"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!"

Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi

Posted on Wednesday, 8th July 2015

JUMEIRAH AT ETIHAD TOWERS, ABU DHABI

Jumeirah at Etihad Towers - London Food Blog

Jumeirah at Etihad Towers

On my recent visit to Abu Dhabi I stayed at the iconic 5-star Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, a 280m tall luxury hotel located on the West Corniche in the exclusive Ras Al Akhdar area of Abu Dhabi overlooking the Arabian Gulf. The hotel is close to the central business district and adjacent to the famous Emirates Palace Hotel. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers is one of a group of five towers that includes a prestigious office tower and three towers housing apartments, premium boutiques and contemporary restaurants. The Etihad Towers are an integral part of the Abu Dhabi skyline and most famously featured in the blockbuster movie Fast & Furious 7.

The construction of the Etihad Towers was overseen by Australian architects DBI and began in 2006. The Towers are particularly dramatic for their staggering modernity and are beautiful on the eye. Inside, the hotel is no less beautiful, oozing with a cosmopolitan ‘city’ chic that is sublimely sophisticated. The lobby is wide, tall and deep, shining with natural light during the day, and dazzling from the glow of the handmade chandeliers at night. Much care has gone into the selection of the finishing touches which were awe-inspiring and which features a unique use of rare marbles, semi-precious stones and crystals.

Jumeirah at Etihad Towers - London Food Blog - The lobby

Jumeirah at Etihad Towers – The lobby

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Iberica – Great Chefs Great Causes Campaign

Posted on Sunday, 5th July 2015

Ibérica are currently running a ‘Great Chefs Great Causes Campaign’ which features a collection of special signature tapas dishes created using recipes from the most celebrated Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American chefs, the majority of which were recently recognised as part of the 50 Best Restaurants in The World Awards. The tapas dishes are priced from £7 and will be rotated on a weekly basis throughout the London restaurants. The campaign ends on 23 August 2015, and the profits from the campaign will be shared equally amongst the chef’s chosen charities such as Unicef and Action Against Hunger.

I recently attended a preview tasting of this special collection of tapas dishes at the Great Portland Street branch of Ibérica. The evening began with a ‘Caipiritxa’ by Chef Eneko Atxa of Azurmendi in Spain (N°19 *). A beautiful green colour, this was a refreshing concoction made from capirinha and Spanish sparkling wine.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Caipiritxa by Azurmendi

Iberica – Caipiritxa by Azurmendi

Next was the razor clam with yellow pepper and black quinoa by Chef Virgilio Martinez of Central in Peru (N°4 *). This was my favourite dish of the evening. Beautiful soft razaor clams had been tempered with a delicate yellow pepper foam which combined beautifully with the clams. The spritely texture of the quinoa also added a lovely contrast and completed what was a mesmerising dish.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Razor clam by Central

Iberica – Razor clam by Central

Oysters with cucumber and lychee by Chef Daniel Redondo, of Mani in Brazil (N°41 *) was an interesting contrast in flavours and sensations. The lychee added sweetness to the savoury earthiness of the oyster, and the cucumber, served as a slice and as a jelly provided a refreshing twist to the dish.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Oysters by Mani

Iberica – Oysters by Mani

Mango, beer and black pudding by Chef Juan Mari Arzak, of Arzak in Spain (N°17 *), served in a beer can was visually arresting. The black pudding was well made, but on the whole this tapa was unremarkable.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Mango & beer By Arzak

Iberica – Mango & beer By Arzak

Beef tartare with vinaigrette and anchovies by Chef Dieter Koschina of Vila Joya in Portugal (N°98 *) came within inches of perfection. This was a delight to eat with the anchovies providing the perfect contrast and seasoning to the depth of flavour in the beef. But the spread of the anchovies in the tartare was a little uneven, and with a few more anchovies the tartare would have been absolutely perfect.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Beef tartare by Vila Joya

Iberica – Beef tartare by Vila Joya

Avocado toast with bone marrow salsa, cucumber and sea urchin by Chef Enrique Olvera of Pujol in Mexico (N°16 *) was interesting with its eclectic combination of ingredients. But as unusual as it was, every element came together wonderfully to provide a harmonious union of flavours. There was earthiness from the avocado, fatty creaminess from the marrow, and an extravagant sea flavour from the sea urchin, which was well balanced and not overpowering.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Avocado toast by Pujol

