April 25, 2015

Petersham Nurseries is a little haven in far west London.

All who know me, and for those who don't, I have a little obsession with garden centres. I like the lifestyle, homewares that always feature and of course in the spring time the excitement and plethora of of plants they have to offer to add to an already established garden or to start a new one.

The Buford Garden Centre has been a favourite of mine since I was tiny, everything you could ever want for your home and garden under one roof.

Gee's also has taken this outdoor feel and brought it inside over the past years and it works fantastically. To feel as though you are eating amongst the produce has never been so much in fashion and I like it, a lot.

The Cafe at petersham Nurseries is a whole lot more than a garden centre cafe, as from a glance you or I might think.

In fact it is beautiful, award-winning  restaurant, hidden under a bamboo canopy with an earthen floor serving fresh delicious food that you might think was sitting in the sunshine in the veg patch only moments ago.

Now let me show you around...

All manner of goodies hide in the cracks and crevices of this place, sought after tea sets, that sculpture you have always wanted...

...that chandelier you know you could squeeze in somewhere even if it were to over crowd the smallest of spaces and all of those beautiful hydrangeas coming into bloom in worn terracotta that would look perfect in any window. 

Last but not least candles the size of plant pots giving off delicate floral sent that could refresh any warm evening or lighten a drizzly morning. 

This garden centre is a place to get lost in and we haven't even sat down yet. 

After a good wander, we perused the menu... Wild Asparagus, Cepe risotto, Nettle ravioli, everything had a crisp freshness in its description that tickled all our taste buds and no one could wait to get started.

The nettle ravioli, tangy and delicious also a first. A real winner...

Having started with the tastiest of starters we couldn't wait to tuck in to the next course. Gilt bream...

and lamb topped with a whole chargrilled courgette.

The desserts were really a work of art. Now I am not normally one to enjoy flowers in a dish but these were a game changer. 

Below, chewy meringue, the tangiest lemon sorbet and velvety cream. 

Another beautifully presented dessert, mango carpachio with lemon sorbet again tousled in (edible!) flowers.

A light and fluffy chocolate pot, rich and crunchy with thyme shortbread to dip and candied hazelnuts to add texture...

Lastly the cheese option with quince jam and blanched roasted almonds.

Surrounded by palms, mirrors, art, ferns and flowers this place is unmissable, delicious and a real treasure trove. 

If you don't fancy lunch you can always opt for tea and cake, they have a beautiful selection of cakes daily all served with piping hot coffee and of course you can enjoy your tea in an other prefect greenhouse setting. 

For rustic wanders out there, keen gardeners or foodies this place is a must all year round. 

The dishes reflect the seasons along with your surroundings, I will be sure to come back for tea and cake and also once the season changes to see what other beautiful dishes have been dreamt up while I have been away. 

Find them here... be sure to book and get ready to be wowed, in the perfect setting. 

April 20, 2015

Rhubarb season is always one of my favourites. The harsh cold of winter has finally gone, the sun is shining more and all the trees are starting to come alive with blossom and new shoots. 

Everywhere looks much better bathed in sunlight and of course we now have long evenings to laze around in parks and days are starting to get that wonderful endless feeling. 

It is this time that Rhubarb starts to grow in its masses, you get the forced rhubarb first, characterised by its really vibrant pink colouring, and then you get the rest. 

Rhubarb is a pretty versitle food, I have made tarts and sorbet in the past. It also goes brilliantly as a purée in processco if you are feeling fancy one evening too. 

Today I decided to spruce up an old favourite, a crunchy pavlova topped with the pinkest, freshest, tangiest rhubarb. 


For a pavlova for about 4-6 (depending on how hungry you and your guests are!) you will need...

For the meringue... 
4 egg whites 
150g sugar 
Pinch of cream of tartare 
1 tsp white wine vinegar 
1 tsp boiling water 

For the sticky rhubarb topping...
6 stick of rhubarb 
2 tbsp brown sugar 

I large tube of total Greek Yogurt 
1 tbsp ground ginger 

For your crumble topping...
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp ground ginger  

Start by chopping your rhubarb and then gently cooking it in a pan with a little sugar until soft. Watch carefully as if cooked for too long will become a mush.


You want strips about 2 inches long.
Next whip up your egg whites, sugar, vinegar, tartare and boling water. 

Dollop and spread onto a baking sheet. The messier the better, don't worry too much about neatness at this stage. 

Make a hollow in the middle slightly for your filling and tangy fruit. 

Place in the oven at 140C for 1 1/2 hours


Next make up your crumble topping by rubbing together your butter, ginger and flour and then placing in a baking tin. 
This is will cook for about 10 minutes and will all spread out. 

Once golden leave to cool before smashing up into crumbs.

Sprinkle a layer on the base of the meringue, before you add your yogurt topping.

Mix up your yogurt and ginger and place in the shallow dip in the centre of your cooked meringue. 

Pile high with the yogurt filling, warm rhubarb and finally with the rest of the crumble topping... 

