Kosher Feast at Delicatessen, Hampstead

Living in central London, with a lot of great restaurants in my doorstep, I rarely venture outside of zone 1 for dinner.

Therefore, I rarely find myself in Hampstead, which is a real shame as it’s such a lovely little pocket of London, with restaurants to match.

Case in point – Delicatessen.

Kosher Feast at Delicatessen, HampsteadA hidden gem of a restaurant, with white-washed walls, wooden tables and a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ (we are at the heart of French London after all!) making it utterly charming.

And it’s not one of those ‘style-over-substance’ sort of place – no surprise here considering Delicatessen is headed by former Ottolenghi head chef Or Golan.

Kosher Feast at Delicatessen, Hampstead

Offering a fully-kosher menu, Delicatessen defines itself as a place to explore modern middle-eastern rich & diverse culinary culture and the mezze-style starters are an excellent reflection of the restaurant’s bold and colourful style of cooking.

In true middle-eastern style, they’re designed to be shared – which in my opinion is the absolute best as it gives you an excuse to order up a feast.

Kosher Feast at Delicatessen, Hampstead

Highlights included the Golden cauliflower, served with tahini, nuts & smoked chilli.

Kosher Feast at Delicatessen, Hampstead

Mini salt beef schnitzels with kohlrabi salad.

Kosher Feast at Delicatessen, Hampstead

Hummus loaded with confit lamb and crackling.

Kosher Feast at Delicatessen, Hampstead

Some absolutely divine sea bass carpaccio with loads of herbs and nuts, and a tiny bit of truffle oil.

Kosher Feast at Delicatessen, HampsteadKosher Feast at Delicatessen, Hampstead

And a delightful, still-warm Yemenite kubaneh bread to mop it all up before moving on to mains!

Kosher Feast at Delicatessen, HampsteadKosher Feast at Delicatessen, Hampstead

A lot to love amongst the larger plates as well – for example a delightfully moist chicken thigh shawarma plate, pilled high with seared laffa, sumac onions and pea shoots.

Kosher Feast at Delicatessen, Hampstead

Seared duck breast with celeriac puree, heritage carrots and glaze sauce – as moreish as it is photogenic.

Kosher Feast at Delicatessen, Hampstead

My favourite dish of them all: chicken meatballs with fresh globe and Jerusalem artichokes and lemon.

Not quite as photogenic but when the chef himself has an artichoke tattooed on his forearm, you know you’re onto a winner – and a winner it was indeed!

Kosher Feast at Delicatessen, Hampstead

Chicken pastilla – a timeless classic.

Kosher Feast at Delicatessen, Hampstead

And of course, this beast of a mixed grill with chicken thighs, kebabs, lamb chops, merguez & rib eye steak, plus bone marrow and grilled veggies thrown in for good measure.

The menu says it’s for 2 people (!!) but in my opinion, it can easily feed 4, making the £70 price point much more appropriate.

Kosher Feast at Delicatessen, Hampstead

The Israeli-oriented wine list is also full of little gems, like this veeeeeery easy to drink Dalton Canaan white, which we were recommended to have with the mezze, but I found lovely alongside the meatier dishes too.

Kosher Feast at Delicatessen, Hampstead

Dessert in middle eastern restaurants can sometimes feel like an after-thought. But not at Delicatessen, where the team is working hard to offer a wide range of dairy-free options.

They’re not all succesful (the chocolate mousse was very much not my thing).

But the malabi (pictured above) and the basbousa (semolina) cake are both great proof that vegan puds have nothing to envy to their dairy-filled counterparts.

And if like me, you rarely venture in Hampstead, that last one alone is almost enough to make your way there… But once you’re there, you might as well have it all (and then some!)

Delicatessen, 46 Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead, London NW3 1NH

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Kosher Feast at Delicatessen, Hampstead

Back at Barrafina

It’s not the first time I’ve mentioned Barrafina and it won’t be the last.

Because I looooooove tapas and Barrafina is quite simply the best tapas restaurant in London.

Barrafina Adelaide St / London's best tapas restaurant / Where to find a taste of Spain in London / Cake + Whisky

The only problem?

How good Barrafina is is London’s worst kept secret.

And of course, there’s no reservations, which means you will have to queue.

Yes, even if it’s late and even on Sundays.

Barrafina Adelaide St / London's best tapas restaurant / Where to find a taste of Spain in London / Cake + Whisky

But worry not, for there’s a small selection of nibbles to eat while you wait – including Barrafina’s fantastic croquetas.