Iberica – Avocado toast by Pujol

Foie Cuba libre with lemon frost by Chef Quique Dacosta of Quique Dacosta Restaurant in Spain (N°39 *) was also delicious. The base of a beautifully creamy foie gras had been topped with a delicately flavoured lemon frost. This was delicious but not particularly disimilar to other foie gras parfaits you might try elsewhere.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Foie Cuba by Quique Dacosta

Iberica – Foie Cuba by Quique Dacosta

Fresh chorizo tartar by Chef Bittor Arguinzoniz of Asador Etxebarri in Spain (N°13 *) was next, and I didn’t understand the point of this dish. It lacked the intensity of flavour you might ordinarily get from chorizo. Furthermore it had a slightly odd texture. The tartar was original in it is conception but not particularly memorable for its flavour.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Fresh chorizo tartar by Asador Etxebarri

Iberica – Fresh chorizo tartar by Asador Etxebarri

Squid parmentier with red smoked Spanish paprika and squid stock by Chef Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca in Spain (The World’s Best Restaurant *) was a lovely dish and beautifully presented. The squid was soft and the paprika graced the squid with a hint of spiciness. At the based of the dish was a bed of lovely mashed potato. But the highlight was undoubtedly the squid stock, an exquisite concoction of intense flavour that brought the dish together.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Squid parmentier by El Celler de Can Roca

Iberica – Squid parmentier by El Celler de Can Roca

Rustic bread with fresh pancetta and spring herbs by Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz in Spain (N°6 *) was scrumptious in its simplicity. Lusciously fatty pieces of pancetta and fresh herbs served on warm bread provided a lovely explosion of flavours, especially as some of the fattiness of the pancetta had melted with the heat of the toast. Comparatively speaking, this tapa was less interesting than some of the others that preceded it. Yet there was no lack of flavour.

Iberica – London Food Blog - Rustic bread by Mugaritz

Iberica – Rustic bread by Mugaritz

The dessert was watermelon infused in sangria by Chef Albert Adria of Tickets in Spain (The World’s Best Pastry Chef). This was somewhat of a disappointment as it was merely watermelon infused with sangria. I had hoped for a recipe of more innovation from ‘The World’s Best Pastry Chef’.

Iberica - London Food Blog - Watermelon with sangria

Iberica – Watermelon with sangria

There was a plethora of delights to behold as part of The Great Chefs Great Causes campaign at Iberica. Many tapas dishes were original and interesting, with a few that proved to be particularly exceptional and delicious. But there were some which didn’t quite hold the torch as far as a 50 Best Restaurant goes, so chose your week of visit carefully as each of the dishes are rotated on a weekly basis.

Website: http://www.ibericarestaurants.com/great-chefs-great-causes/

Rabbit

Posted on Thursday, 2nd July 2015

The Rabbit in Chelsea is the second venture by the Gladwin brothers who brought us The Shed in Notting Hill. I adored the food at The Shed, the fabulous restaurant founded on fresh, foraged and farm-reared sustainable principles by the brothers Richard, Oliver and Gregory, and Rabbit is no different. Richard went into hospitality, Oliver is a chef and Gregory is a farmer; and the three have therefore managed to form a perfect triangle of what it takes to produce a winning restaurant.

The interior at Rabbit also has a touch of country to it and is wonderfully rustic with reclaimed British furniture being a key feature at the restaurant. As with its sister restaurant The Shed, The Rabbit is supplied with reared livestock and wines from the family farm and vineyard in Sussex which is run by Farmer Gregory. Known as Nutbourne, references are often made to ingredients from Nutbourne in the menu. Other seasonal produce come from local Sussex suppliers.

Head Chef Oliver Gladwin previously trained at Oxo Tower, Launceston Place, Just St James and with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage. His passion for foraging and seasonality is evident in his daily changing menu, which is divided into distinct sections: mouthfuls, slow cooking and fast cooking. The menu is designed for sharing with Rabbit recommending about 4-5 plates for two to share.

We began our meal with one of the ‘mouthfuls’, a squid ink cracker filled with sea bass roe and dill (£1.50) that was really tasty. The cracker was crunchy, the squid ink flavour in the cracker was delicately poised, the mellow saltiness of the filling worked well with the cracker and the dill added great fragrance.

