North West London Love II

I clearly had more love for the north west than I bargained for, so here is part deux:

Tapas: El Parador
245 Eversholt St, London NW1 1BA     (020) 7387 2789
El Parador wins on genuine service and generously portioned and flawless dishes, because of this it is consistently busy but always accommodating. The regulars love it so much and wanting to cook the El Parador way opening hours pleaded with the owners to lay their recipes down in a cook book.
Simple chargrilled artichoke hearts with white wine, capers and basil oil - morcilla with saffron oil, pine nuts and spinach
good old calamari - mackerel fillets with chickpeas and lemon
Much loved staples like the herb rolled braised pork belly and rosemary grilled octopus, however the vegetarian options are also plentiful and so tasty they temporarily trick my carnivorous brain in thinking I could survive on such dishes alone! Temptresses like roasted beet salad with goat’s cheese and ruby chard and artichoke hearts with caramelised onions, chickpeas and mint are packed with flavour.
Cheesecake of the day : Coffee and dark chocolate
Daily specials offered are seasonal and shakes up the usual suspects on the menu . And then to desert, where if you don't get a slice of the legendary cheesecake, then you might as well go home. It is quite simply the best I have ever had!
El Parador on Urbanspoon

The Dim Sum Place: Wing Tai
395 Edgware Road, Cricklewood NW2 6LN     (020) 8450 0422
Amongst the Brent Cross industrial abyss lies Wing Yip’s neighbouring restaurant Wing Tai. It is a popular stop for post Asian food shopping and worth a diversion from the generic eateries or IKEA canteen (though I have secret love for their meatball deal). The general menu is verging on good but must stress this place is hardly destination dining more of a diversion worth taking.

I come for the dim sum. There is little to no competition in this area and there nothing I like more than a good juicy har kau or filled bean curd roll. Pick up some oyster sauce and munch on some dumplings and you are winning!

I can't resist a freshly baked char sui bun. Sticky char sui pork, flaky sesame egg washed pastry casing.Mmm
Classic little prawn and chive dumpling, on goes the chilli oil...

Crab sticks in bean curd snuggled with taro and woody mushroom - good.
Turnip cake, made on fish cake principles, mushed and earthy.
The Local Butcher: Brooks Butchers
91 Chamberlayne Road, London NW10 3ND     (020) 8964 5678
As mentionned previously, I get all my meat from Brooks Butchers which prides themselves in sourcing meat from suppliers who believe forefrontly in provenance. Majority of the meat has come from fourth generation farmer Howard Blackwell whilst the pork is from Packington Free Range  . Staples like sausages come in an array of classic cumberland to more off piste beef and slow roasted tomatoes all made on site as well as the home smoked bacon, then there's every cut from each beast available. They also have a good selection of fresh vegetables, cheeses, smoked fish and fresh as well as deli favourites.
Shop windows at its best - the Meat Gallery

Handsome piece: Bone in Forerib
Veg selection for dinner or duck eggs for a princely breakfast

The Salt Beef Guy: B&K Salt beef bar
11 Lanson House, Whitchurch Lane, Edgware, London, HA8 6NL     (020) 8952 8204
I am going to stick my neck out there and say contrary to east London belief the Brick Lane salt beef bagels are not the best in town. For that you go to the nearest to Jewish home cooking that you can, found in B&K Salt Beef Bar.

THE sandwich
  Imagine a classic British cafe but Jewish style, so the decor is dated but charmingly so, food is traditional family fare and the staff knows everyone by their nicknames. Swap the grease for a gigantic hunk of juicy salt beef showing off in the window, and drool whilst it’s sliced up and layered tall and proud in between home baked rye bread and slathered in punchy English mustard, served with boat like pickled gherkins. SO good.

The meat -  tongue and salt beef
Pre pimped dumpling soup

Pimped up broth with noodles and beef chunks
Good bit of picklage
B&K Salt Beef Bar on Urbanspoon


North West London Love

For all my twenty five years I have remained entirely within a north west postcode - discounting the LS1 whilst at uni. Gravitating around the leafy Hampstead heights to the bottom of the hill of diverse (in all sense of the word ) Cricklewood and all hoods in between. If ever you find yourself in my neck of the woods check these places out, I can vouch that they are the best around, up north anyway!

The Chinese: Green Cottage
9 New College Parade, Finchley Road, NW3 5EP     (020) 7722 5305    
My dear friend Amelia and I have been coming here for a decade. I warn service is hit or miss, though this is not the reason it’s kept its place in the local’s hearts and bellies. For that we have the mixed BBQ meats on rice. Yes it’s a staple on any Chinese menu, but what every other lacks is the indescribable nectar like sauce that's generously poured on top.