Enjoy in the spring sunshine! 

April 13, 2015

There is finally a tasty hotspot on Oxford street to go to rest from shopping that doesn't break the bank or leaves you waiting for service... 

Smack Deli is a stones throw away from the busy shopping streets of London, making it the perfect shopping pit stop. 

For years I have wandered around Selfridges and Oxford street and just wanted to pop in somehwhere simple for a bite to eat. 

Something that wasn't wildly expensive but also something a little more exciting than a cafe chain. 

The search is over... Smack deli is just the ticket. 

Nestled off Oxford street on Binney Street just off to the left is a gleaming lobster roll fast food paradise. 

With exposed copper and bare wood, long benches this place is quirky and is serving up an absolute storm in the kitchen. 

The menu is not over complicated, in fact is has just 5 items.

 You choose from three varieties of lobster roll, lobster bisque or whole lobster. It's pretty simple but the best of the best ingredients are stuffed into fluffly brioche buns and piled into cardboard containers. 

There is an undeniable american influence in the whole set up and it works. 

Along side your rolls or lobster you can get the crispiest courgette fries, which are wickedly good, I could easily eat a bucket. 

Next time you are shopping, exhausted and in need of an afternoon pick me up and a little break to rest weary feet and fill up grumbling bellies this is the place to go... 

April 12, 2015

Last weekend a few of my closest girlfriends and I ventured over to Shordeditch to try out brunch at Hotbox. 

We had heard about the bottomless Bloody Mary's, each with exotic addition like smoked pork jus or jalapeños and the pork belly eggs benedict, which as you can imagine is as indulgent, tasty and delicious as it sounds. Here's a quick sneak peak...

 Different areas of London really are so different, the east is slightly less busy than central and to find brunch haunts takes a bit of research, but is always worth it. 

 Hotbox is on a large long street, if you weren't adamant to get your hands on their 'Green Classic Bloody Mary' you may just walk straight past, its industrial exterioir is quirky and blends into the rest of the old warehouse, industrial feel common in East London. 

Once inside you are taken to your long bench style table where everyone cosies up to each other and you start to tackle the menu. 

For this place the hardest choice you face is if you want the bottomless Bloody Mary brunch, or just one, depending on your afternoon plans! 

At £25 a head for just the bottomless brunch, you would need three of the large, strong Bloody Mary's we decided that even though proseco, the slightly lighter option could be included in the offer we would pass, one each would do and we could try each other's to get the varying flavours. 

If you are after a lazy Sunday, or a place for a birthday brunch the bottomless option could be extremely appealing, however a special occasion is needed considering the charge per diner doesn't include food. 

The drinks arrived in record time, in large Chucky glasses,

All with large sticks of celery, cucumber and lemon. 

We went for the green, the spicy and the classic. All delicious... and dare I say it extremely moreish! 

That's the green... Spicy, savoury and delicious. 

The tops are dipped in salt to heighten the flavours and add a kick to each sip.

If you are in need of an extra bit of heat bottles of hot sauce can be found at every corner.

We ordered... Crispy indulgent pork belly on toasted muffins topped with perfectly poached eggs, hollandaise and a shake of paprika... 

Some of the best eggs benni in town, really worth a visit and Bloody Mary's that are impossible to beat...  

Hotbox is a must! 

This dish is really fantastic, a Mediterranean classic, easy and a great veggie option to have amongst your meat heavy summer BQQ dishes. 

It's also perfect comfort food and bursting with flavour. 

For one healthy (ish) plate of cheesy baked melitszana you will need...

3 large aubergines sliced, you can do this with with a knife, or if you want wafer thin slices for more layers you could use a mandolin... But do so with caution! 

1 tin of tomatoes 
A few sprigs of Fresh thyme
Dried oregano 
A good shake of salt and pepper 
1 cup of kefalotyri chesse if you want to keep the dish greek (cheddar will also work well) 
2 tsp cinnamon 

Use a microplane grater for your chesse as you get light shavings which go a long way so the dish doesn't become too heavy. 

Start by lightly frying your aubergines for a few minutes until golden. 

I use a griddle as it gives your veg (and meat or bread) nice rustic stripes also the hot plate is quite large so you can normally do them all in one batch.

Once cooked leave them to cool off while you get on with your tomato sauce. 

Put your tin of tomatoes in a pan and add your herbs and salt and pepper and some cinnamon. Stir together and let simmer for a few minutes untill reduced slightly.

Get to work grating your cheese and set to once side. Now you are ready to assemble...

Layer your aubergines, sauce and cheese, repeat untill you run out of aubergines but still have sauce and cheese for the important crispy topping!

Finish with the rest of the sauce and a good finally layer of cheese, you want the top to be really golden. 

Now bake in the over for 30-40 minutes untill the cheese is golden and gooey and smelling delicious. 

Set to one side and serve with some crisp salad and meat fresh from the grill or BBQ.
Or just tuck in to the dish on its with some red wine... 

A really easy, tasty show stopper, perfect for these warmer days.

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