Tag Archives: dining_out

UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant

UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore RestaurantThis post is part of a travel series on Miranda’s Notebook detailing my holiday in Penzance, Cornwall. Throughout the week, I’ll be sharing all about where we stayed and what we did, as well as restaurant recommendations and a general guide to the area, so do keep checking back for updates!

We certainly did a lot of good eating whilst in Penzance, but there is one meal in particular that stands out as a highlight of our trip. I admit that The Shore will likely fail to please if you’re not a fan of fish, but for those of us who enjoy nothing better than a taste of the sea, The Shore is a must-visit on your Penzance list.

Bruce Rennie runs the restaurant, which is essentially a one-man operation; a labour of love that pays homage to the bountiful offerings of the Cornish coast. Having previously worked in the prestigious, two-star Michelin restaurant Martin Wishart in Edinburgh, Rennie has been long-settled in Cornwall and delights in producing a regularly changing small menu that showcases freshly caught, local fish and produce (a lot of which is foraged by Rennie himself).

UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant

We had a booking for supper on our first night in Cornwall, and ambled along the twisting streets from our B&B to the restaurant, enjoying the golden glow of the evening light.

On arriving at the restaurant, we were greeted warmly and shown to our table, where some thickly cut slices of homemade bread and a generous helping of Cornish butter appeared at our table, alongside the bottle of prosecco we ordered. The Shore has a fuss-free, pleasant interior, with painted white walls and a blue ceiling, light wooden furniture and silver light fixtures and wall displays reminiscent of coral. It reminded me of the beachside restaurants I grew up with on Long Island, and I instantly felt at home.

UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant

Sipping my fizz, I turned my mind to the menu and began the hugely enjoyable task of choosing what I’d like. I adore fish, so it was a real treat to sample the local catch, and I had a hard time deciding which dishes to choose. Did I fancy pollack or brill? Red mullet or hake? Or possibly a spider crab broth?

In the end, I settled on Cured Pollack with Apple, Dill and Wasabi, and Mum chose Brill with Cafe de Paris Hollandaise and Asparagus.

UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant

Both dishes were incredible: everything on my plate was fresh and vibrant, the delicacy of the fish balanced perfectly against the sweet crispness of the apple and slight heat of wasabi. My mum pronounced her hollandaise sauce utterly blissful alongside expertly cooked brill.

For our mains, I’d chosen Sole (a favourite of mine) with Artichoke and Asparagus Nage, Orzo Pasta and Tarragon. Mum went for Cod with Potato Terrine, Cockles, Celeriac and Sprouting Broccoli.

UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant

My choice tasted like spring on a plate: the tarragon in the broth brought a wonderful zest to the dish, and the vegetables were cooked just right. I loved the mix of radish, asparagus, carrot and artichoke, and of course the fish was beautifully done, standing up well to the heady mix of flavours. I tried a little of my Mum’s plate too, and agreed it was superb.

By this point, it was getting dark, and the candles flickered in their shell-like vessels as we took a little break before choosing dessert. It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that I can rarely resist a chocolate-based pudding, so eventually I put in my request for Valrhona Manjari Chocolate Delice with Passion Fruit Sorbet and Honeycomb. Mum was less predictable with her order of Banana Parfait with Hazelnuts, Lime and and Coffee.

UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant

My dessert was a rich, deep, velvet chocolate that was extremely satisfying, and I loved my Mum’s playful concoction too, which was just as delicious as it was pretty.

As we were finishing our meal, the Chef himself came out to greet us and chat about his menu choices and love for Cornwall. It’s clear that Bruce Rennie is extremely passionate about what he does, and puts a great deal of thought and care into every detail of his restaurant, including the exact shade of blue paint, which he told us took him months to decide. His strong vision and desire for the very best shines through his cooking, and I can’t wait for whenever we can return to Penzance and to The Shore. As my Mum said, the food alone is worth the train journey from London!

+++ The Shore restaurant is open for lunch Friday-Saturday, 12.30-13.30 and for supper Tuesday-Saturday, 18.30 – 21.00. It’s strongly advised that you make a booking and give notice of any dietary requirements or allergies in advance of your meal. +++

Note: our meal at The Shore was complimentary for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.

UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room

UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room

This post is the first in a travel series on Miranda’s Notebook detailing my holiday in Penzance, Cornwall. Over the next week, I’ll be sharing all about where we stayed and what we did, as well as restaurant recommendations and a general guide to the area, so do keep checking back for updates!

First Class Tickets to Penzance

I never would have thought that a train journey could feel like a holiday, but then I’d never travelled First Class by Great Western Railways before. I was so excited to be headed to Cornwall with my Mum, who happily had some annual leave and so was able to accept my invitation to travel down with me. It had been a while since we’d had a proper trip out of London just the two of us, and as soon as we wheeled our luggage into Great Western Railway’s first class lounge at Paddington Station, I knew that this would be a holiday neither of us would forget.

UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room

After a 5am start (we were keen to arrive in Penzance in time for lunch), I wasn’t feeling at my brightest, but after helping myself to the complimentary pastries, fruit and tea on offer in the waiting lounge and sinking into a comfy leather armchair, I began to perk up. This, I reflected, was a rather splendid contrast to my typical dash for the train, preceded by a coffee-to-go from Starbucks.

UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room

The train journey felt just as luxurious, and proved the absolute ideal situation for me to work. If only I could write all blog posts in a comfy chair, with room to spread out my papers all around me, beautiful scenery flying past, and a trolley wheeled by every 45 minutes or so, dispensing free tea, coffee and delicious fruit cake (there were other nice snacks, but I was particularly fond of the fruit cake). I’m sure I’d never procrastinate again! I certainly flew through the work I had to get done, and by the time the train entered Cornwall, I was able to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

It felt like no time at all before we were pulling into Penzance, and (despite the fruit cake), I was looking forward to the first stop on our agenda: brunch at The Front Room.

The Front Room

UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room

The Front Room is a charming cafe a mere 3 minute walk from Penzance train station, so a great place to know about if you’re hungry on arrival! It gets very busy over the lunch hour, but fortunately there are lots of nooks and crannies, as well as a pretty little garden, offering plenty of seating.

Katie, one of the owners, gave us a warm welcome when we arrived and was a fabulous source of knowledge on places to explore in Penzance, filling me in on which bookshops, independent shops and pubs she thought I’d enjoy in the area. I scribbled down all her suggestions, and we managed to make it to all of them in the time we were there!

Eating at The Front Room feels like you’re having tea or lunch in someone’s home, as the service is so friendly and the decor so cosy. It’s a very inviting space for children too  – there’s even a playpen tucked under the stairs, full of toys for your toddlers to enjoy as you eat your lunch in peace! Let me take you on a tour:

UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room

For brunch, Mum opted for the Full Cornish Veggie (toast, eggs, beans, avocado, veggie sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes and hashbrowns), and I went for the traditional Full Cornish (sausage, bacon, black pudding, eggs, beans, toast, hashbrowns, tomatoes and mushrooms). I do think the sausages in Cornwall taste particularly good! Mum had coffee, and I – predictably – ordered a pot of tea (I must be 80% tea).

UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room

We both thoroughly enjoyed our brunch, which was all cooked to perfection and was just what we needed to set us up for an afternoon exploring Penzance. I rather regretfully decided I was too full to try one of the delicious looking cakes placed invitingly in the window and contented myself with pouring some more tea. Mum is the coffee expert (I rarely drink it), and she said her cup was wonderful. Katie told us all the coffee she uses is by Origin, which is renowned for its exceptional brews.

I’d discovered that EE phone network coverage doesn’t operate in Penzance (apparently you have to be on O2), but happily the Front Room had free wi-fi, so I was able to look up how to get to our B&B.

I’ll be sharing the details of our charming B&B overlooking the sea tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Have you ever travelled first class by train before? Did you enjoy it? Are you as partial to a Full English (or full Cornish!) as I am?!

Great Western Railway First Class journeys from Padding to Penzance start from as little as £56. See more details and book tickets here (make sure to book ahead to get the best deals!). 

The Front Room serves wholesome breakfast, brunch, light lunch dishes, cake and cream teas Monday-Saturday 8am-5pm and Sunday 10am-2pm.

Note: our train tickets and brunch at The Front Room were complimentary, but – as always – the opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

UK Travel | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 2)

UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook

I have been having so much fun travelling around the UK lately. I’ve just returned from a few days in Penzance, Cornwall, but before I get started on those travel posts, I wanted to share my final day in York with you. We had a brilliant time, and I discovered some fantastic places that I wanted to tell you about.

York Museum Gardens

We started the morning walking up from the station, admiring the gorgeous blossom and daffodils along the way, to the York Museum Gardens, which are set in the surroundings of the picturesque ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey. It was a superb park to visit in the spring, where blossom peeked through the ruined archways. It was so warm that I didn’t need a coat or scarf and could just enjoy my floaty blue dress (another wonderful gift from TOAST, which has already become one of my travel staples, as it’s so comfy and doesn’t crease!).

To my delight, there was a birds of prey show on in the gardens, where you could pay a few pounds to hold any of their birds. I felt a little intimidated by the goshawks (despite being rather fascinated by them ever since reading H is for Hawk), so I picked a snowy little owl that reminded me of Harry Potter’s Hedwig. She was a delight to hold, and I even got to stroke her incredibly soft feathers.

UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's NotebookUK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's NotebookUK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's NotebookUK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's NotebookUK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook

York Minster

After enjoying our time in the park, we ambled our way towards York Minster and had a thorough rummage through the interesting shops (especially the secondhand bookshop!) and stalls that are clustered near the Minster. The main branch of Bettys  – my favourite Yorkshire tea shop and well worth a visit if you’ve never been – is also very close to York Minster, so we took the opportunity to pick up a few goodies for the train journey back to London.

UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's NotebookUK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's NotebookUK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook

York’s Independent Shops and Cafes

By this point, it was definitely time for some lunch, so we wound our way to Fossgate / Walmgate, which are parts of a lovely stretch of road (divided by a pretty little bridge) full of interesting independent shops, bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, being Sunday (remember my point about opening hours outside London?!), most places were closed, but whenever I’m next in York, I’m definitely stopping by The Hairy Fig, a fantastic looking deli, and Paper Pod, which looked like it had beautiful stationery supplies.

UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook

We did pop into Spring, which was happily open and is reported to have the best coffee in York. My Mum loves her coffee, and she pronounced her cup delicious!

A Fantastic Wine Bar

Feeling in the mood for something more substantial than a hot drink, though, we continued down the street until we stumbled on a charming little wine bar, Cave du Cochon, which had a very tempting sounding BBQ and glass of wine deal on for lunch. It doesn’t take much to persuade me into a wine bar, and the delicious aroma of a smoky barbecue wafting into the street, coupled with the promise of a cool, crisp glass of wine, had me bounding through the door.

UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook

As it was such a nice day, we took advantage of the bar’s pretty outside terrace, which we had almost to ourselves. Cave du Cochon has a sister restaurant, Le Cochon Aveugle, which is said to serve delicious French food (another place on my list for when I return!), and this means that great attention to detail and pride in serving delicious food has spilt over to Cave du Cochon, which served up some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had. A perfectly toasted bun was covered in BBQ-ed beef, with toppings of pickled carrots and cucumber and a dollop of well-seasoned crème fraîche.

The wine was excellent too; we were guided by the hugely informative and helpful barman to choose a lovely French white, and he also gave us a little lesson on natural, organic and biodynamic wines, letting us taste a couple, which was fascinating. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we contemplated lingering in the sun over a second glass, but I wanted to explore a little more, so we headed out to take a walk along the city walls instead.

Fantastic Views and Terrific Brownies

UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook

The ancient walls are incredibly narrow, so progress is a little slow, as you repeatedly stand aside to let people pass, but that means there’s all the more time to admire the gorgeous view of the city spread out before you. I especially enjoyed getting a glimpse of York Minster towering above the rooftops.

After our walk, we realised we had about an hour to spare before catching our train, so we decided to have a cup of tea and one of the famous brownies from Brew and Brownie.

UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook

We both went for the triple chocolate brownie, which was just as good as it sounds, and set us up nicely for the journey home!

Have you been to any of the places in York that I enjoyed? Are you planning a trip to the city soon?

P.S. Read my other posts about our York holiday here and here.

T&T 24 | Brontë Aurell and Scandi Kitchen

Bronte Aurell and Scandi Kitchen

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle Episode here or on iTunes.

There’s a change to the Tea & Tattle routine today, as because Sophie and I have had conflicting schedules lately (she’s been in the States and travelling around the UK, and I’ve been juggling a lot on my plate lately too), we couldn’t quite make a date work for recording. Happily, though, Sophie will be back on the podcast for our first episode in May, and I’ve got a brilliant guest for you today: Brontë Aurell of Scandi Kitchen.

Originally from Denmark, Brontë now lives in London, and she founded Scandi Kitchen, a charming cafe on Great Titchfield street, with her husband several years ago. Since then Scandi Kitchen has gone from strength to strength, garnering a large base of devoted customers. I love to drop by for a cheeky post-gym serving of meatballs, or one of Brontë’s delicious cinnamon buns.

Brontë has also written some brilliant cookbooks – The Scandi Kitchen and Fika and Hygge – as well as the recently published, The Essence of Hygge, which I have yet to read, but I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy! I own both of Brontë’s cookbooks and am a huge fan of her tasty recipes. In fact, as a little thanks for all the support we have had for Tea & Tattle so far (we’re coming up to our 6 month anniversary in May!), I’ve decided to give away a signed copy of Fika and Hygge to a Tea & Tattle listener (the giveaway is open to international listeners too).

***To enter the giveaway, simply put a comment on my instagram picture and tag a friend who you think would enjoy Tea & Tattle podcast too.*** 

I so enjoyed this chat with Brontë, where we discussed how Brontë’s childhood influenced her love of food, as well as how she balances her busy professional and family lives and some of the biggest challenges she and her husband have faced in running a small business in London (including giving birth on the day Scandi Kitchen opened!). I was also fascinated to hear Brontë explain what hygge means to her and how she finds moments of hygge in London.