That time around, they were squid croquetas, with ink, little pieces of cuttlefish and a potent-but-sublime spicy aioli on top.

100% the way to keep little hangry me happy!

Barrafina Adelaide St / London's best tapas restaurant / Where to find a taste of Spain in London / Cake + Whisky

Nibbles, drinks and good company are a great combination to make time fly by.

Before you know it, you’ll be led to your recently-vacated seats…

… for yet more croquetas!

Barrafina Adelaide St / London's best tapas restaurant / Where to find a taste of Spain in London / Cake + Whisky

This time, ham croquetas.

Barrafina Adelaide St / London's best tapas restaurant / Where to find a taste of Spain in London / Cake + Whisky

Just as gorgeous as their squid sisters, with a rich, indulgent, creamy ham & cheese filling and the thinest, crispest of exteriors.

If you love croquetas (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?), you have to have Barrafina’s.

Ham or squid, whatever you pick, you’re in for a whole new ball game!

Barrafina Adelaide St / London's best tapas restaurant / Where to find a taste of Spain in London / Cake + Whisky

Since we visited at what was technically brunch time, the classic tortilla was a must order.

Barrafina Adelaide St / London's best tapas restaurant / Where to find a taste of Spain in London / Cake + Whisky

… and I can happily report that it is indeed a classic at all times of the week and day!

Barrafina Adelaide St / London's best tapas restaurant / Where to find a taste of Spain in London / Cake + Whisky

Potato slices, sauteed in olive oil, then topped with eggs and cooked to golden perfection…

Simplicity at its very best.

Barrafina Adelaide St / London's best tapas restaurant / Where to find a taste of Spain in London / Cake + Whisky

Chargrilled artichokes with aioli, dressed in a shallot and chives vinaigrette.

Barrafina Adelaide St / London's best tapas restaurant / Where to find a taste of Spain in London / Cake + Whisky

And spectacular Arroz de Marisco.

Barrafina Adelaide St / London's best tapas restaurant / Where to find a taste of Spain in London / Cake + Whisky

A bit of a cross between a risotto and a seafood paella, with incredible depth of flavour from a saffroned bisque and topped with just-grilled seafood.

Barrafina Adelaide St / London's best tapas restaurant / Where to find a taste of Spain in London / Cake + Whisky

On the sweet side, we couldn’t resist the crema catalana bites.

Basically cheesecake, wrapped in crisp filo pastry, deep-fried and served with a tart berry coulis.

Berry indulgent indeed!

Barrafina Adelaide St / London's best tapas restaurant / Where to find a taste of Spain in London / Cake + Whisky

And –of course– a serving of obligatory cinnamon doughnuts with chocolate sauce. Light, almost brioch-y, they are something special in their own right!

Now, the million dollar question – when to go so you don’t have to queue for hours?

We went on a Sunday for a late lunch (around 1pm) and waited around 20 min for a table. Late dinner is also quite a good bet, making it a great post-theatre option, especially on weekdays. But then again, I went a few years back on Easter Sunday and it’s the only time I’ve ever been seated right away…

So if your bank holiday plans allow it, go, go, GO!!

Barrafina, 10 Adelaide St, London WC2N 4HZ 

(there’s another Covent Garden branch on Drury Ln, and a Soho one on Dean St, all equaly good and hard to get into)

Where to eat if you can’t get a seat at Barrafina

Terroirs Wine Bar

The Barbary

Chick ‘n’ Sours

Shake Shack

Back at Barrafina

Dinner at Xu

Considering my obsession with all things food, you won’t be surprised to hear that recently, I fell down a bit of an Ugly Delicious rabbit hole.

Recently launched on Netflix, the series is all about the interactions between food and culture, and it truly is fascinating. Each episode is better than the next, and it’s probably the best programme about food I’ve watched since Masterchef Australia (back end of April, I’m so excited)!

One particularly interesting episode is the one where David Chang and friends look into the stereotypes around Asian cuisine, often considered unrefined and ‘cheap’ by Westerners.

And though some of the assumptions are offensive on both sides of the board, the premise still rings true, and that despite the fact that China, India and the like actually are masters at matching complex flavours and textures.

Proof (if there ever needed one) can be found at Xu, the latest venture from the incredible successful Bao London team.

