful too! I’m not going to lie, I was super jealous and had total food envy!

We loved the attention to detail with an edible meadow of micro herbs which we could trim directly from the plant, to garnish our food. The menu itself was made of special paper with plant seeds inside, so you’ve got the opportunity to grow the herbs yourself just by planting the entire menu in a pot with some water and soil. Pretty cool if you’re green fingered!

Our pudding, the strawberry and vanilla vacherin was one of my favourite dishes from the whole day (and yes we really did eat a lot!). Bursting with strawberries and with a perfect meringue side – I could have eaten a truckload, soooooooo good!

After lunch, mum and I strolled through the fresh gardens and the stalls. There are hundreds selling garden accessories, flowers, from furniture to actual wood pizza ovens! There are areas with live music, entertainment, unusual exhibits, statues, you name it! It’s the very best kind of sensory overload.

I had my eye on this teapot which unfortunately wasn’t available for purchasing… I asked a few times!

The Driftwood animal sculptures were incredibly detailed and towered over us tall.

There were so many gardens, each one unique and even for a gardening-novice like me, they were seriously special!

When we felt like our feet were close to dropping off after all that walking, we headed back to the Jardin Blanc. Mum tried the Summer Cup mocktail, with chamomile, hibiscus, lavender and peach and I fell for the prettiest of all cocktails, a gorgeous pink Rhubarb sour! We lay out in the sun and sat on the swings and truly relaxed.

Some of the other bloggers joined us as well as Raymond Blanc, himself, and together we enjoyed our cocktails whilst we discussed the Jardin Blanc, our latest adventures, Raymond’s plans for Le Manoir, and our blogs. He is even kinder and friendlier than on television (if that’s at all possible). And very amusing. He actually swept me up into a firemans lift mid photo when we got together for our group photo and whisked me around! What a charmer!

Raymond’s vision seems to have truly come to fruition – Jardin Blanc was beautiful and all of us agreed it was a pretty amazing way to experience the flower show.

We were in great spirits; the girls were brilliant company and the botanically themed cocktails quenched our thirst in the heat! We discussed holiday plans and how we all must visit Le Manoir one day soon. I’ve wanted to dine there forever and meeting Raymond and seeing his vision in Jardin Blanc cemented that mission!

We ended our Chelsea Flower show experience with an afternoon tea in Jardin Blanc. Given that we’d been having so much fun chatting with Raymond and fellow bloggers Angie and Sophie, we were a little late, so there were just a few afternoon tea items left for us!

As I had guessed, an afternoon tea designed by Raymond Blanc was sure to be something special. And a treat it was for sure. With unusual finger sandwich options, such as the punchy Brie De Meaux, apricot chutney and celery baguette, and the delicate smoked salmon served in a smooth green spinach roll, I would have loved to try them all! Fruity scones were served with Raymond Blanc’s Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat ‘Saisons famous preserves. The sweets included fine macarons, fruit tartlets, filled to the brim with oozy creme pâtissière, perfect mini lemon drizzle cakes and classic choux pastry eclairs, beautifully iced in pastel colours. They were prepared to perfection and just as pretty as the floral gardens. I had a permanent smile on my face for the rest of the day and vowed that I need to get to Oxford to Le Manoir as soon as possible! 

It was the perfect sweet treat to end the sweetest of days!

So whilst the day was meant to be a treat for mum, I quickly learnt that if you’re in Jardin Blanc, the Chelsea Flower Show truly is a treat for anyone. I had the best day with my mum and would recommend you take yours too!

I’ll hope to see you all there next year!

We were guests of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and whilst our experience was complimentary, my views are completely my own. It was an incredible day, and I’d highly recommend it! 

The five best dishes to try at Roka, Aldwych

The weather isn’t following the rules at all – it’s June and in my eyes, that means it should be two things – warm and sunny. We should we walking around in summer dresses, with huge sunglasses and sandals. We should be drinking Pimms in our gardens, hosting barbeques with our families and looking for the best spots for al fresco lunch – those are the summer rules, aren’t they?! So, like the weather, I’ve not been following my rule of not eating out more than once a week either. Naughty I know, but it’s been a busy few weeks – I was off work ill with gastroenteritus (yep it sucked!) and then had a week away in Dubai (heaven – watch this space for more content on it!) but now I’m back, and hopefully back to stay!