Listen for an interesting conversation on  Scandinavian culture, the difference between hygge and lagom, some great baking advice and much more. 

T&T 23 | All About Wine With Amelia Singer

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle Podcast Episode here or on iTunes.

This Tuesday, I’m joined by the utterly delightful Amelia Singer, a wine educator and expert. You may recognise Amelia as a host on ITV’s The Wine Show and also from her videos on Jamie Oliver’s Drinks Tube. Amelia runs her online website and event business, offering a range of events, wine tastings and insights into the wine industry. I can’t wait to book one of Amelia’s Mews House Musings supper clubs, which she hosts in her own home in Notting Hill.

Amelia Singer and fellow co-hosts of The Wine Show. Photo credit: The Wine Show.

I’m a big fan of Amelia’s fun, accessible approach to wine, and I had a wonderful time chatting to her for this episode. Our talk ranged from what it’s like to be a woman in a fairly male-dominated industry, to Amelia’s favourite book and wine pairings.

We also discussed the best way to serve champagne (and surprising food that goes particularly well with bubbles – who knew fish & chips would be such a hit?!), as well as great wine bars in London and what drink to order on a first date. Amelia is such an incredible source of knowledge on everything wine related – I could have spoken to her for hours!

Middlemarch by George Eliot (one of Amelia’s favourite books)

Listen for a fun conversation on women in the wine industry, book and wine pairings, what to drink on a first date and so much more. 

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Review

You know those days when you’re craving a steak? Or a proper burger? Possibly a milkshake too? Well, I’ve got just the place for you. Dirty Bones in Shoreditch is a mere 2 minute walk from Shoreditch High Street station and is a great option for when you’re in the mood for some American comfort food.

I met a friend for lunch there last week, and our meal brought back memories of my childhood growing up in California and New York. There are many American classics listed on the menu, from hot wings to proper mac and cheese, but with an updated twist that elevates these traditional comfort foods to a fantastic dining experience.

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Review

The restaurant itself feels very ‘London’ to me, with its muted tones and piles of vintage books (and even a vintage typewriter) scattered about. I arrived rather early and snapped a few shots before tables filled up. Sunlight streamed through the windows, and I ordered a chai tea and some freshly pressed apple juice, taking a seat on one of the plush velvet sofas as I waited for my friend.

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review

I barely had time to pull my book out of my bag before he arrived, and we got down to the serious business of deciding what to eat, ordering a glass of prosecco to help the decision process.

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review

Dirty Bones’s menu is seriously tempting, and I was torn between a burger or steak. In the end I decided steak, but I think I’ll have to go back to try the burger soon, as it sounded amazing as well. To start things off though, I ordered salt + pepper squid (I can never resist this dish when I see it on a menu, as it’s one of my favourites, and it’s also a good test of a restaurant, as there’s nothing worse than rubbery squid!), and my friend ordered the chicken hot wings.

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review

I really loved the presentation of these starters, served in little enamel dishes, from which we could pile our plates. I’m definitely using this idea for serving snacks and canapes at home! My squid was beautifully tender, and – a little to my surprise, as I don’t normally like spicy dishes –  I loved the chilli and chipotle aioli drizzled generously on top. The sauce provided a great kick of flavour without being overpowering. My friend enjoyed the squid a lot too, but he was fairly busy demolishing the chicken wings, which I tasted as well, and thought were very good.

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review

Next up – the mains! I’d gone for the flat iron steak, and my friend plumped for the Shoreditch Signature dish: lamb cutlets served with a tangy jalapeño sauce. We’d chosen one side dish each too: I threw any thought of calorie counting to the wind and put my order in for cheesy truffle fries (yum), with my friend showing a little more restraint and opting for grilled aubergine layered with parmesan and a tomato, garlic and basil sauce.

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review

I hadn’t realised that what is stated on the menu really is all you get, so my steak wasn’t served with even a garnish of salad, and in retrospect, I would recommend ordering 3 side dishes between two people and making sure one of them is a leafy salad, or perhaps a ‘crunchy slaw.’ I must say though, that steak and chips is always a favourite combination of mine, and my steak was cooked to perfection: succulent, tender and pink. The cheesy truffle fries are layered with a  cheese sauce, cheddar, aged parmesan and white truffle oil and are just the kind of thing you fantasise about if you’ve been on a no-carbs diet for too long ( in my case, about a day).

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review

I was so busy polishing off my steak and airing my thoughts on The Lord of the Rings (my friend is currently reading it and isn’t too impressed, and we were both agreeing the book could do with some serious editing), that I forgot to taste my friend’s cutlets, but he pronounced them exceedingly good. We both shared our side dishes, though. Personally, I find it hard to beat anything involving carbs, cheese and truffle oil, but the aubergine was very yummy too.