Mixed meat on rice with magic sauce - Chinese tea
Salt and chili squid again is another staple but here it is escalated to perfection. The batter is crisp with minimal grease, the squid slithers have a bite but still juicy.
Baby squid not to be confused with THE salt and chili squid (right picture)

And for the Asian favourite flavour muddle of sweet and savoury I highly recommend honeyed prawns. Butterflied and lightly battered prawns tossed in sticky honey and garlic with a third nutty dimension.
Honeyed Prawns - Bejing duck and pancakes
When we occasionally stray from the above Green Cottage also do hearty clay pots, and unashamedly from time to time I tuck into their mean pork sweet and sour. Boundary breaking it is not, but to do something well that is so often poorly interpreted is a feat worth shouting about.
Green Cottage on Urbanspoon

The Gastropub: The Bull and Last
168 Highgate Road, London NW5 1QS     (020) 7267 3641      
I had been very faithful to the Holly Bush for quite a while but noticed the food was getting a little tired, so off to pastures new. Across the heath to the home of legendary scotch eggs, fine fish and charcuterie boards and homemade chocolate salt caramels. Hello Bull and Last!
I will be astounded if you find a better always runny scotch egg than this on our fair land!

Homemade Charcuterie Board:
Duck prosciutto, chicken liver parfait, ham hock terrine, rillettes, pig's head, remoulade and toast
The Bull and Last have covered all bases of the gastropub genre with big fat high fives. Pub culture nailed with relaxed and manly (provided with the taxidermy bull heads and the like) surroundings, easily allowing for a drunken stupor to creep up on you.  Bar shelves abundantly stocked with good poisons and guest ales on tap, this is not to mention super quaff able wines. Essence of a good local remains with the sincere staff.
Salad of Crubeens:
Breaded stuffed trotters, speck ham, dandelion, beetroot and soft egg dressing.
Salty sweet doughnut fingers with dulce de leche and yoghurt sorbet and in my opinion the best of the array of homemade ice creams, prune and armangac but if that doesn't float your boat apple crumble, ferrero rocher or millionaire shortbread flavour might!
Where the Bull and Last smacks it is the food. Whether you are going all out for a Sunday roast rib of beef or a snackette of trotter wontons, it won’t disappoint. There are many an interesting thing happening in the kitchen, starting from well sourced produce and conjuring of new flavours and combinations, living up to the quality British food a gastropub is renowned for.

Triple cooked chips you would fight over!
Duck egg, confit hearts, sauteed potatoes, alscace bacon lardons and wild mushrooms. Rich, savoury, perfect.
Bull & Last on Urbanspoon

The Bagel Shop: Beigel Bakery
92 Cricklewood Broadway, London NW2 3EL     (020) 8450 9084
Cricklewood and West Hampstead have some great long standing bakeries. I bulk buy bagels for lazy weekend brunches and my midweek pastrami bagel! You can't go wrong at 45p a pop with a choice from caraway to cinnamon and raisin. The chunky loops are chewy and dense in the middle and have a crusty bottom with bite. And for those extra lazy days pre fill them with trad sandwich fillers. Swing by if you're round, your smoked salmon will thank you next Saturday!

The Sushi Place: Cafe Japan        
626 Finchley Road NW11 7RR     (020) 8455 6854    
This little wooden clad corner in Golders Green bides it's time silently but always brings in the sushi starved. First step in and the Japanese order and serenity hits you, the chefs warmly greet you from the bar and carry on methodically. I love this place for it's freshness and simplicity. What's the point of sushi if it doesn't taste pure? I find good sushi has remedial qualities and I often come here for a refuelling Sunday lunch or a takeaway for a healthy and not too heavy dinner.
Cold counter ready for slicing and rolling - Sweet shrimp roll
My favourite sushi: salmon roe roll

Cafe Japan on Urbanspoon



Ribbed Long Sleeve Top - Topshop
Waistcoat and necklace - H&M
Silk Mix Joggers and Heels - Topshop

Chicken Pie!
When I made this pie the other night I made sure there was a generous portion for my lunch and seperated the pastry to prevent it from turning completely sodden. With a little help of the canteen upstairs it was heated to crispy perfection and voila, pie as if it were fresh outta the oven, with a good dose of veg in the form of roast squash, cabbage and spinach.



PU biker - Topshop
Batik tee - from market in Antigua
Turned up jeans - thrifted from NYC
Faux ponyskin ink wedges - Topshop
Necklaces from chazza shops

Roast Squash, Bulgar wheat and Feta Salad
A salad that reads as the above but with the addition of rocket and homemade babaganoush. Fairly simple to make; soften whole aubergines over hob's open flame, scrape the flesh out and blitz with tahini, olive oil, lots of lemon juice, garlic and seasoning.