Of course, I’ve gone ages without writing a food post and now I’ve only gone and written two in a go, but #sorrynotsorry. I have a list, longer than my arm, of new restaurants to check out, and in one week I ticked off two: the Clove Club and Roka. We’d managed to secure Time Out vouchers to get Roka’s famous bottomless brunch £42 per person, including 10 small plates, a main, a very moreish Bellini and unlimited wine/prosecco, as well as an epic dessert platter for the table! It may well have become my new favourite London brunch spot!

Roka Aldwych - Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog - What to order at Roka

Rather than go through each and every dish, I just want to say you NEED to go here. It’s brilliant and I want you to love it like I do. I’m going to skip to the good part and tell you what dishes you just have to order, the things you must try at Roka, whether you have the brunch or just go for lunch or dinner. These are my top five dishes at Roka (in no particular order):

  1. Tokusen sashimi moriwase – Chef’s selection of sashimi.
    Roka’s sashimi is perfect. The selection on the day was of tuna, salmon and yellowfin – I couldn’t pick between them as they were all fresh, delicious and perfectly sliced. Served on ice, with wasabi and pickled ginger, these were a triumph and I was really impressed by the quality.Roka Aldwych Sashimi - Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog - What to order at Roka
    Roka Aldwych - Salmon Sashimi - Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog - What to order at Roka
  2. Kabocha to amaimo no salada – Japanese pumpkin and sweet potato salad.
    This is about as far from a salad as can be. I’d liken it to a creamy, cool, flavour-packed sweet potato mash. Sounds weird, right? Honestly, this is one thing you CANNOT leave without trying. A bowl of sunset coloured perfection! This “salad” is perfectly balanced, smooth with crispy bits and fresh chives. It’s served cold (and that’s probably the only thing that it has in common with a usual salad!) It was impossible to tackle with chopsticks but truly the most moreish mash / salad that I’ve tasted in years! Roka Aldwych - Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog - What to order at Roka - Sweet potato and pumpkin salad
    It sounds odd. I know. But trust me, it was so so delicious, that I kept wanting to save a bit to the end. The waiters kept coming to clear up our plates, to make space for other dishes, only to hear Eppie, Katie and I repeat “no… no not that one, we’ll keep that!” We refused to give up those last few morsels… Hey, there may only have been a teaspoons worth left in there but none of us were letting that go to waste – it was a plate of heaven. Truth be told, I saved that last bite until just before dessert and it was worth it! I don’t want to be bossy and tell you what to order at Roka but seriously, you need this!
  3. Tai no miso-yaki – Sea bream fillet, ryotei miso and red onion.
    This hulking, meaty piece of fish, with its subtle umami flavours was exquisite. Perfect, soft, flaky fish, with subtle flavouring and a slight charred finish. Incredible!
    Roka Aldwych - Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog - What to order at Roka - Sea Bream with miso and onion
  4. Kobuta no ribs yawaraka nikomiyaki – Glazed baby back ribs with crushed cashew nuts.
    These are the special type of dish that you don’t order on a first date (they’re the sticky type that get EVERYWHERE and I have zero chance of eating these gracefully!). They’re the perfect blend of sweet, spiced, sticky and just a masterpiece, needing nothing but a tiny squeeze of lime. Roka chefs cook this on the robata grill, which is said to originate from the fishermen off the coast of Japan, who would cook on the boats with different charcoals and share the bounty with one another using their oars. I love that idea, and whilst I can’t comment on how authentically Japanese these ribs are, they are comforting, succulent, packed with flavours, and I bet you’ll be fighting over the last rib!Roka Aldwych - Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog - What to order at Roka - Glazed pork ribs with cashew nuts
  5. A platter of puddings was a dream end to the brunch.
    Lychee, raspberry and passionfruit sorbets, and fresh tropical fruits lined the platter of lychee and matcha pannacotta, yuzu chocolate truffles, and the most beautiful plump chocolate Buddha. It was almost too pretty to eat. Almost! Starfruit, watermelon, dragon fruit, pineapple and berries dotted the plate but nobody could ultimately resist the chocolate mousse buddha. It was the perfect end to the brunch and I highly recommend it for those dining in a group!Roka Aldwych - Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog - What to order at Roka - Dessert platter of chocolate buddha, yuzu truffles, fruit and panna cotta

The food at Roka is incredible, it’s perfect for brunch or for dinner, one of my favourite spots in London for catch ups, to linger and over eat at! The service, fabulous, and the food delicious. These are just some of my best dishes but there are so many treasures so I say go on, book a table and go soon! I’ll probably see you there!