Our decadence didn’t end there, as next we were presented with the dessert menu. I loved the playful choices that were a throwback to childhood: waffles, doughnuts, cookies and ice-cream. My friend went with the peanut butter cookie cup, and I chose the milk & cookie – milk gelato with a deliciously chocolatey biscuit.

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant ReviewLondon Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review

The milk gelato was incredible – it had a delicacy to it that paired perfectly with the richness of the chocolate, but was also exceedingly good all by itself. My friend’s choice was also excellent  – perfect for peanut butter lovers!

We both thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Dirty Bones, and I definitely recommend dropping by next time you’re in Shoreditch. There are also branches in Kensington and Carnaby, and one about to open in Soho (which I think is great, as Dirty Bones has the perfect Dean Street vibe to it!). This is a terrific restaurant to go to with an old friend – someone you can split cheesy fries and ice-cream and cookies with without feeling self-conscious. I also think it would provide great atmosphere for a birthday gathering, and it’s worth remembering there’s a great cocktail hour and often live music in the evenings!

Do you like the look of the Dirty Bones menu? What are your favourite American comfort food dishes?

Note: our meal was complimentary, but all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and those of my friend. 

5 Incredibly Romantic London Meals

5 Incredibly Romantic London Meals

Written in celebration of ‘romance,’ February’s blog word of the month. 

This article is a contributor post by Claire Jones. As well as being a fantastic writer, Claire is known amongst her friends as always having exceptional food and book recommendations. I knew she’d be the perfect person to write about her most romantic London meals, and this fabulous list, from the most beautiful proposal to a perfect date night, definitely has my heart fluttering! – Miranda

The 5 Most Romantic Meals I’ve Had in London

by Claire Jones

The most personal of these romantic meals was a picnic in Kensington Gardens where my boyfriend – now husband – proposed. Picnics have always been special to us, marking several defining moments in our relationship, so it was the perfect way to pop the question in a semi-secluded area beneath a tree. London spoils us with a variety of romantic picnic spots and shops, delis, or restaurants that provide lush picnic food. We chose to go to the nearby Whole Foods for cheese, charcuterie, and pink champagne. We had brought our picnic bag from home that, unbeknown to me, carried new picnicware, our cutlery and napkins from home, and a surprise ring box. Even if the picnic is not going to be as momentous as a proposal one, it’s still a delightful way to while away a dry afternoon in London, spending quality time together.

Our engagement came in two parts: the following evening we celebrated at City Social, Jason Atherton’s Michelin starred restaurant in Tower 42. We toasted our future with quirky, imaginative cocktails while looking over the city at dusk; we moved from aperitifs to a secluded table that looked out the floor-to-ceiling windows to the Gherkin. A year later we celebrated our wedding in the private dining room, again looking out at the city lights.

A highlight of City Social is the apple tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce to share – what’s more romantic than a dessert between two?! If you don’t have a sweet tooth, or you are simply not inclined to share food, then there is also a delectable cheese trolley.

Love is in the air. There are now several restaurants in London skyscrapers that provide breathtaking views of London, but Duck & Waffle is the highest and does so twenty four hours a day. Watching the sun rise together high above the city is a special experience to have but it helps that breakfast is great too! Order individual dishes but be sure to share a portion of the signature duck & waffle, the sweet and savoury components complementing each other as all good relationships should.

Whoever said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, has never eaten in Hawksmoor… Hawksmoor’s steak is the way to everyone’s heart. Purveyors of the best steak in London, it’s not a conventionally romantic venue but it makes for a wonderful date night. I prefer the ambience of the Seven Dials restaurant but each of the Art Deco outposts offer elegance, fantastic food and drinks, plus unsurpassed levels of customer service. Hawksmoor offers sumptuous, indulgent food and a well-stocked bar for pre-dinner or post-dinner drinks.

Situated in The Berkeley, Marcus is the eponymous two Michelin starred restaurant owned by Marcus Wareing. Whether you opt for the seasonal tasting menus or a la carte, both using British ingredients, Marcus is an unforgettable meal. It is a restaurant that creates memories while serving precision cooking and an extensive wine list. The Berkeley is an impressive venue and the restaurant is highly acclaimed and deservedly so. Desserts are especially sensual and well-recommended. Marcus is very much a special occasion restaurant and one to go to when romancing or being romanced, to wow or be wowed.

Paris may be considered the city of love but London is most certainly a city of romance.

***

Claire Jones is originally from Glasgow, but now lives in London and works in publishing. You can follow her adventures in London and beyond through her fabulous instagram account. If you like adorable pictures of cats and great food and book recommendations, then Claire should definitely be on your ‘following’ list.