Rabbit - London Food Blog - Squid ink cracker

Rabbit – Squid ink cracker

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The Swan Hotel – Lavenham

Posted on Monday, 29th June 2015

The Swan Hotel & Spa is set in the heart of Lavenham, Suffolk, a beautiful 15th century medieval village steeped in centuries of history. Lavenham built up great wealth due to its woollen cloth industry in the 15th and 16th centuries, and with this came a sprawling set of period buildings catering to the wealthy of the time. As such Lavenham is known as one of England’s finest medieval towns. Not far from the hotel’s doorstep is the stunning timber framed Guildhall, a National Trust property, and the splendid St Peter and St Paul churches. Lavenham is also well placed for the surrounding countryside, with its scenic walking routes. It is also within driving access to the other wool towns of Hadleigh, Sudbury and Long Melford, the latter being famous for Melford Hall (a National trust property) and Kentwell Hall.

London Food Blog - The Swan at Lavenham

The Swan at Lavenham

The Swan Hotel is in itself an excellent example of the architecture from that time. The hotel’s exterior is a picture-perfect half-timbered structure that incorporates several notable buildings including an Elizabethan house and Lane Ham’s former Wool Hall. Inside there are beautiful oak beamed interiors, open fireplaces and cosy lounge seats. The rooms have been decorated by blending classical period touches with a contemporary style so that guests can enjoy a sense of history, yet still be able to relax in comfort. I stayed in The Heritage Room which was lovely. With its original features and uneven floors that stayed true to the structure of the original building, the room offered an old world charm and character.

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Randa

Posted on Monday, 22nd June 2015

Tucked around the corner from Kensington High Street is Randa, a fine Lebanese Restaurant which is part of the Maroush group of restaurants. Started in 1981 by Marouf Abouzaki who left war-torn Lebanon for London, The Maroush Group now includes 16 restaurants, ranging from the fast food operations of Beirut Express on Edgware Road to the more upmarket establishments such as Maroush on Vere Street and Randa. All the Maroush restaurants aim to serve authentic Lebanese food the traditional way, and at Randa, the menu offers a standard staple of Lebanese goodies. The selection includes a variety of much loved hot and cold mezzes such as hommos as well as an assortment of baked goods and pastries. There is also a fine selection of main courses including seafood and meat grills.

We began our meal with a selection of mezze including chickpea hommos (£5.50) and moutabal baba ghanouj (£5.75), a grilled aubergine purée mixed with tahine. Both of these were delightfully good. The hommos was thick, creamy and tasty, but the baba ghanouj proved to be my favourite with its rich, decadent and slighted charred flavour.

Randa - London Food Blog - Cold mezze

Randa – Cold mezze

Charcoal-grilled marinated chicken wings served with garlic sauce (£6) proved to be a winner. The wings were really nicely cooked and succulent, and they paired wonderfully with the strong garlic-y flavour of the wonderfully thick sauce. These chicken wings with garlic sauce are a personal favourite of mine, and on occasion I will pop into Beirut Express on Edgware Road just to order the wings.

Other hot mezzes included kibbeh (£6), deep-fried lamb meatballs mixed with cracked wheat and onions, and falafel (£5.50), deep-fried bean and herb croquettes served with tahine. Both of these were freshly prepared with crunchy coatings and tasty fillings. Grilled halloumi cheese (£6.50) was truly yummy with a robust earthy flavour.

Randa - London Food Blog - Hot mezzes

Randa – Hot mezzes

Les successful items included the Maroush salad (£5.75) and lentil soup. The salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, parsley, mint, onion, radish and with a lemon and olive oil dressing was also wonderfully fresh. But it was over dressed with too much lemon juice and very acidic on the palate. A lentil soup (£5) was also a little bland.

For our main we shared a plate of grilled king prawns (£18) which was a dream to eat. Four jumbo-sized prawns sat on our plate and were firm in texture and very nicely cooked. The combination of texture and good cooking yielded something that was really flavoursome.

Randa - London Food Blog - Jumbo prawns

Randa – Jumbo prawns

For dessert we tried a selection of baklawa which contained a variety of fillings. The pastry was delicate and the syrupy sweetness of the baklawa was not did overpower the flakiness of the pastry and the tasty fillings. All of these were delicious.