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + WhiskyDinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

Set out in wood-panelled rooms inspired by 1930s Taipei tea rooms, Xu brings the refined flavours of Taiwan to the heart of London.

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

The menu isn’t especially long but is of the intriguing variety through and through.

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

From the Xiao Tsui section, we started with the Beef pancakes.

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + WhiskyDinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

Melt-in-the-mouth shortrib, bone marrow, pickles, spring onion and potato crumbs to be wrapped up in a pancake and devoured.

A DIY, deeply umami affair and a very good one at that.

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

Xian Bing – pipping hot pan-fried aged pork pancakes served with vinegar & chilli oil.

Very porky, with a touch of ginger, the filling reminded me of my favourite pork dumpling recipe, but wrapped up in the crispest, most delicately folded pastry.

A little dangerous to eat but well worth taking the risk!

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

But the incontested winner of the small plates section were those little Sweet potato & miso taro dumpling beauties.

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

Served in the most vibrant kow choi chilli dressing, there are a masterpiece of balance and depth of flavour.

So sort of dish you want to order doubles of so you don’t have to share!

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

The other highlight of our dinner at Xu was the signature Shou Pa chicken dish.

A beautiful plate of marinated chicken with drippings, ginger and spring onion with white pepper and chicken skin topping, it’s the epitome of roast chicken dishes.

The perfectly cooked meat and the sticky jus took me back to Sunday lunch with my parents, but with added layers of flavours thanks to the Asian aromatics.

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

Delicious in its own right, but even better atop some lardo fried rice.

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

The Mapo tofu was nice and spicy, but paled in comparison.

(It might also have been a classic case of over-ordering, as we enjoyed it much more re-heated the next day…)

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

We finished things off with almond ice cream and black sesame sauce – a combination both delicate and funky!

And the ultimate proof that Far East cuisine is far more complex and elegant that it’s usually given credit for.

It might not be the ultimate ‘grammable restaurant, but it’s a good one when it comes to substance over style. There are no flower walls, but some truly spectacular dishes to be found and I urge try their chicken ASAP. It’s a game changer.

Ugly? Possibly. Delicious? Absolutely!

Xu, 30 Rupert St, London W1D 6DL

(Xu accepts bookings (miracle!) and when we visited (post-theatre on a weekday) there were plenty of tables available for walk-ins)

Other great restaurants near Xu:

The Palomar

Hot Pot Chinatown

Jen Café

Dinner at Xu

Dinner at Kricket

I hate restaurants that don’t take reservations for less than 4 people.

I hate restaurants where the host, when I pop in and ask if they have a table for 2 at 7:15pm, answers they do… at 10:30pm.

And I HATE restaurants that insist on running separate lunch and dinner services so that I can’t have a meal at strange mid-afternoon hours on the weekend.

Dinner at Kricket ● London Restaurant Review ● Cake + Whisky

All of the above are the reasons why I hate loving Kricket so much.

It’s going to make my life so very difficult every time I crave Indian food.

Dinner at Kricket ● London Restaurant Review ● Cake + Whisky

But well, I’ll just have to deal with it all (and take friends down with me so we can book at table!) because the food, the drinks and the atmosphere are all fantastic.

Dinner at Kricket ● London Restaurant Review ● Cake + Whisky

The cocktail list is short but perfect formed, making the on-duty bartender a very busy man (or woman) indeed.

Dinner at Kricket ● London Restaurant Review ● Cake + Whisky

Which you could feel bad about or just embrace with a couple of the truly excellent whisky + orange marmalade cocktails…

Dinner at Kricket ● London Restaurant Review ● Cake + Whisky

Also excellent were the Jerusalem artichokes and pea samosas.

Light, crispy pastry triangles, filled with the most delicious, subtly spiced vegetable filling.

Needless to say, those didn’t last long.

Dinner at Kricket ● London Restaurant Review ● Cake + Whisky

My favourite dish – Pumpkin, makhani sauce, fresh paneer, hazelnut crumble, puffed wild rice.

Dinner at Kricket ● London Restaurant Review ● Cake + Whisky

Served with masala kulcha bread straight from the tandoor.

Charred pumpkin, the best (really, even my Indian boyfriend says so, and he’s had A LOT of butter chicken) butter-tomato sauce, begin to be scooped over some bread…

It was the sort of dish I wish I knew how to make so I could have it every day.

One that hangs around the top of my list of London’s best dishes, too.