Wool mix shirt - East End thrift store
PU leggings - a Topshop staple
 Khaki boots - Kurt Geiger
Burnt Red Bag - Topshop 

Mish Mashed Left Over Curry
Beef was sweated down in a lemony spiced mix and onion slithers added. The curry was actually some homemade daal with some cauliflower and spinach added in with extra cumin and corriander. The bread was a quick diy flatbread; simply plain flour, water and seasoning mixed until forms a ball I like to add in carraway or fennel seeds for extra flavour then get a saucepan sizzling and toast them off.



Cobweb Knit - Topshop
Sheer Slit Midi - H&M
Boots - Acne
Necklace - Urban Outfitters
Lamb and Homemade Taboulleh and Pickled Cabbage
Last night was roast lamb night, very traditional potatoes etc but todays guise couldnt have been anymore different. Flinged into the Med with red cabbage easily pickled in white wine vinegar and sugar and bulgar wheat mixed with heaps of parsley, deseeded and chopped tomatoes, crushed garlic, lemon juice and a generous dash of olive oil. Oh and some salad leaves!



So, it's been a while but here is the first day of a week of lunches and outfits. This has become a bit of a default outfit, skinny indigo jeans, white tee, converse but add a geomtric patterned kimono et voila!

 Kimono - Vintage Tee - Urban Outfitters
Jeans - Topshop Leighs
New ring - Ottoman hands
Gold cluster ring - mums
Bangles - gift and Banana Republic
Chilli Con Carne
It is Monday so an easy lunch, from the freezer stash a portion of chilli with leftover rice,
with drizzles of sour cream, mature cheddar shavings and a good squeeze of lime!


Pitt Cue Co. Parks Up

Sun, lingering nights and smoky wafts of barbecue makes summer. Last year the first proper contender to the smoking and barbecue emporiums of the Deep South parked up for the season on the Southbank. A glorious shiny silver carriage with a giant pig emblem, the Pitt Cue Co. had arrived to whet our taste buds but left shortly leaving the hoards pining for more. Up until mid last week I had in filled my dreams of juicy strips of pulled pork with a ridiculous amount of Triple D viewing instead, but lo and behold confirmation of a permanent shop set up for the PCC came and saved me from salivating at my TV screen.
The gleaming van of pure goodness.
Pulled pork smoked over hickory, homemade beans, creamy slaw and charred soda bread for mopping.

Genuine love for the smoker and tasty meat results brought Jamie Berger and Tom Adams to set up a mobile eatery and now a restaurant. The menu reads like an extended version of last summer’s, pulled pork and brisket as a standard but also a changing cut of steak, sausages and more unexpected smoked cuts like oxtail and cheek. From memory the meat was super succulent as you would expect from being smoked for hours, with the undesirable gristly bits in the meat literally breaking down into sugars, but the beauty of it came also from the sides as well and the quality of the meat (all pigs used were Gloucester Old Spots.)
Pure deliciousness - pulled pork

Traditional accompaniments are of course coleslaw which when served out of the van was a lusciously creamy and cumin-y spiced but this is being traded in for a more punchy sounding version with fennel and onions steeped in vinegar and pepped up with fresh herbs. Others include turtle baked beans and pickles as a standard. Plus the much loved pickle back and skin is there to stay; a shot of whiskey, pickle brine chaser and curls of crackling to be consumed in that order.
Pickle back and skin

Needless to say I am beside myself that I can now relive those summer nights in just a couple of weeks, and will be able to do so for the foreseeable future. 1 Newburgh Street has now become my new favourite address in London, and for just a tenner for a meal or a take away bun for £6.50 I can predict I will not be the only one. Hurrah for the pig, the smoker and the Pitt Cue Co!

Pitt Cue Co on Urbanspoon


Pre Fall 2012: A Supreme Dose of Chanel Love

The festive period was a glorious blur of excess, but inbetween port swizzling and bird basting I flicked through the new looks pre fall presented only to be mesmerised by the latest offer from the Lagerfeld. The entire show and backdrop was magical; towering colourful treats and rose petal scattered sand was a maharaja worthy setting and metallic oyster legs, entwined pearl tweed, dreadlocks dripping in strands of jewels all added up to a perfect uniform for exploring India, the Chanel way. I loved the mixed tones of opulence, discreet yet meticulous tonal embroidery but balanced with obvious clusters of gems.The traditional indian palette had a monochrome take over in a new a form of layered organza and sheers with a nod to brights, but the most beautiful eye popping kind...

Photos from Olivia da Costa of Please! and style.com