Randa - London Food Blog - Baklawa

Randa – Baklawa

The food at Randa was really enjoyable. The mezzes sang of freshness and authenticity, the prawns were delicious and the baklawa was good too. I would have liked better balance in the salad dressing and greater flavour in the lentil soup, but otherwise it’s a big tick for Randa on the food front. The service was warm and friendly too.

Summary Information:
Likes:

1) The food was generally well executed with the moutabal baba ghanouj being my favourite.
2) The jumbo prawns

Dislikes:
1) The salad and the lentil soup were the weakest dishes that we tried.

Food rating: 3.5/5
Service rating: 3.5/5

Prices: About £20 to £40 a head.

Website: https://www.randa-restaurant.com/

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Square Meal

Chablis Dinner at The Chancery

Posted on Monday, 15th June 2015

I recently attended a ‘Gastronomy and Geology’ dinner where we went on a journey of discovery into the unique and mineral-laden qualities of the world of Chablis. Chablis is always made from Chardonnay, and what makes it special is that it has its roots in a seam of 155m year old fossilised oyster shells, the same ground that exists in the town of Kimmeridge, Dorset, and runs through parts of Champagne, the Loire valley and of course, Chablis.

The event was held at The Chancery where we saw an amazing four-course menu prepared by Chef Graham Long being paired with a variety of different quality Chablis wines. The evening began in the Chancery’s cellar bar with crab beignets and truffled cheese arancini canapés accompanied by an accessible Petit Chablis aperitif, a Dauvissat Petit Chablis 2012, which was fresh and clean on the palate. This Chablis is supposedly from an appellation which is the most lowly (Petit Chablis) but it is in fact Petit in name alone. This is because Dauvissat is arguably Chablis’ finest, most manicured domaine.

The Chancery - London Food Blog - Chablis

The Chancery – Chablis

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L’Eto Caffe

Posted on Monday, 8th June 2015

L'Eto - London Food Blog - Salad counter

L’Eto – Salad counter

L'Eto - London Food Blog - Salad counter

L’Eto – London Food Blog – Salad counter

L’Eto Caffe is a chain of café-restaurants with six branches across central London that offers an all day dining service. The café is most notable for their dazzling display of cakes and pastries in their front window, all of which are so tempting it’s almost impossible not to do a double take every time you walk past a branch of L’Eto. But L’Eto offer more than just cakes. They also have a counter laid out with vibrant salads and cooked mains. The King’s Road, Belgravia and Brompton branches also serve breakfast and an a la carte menu for both lunch and dinner.

I recently visited the Brompton branch of L’Eto which is located within close proximity to the wonderful V&A and Natural History Museums. It is a very inviting venue with a lovely décor that is peppered with a smart and arty European charm. The wonderful display of great salads and tempting cakes also do much to add spark to the setting.

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Koji

Posted on Friday, 5th June 2015

KOJI

Koji Japanese Restaurant in Parsons Green is a joint collaboration between Nobuhisha Takahashi, the former sushi head chef at both Nobu London and Nobu Cape Town, and Mark Barnett, the former proprietor of the now closed Mao Tai Chinese restaurant. The Koji concept centres around contemporary Japanese dining, ranging from fresh sushi and sashimi being carved out at the beautiful sushi bar, to meats and seafood caramelising sweetly on the robata grill. On the a la carte menu is an array of modern Japanese dishes that draw influences from South America and Europe.

Koji offers a sophisticated yet relaxed atmosphere. Towards the front of the restaurant is a cocktail bar offering light snacks and the sushi bar where diners can choose to eat their meal whilst watching the sushi craftmen at work. In the restaurant proper is a buzzy restaurant where diners can relax in well-appointed surrounds.

We started with the summer roll with soft shell crab (£15) which was gloriously fresh and summery. The crab was sweet and meaty with a crunchy coating, and it had been paired with seasonal asparagus, tangy pickled ginger and some fragrant shiso leaf. To hold together all the deliciousness was an outer roll of beautifully made soft Vietnamese rice paper. A yuzu dressing added a citrusy and refreshing touch to the roll.

Koji - London Food Blog - Summer roll

Koji – Summer roll

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