Dinner at Kricket ● London Restaurant Review ● Cake + Whisky

Kricket’s signature Keralan fried chicken, served with curry leaf mayonnaise and pickled mouli.

Dinner at Kricket ● London Restaurant Review ● Cake + WhiskyDinner at Kricket ● London Restaurant Review ● Cake + Whisky

Venison keema.

Warming and gently spiced, and the perfect reminder of why I must add keema to my winter meal rota.

Dinner at Kricket ● London Restaurant Review ● Cake + Whisky

Beautifully cooked duck breast, served with fiery vindaloo sauce and refreshing Brussel sprout and coconut thoran.

Dinner at Kricket ● London Restaurant Review ● Cake + Whisky

Polishing it all off on a sweet note in the form of carrot halwa with chestnut ice cream (delicious but veeeeeeery rich) and gorgeous, posset-like misti doi.

All in all, not a dal plate in sight at Kricket… So, no matter how difficult/irritating getting a table is, it’s worth the patience and hard work.

You know what they they… Keep calm and curry on!

Kricket Soho (the original venue’s in Brixton), 12 Denman St, Soho, London W1D 7HH

More things to eat in Soho

EVERYTHING at Temper

Cake for dinner at Cutter & Squidge

Ramen at Kanada Ya

Chinatown’s best hot pot

Dinner at Kricket

Maki’ng me hungry – Sushi Shop x Anne-Sophie Pic

Growing up in France’s middle of nowhere, the only sushi I came across as a child were the poorly executed teeny-tiny ones on the buffet tables at the local Chinese (!!) restaurants. Needledd to say, I was not a fan.

But then I moved to Paris, discovered Sushi Shop and everything changed.

I still remember the day I first treated myself to a selection of the brand’s made-to-order, playful creations.

Maki'ng me hungry ● Sushi Shop x Anne Sophie Pic ● Cake + Whisky

It was a real treat – Sushi Shop isn’t the cheapest on the high street when it comes to take-away sushi. But what you get is also not your run-of-the-mill selection.

Think maki roll topped with Dorito’s (aptly named the ‘Rock n Roll’), spring roll-sushi hybrids (a whole delightful selection of them!) or even foie gras rolls (yes, you read that right and yes, it works)!

Maki'ng me hungry ● Sushi Shop x Anne Sophie Pic ● Cake + Whisky

For a few years now, the brand has been pushing the boundary of sushi-making even further through partnerships with creative brands (remember this beauty?) and eminent chefs, such as Cyril Lignac (the French Jamie Oliver), Joël Robuchon or Thierry Marx.

But in 2018, they’ve truly outdone themselves and asked Anne Sophie Pic, the only French woman to hold three Michelin stars, to create a collection.

And what a collection!

Maki'ng me hungry ● Sushi Shop x Anne Sophie Pic ● Cake + Whisky Maki'ng me hungry ● Sushi Shop x Anne Sophie Pic ● Cake + Whisky

Blending classic Japanese techniques and unexpected ingredients, the Sushi Shop x Anne Sophie Pic creations are full of delicacy and poetry.

Each of the four exclusive recipes is a nod to Chef Pic’s culinary identity.

The California roll (goat cheese, matcha, bergamot and genmaicha) is the translation of Pic’s own signature dish, the famous ‘Berlingot’.

Maki'ng me hungry ● Sushi Shop x Anne Sophie Pic ● Cake + Whisky

The yellowtail and sage pesto sushi is a triumph of freshness.

Maki'ng me hungry ● Sushi Shop x Anne Sophie Pic ● Cake + Whisky

The woodland maki might seem confusing if you take a look at the ingredients.

Mushroom 3 ways, rose, geranium, yuzu… There’s a lot going on but it all results in a beautiful work of art. And having had more than my fare share, I can confirm it’s another winner.

Vegetarians, rejoice (and get your hands on it stat)!

Maki'ng me hungry ● Sushi Shop x Anne Sophie Pic ● Cake + Whisky

But my favourite was the Signature tuna roll.

Featuring tuna coated with green cardamom honey, celeriac remoulade, green apple, sobach, chicory and dill, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever tried before. A beautiful example of what ‘fusion’ can truly achieve.

Sooooooooy good!

The Sushi Shop x Anne Sophie Pic creations are available in all Sushi Shop stores from January 6th 2018. 