Dare I say it, I like it even better than Zuma. Rainer Becker you legend, you!

Roka branches are dotted all over London – we went to the one on Aldwych but you can see more options here. 

Have you been to Roka? What are your favourite dishes? I’ll undoubtedly be back soon so need to know! Comment below or connect with me on Instagram and let me know!

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Dinner at the Clove Club

The Doc and I marked three years since our first date last Wednesday. Being self-professed foodies, we spent our first date at a Street Feast food festival, and haven’t stopped eating since! If I recall correctly, it went something like this:

  • I was late by half an hour
  • He was 15 minutes early
  • He thought I’d stood him up
  • We didn’t stop talking for about 7 hours – marking it the longest first date ever
  • It was the same day as Eurovision and therefore you can’t forget it 😉

The last three years have flown by in a whirl of fun, food and frolicking. Honestly, we’ve come a long way since then and there was only one way to mark the occasion. We resorted to our favourite list, “The Worlds 50 Best” and decided it was time to tick one more restaurant off it! Specifically, the Clove Club, somewhere I had wanted to try for ages!

We’ve had the pleasure of dining at some of the best restaurants, including Noma in CopenhagenPujol in Mexico City (currently number 20 of the world’s best restaurants), Relae, which has held number 39 twice (post coming soon!) and we have loved the modern takes on the respective cuisines. It’s been amazing to share these experiences together, as two serious foodies, and we often reminisce about those meals even years later.

Last week, our anniversary started in a pretty normal way. I woke up early, went to work, went to the gym and then headed to Shoreditch. It was time to get our feast on!

The Clove Club was one of the first restaurants in the UK to introduce a pre-payment ticketing system, so over two months ahead, we booked in for the extended tasting menu of 9 courses, plus a selection of “snacks”. When the day finally arrived, I wasn’t sure what to expect but an exciting evening was certainly ahead of us.

Ecstatic that the sun was out, we met outside the restaurant, hungry for the feast ahead. We were taken to our seats and promptly started with a glass of Blanc de Blanc champagne before diving into the starters.

Beetroot and apple granita with almond cream _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog

Champagne and candle _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog

Spider crab _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog

Spider Crab Tart _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog

The first course was a refreshing beetroot and apple frozen gazpacho with a quenelle of almond cream. The gazpacho was like a savoury sorbet and very moreish. Despite the apple being very subtle (so much so that we couldn’t taste it), each bite left us wanting more. The intense flavour of the nutty and creamy almond cream was bold compared to the other elements and as such, it was the star of the dish. I’d have loved a bit more apple flavour but absolutely adored this as a start to an exciting and experimental meal!

Fried chicken on pine leaves _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog

Next, I was presented with a Cornish spider crab tart, with hollandaise made with brown crab, topped with devilled spices and a pretty little chive flower from the Clove Club garden. I loved the theatre of it, served on a ginormous, somewhat scary looking, hollowed crab shell. GENIUS! The filling was piquant and creamy, slightly salty but light. The tart was crisp and really thin. It was incredible. I’d have loved a bigger one as a main actually! The Doc is allergic to shellfish and so was given the tiny tart with some green beans in. Needless to say, it was underwhelming next to my beautiful shellfish delight, and I felt bad. But we ploughed on, and the good egg that my man is, he didn’t complain much, mainly because the next snack arrived of buttermilk fried chicken with a pine salt and a big smile returned to his face.

One thing that has become apparent over the last three years is that whilst we both love a delicious fancy meal out, we also love simple comfort food. For me, comfort food is a perfect homely lasagne, rich with flavour and lots of cheese on top (I defy you to find one that beats my mum’s veggie lasagne!). For the Doc though, he’d happily eat a plate full of macaroni cheese or fried chicken. He tried Clove Club’s Buttermilk fried chicken with pine salt before I did and made THAT face. He was beaming from ear to ear. He said he could eat a bucketful! For me, it was a little bit greasy but in all fairness, I’m no fried chicken connoisseur (I don’t eat KFC and find a lot of fried foods unpleasant!) But, for the guy with a taste for it, it was brilliant. But credit where credit’s are due; it was perfectly cooked, really succulent and the batter was audibly crunchy! Nothing like your average greasy chicken and clearly if you’re a fried chicken fan this stuff would be like crack to you. The Doc LOVED it!