***

Goodness, I can’t wait to try out all of these restaurants! I completely agree with Claire that Hawksmoor is the perfect setting for a date: steak is certainly a way to my heart, and one of the best dates I’ve been on was at the Covent Garden Hawksmoor branch. And Marcus sounds the perfect setting to get swept off my feet…. I love how in the end, though, Claire’s most romantic meal was a simple picnic in a London park.

How about you? What are some of the most romantic meals you’ve ever had? Are you keen to try any of the restaurants Claire recommends?

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London Food | Veneta, St James’s

London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook

A few weeks ago, my friend Arthur took me to lunch at the newly opened restaurant, Veneta, in St James’s. Veneta is the latest enterprise under the Salt Yard Group, and its menu is inspired by Venetian cuisine. The restaurant’s interior evokes the beautiful city too, with its watery green colour scheme, elaborate chandeliers and ironwork reminiscent of long, black gondolas.

London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook

It’s been many years since I was in Venice, but I still remember ordering my first proper fritto misto there, which was delicious. There’s nothing so obvious as fritto misto on the Veneta menu, but there is plenty of fish and seafood, as well as imaginative pasta and risotto dishes.

Arthur and I started off with some deliciously plump green olives as we perused the menu and caught up on each other’s news.

London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook

The menu is tapas style, with a suggested 2-3 plates each to share. I have to admit, I’m getting slightly bored of tapas; to me it feels like the trend has been rather over done in London. However, it is a nice way to sample different dishes, and the Veneta menu certainly has a wide-range of options, so even if you’re dining with people with certain dietary requirements, you shouldn’t find your choice too restricted. Arthur and I decided to sample a dish from the raw bar first: Cornish mackerel tartare with fennel pollen.

London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook

This dish was exquisitely done: the mackerel had a surprisingly delicate flavour (it’s quite a pungent fish when cooked!) and the light dressing was the perfect match.

I settled down to thoroughly enjoy my meal, soaking up the warmth and vibrancy of the restaurant, as it was a decidedly damp and cold day outside.

London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook

Next up was a bowl of steamed clams and cockles in a garlic, parsley, lemon and cinnamon broth, as well as wild mushroom and truffle risotto with gremolata (a chopped herb condiment made with parsley, lemon zest and garlic).

London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's NotebookLondon Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook

Both Arthur and I agreed at the end that the stand-out dish of the whole meal was the risotto. Far from the typical second-rate offering many restaurants include as a nod to vegetarian diners, this mushroom risotto was a spectacular addition to our feast. The truffle brought out the earthiness of the mushrooms, and the addition of gremolata (usually served with meats) was sheer genius. The pesto-like herb mix both lightened the dish and gave it an extra boost of flavour. Delicious!

Sadly, the least successful dish of the meal was definitely the clams. I usually enjoy cinnamon, but it was rather overpowering in this dish, and I can’t say I like it in combination with garlic and slightly briny seafood.

Our next two orders were more successful: roast duck with peverada, pickled pear and radicchio and red prawn agnolotti, shellfish brodo and oregano.

London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook

Of these two, the duck was especially my favourite. It was perfectly cooked – blushing pink in the middle and crisp on the outside. The red prawn agnoletti were delicate, but still flavourful, and we happily tucked into both plates.

Feeling rather full, we decided to share a dessert, and settled on the Frittelle (Venetian doughnuts served during the Carnival) with cinnamon cream, hot chocolate sauce and fruit compote.

London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook

The frittelle were a little dry (I think they would have been lovely filled with either the cream or the fruit compote, with the chocolate sauce for dipping), but we slathered on the toppings and still managed to polish off every one!

Overall, I very much enjoyed my lunch at Veneta, and I highly recommend ordering the mushroom risotto if you find yourself there for a meal!

Have you tried the menu at Veneta yet? What did you think of it? Do you love tapas restaurants, or do you also feel they’ve been a little over-done in the last few years?

P.S. Making pumpkin pie next week for Thanksgiving? Make sure you download my recipe!

London Food | The Gate, Islington

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

I was put off vegetarianism / veganism at a very young age, when my family was on holiday in Vermont, and we stopped off unsuspectingly at what we soon found out was a vegan restaurant. This was a good 20 years ago (goodness, that makes me feel old), when veganism was far from the relatively mainstream diet it is today, and vegetarian/vegan cuisine has certainly improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. I still remember the plate of strange tasting, cold noodles, served with a drizzle of olive oil and nothing else that so unimpressed my 10 year old self (I’d spent the past 5 years in California after all; sushi was my favourite food).

