"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!"

Balthazar

Posted on Friday, 8th August 2014

Balthazar Restaurant opened in Soho in New York in 1997, and within two years of its opening it became one of the hottest restaurants in NYC. It attracted celebrities far and wide, much in the same way that Chiltern Firehouse, London’s restaurant of the moment is doing. Long recognised as an institution in New York, celebrity restaurateur Keith McNally opened a branch on British shores in 2013 to much hype and fanfare.

Balthazar London looks the business and replicates Balthazar New York’s French brasserie design, from the high ceilings to the antique mirrored walls, through to the red leather banquettes down to the mosaic floors. Similar to its big sister, Balthazar London offers all-day menu with breakfast as well afternoon tea, and on the weekends there is a separate brunch menu. The food is French-inspired and includes seafood from the raw bar as well as a wide selection of classical French brasserie and bistro dishes. Next door to the restaurant is the Balthazar Boulangerie that serves an array of delicious looking artisan breads, pastries, salads and sandwiches.

The atmosphere was a little flat and lacklustre when we visited Balthazar London. Perhaps it was because it was a Sunday night, but there wasn’t the fired-up energy that was reminiscent of my past visits to Balthazar New York. With all the hype that surrounded Balthazar’s opening, this proved to be a little disappointing.

As for the food, it didn’t quite fire on all cylinders with starters of garlic prawns (£10) and steak tartare (£9.75) being acceptable if a little lacklustre. The prawns were firm in texture and came in a buttery sauce filled with garlic and piment d’Espelette chillies. But the sauce wanted for a little more flavour. On the side was a warm portion of fougasse provencale bread that soaked up the sauce nicely. But the bread was rather oily and the crust was not crunchy. As for the steak tartare, the meat was tender and flavoursome, but it needed more Worcestershire sauce and seasoning to give it a greater punch.

Balthazar - Garlic prawns

Garlic prawns

Balthazar - Steak tartare

Steak tartare

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The White Swan

Posted on Thursday, 7th August 2014

The White Swan, located on Fetter Lane near Chancery Lane, is an old-fashioned boozer which has long enticed the city crowd with its fine selection of ales and refined gentile feel. But it also serves as a gastropub, with the first floor area being transformed into a smart but not overly fussy dining room styled with an art-deco touch.

The food is also classically British and smartly done, teetering on high-end without being too over the top. The ground floor pub also serves food, and although its menu includes a burger and fish and chips as options, the other items are rather smart with the likes of dishes such as confit duck leg and slow roasted pork belly. Migrate upstairs to the main dining room, and the a la carte menu becomes more creative with the added option of a tasting menu.

We decided to go for the tasting menu, which was a rather reasonable £55 for six courses. Our amuse bouche was a crab salad with cucumber and tomato which was lovely and fresh and blended with a creamy mayo that tasted distinctively homemade.

The White Swan - Crab salad

Crab salad amuse bouche

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Eight Delicious Alternatives to Meat

Posted on Wednesday, 6th August 2014

Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean giving up flavorful food, or missing out on needed nutrients that normally coming from consuming meat and seafood. There are numerous delicious meatless vegetarian options packed with everything the body needs.

Portobello Mushrooms

The caps of Portobello mushrooms are easy to disguise as burgers, and may actually taste even better than the real thing. They are dense, juicy, and very meat-like, but  much lower in fat and cholesterol. This type of mushrooms is also very easy to grill and may even be mistaken for a regular burger while being cooked.

Eggplant

When searching for meat substitutes, be sure to check out eggplant. This purple skinned vegetable has a consistency similar to that of meat and is chewier than the average vegetable. It is a perfect ingredient for meatless lasagna. Instead of chicken parmesan try eggplant parmesan for a tasty vegetarian meal.

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The Five Fields

Posted on Thursday, 31st July 2014

The Five Fields restaurant is so named as it is located in an area which was once known in the 18th century as The Five Fields. Chef-owner Taylor Bonnyman opened The Five Fields in May of 2013. It’s a charming restaurant set in a townhouse, and it has been sumptuously decorated in soft, soothing colours to give diners both a sense of comfort and elegance. The menu is modern British and focuses on seasonal ingredients, drawing on herbs and vegetables grown at the restaurant’s own East Sussex gardens. Taylor previously cooked at the two Michelin-starred Corton in New York and now works alongside head chef Marguerite Keogh who was previously at Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley.

