Nespresso Connoisseur Club

NESPRESSO CONNOISSEUR CLUB

I recently attended a very enjoyable and informative session of the Nespresso Connoisseur Club at the newly opened Nespresso branch at Westfields London in White City. The Nespresso Connoisseur Club was designed to provide Nespresso Club Members with a unique learning experience, especially created for all those who want to develop their knowledge of coffee, understand more about the art of coffee making and how to enjoy it at its finest.

A Nespresso machine - Awesome colour!

A Nespresso machine – Awesome colour!

There are two types of sessions, both of which are conducted in small groups and last around an hour. One session is known as An Introduction to the Sensory Analysis of Coffee, and this is the session that I attended. This proved to be a fun filled journey where we were shown some of the skills and techniques that the experts use to identify the aromatic profiles of the Nespresso Grand Crus families.

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L’Eto Caffe

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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Cafe No 8, York

On our last day in York we headed to Cafe No 8 for both breakfast and dinner. Located at No.8 Gillygate, the restaurant is a relaxed and friendly venue within close proximity to York Minster Cathedral and the many attractions of York. Cafe No 8 is also particularly appealing as its prices are great value for money. Our mini-Yorkshire breakfast was really satisfying and priced at a mere £5.95 (the full Yorkshire was £7.95). We opted for the scrambled eggs with our breakfast and were extremely impressed with how delicious the eggs were. Perfectly cooked, they were the height of creaminess. We easily could have ordered seconds.

Cafe No 8 - Yorkshire breakfast

Yorkshire breakfast

Dinner was also very reasonable priced with two courses for £19 and three courses for £23. For starters, a peppered mackerel on a slow cooked tomato and cucumber salad with salsa verde was refreshingly satisfying, particularly as the slow cooking of the tomatoes helped to intensify its lovely sweetness. The creamy chicken liver pate with chutney and sour dough proved to be delicious as the pate was rich, smooth and wonderfully tasty.

Cafe No 8 - Peppered mackerel

Peppered mackerel

Cafe No 8 - Chicken liver pate

Chicken liver pate

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L’Eto Caffe

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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Bill’s Produce Store – St Martin’s Courtyard, Covent Garden

Bill’s Produce Store and Restaurant in Covent Garden has a lovely spot overlooking the chic St Martin’s Courtyard which houses a string of shops and restaurants such as Dalla Terra. Bill’s is a darling restaurant full of charm and warmth, but on a sunny day, a table outside overlooking the courtyard is particularly pleasant.

Bill’s might be a restaurant, but serves a dual function as a produce store with a range of products available for sale lining their shelves. There is something wonderfully endearing about this restaurant, and best of all, the prices are low, with most mains hovering around the ten-pound mark.

We shared three starters including a hot smoked Scottish salmon (£5.65) that was beautiful, fleshy and full of flavour. The accompanying peach salad with red chicory and pomegranate, honey and mustard dressing worked well with the fish and was a successful combination.

Hot smoked salmon

Hot smoked salmon

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Choccywoccydoodah

Choccywoccydoodah cake

Choccywoccydoodah cake

Choccywoccydoodah specialises in a highly stylised bespoke cake service, offering cakes that are hand-sculptured from chocolate. The cakes resemble high art, and a visit to the shop on Fouberts Place near Carnaby Street (there is also a store in Brighton) is well worth it to ogle at the skill of the craftsmanship. Hard to believe that these are cakes, and that the icing designs are sculpted from chocolate.

Choccywoccydoodah cake

Choccywoccydoodah cake

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Delfina

Delfina is a restaurant I discovered while on route to Zucca and Jose, all three of which are on Bermondsey Street near London Bridge. It has an inviting contemporary look to it – lots of white space – and its high ceilings can be attributed to the fact that it is housed in what was once a converted chocolate factory. The building is now used for exhibitions and the like, and the restaurant opens for lunch from Monday to Friday, and for dinner on a Friday night.

On the Friday evening of our visit we tried seared scallops (£7.50) which disappointed. The scallop had started to go bad with an unpleasant taste to them. Furthermore, they weren’t really scallops (plural), but one scallop cut into two. The accompanying saffron cauliflower was also a touch underdone.

Scallops

Scallops

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Maison Blanc – Celebration Cakes

Fraisier

Fraisier

Maison Blanc is the French Boulangerie and Pâtisserie originally created by two-star Michelin chef Raymond Blanc of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons fame. It first opened in 1981 in Oxford, and today brings a little slice of France to 14 locations in the South of England. Maison Blanc serves a selection of freshly baked artisan breads, pastries, savouries, cakes and pâtisserie which are all hand finished.

I was lucky enough to sample some of the Maison Blanc celebrations cakes for my birthday recently with my office colleagues. First up was the delectable Fraisier, a light mousseline cream made with crème pâtissière and cream which was soft whipped to achieve a smooth, almost mousse-like consistency. Layered on a vanilla sponge base and topped with fresh strawberries and a white chocolate glaze, it was heavenly and lusciously light.

Fraisier

Fraisier

A tentation was a showcase in decadence. Raspberry soaked almond and chocolate sponge had been layered with chocolate and raspberry scented ganache to produce a beautifully rich and luscious cake with hints of raspberry. Finished with a shiny chocolate glaze, the cake was a feast for the eyes.

Tentation

Tentation

Also delicious was the chocolate surprise box, a lovely pistachio and almond sponge alternately layered with a rich and creamy chocolate and raspberry ganache. Topped with a whole mixed berry jelly, the surprise element came when you lifted the 72% premium dark chocolate box to reveal the cake. The box had been sprayed with gold powder to give it a glamorous finish.

Chocolate box

Chocolate box

These cakes were divine and a great birthday treat. Maison Blanc also offers a seasonal café menu that includes a selection of lunch options from filled baguettes and sandwiches, to salads, soup and savouries. There’s also a breakfast menu, with choices ranging from Scottish smoked salmon platters to a classic Le Parisien.


Summary information

Cekebration cake rating: 4/5

Price range: Cakes range from £17 – £35. Cakes serve 10.

Website: http://maisonblanc.co.uk/


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