All in The Silver Spoon
77C Walton Street
London SW3 2HT
+44 207 584 3441
So what do you do when you are on a detox and a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with asks you to lunch? Do you decline? Force your choice of restaurant on her? Or just hope for the best? I chose door number three. I was secretly hoping she would choose a restaurant that served exclusively bacon cheeseburgers but alas it was not to be. We met at Jak’s on Walton Street at 1:30 for lunch. It is said that lunchtime in a recession is one of the hardest seatings to fill. Not so in Jak’s. The place was absolutely bursting.
I am now heading towards the end of the detox. I remember to eat 5 small meals a day. I am not complaining about rice cakes and am even embracing my various spreads although the bean spread is just not good. One thing that has been very different about the way I have been living my life is the almost non-existence of animal products. Granted breakfasts are dotted with yoghurt and eggs (and I cheat with butter), but actual animal flesh has been limited to fish with the choice of tofu instead. So far, it’s been a non-stop tofu train. I can hardly recognize myself. Don’t worry, I still love meat, the words “Cote de Boeuf for two” will continue to send shivers down my spine, but maybe, just maybe, it’s not necessary every night. So tonight, the menu is shrimp scampi with spinach for me and the same with whole wheat linguine for Pascal.
So its day four of the detox and there is yet another spread on the menu: pesto. Thankfully I had made some pesto and had it on hand. Was this a convenience or an avenue toward rebellion? If you know me at all, it was the latter. I also had a small dilemma. The aforementioned gargantuan Ocado delivery strangely contained items that I did not order such as a bunch of leeks (no issue), a bottle of red wine (??? Detox!!!) and a rope of garlic. Now I may have ordered garlic but I most certainly would never have ordered an item that is usually found swinging from the ceilings of cheesy Italian food restaurants or used to ward of vampires. Disassembly was paramount. So that was that. I would make a garlic spread. True to the detox, delicious and versatile, roasted garlic is one of the easiest things to make in the world and leaves you feeling very happy. This is also a great alternative for when your garlic is getting a bit old.
Weekends are hard times to be obedient. But I was not to be phased and although I still don’t feel 100%, I wanted to impart a highlight of the day. One of the aforementioned spreads made its debut today and it is a tapenade. So far the highlight, tastewise, of this detox was when I slightly cheated last night and had a Pub version of crudité, houmous, falafel and tzatziki (but no booze, so that is good). Oh and I had two breakfasts this morning, whoops, but anyway. Enter tapenade, the oily goodness of olives and garlic, something that I believe I will make as soon as this whole experiment is over. So I thought I would pass on this knowledge. Please excuse the oat cakes in the picture, only half of this snack was meant to taste good and photographing dark brown spreads is hard.
47 Hereford Rd, Bayswater, W2 +44 207 229 1503 website
Background: We had been meaning to go to the Commander for a while. I asked Pascal on Friday afternoon what he would like to do for the evening. He replied “Have a dinner at 9pm.” Now imagine a fuming, “With whom?” email. I was mad, it’s Friday night, what dinner! I am always grammatically correct when I am mad. Turns out I read it wrong and it said “Have dinner at 9pm.” Ok, that’s better, phew! So I set my sights on The Commander: Porterhouse and Oyster bar. It sounded like the makings of a good Friday night dinner.
I made the reservation via OpenTable for 9pm and was looking forward to my meal. A couple hours before I was meant to arrive I received a phone call saying that they, The Commander, had received my reservation and were looking forward to my arrival but they were a full house and there might be a little bit of waiting at the bar. I hung up the phone and was confronted with mixed emotions. Are they hedging against making me wait? Do they just want me to know they are full? Whatever the tactic, I still showed up at 9pm anticipating that I would have to wait at the bar, whether or not my table was ready (Pascal, when on time, is 15 minutes late).
85 Picadilly, Mayfair +44 207 493 3424 website
Background: OpenTable: London Restaurants is an amazing thing. If you are not familiar with it, then please stop reading and click the link. There are incredible deals to be had at many restaurants including some of the really fancy and sought after ones. I will admit that Fakhreldine is not one of those. But given that London has burst into flower and the recent weather has every woman (including myself) and some men breaking a sweat at the thought of bathing suit season, some light Lebanese fare was what Bibi, my companion for the evening, and I opted for. By heritage I am technically one quarter Lebanese, which by American standards means my grandmother was from Texas of Lebanese parents. Thus, my knowledge of Middle Eastern food is lacking past hoummos and falafel, both, however, are staunch favourites.
We have recently moved. When I say recently I mean 4 or 5 months ago, but I am one of those people who says “the other day” and I mean two years ago, so that is kind of how my mind works. Even so, moving from a furnished flat to an unfurnished flat has its challenges. For instance, Pascal and I were sitting on garden chairs in the living room up until fairly recently. That being said, I was using this lack of furniture as an excuse not to have people over for dinner. Then I spotted the chairs that were to become “my” dinning chairs on Gumtree.com and all that changed. I was forced to make good on all those promises; “of course we’ll have you over, as soon as we have chairs.” So the time had come and the first victims were going to be, incidentally, our landlords; long time friends who have cooked for me countless times. In planning out my menu, I decided I wanted to make the dessert (I usually just buy it) and it needed to be something I could do in advance with minimal work. I also had these cool cups with silver bottoms that I hadn’t yet found a use for. And so, the idea for Panna Cotta was born. This dessert is simple to make and can be (must be) prepared in advance as it needs to set and is at its best super cold; served with fruit, it is a wonderful summer treat.