There is a tasting menu which is priced at £75. Otherwise, three courses is a really reasonably priced £50 a head. There’s also flexibility to be had as the two of us decided to go with three starters and only one dessert rather than two of each. Our meal began with some petit looking canapés which consisted of a foie gras mousse on crispy gingerbread topped with a prune puree and a dash of orange powder. This was a tasty bite of creamy goodness meshed with gingery, orangey overtones. This was followed by a fresh crab tartlet topped with pickled golden beetroot and aromatic shiso. A refreshing amuse bouche of gazpacho with pickled watermelon and basil oil came next. We also nibbled on some warm and appetising breads including a selection of campaillou, black olive, soda bread and buttermilk.

The Five Fields - Canapés

Canapés

The Five Fields - Bread selection

Bread selection

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Häagen-Dazs – The Craft of Real Ice Cream

Posted on Tuesday, 29th July 2014

Häagen-Dazs Choc choc chip

Häagen-Dazs Choc choc chip

Last week Häagen-Dazs organised an exclusive event to celebrate the craft of real ice cream, which was hosted by the lovely Masterchef winner Natalie Coleman, and Mecca Ibrahim of Great British Chefs. We were treated to a selection of especially created savoury canapés including a delicious prawn wonton with sweet chilli, smoked trout with pickled cucumber, and a wonderful fig, mascarpone, basil and balsamic dressing.

Prawn wonton with sweet chilli

Prawn wonton with sweet chilli

Smoked trout with pickled cucumber

Smoked trout with pickled cucumber

Fig, mascarpone & basil

Fig, mascarpone & basil

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5&33 Restaurant – Art-Otel Amsterdam

Posted on Sunday, 27th July 2014

To round off our recent Amsterdam visit, we had a really pleasant meal at the quirkily named 5&33, in-house restaurant of the Art-Otel, the hotel where we chose to call home for two nights while in Amsterdam.

The Art’Otel is located in the heart of Amsterdam and only minutes away from Amsterdam Central Station. Given its great location, Art-Otel was well placed for the many attractions of Amsterdam such as the Royal Palace, the canals, the Jordaan district, Dam square and many other popular attractions. But it wasn’t just the location that was great, but also the hotel’s innovative art house design. The Art’Otel offers a slick, contemporary experience, and it’s funky décor saw the Art’Otel win the Best Hotel Design 2013 Award by VENUEZ magazine, one of Netherlands’ leading hospitality magazines.

Art'Otel - Our bedroom

Art’Otel – Our arty bedroom

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Walk on the Wild Side at Embassy Gardens by Ballymore

Posted on Wednesday, 23rd July 2014

The Embassy Gardens by Ballymore

The Embassy Gardens by Ballymore

The Embassy Gardens by Ballymore is hosting a five-day pop-up event at its stunning venue in Nine Elms on the South Bank called ‘Walk On The Wild Side’. The event is being run by The Radical Dining Society, an outfit that organises culinary adventures for foodie thrill seekers. Walk On The Wild Side runs from July 22 to 26 and features a seven course-tasting menu of foraged food and Harvey Nichols Own Label Champagne and wines. The menu is based around a theme of wild flowers and gardens and draws its inspiration from the linear park that will wrap around The Embassy Gardens by Ballymore, stretching from Vauxhall to Battersea Park.

In charge of proceedings is Chef Toby Cartwright who began his career at Coworth Park under 2 Michelin star chef John Campbell. As diners feast away, DJ Tony from Raffles nightclub will entertain guests by spinning some cool Ibiza tracks. And all this is set against the backdrop of The Embassy Gardens, a rooftop location that offers lovely views of the Thames and the emerging Nine Elms district.

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Yamazato – One Star Michelin Japanese Restaurant, Amsterdam

Posted on Tuesday, 22nd July 2014

After a sumptuous dinner at &Samhoud Places, we followed this up with another lovely meat at Yamazato Restaurant which located in The Hotel Okura in Amsterdam. Yamazato is famous for its authentic Japanese haute cuisine, and in fact Yamazato was the first traditional Japanese restaurant to be awarded a one Michelin star in Europe. The restaurant is best known for its kaiseki menu, a multi-course Japanese menu that draws upon seasonal ingredients and a collection of skills and techniques in its preparation. But Yamazato also offers a wonderful variety of classical Japanese dishes from the a la carte menu, a selection of sashimi and sushi, and a more moderately priced lunch menu.

Decorated in a 15th and 16th-century Sukiya style, the décor at Yamazato embodies the essence of a classical Japanese fine dining restaurant. The waitresses were all dressed in kimonos and well trained in the art of fine Japanese hospitality. Surrounding the restaurant is a Japanese garden, beautifully landscaped to exude a sense of calm and serenity. The décor, the lovely service and the garden all went hand in hand in to create a harmonious dining experience.

Yamazato - The Garden

The Garden

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