Haggis dougnuts _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog

The next snack was a happy surprise. If you follow my Instagram stories, you’ll know that recently, I’d travelled to Edinburgh for a family wedding, yet I had managed to resist the temptation of experimenting with haggis (if you don’t follow me yet, then why not do so now!). The next snack consisted of savoury doughnuts filled with haggis and topped with cider vinegar powder; seemingly as Chef Isaac is Scottish, this dish is a nod to his heritage. For those wondering whether to take that bite of haggis or not next time they’re offered, it was tasty and meaty (as expected). In this case, however, I’d have liked more filling in the doughnut. After one bite, the meat was gone and you were left with an empty donut case.

Pinot Bianco white wine _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog

The Clove Club’s excellent sommelier offered us a mini wine pairing where you could get a trio of wines perfectly matched with the meal – I loved the idea. Considering it was a weeknight a full wine pairing would be way too much for us! The first wine, paired with the snacks, was a light Pinot Bianco. A beautifully aromatic young wine which went down sooooo easily. Honestly, I had slurped it down quicker than I care to admit. From the region of Italy, the grapes for this wine are grown by 140 different farmers who, according to the sommelier, do not agree on which grape tastes the best. As such, no two wines taste the same and we happened to be lucky to get a great one. It’s one of the most delicious wines I’ve tried in ages!

Trout tartare and crisps _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog

_ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

The next dish was one of my favourites. A trout tartare with sencha powder (a relative to Schezuan pepper) with the most glorious potato velouté and crunchy mini Jersey Royal potato crisps with Sansho. The velouté was seriously velvetty and incredibly comforting. Reminiscent of a delicious potato soup, I could have eaten a big bowl of just that! In fact, I definitely just googled Clove Club potato soup recipe… no such luck unfortunately. You’ll just have to go there and try this!

My next course was langoustine two ways. First, the delicate tail of the langoustine was lightly grilled a la plancha. It was served with a charcoal cream, so smooth and so smokey. The cream is actually poured onto hot charcoal then quickly strained. Next, a glass appears containing langoustine claw topped with more charcoal cream and a jelly made of langoustine stock and dashi. It was so gorgeous but once again I felt bad enjoying this when the Doc’s shellfish-allergy-friendly dish came out. It was a very simple asparagus with mint served with fresh curds and lemon verbena. I wasn’t convinced by it at all.

Langoustine Tail _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

Charcoal cream _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

Langoustine _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

Asparagus Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

Curds with edible flowers _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

Having given almost three months notice to the restaurant about our dietary requirements, and given that this is supposed to be one of the best restaurants in the world, we couldn’t help but feel cheated by how underwhelming the alternative dishes were. The meal was meant to be a big celebration for us, but it felt pretty unequal that my dish had clearly had so much care and effort (and truly I did appreciate that my dish was pretty sensational) but his dish felt like a mere afterthought. For a restaurant which produces some seriously experimental, creative and tasty dishes, two pieces of asparagus with mint and a curd dip, which wasn’t too exciting (albeit pretty), was a bit of a shame. It was a beautifully presented dip but I thought back to our meals at other high end restaurants like Noma and how much effort they made to ensure no dietary requirement limited the dining experience.

Next up was a beautiful herring dish. The texture of the fish was really unusual and the taste was fantastic. It was meaty and almost doughy (in a good way!) as if a fried doughnut or dumpling. I’ve no idea what they did but it was GOOOD. The vivid green broth had great depth of flavour, lots of savoury notes and just the right amount of saltiness. We quickly forgot the last dish and fell in love with this one. Any fish lovers would adore this!

Herring broth _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

Herring broth _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

The sommelier at the Clove Club is truly fantastic – she explained the wines so well and was patient whilst I took snaps! This next white wine, Engelgarten “Garden of the Angels” from 2014 was full bodied with a touch of residual sugar to balance the spices for the next few courses. It was actually so delicious on its own even without a bite of the meal, but paired amazingly.

Engelgarden white wine _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

Another highlight at the Clove Club has to be the bread. Oh, the bread! I don’t think I have ever had such incredible bread in London. It was on par with my favourite sourdough which we ate in Copenhagen and I ate way more than my fair share with lashings of the handmade butter.