Ever since then, I’ve tended to view vegetarian/vegan restaurants slightly suspiciously; however, when I had the opportunity to try out The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant in Islington, I leapt at the chance, as I’d read so many rave reviews of it in the past. First opened in 1989, The Gate has long been topping the lists of the best vegetarian restaurants in London, and I was soon to find out why!

Earlier in the week, I took my friend John along with me for what I thought would be a fairly quick lunch, but in fact our meal turned into one of the most leisurely and delicious I’ve had for quite some time. It was wonderful, and a particularly great half-term treat to be able to spend so long over a mid-day meal.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, LondonThe Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

The Gate Restaurant’s original branch is in Hammersmith, but as well as the Islington location, it’s opening a Marylebone branch in December, which is super news for me as Marylebone Village is always a favourite area of mine. I chose to try the Islington restaurant, as I noticed how nearby it is to Sadler’s Wells, and I always find it so useful to know of good dining options close to a favourite theatre. The Islington branch is a large, attractive space, with plenty of natural light streaming in from from a wall of windows.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

John arrived, and we decided to order a carafe of wine to share between us (I always appreciate restaurants that offer you the choice of a carafe, as it’s definitely a more lunch-friendly option, and I generally wouldn’t want more than a carafe to share between two people anyway). Our waitress helpfully suggested a wine she thought we would particularly enjoy – the Picpoul de Pinet, Mirande – but also said she would bring it for us to taste, as well as a Sauvignon Blanc, to see which we preferred. She was right – her recommendation was by far our favourite and proved to be the perfect accompaniment to our meal.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

Apart from the food, what really stood out for me at The Gate was the exceptionally good service. All the staff were so friendly, knowledgable and attentive, which added a great deal to the pleasurable experience of our meal. The quality of service can sometimes be a little hit-and-miss in London, so it was really refreshing to be in a restaurant where the staff hit just the right note.

Feeling our stomachs beginning to rumble, we perused the menu. I should mention that all dishes are clearly marked as being vegetarian or vegan, as well as gluten free. Some vegan dishes can be made vegetarian, and vice-versa, and there are options to have nuts or not in a dish, depending on your preference. The restaurant is also child friendly, with a menu offering kid friendly options like potato and cheddar croquettes and the pasta of the day.

We decided to start with the mezze platter: an inviting dish to share between two people, offering a taster of the a la carte starters. The mezze selection takes about 15 minutes to prepare (and is marked as such on the menu), so our waitress suggested we enjoy some bread, tapenade and olives whilst we waited.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

The homemade warm, crusty bread was perfect for dipping in the olive oil and tapenade mix (we both love tapenade so particularly enjoyed this over the more usual plain bread and butter offering). The olives were tasty as well, and we nibbled happily away, catching up on each other’s news and exchanging recommendations for TV shows and books we were enjoying (I’m currently gripped by The Missing – anyone else?!). Our platter arrived, looking stunning, and John got his first proper taste of what it’s like to dine out with a blogger: lots of camera snapping and me exclaiming ‘oh! I must post this as an instagram story!’

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

We tried: miso glazed aubergine (my favourite!), three lentil pate terrine, hazelnut and honey crusted goat cheese with beetroot carpaccio, couscous fritters with a Moroccan style carrot puree and a three onion tart. Everything tasted so fresh and flavourful and looked so pretty on the plate (I always think food should be pleasing to the eye, as well as the stomach!). The miso glazed aubergine was the standout for me: the mix of sweet and salty was just right, and the scattering of nuts and sesame on the top gave a pleasing contrast in texture to the meltingly soft aubergine.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

I loved sharing the platter: it was such a fun way to start the meal, and it was nice to get such a different variety of mezze from the more typical mix of dips and salads. John pronounced everything as exceedingly good too, and we managed to polish off so much we began to worry we’d have enough appetite for our mains!

I liked the sound of the butternut rotolo: layered potatoes stuffed with butternut squash, Italian sundried tomato and basil, served alongside celeriac puree, apple and celery salad, sweet potato crisps and a creamy sorrel sauce.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

It was a wonderful autumnal dish, and despite my fears, I managed to polish off every bite! The sweet potato crisps were delicious – I insisted John try some too – and I loved the butternut rotolo, which somehow managed to not be too starchy. The celeriac puree was perfectly seasoned, and the salad provided a welcome freshness and bite. When done well, I love how vegetarian food tastes luxurious and delicious, and yet doesn’t leave you feeling too heavy and sleepy at the end of a meal.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

John went for tortillas filled with black bean, sweetcorn, soft onion and coriander in a lightly spiced tomato sauce, with guacamole, green tomato and sweet pepper salsa. He had the non-vegan version, opting for a topping of sour cream. A confirmed meat eater, he still thoroughly enjoyed this dish, as he did all the food, and neither of us missed the presence of meat at all.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

For sides, we had some mixed steamed greens (I always love getting as many greens into a meal as possible!), and our waitress told us the chunky herb polenta chips with garlic aioli were a must-try. Again, her recommendation was spot-on: the chips were beautifully crispy, with just the right amount of salt, and were exceedingly more-ish. We both loved them!

