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

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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

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…

Sunday Roast at The Quality Chop House

Sunday roast is a big deal.

Especially when it’s this cold outside.

The best ones are made by your mother, obviously.

But if, like me, you don’t have a roast-proficient mum (and can’t bring yourself to do all the roasting yourself), I know just the place.

Sunday Roast at The Quality Chop House ● London restaurant review ● Cake + WhiskySunday Roast at The Quality Chop House ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Tucked away at the very end of my absolute favourite street in London, The Quality Chop House is a gloriously old school British restaurant with Grade II-Victorian-decor to match!

Sunday Roast at The Quality Chop House ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky Sunday Roast at The Quality Chop House ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Get a group of 3-6 together and book yourself a booth.

Sunday Roast at The Quality Chop House ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Order up a bottle of something nice (a lovely Côtes du Rhône in our case)…

Sunday Roast at The Quality Chop House ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

And tuck into the delightfully light smoked cod roe with pickled onion while you peruse the menu.

Sunday Roast at The Quality Chop House ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Especially delightful atop the Quality Chop House’s own sourdough, still warm from the oven.

The selection of starters is quite lovely, but on Sunday, it’s all about the roasts…

Sunday Roast at The Quality Chop House ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Belted Galloway beef (sirloin & brisket).

Sunday Roast at The Quality Chop House ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Tamworth pork shoulder with crackling and apple sauce.

(There’s also a vegetarian option and a fish dish on the menu).

Sunday Roast at The Quality Chop House ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

All served with all the trimmings and a selection of seasonal vegetables.

Sunday Roast at The Quality Chop House ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

And when at the Quality Chop House… add on a side of those confit potatoes.

You simply have to.

Sunday Roast at The Quality Chop House ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Pile everything up high onto your (already heaving) plate, top with a bit more gravy and tuck into your Sunday feast.

Try to save a little bit of room for pudding…

Sunday Roast at The Quality Chop House ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Sticky date sponge with Christmas pudding ice cream and pear, paired with the most exquisite Loupiac I’ve ever had.

Truly the most wonderful way to spend a Sunday!

The Quality Chop House, 88-94 Farringdon Rd, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 3EA

Make sure you book ahead – especially on Sundays!

More restaurant suggestions

My absolute favourite London place

A modern British food champion

For those days when you want it all (now you can!)

When only steak will do

Sunday Roast at The Quality Chop House

Hot Pot restaurant, Chinatown

I had one of the most exciting meal of the year at Hot Pot in Chinatown last week.

It wasn’t at a fancy, expensive restaurant.

But it was something totally new and that I had never done before – and when you eat out as much as I do, that’s something to celebrate!

Hot Pot restaurant, Chinatown ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

The first outpost of a 150-something-strong Thai-based franchise, Hot Pot specialises in… well… hot pots.

Hot Pot restaurant, Chinatown ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

The ultimate social eating dining concept, hot pot brings family and friends together around a broth-filled pot and a variety of toppings to cook in them.

Hot Pot restaurant, Chinatown ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Once you’ve chosen your broth from the 5 daily-made varieties and a few too many toppings from a 60-something strong list, all you have to do is sit back and relax.

All whilst nibbling on some fantastic Thai-style chicken wings and prawn toast (not pictured but absolutely delicious).

Hot Pot restaurant, Chinatown ● London restaurant review ● Cake + WhiskyHot Pot restaurant, Chinatown ● London restaurant review ● Cake + WhiskyHot Pot restaurant, Chinatown ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

When you’re doing that, the kitchen will get everything ready, pouring, crushing, peeling, chopping and mixing the many many ingredients necessary to craft Hot Pot’s signature broths.

Hot Pot restaurant, Chinatown ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Before you know it, a big steel pot of fragrant broth will appear in the centre of your table, alongside the freshest selection of toppings.

Hot Pot restaurant, Chinatown ● London restaurant review ● Cake + WhiskyHot Pot restaurant, Chinatown ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Pork, beef, fish, vegetables…

Moderation was never my strong suit, so we went for quite literally all of them, and I strongly recommend you do the same!

Hot Pot restaurant, Chinatown ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Then it’s time for you to get cooking by adding whatever toppings you fancy into the broth.

Hot Pot restaurant, Chinatown ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Add things one at a time or really go to town and put a little bit of everything inthere at once, there’s really no wrong way to do hot pot.

Plus, the more things you cook in the broth, the more layers of flavour you add to your initial broth, which means the more you eat, the better it gets!

Hot Pot restaurant, Chinatown ● London restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

A meal that’s meant to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace, hot pot is all about gathering your favourite people around a table create delicious food memories.

Definitely the hot (pot) place to be this winter!

Hot Pot, 17 Wardour St, London W1D 6PJ

Hot Pot restaurant, Chinatown