For some reason it's been risotto month and I have been ordering risotto at restaurants with reckless abandon. The result is usually that I am disappointed and end up complaining about it. This may have something to do with the fact that my last two attempts were at French restaurants, which, again, would be my fault. My main complaint is that the rice is not the right rice and is two long and grainy rather than short and silky. Now there is always the chance that this was all in my head but I decided to put my money where my mouth was and try it out. I had recently seen some fresh porcini mushrooms for sale at the Portobello Market and saw no better opportunity than to start with that (this recipe will include only dried porcini, for the sake of availability, any fresh ones can be added to it as a bonus).
2 Bellevue Road, Wandsworth Common, SW17 7EG, +44 208 672 0114 website
Background: I originally hail from New York and for us Zagat is God. I have also introduced Pascal to Zagat, and therefore, it should not be a surprise that when choosing a restaurant for my birthday this is where he would turn. A 29 for food is absolutely shocking. There are only two in London with this rating; the other one is twice as expensive. And fair enough, neither of us knew where Wandsworth was before we ventured out to the restaurant, but still. Not sure how we even got a reservation but hey Tuesday isn't exactly date night. But the location is beautiful, just off the common, and surrounded by cute little shops selling French linens and stuff; so far so good. Now I had read on Cheese and Biscuits and gen.u.ine.ness that the room can be cramped and loud, so I was expecting that. Pascal, however, had some inside tips and booked a table upstairs in a smaller room which had ample space and wasn’t the slightest bit noisy. Once we were seated, Pascal notices a far better table by the window overlooking Wandsworth common, we ask and are given this table, a nice little upgrade.
1 Wilbraham PlaceLondon SW1X 9AE website
Background: Daylight savings plus living within the Arctic Circle (i.e. London) means that even in mid-April the days feel ludicrously long, which I consider a good thing. It just so happened that on Saturday night at around 8pm Pascal and I decided to make reservations for dinner (clearly neither of us thought it was 8pm). So I went through all of the restaurants that I have tagged from various sites and blogs and came up with Le Cercle. Expecting a denial, I sheepishly called for a reservation. Success! So now this makes me both happy and nervous at the same time. Either way we decide to give it a go. Located off of Sloane Street, we approach and see the entrance, Pascal asks light-heartedly, “You didn’t sign us up for a £300 dinner, did you?” Upon inspection of the menu posted outside it seems not, so we proceed. We are greeted at the door and then asked to make our way downstairs. So now I am annoyed because I hate eating in basements/dungeons but thankfully the room has very high ceilings, is well laid out and did not at any point make me feel as if I am eating underground. We are seated at what seems to be one the best tables for two in the house, so I am happy.
We spent Easter weekend basking in glorious sunshine in the countryside of Ireland (true story) while London got hammered with rain. We were extremely lucky and everyone we met along the way didn’t hesitate to remind us. We mostly drove around the contryside and admired the scenery and tried to find nice things to eat which is not easy on Good Friday let me tell you but the highlight was a day long class at the Dunbrody Cookery School where we watched as our chef Edward slaved in the kitchen and we tasted afterwards.
Pascal enjoys cooking and he enjoys learning but a classroom setting had never been one of his strong suits, thus he sat relatively uninterested until the soda bread came out of the oven. It was different and wonderful. The unfamiliar soda bread combined with unlikely ingredients such as curry powder, dried apricots and chilli flakes was all that was need to pique his interest. I liked it too. A lot! But I have issues with bread and the whole processed flour thing. So when we arrived back in London (again to glorious sunshine, weird I know), I ventured to recreate Dunbrody’s bread but with whole wheat flour instead. The result is surely nuttier and more dense, as expected, but also very good. It’s not as crumbly or fluffy but all the same it’s some pretty good bread. If you aren’t brave enough to take the full plunge, just use white flour or better yet half and half.
Pascal, the boy, has been on a quest for a breakfast bar to munch on as he travels to work. We started at the organic market and he managed to accrue a staggering £45 worth of one-off breakfast bars to try out. So here we are four weeks later and it turns out that he didn't like one of the 20 or so bars that he picked out. Not one! Turns out he wants the ones from Tesco. The ones made by a major cereal producer or something with a shelf life of one hundred years with a paragraph for an ingredient list and all sort of hydrogenated oils. But let’s be honest, they taste good. I like them, he likes them, but they aren't particularly good for you and even have ingredients that can be, well, bad for you.
46 Lexington Street, Soho, London W1F 0LW 0207 437 5708
Background: I had been in a little bit of a food rut so eating out at someone else's restaurant selection, especially a foodie like Rob, was very welcome. Andrew Edmunds is located on a small street tucked in the middle of Soho across the street from the ever brimming Fernandez & Wells. Upon arrival, I was early (as usual), my boyfriend was also early (unheard of) and one our fellow diners was already seated. This was a relief as there was absolutely no where to wait for our table if need be. We were shown to a table down a precarious staircase with no railing to a dimly lit, basement-like room (romantic to some) where we would spend the next two hours and as Frances so aptly noted as she walked, wow looks like it's a third date place.