Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Windmill, 18 High Street Walthamstow

On Saturday night Robin, Jon and I went along to Windmill, the Portuguese Tapas restaurant in Walthamstow. The restaurant is 10minutes walk down the far end of the high street from Walthamstow central station, tucked away in a rather unassuming location alongside the Poundlands and Lidls that make up our rather dingy and dismal town centre. I always seem to visit on a Saturday night, where you have the added pungent bonus of navigating past all the street sweepers cleaning up the remains of cabbage and rotten fruit from the day's market. But I think it is well worth the trek! The phrase 'hidden gem' may be slightly overused but I can't think of a place more deserving of the title.
The menu is delightful - a mouthwatering selection of tapas style dishes all coming in at around £4-5 each. They are all bursting with rich flavour so two or three dishes each is more than enough! It is very hard to choose what to try, but after visiting 7 or 8 times now I have tried most things on the menu so I would pick out the following as my favourites:
Clams in hot and sour sauce - A generous portion of clams in a delicious spicy yet acidic sauce with red peppers and capers.
Grilled Chorizo - a whole chorizo sausage served on a terracotta griddle over a pool of flaming alcohol, a real show piece to impress the table!
Lamb cutlets - I often find lamb too fatty to be palatable, but here they serve perfectly lean lamb steaks on the bone in a rosemary and herb rub.
Feijoada - Chinks of melting slow-cooked pork in a rich tomato sauce with beans.
Custard tart for dessert - so good!
Two dishes each and dessert came to £12 each. We brought our own bottle of wine which is charged at £2 for corkage which helps to keep the price down, or often in the summer I have seen jugs of sangria on offer which are extremely drinkable and refreshing.
Windmil contact details: http://www.windmill-tapas.com/
Windmill Tapas on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Benchmarks at The Rose and Crown

The Rose and Crown on Hoe street is probably my favourite pub in Walthamstow. First of all its only a short walk from my house through the park. Secondly the new owners have put a lot of effort in to refurbish and rebrand the place as a theatre-pub. Tucked away up a tight staircase is a room above the main bar, which they can use for live music, plays or art exhibitions. We went last year to see the excellent musical 'Nine' by All Star Productions. They also have a monthly open mic stand up comedy night called 'Glee 17' which is surprisingly good although some of the performers look absolutely terrified and I can't help but feel sorry for them.
So last night there was a new play showing, 'Benchmarks' by Whats In a Name Productions. We went along with our new neighbours to check it out. The room was packed so we could only get standing tickets at the back which was a slight pain, but I was delighted to see the pub doing so well and hope that it will convince them to keep putting on shows like this and supporting local small theatre companies. The play itself centred around a park bench paced in centre stage, and told the story of six people whose lives unfolded in front of us as they met around this bench during the course of a day. We had the park keeper worried about keeping his job, a jogger trying to set up her own bistro, a middle aged lady whose marriage was falling apart, a teenage mum, a bag lady and the property developer wondering if he should buy the park to build on. I think the cast did a great job of keeping everyone engaged and I hope they will be back with another show soon!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

La Duree macarons

I was introduced to this exquisite Parisian bakery by a French friend. Their speciality is the macaron (not to be confused with the English style coconut macaroon) which comes in a dazzling assortment of colours and flavours. Each little bite-size macaron is perfectly crispy on the outside with a squidgy sticky centre. Their outlet in Harrods and their tiny gilded cafe in Burlington Arcade are well worth a visit. at £7 per 100g, I may be developing an expensive habit!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Spring is here

So this weekend it finally felt like spring had arrived in Walthamstow. The daffodils that I had planted with the Friends of Lloyd park on a freezing muddy day in November were in full bloom, dazzling yellow in the sunshine. On saturday Kirsten came down for a girlie day out in London. She is looking beautiful and radiant at 5months pregnant. First off we hit Harrods - I hadn't been for a couple of years and we spent a while wandering around the chaotic yet amazing food halls before our usual trip around the designer shoe section. I bought a bag of macarons from LaDuree and we headed over to Hyde Park with Dominique to sit by the serpentine and soak up the sun. Just a couple of short weeks previously I had been the only person in sight by the boat house, but not today - people were flocking in from all directions and the greass was full of groups sitting around. The rest of our day was equally fab - cupcakes in Covent Garden, then a trip to selfridges for Kirsten to buy the Dior flip-flops she had been admiring in Harrods earlier. Watching the new Twilight DVD back at mine in the evening rounded off the day quite nicely!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Steve Hatt's fishmongers - Islington

One of my absolute favourite japanese dishes has to be salmon and tuna sashimi. It's so simple - just thick slices of fresh raw fistuna and salmon sashimi, fish from Steve Hatth served with wasabi and soy dipping sauce. It's all about sourcing the right ingredients - you must use only the very freshest fish. Whilst travelling around Japan last year, I was fortunate enough to sample tuna sashimi at what I believe is its finest, at a restaurant next to the main fish market in Kanazawa. The tuna there had come straight off the boats and into the restaurants in a matter of hours and had such a wonderful melt in the mouth consistency - not to mention huge portion sizes and a cheap pricetag! In London however, we are not so fortunate and sashimi is often one of the most expensive dishes on the menu. I have dabbled with making my own sushi rolls and nigiri before, but always stuck with cooked or smoked fish as I don't really trust eating raw fish from my supermarket or local fishmongers in Walthamstow.

