"After years of continuous eating,'A Girl has to Eat', a self-confessed food lover and eat-aholic, has been spurred on to create her own food guide & blog. Read about her fabulous (and sometimes not so fabulous) culinary adventures in her restaurant reviews. This and more!"

Caxton Grill by Adam Handling

Posted on Sunday, 13th April 2014

The Head Chef of Caxton Grill at the St Ermin’s Hotel, St James Park, is none other than Adam Handling. Remember him? If like me you were a big fan of Professional Masterchef, you would have probably been devastated when Adam failed to win the 2013 series. The ambitious and highly inspirational Scottish chef was probably the most deserved of the title, but unfortunately he failed to pull through on the day of the final. But onwards and upwards as not winning Masterchef hasn’t held Adam back. Not only is Adam the head chef of Caxton Grill, he was listed as one of the ‘30 under 30’ to watch in The Caterer & Hotelkeeper’s 2013 Acorn Awards and recently crowned as the British Culinary Federation’s Chef of the Year, 2014.

Adam started his cooking career at the age of 16 at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. This was followed by positions at Rhodes 24, The Malmaison Hotel in Newcastle and the role of Head Chef at Fairmont St Andrews where he won two AA rosettes. At Caxton Grill, Adam cooks one part creative menu that is designed to excite, and another that is devoted to simple cooking of quality meats and fish from the Josper oven for more conventional palates. But in my view, if you are going to go to Caxton Grill, then a taste the creative inspiration that drives the ‘almost’ Masterchef winner is a must.

Our first interesting flavour experience was a breadbasket containing rye and bagel, and accompanied by a chicken butter with seaweed and mushroom. The rye was tasty, but the bagel was a dream with a centre that was lusciously soft, fluffy and wonderfully seasoned. The chicken butter consisted of 75% butter and 25% chicken fat and was supremely tasty with the seaweed providing the seasoning and the mushroom giving it an earthiness.

Caxton Grill - Bread

Bread

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The Smokehouse

Posted on Saturday, 5th April 2014

The Smokehouse in Islington is the latest venture by the king of BBQ, Chef Neil Rankin, previously of the critically acclaimed John Salt and Pitt & Cue. My last visit to John Salt proved to be a dazzling affair with the meal showcasing dishes that were not only delicious, but which demonstrated great skill and originality. Also particularly inspiring were the Korean influences incorporated into some of his creations.

The Smokehouse opened in August 2013 and has similarly been well received. The Smokehouse is backed by the same group that runs The Pig and Butcher, Princess of Shoreditch and The Lady Ottoline, and so it should come as no surprise that it has a lovely gastropub feel to it. The lighting is intimate, the tables are cozily positioned and the ambience is warm and relaxed. There’s also a generous area devoted to outdoor seating, which would come in handy on those days when the sun shines bright.

We started with the foie gras, apple pie and duck egg (£10) which was really gorgeous. The two pieces of rich, beautiful foie gras had been expertly cooked and oozed decadently with lots of lovely fattiness. The ‘apple pie’ contained soft diced apple caked in breadcrumbs and was really nicely done. The sweetness of the apple cut through the richness of the foie gras and the crumbing gave the dish a lovely texture. The duck egg yolk perched on top of the apple pie was golden throughout and perfect.

Smokehouse - Foie gras

Foie gras

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Vibrant and Delicious Caribbean Cuisine

Posted on Thursday, 3rd April 2014

Never tried Caribbean cuisine before? Be prepared to taste a combination of the freshest ingredients, a wealth of spices and a diversity of dishes influenced by countries from around the world. There’s definitely nothing mundane about the vibrant cuisine from the Caribbean.

If you’re one of the 25 million people set to take Caribbean holidays in 2014 then prepare to taste some of the most delicious food imaginable while you’re sunning yourself on the isles. You will enjoy a tantalizing array of dishes influenced by those who colonized the islands including the Dutch, Americans, British, Spanish and French. Throw in Africa, Asia and Latin American influences and you’ll soon realize that diversity is a key ingredient in Caribbean dishes. If you were under the impression that Caribbean cuisine was simply about jerk chicken and sweet potatoes then it’s time to think again.

Island cuisine

A major factor in the food you will eat in the Caribbean is that most of the islands have their own specific dishes and key ingredients. French cuisine plays a big influence, as you would expect in French Caribbean islands such as Martinique, while the Dutch Antilles is of course influenced by cuisine from the Netherlands. Cubans prefer dishes with cumin and black beans while the English islands have a penchant for curried dishes. However spices are a major element no matter which island you visit or which dish you try.

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Wahaca Westfield White City

Posted on Friday, 28th March 2014

Wahaca, the Mexican street eat restaurant chain started by the 2005 Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers, is one of my favourite cheap eats in London. Wahaca do some key things really well. Their vibe is relaxed and chilled, the ingredients they use are always fresh, and the dishes are refreshingly appetising. You can also expect a general level of consistency in the food no matter which branch you visit as most of the prep is done in the centralised Wahaca kitchen on Charlotte Street before being distributed to the various Wahaca branches. And best of all the food is really reasonably priced. And did I mention the yummy cocktails?

We visited the Wahaca at the very smart Westfield White City, perfectly located for a bite to eat after a spot of shopping. We kicked of with some drinks, heading straight for the interesting Tequila Experience (£10.65) which consisted of three separate tequila shots. First up was the cold sharpness of the Calle 23 Blanco which served as an aperitif washed down with sangrita. Next was the Reposado, a tequila with a light and woody flourish that we slowly savoured during the meal. To finish, we had the Añejo Calle 23, an aged tequila which was smooth and mellow with a nice finish. We also really adored the refreshing and not too sweet passionfruit margarita (£6.25).