Of course, when the dessert menu appeared, I found I couldn’t resist. I love anything with almond in it, so settled on the apple and almond tart, with apple and calvados sorbet.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

John, as I could have predicted, ordered the sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel ice-cream (I have yet to know a man who doesn’t say yes to this pudding whenever it’s on a menu!). We sampled each dessert and pronounced them both delicious!

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

John and I agreed that we’d both had the most lovely lunch, and if you find yourself in Islington, Hammersmith or (from December!) Marylebone, then I definitely suggest planning a meal at The Gate.

I would equally recommend the restaurant for a quick, working lunch break, as well as more leisurely meal in the day or evening. There is a shorter lunch menu that is offered, which lists extremely reasonable dishes (£7-£8.50) that are ideal for a healthy, satisfying mid-day meal if you work in the area and fancy popping out for your lunch break. The Islington branch is where I’ll be booking for a pre or post theatre supper next time I’ve got tickets to see a show at Sadler’s Wells or The Almeida. I would also suggest The Gate Vegetarian Restaurants as ideal places to book if you’re planning a meal with friends who you know have specific dietary requirements. With a flexible menu and wonderful service, you’ll all be guaranteed to enjoy a lovely meal (even the die-hard meat eaters amongst you!).

Have you been to any of The Gate Vegetarian Restaurants? Which dish would you most like to try from the ones we ordered?

** This meal was complimentary, but as always, my opinions (and those of my friends) are my own and theirs. It is my policy to share only the best on Miranda’s Notebook! 

** Want to read more of my restaurant reviews? Check them out here.

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London Food | Date Night Suggestion

London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho

If you’re looking for a fun place for your next date night, then I’ve got just the spot for you. Duck and Rice is a pub and dining room that serves some truly stellar Chinese food in Soho. Famed for founding Wagamama and Hakkasan, Alan Yau has struck gold again with his latest London eatery. In a box-shaped building with food stalls jostling the pavements outside the front door, Yau has created what no-one knew London was missing: a Chinese gastropub, and as incongruous as the combination might seem, it definitely works.

London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, SohoLondon Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho

A week or so ago, I took my friend Arthur along for lunch, as we’ve shared a love for gossiping over crispy duck since our university days at SOAS. Fun as it is for lunch, though, I think Duck and Rice would be an especially good setting for a low-key date night (and have filed it away as such under my London restaurant recommendations).

The interior of the restaurant is sure to impress: downstairs is more pub like, with gleaming tanks of beer in the entrance, a sweeping bar and lots of cosy nooks.

London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho

Duck and Rice offers a terrific selection of beers and wines, as well as some delicious sounding gin & tonics and even beer cocktails (beer negroni, anyone?). I’m not much of an ale drinker, I have to admit, so I was happy with my glass of wine. I really was impressed with the wine list, which offered a wide range of choice, from very reasonable (starting at £2.60 for a small glass), to more decadent options. The tea list got Arthur’s stamp of approval (he was President of the Tea Society at SOAS, after all), and we ordered a pot of tea to share between us, which was generously refilled throughout the meal.

For our meal, we decided to go for a selection of dishes to share, starting with salt and pepper squid, prawn dumplings, vegetarian lettuce leaf wraps and spring rolls. Crispy duck, accompanied by handmade pancakes and all the trimmings, arrived too, and our waiter shredded it in front of us. The duck was superb: perfectly moist with crispy skin, and it has been a long time since I had such delicious dim sum. The squid was excellently tender, and we thoroughly enjoyed every dish, polishing off every last morsel.

London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, SohoLondon Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho(Thanks for being my hand model, Arthur!)

We were seated at a table in the restaurant proper upstairs, which boasts another magnificent bar and beautiful interiors. I loved the blue and white decor with touches of gold. It would be lovely to sit out on the upstairs balcony on a warm evening, watching the heaving crowds of Soho from above.

London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho

The restaurant, by the way, wasn’t at all empty over the lunch hour (it was packed), but by the time we’d finished eating at a leisurely place, it had emptied out a lot upstairs so I was able to get some clear shots. Heading back outside, we decided to walk off some of the excellent meal by winding our way through the streets to Holborn for iced coffee (sadly we were too full for any cake) at Fleet River Bakery. The perfect finish to a lovely afternoon!

Have you eaten at Duck and Rice? What are your favourite suggestions for a date night in London?

**This post was done in collaboration with citizenMag, and for another take on the same story, you can read their review of Duck and Rice. Of course, as always, all opinions (and those of my friends I bring along!) are unbiased and theirs and my own. 

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