A little cheats course of its own would be the bread with that butter and a liberal sprinkling of this cinnamon salt with fennel seeds. Seriously, Clove Club, if you had a bakery, I’d be your biggest customer (both figuratively and literally because frankly my willpower just couldn’t resist that bread?)

Cinnamon, fennel seed flakey salt_ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

Bread _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

Pollock with green curry foam _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

Rippon Pinot Noir New Zealand _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

Our final wine pairing was a 2012 Pinot Noir from New Zealand – it’s from the central Otago region. This is actually somewhere on my bucket list, where I’d love to go to try the wines and see the vineyards, surrounded by mountains and glaciers. This wine was another incredible one from the Rippon vineyards.

I wouldn’t have thought a red wine would go so well with fish but surprisingly it married perfectly with the next course of Pollock, served with sea aster and onion. It had a subtle flavour of green curry and Karolina encouraged us to sprinkle the cinnamon and fennel salt over the perfectly cooked fish. It was amazing, aromatic and delicious and one of my favourite courses!

Lamb and mint _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

The courses continued to keep coming! Next up, was the Hebridaen smoked lamb with mint jelly and lamb sauce – I loved the flavour but the lamb wasn’t quite there for me, a bit too fatty for my liking. The Doc seemed to love his so I think I just happened to have a fattier piece. The slight smokiness was a really nice touch though and I polished off the lamb sauce with a bit of bread!

I feel incredibly lucky to have tried the next course. A bottle of Madeira from 1909 was brought to our table. It literally is older than my grandad (who’s turning 9o this year!) We were given a generous swig to try. It’s sensational. Literally, my goal is to buy a bottle of this stuff to put in the cellar and to open it many years into the future! We were then advised to leave a tiny bit of the Madeira in our wine glasses, therefore, we did as we were told (it wasn’t easy – that stuff is so moreish!)

The waiter arrived with a decanter of hot duck, morel and ginger consommé which was swirled and then poured into the wine glass containing the leftover Madeira! This was really clever cooking. They were definitely onto something incredible with this. It had so much flavour and honestly was pretty sensational. I would have loved if it was poured over something, perhaps some duck breast, to have a variety of textures as on its own it’s just a lot of liquid. Especially with wine and water!

Bottle of Madeira from 1908 _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

Madeira in glasses swirling _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

Duck Consommé _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog ReviewIn keeping with the last course, we were served a 21 day aged Aylesbury duck breast with a piece of duck sausage, purée of verbena, turnip, toasted almonds and some plum puree. The duck was cooked to perfection and probably the best duck I’ve ever had! See how gloriously pink it is! I loved this very much, and the purees were so tasty I’d have loved a little more! The sausage was bold and packed with flavour so only needed a tiny smidgen with each bite.

Duck Breast with sausage _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

Duck Breast close up _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

*Drum roll please!* It’s pudding time. If you’ve made it through my foodie rambling then well done, you!

By this time, we were pretty full, but we can always find a tiny bit of space for pudding, can’t we?

Wild fennel granita came with a blood orange sauce, Ewe’s milk yoghurt, and the most incredible melt-in-the-mouth wafer, made of Ewe’s milk. There was also dehydrated blood orange and raspberry. I don’t even normally like fennel but this was just incredible refreshing. Sophisticated and balanced and a revelation! It was a really fresh pudding and I highly recommend it!

Wild Fennel Granita _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

Our final pudding was a Loquat Sorbet with Loquat Kernel Cream and puffed amaranth. I’d never actually heard of a Loquat. It was served with creme anglaise, and a foam infused with the stone. It was topped with a crisp sugar disc with puffed amaranth and popcorn crumb. A winner for any popcorn lover!

Loquat Sorbet Dessert _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

We ended the meal with petit fours of chocolates with a liquid salted caramel centre, and the most delicious barley cakes with an orange marmalade cream. Surprisingly light, just the right side of sweet and moist (yes, I said it!)

Barley Cake with Marmalade Cream _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

Reena with Sloe Sherry _ Clove Club _ Lifestyle Enthusiast Blog Review

Finally, we had the most minty bon bon made of mint liquor and Fernet Branca, a taste of fruity sloe sherry, took a photo with the chefs and left full-bellied and grinning. All-in-all it was a brilliant meal at the Clove Club, and a great way to reminisce on our first date, three years ago. Oh and this time, I was right on time (!)

Happy Anniversary Doc, here’s to many more delicious dinners together! xx

Check out the Clove Club over on their website here.

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