Wahaca tequila experience and guacamole

Wahaca tequila experience and guacamole

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Amico Bio

Posted on Friday, 21st March 2014

It’s not often that I blog about vegetarian restaurants. But the concept of Amico Bio is rather unique and seemed worthy of a visit. Not only is Amico Bio vegetarian, it is an Organic Italian vegetarian restaurant. Head Chef and owner is Pasquale Amico who trained with the likes of Gary Rhodes, Bruno Loubet and Giorgio Locatelli. Prior to Amico Bio he also owned the successful Via Condotti on Conduit Street which held a Bib Gourmand.

There are two Amico Bio outlets in London – one in Holborn and one in Barbican. There’s also a third restaurant in Naples, Italy. The menu contains a range of starters, antipastas, pastas and main courses with vegan options and gluten free pasta. Amico Bio uses ingredients from Pasquale’s family farm in Capua, Italy, and given the efforts to bring the produce over from Italy (organic no less), its surprising how reasonably priced the menu is. Amico Bio sings of heartfelt, green, healthy cooking.

We started with a lovely roulade of potato and mushrooms with aubergine caponata and roast pepper sauce (£7) which was nicely done. The mushrooms were delicious with an excellent texture and well placed alongside the potatoes. The caponata and pepper sauce worked well with the roulade.

Amico Bio - Roulade of potato & mushrooms

Roulade of potato & mushrooms

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Reinstoff – 2 Star Michelin Restaurant Berlin

Posted on Monday, 17th March 2014

Reinstoff is a highly acclaimed two-Michelin starred restaurant located in the Mitte district of Berlin. The restaurant has also been bestowed with 18 Gault & Millau points with Head Chef Daniel Achilles holding the accolade of Gault & Millau Chef of the Year, 2014. Chef Achilles has trained with some highly acclaimed stars of the culinary world including the likes of three-Michelin-starred Juan Amador and Christian Bau. Victor’s Gourmet Restaurant by Christian Bau is one of my favourite restaurants of all time, and it was easy to see Bau’s influence of exactitude in Chef’s Achilles food as well. At Reinstoff the modern style of the food was executed with precision and can be best summed up by the name of the restaurant itself. In German rein means pure and stoff means matter.

Reinstoff is housed in the historic Edison Courtyard and The Courtyard is so named as it was here that the first light bulbs in Germany were manufactured in 1883. Reinstoff has stayed true to the history of the building. The original brickwork has remained as has the tall glass windows. Also in view is the Prussian vaulted ceiling from which 240 silver glass balls hang to give Reinstoff an elegant effect.

The Reinstoff menu consists of two degustation options, a ‘Quite Near’ menu which focuses on locally sourced ingredients, and a ‘Far Away’ menu which utilises ingredients more international in flavour (five courses – €100, six courses – €120, eight courses – €160).

We went for the Far Away menu, but first to the canapés. A mustard ice cream with marinated walnuts providing an interesting contrast between the sharp flavour of the cold ice cream against the nuttiness of the walnut. Marinated trout with kohlrabi and a piece of crispy fish skin was slightly fishy in taste and it was therefore less appealing even though the skill with which it had been prepared was evident. We thought highly of the shrimp with its accompanying dried, intensely sweet red berries and wonderful horseradish cream, but the highlight was the mushrooms crisps with crunchy coffee for it was gloriously rich in flavour.

Reinstoff - Canapes

Canapes

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L’Eto Caffe

Posted on Tuesday, 11th March 2014

L’Eto Caffe operates a string of six venues in London, all of which serve a pre-prepared display of savoury items, sumptuous looking cakes, baked goods and a variety of hot and cold drinks, all of which are available for either take out or eat in. The savouries are sold by weight (about £2.80 per 100gm) and include the likes of Georgian aubergines with pomegranate, walnuts and coriander, and baby spinach salad with goat’s cheese, dried cranberries and nuts. The Kings Road and Belgravia branches also have an à la carte selection of starters and mains for those seeking something prepared to order.

We were in the Kings Road branch after a spot of shopping and we found it to be an inviting location with bright colours and mouthwatering salads on display. The salads looked great but we decided to try the à la carte menu instead with our first starter being a crab and avocado salad with soy and lime dressing (£16). The crab in the salad was lovely and the avocado was ripe and tasty. The dressing was decent and not too overpowering, although slightly less soy and more lime might have achieved a better balance of flavours between the two.

L'Eto Caffe - Crab salad

Crab salad

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Vox Restaurant – Grand Hyatt Berlin

Posted on Monday, 10th March 2014

Vox Restaurant in The Grand Hyatt Berlin is unusual in that it offers a sushi and sashimi selection as well as a contemporary European menu. The restaurant, located on the ground floor of the hotel, is buzzy and modern, and oozes a hip-n-happening vibe helped in no small part by its dark décor and sleek lines. The open plan kitchen is divided into two sections each catering to the two different elements of the menu. A bar graces the entrance to the restaurant which was busy partying away on the night of our Saturday visit.

We decided to try the Japanese side of things first and elected for the nigiri, maki and sashimi collection (€29) as well as an ebi (prawn) roll (€18) with unagi (eel) sauce. In a city not famed for its sushi, our offering proved to be acceptable. The fish was fresh and palatable, although we longed for salmon and tuna which were a little fatter and richer in taste. Also a touch of something sweeter, perhaps some Japanese mayo, would have really helped to lift the prawn roll. A miso soup (€6) was delicious, but we found a seaweed salad (€12) to be disappointing. The seaweed was a little chewy and bland, and the dressing a little too acidic.

Vox - Sushi, sashimi & prawn roll

Sushi, sashimi & prawn roll

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