Recently I had the pleasure of eating at Fernandez and Leluu's supper club in Hsushi riceackney (more on them in a later post!) and one of the dishes they served was their own unique take on Fish and Chips - salmon sashimi served with wasabi mayonaise and double cooked chips. I learnt that they get all of their fish from Steve Hatt's fishmongers in Islington - so I decided I had to pay them a visit. I came across the shop after about a ten minute walk from Angel station down the Essex road. In the window was an impressive display of all types of fish and seafood, including my Holy Grail - Sushi grade Tuna and Salmon! I picked up a large salmon fillet and large tuna steak for £8.50, plenty for two very generous portions of sashimi. We had it for dinner that evening served with rice, miso soup, wasabi and agedashi tofu. A perfect homemade japanese meal! I will definately be back to Steve Hatt's maybe to try some monkfish tails or clams next time

You can find Steve Hatt's shop at 88-90 Essex Road Islington, London N1 8LUTel: 020 7226 3963. Opening hours are Mon - Sat: 7am -5pm

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Camellias tea shop - Carnaby street

I recently discovered Camellia's tea shop while wandering around Carnaby street on a chilly March afternoon. Tucked away on the top floor of Kingly court, this beautiful little shop is surrounded by quirky boutiques and vintage clothes shops. Inside there are a few tables and chairs where you can sit and enjoy tea and homemade cakes. The walls are lined with rows upon rows of bags filled with exotic looking tea leaves and flowers, which gives the whole shop an amazing perfumed scent. Unfortunately they wouldn't let me take any photos which is a real shame. I've been getting more and more into tea lately, and have been on a bit of a quest to fine some good quality ones after having been served some amazing jasmine tea at a Chinese restaurant recently. I decided to buy a bag of Jasmine pearls - where jasmine flowers and white tea leaves are individually hand-rolled together into delicate little pearls. They unravel when you infuse them, releasing their fragrant Jasmine flavour. This is a high-quality tea from the Fuji province of Japan and comes with quite a hefty price tag - £21.50 for 100g! But a little goes a long way so you should only need a small bag. I've been hearing a lot about the health benefits of white tea recently - apparently they have the highest concentration of antioxidants out of any variety of tea. White tea is made by harvesting only the youngest buds of the tea plant, and then gently steaming them, so they are subject to very little processing which helps to retain all their nutrients. Camellias have a good selection of white teas, including some blended with rose buds or apricots. I chose the Orange Fusion, white tea leaves mixes with sweet orange peel. At £4.25 it doesn't hurt the pocket as much as the jasmine pearls so I might pick up a different flavour next time I visit. I think I will take this one to work for my relaxing afternoon break time!

Review - Tenshi Sushi Bar, Islington

Ever since my favourite sushi restaurant - Zipangu in Leicester square - closed down last year I have been on a mission to find a suitable replacement. Zipangu had that perfect combination of great location, good food and cheap prices that kept me going back whenever I was in the area, and I was devastated when I walked past one day to see that it had been taken over. However, this has given me the perfect excuse to try out loads of new Japanese restaurants! I remember discovering Japanese food for the first time when I moved to London, and it has been a bit of an obsession of mine ever since, so much so that we chose to spend two weeks travelling around Japan for our honeymoon last year.

I had heard that a new 'cheap and cheerful' sushi restaurant had just opened in Islington, and decided I had to give it a try. Tenshi is located on Upper street, near to Angel tube station, or a ten-minute walk from Highbury and Islington. It was a Thursday night and the restaurant was pleasantly busy, with room for about ten diners downstairs and another twenty or so in the upstairs seating area. The delightfully friendly japanese waitresses all chorused out 'Helloo!!' when we walked in - definately a warm welcome! We ordered Chicken yakitori, edamame and crunchy tuna rolls for starters, then Jon had the sashimi set main course while I had the tempura Udon. I have never had crunchy tuna rolls before but I have to say they were fantastic - they are basically a tuna sushi roll that is fried until the outside layer of rice pops and takes on a rice krispie texture. My Tempura udon was also excellent with two huge and perfectly tender king prawns on a bowl of noodles and tempura vegetables. Jon was a little dissapointed with his sashimi set, for £9.50 he got three rather small peices of tuna and another three of salmon. All in all with two beers the bill came to £33.
The verdict - A very friendly little restaurant. we will definately be back but for now the search for my favourite japanese restaurant continues!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Chocolate and Champagne afternoon at the Hilton

cupcakes at the hilton

On Sunday afternoon Jon and I headed to the Hilton on Park Lane for an afternoon of well-deserved pampering and relaxing. Firstly, we were led downstairs to the Purity Spa and into a candlelit room for an aromatherapy massage. Next we headed back up to the Podium restaurant for our afternoon tea. The first course to come out was a platter of open sandwiches washed down with a glass of Pommery champagne. Then came a three-tiered platter of scones with cream and jam, beautiful mini cupcakes, and a selection of luxurious chocolates served on a chocolate plate! A great way to spend a chilly spring afternoon.
sandwiches at the Hilton