More London restaurants to try

Dim sum at Mayfair Garden

Pizza at Pizza Union

Sunday roast at The Quality Chop House

Hot pot in Chinatown

Tasting menu at Anglo

I tried the Sushi Shop x Anne Sophie Pic as a guest of the brand and their PR agency.

Maki’ng me hungry – Sushi Shop x Anne-Sophie Pic

You win sum, you dim sum

…not quite the traditional saying, but far more appropriate when it comes to dim sum at Mayfair Garden.

You win some, you dim sum ● Mayfair Garden, London ● Cake + Whisky You win some, you dim sum ● Mayfair Garden, London ● Cake + Whisky

Once you’ve made your selection (I advise to take a few friends so you can order EVERYTHING!) and placed your order, sit back, relax and take in the sleek, minimalist decor.

And before you know it…

You win some, you dim sum ● Mayfair Garden, London ● Cake + Whisky

The table will be covered in a variety of dumpling plates.

You win some, you dim sum ● Mayfair Garden, London ● Cake + Whisky

Don’t miss out on the classics: plump prawn & chive dumplings, golden prawn spring rolls, gorgeous har gau…

You win some, you dim sum ● Mayfair Garden, London ● Cake + Whisky

… prawn shu mai…

You win some, you dim sum ● Mayfair Garden, London ● Cake + Whisky

… generously-filled deep-fried prawn dumplings…

You win some, you dim sum ● Mayfair Garden, London ● Cake + Whisky

… superb (and incredible value) king prawn cheung fun…

You win some, you dim sum ● Mayfair Garden, London ● Cake + Whisky

…and my favourite – golden-fried turnip cakes!

You win some, you dim sum ● Mayfair Garden, London ● Cake + Whisky

But enough talking – time to dig in!

The menu’s not especially long (perfect for the indecisive kind!), nor is it comprehensive in any way (the lack of chicken feet is apparently a big deal…), but everything on there is pretty special…

You win some, you dim sum ● Mayfair Garden, London ● Cake + WhiskyYou win some, you dim sum ● Mayfair Garden, London ● Cake + Whisky

The baked venison puffs are exceptional – the best I’ve had in London sofar.

You win some, you dim sum ● Mayfair Garden, London ● Cake + Whisky

I don’t usually like char sui buns, but Mayfair Garden’s are fluffy, sweet-and-sour pieces of meaty perfection and play in a league of their own!

You win some, you dim sum ● Mayfair Garden, London ● Cake + Whisky

The Xiaolongbao are as delicate and fiddly as you’d expect…

You win some, you dim sum ● Mayfair Garden, London ● Cake + Whisky

… and the scallop shu mai is the perfect bite to finish things up with a touch of luxury (and a very full stomach).

But no empty stomach – surprisingly enough, dim sum is very well priced, with most 3-dumpling plates around the £5 pricemark.

See I told you – no matter what you order at Mayfair Garden, you win some, you dim sum!

Mayfair Garden, 8-10 N Audley St, London W1K 6ZD

You win sum, you dim sum

Starting 2018 as I mean to go on…

… with good friends, pizza and cocktails at Pizza Union!

Pizza Union Dalston ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

If I’ve learnt anything from the past year, it’s that the little moments of everyday joy are what it’s all really about.

And pizza definitely makes me very, very happy.

Pizza Union Dalston ● London restaurant review ● Cake + WhiskyPizza Union Dalston ● London restaurant review ● Cake + WhiskyPizza Union Dalston ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Pizza Union is one of my regular spots when only dough will do.

I love the excellent value for money, the neon-filled decor and the speedy service (hellooooo pizza pager!).

Pizza Union Dalston ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky Pizza Union Dalston ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

I love the no-nonsense menu: thin, crunchy, super light crust, flavourful tomato sauce, an extensive (and super affordable!) list of extra toppings (all £1, an absolute bargain) and simple but efficient Italian-inspired cocktails.

Pizza Union Dalston ● London restaurant review ● Cake + WhiskyPizza Union Dalston ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

But more than anything else, I LOOOOOOOOOOVE the Funghi pizza with extra N’Duja on top!

Pizza Union’s new Dalston venue scores just as high as its sibblings on all the above points.

With a few extra ones for the super welcoming team that’s always full of brilliant advice on what toppings to add to your pizza to make it even more delicious.

Pizza Union Dalston ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

What do you say? Wanna a pizza that?

Pizza Union Dalston, 14 Kingsland High Street, London E8 2JP (but they have a few other locations as well…)

Starting 2018 as I mean to go on…