Italian fish and seafood class, Divertimenti, Kensington

As a birthday present, a friend gave me a gift certificate for a cooking class at Divertimenti. SCORE. Thank you, Sara!

They have a diverse range of classes, so after having perused all of them (and the dates that worked), I decided to refine my Italian cooking skills and eat some seafood while I was at it!

There were six people in the class, so we divided into groups of two and each tackled a few recipes… My partner and I started on the warm prawn salad, which was simple but delicious… fresh, lukewarm prawns tossed with olives, tomato, cucumber and loads of parsley.. this would make a very nice starter course with prawns that to me tasted like my favourite prawn carpaccio at La Petite Maison.

The duo next to us worked on another starter, rice-stuffed mussels in a tomato sauce, baked and scattered with garlicky, parsley bread crumbs.

And the last group worked on stuffed baby squid, again, stuffed with rice, garlic, parsley and breadcrumbs.

Then, the roast sea bream. This was simply roasted on a bed of olives, pine nuts and potatoes, and splashed with some white wine before it went into the over and then again, halfway through the roasting process.

This was the finished plate… this sea bream was SO tender and moist, I would have gobbled it up, if it hadn’t been for all the other food that we had made…

Then, we watched the teacher make a sea bass in salt crust. Quite easy, actually, as you just whip the egg whites until they’re peaky, incorporate TONS of salt, and then pack it firmly (leaving no holes) around the fish in the baking sheet…. roast, then take off the salt crust when you’re done and serve the fish.

This dish is more impressive for guests to watch than actually complicated… but is good for dinner parties as it looks cool and yields some very moist (think about it, you’re basically steaming the sea bass in a salt igloo), very tender and perfectly seasoned fish!

Finally, the whole mackerel… stuffed with garlic and rosemary (also with a little douse of white wine!), off it went into the oven… and made for a lovely, tender flesh when it came out.

After all of our work, we sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labour… tons of delicious seafood and fish! All of these recipes are easy enough to make on a regular night, but look fancy… you can be sure you’ll be seeing them soon at my place!

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Aquavit, St James

A very enjoyable (and substantial) breakfast with one of my favourite other hedge fund marketers today at Aquavit…

David went for the avocado and poached egg on toast… which was obviously much more than just that, a generous slice of toasted bread and avocado topped with a tomato and onion salsa, pickled onion, and a plump poached egg. David loved it… I went for the Nordic breakfast, whihc consisted of Rye bread crisps, fish roe spread (I had expected fish eggs but the spread came out… which is much more decadent and easier to spread on the crisps!), slices of avocado and sliced, boiled egg.

This was also a substantial dish, but one I thoroughly enjoyed both assembling and eating… the salty, creamy roe went well with the anis-tasting crisps, more creamy avocado, and the boiled egg (the yolk gave a nice additional taste, while the egg white was really just filler)

We shared some berries on the side… and tasted one of their cinnamon rolls, which was topped with sugar but otherwise not too gooey or sweet. Breakfast was very good, and a bit different from the usual menus that you see around Mayfair. I’ve also tried Aquavit’s prix fixe lunch, which is quite a deal, and also very good (tons of fresh, Nordic ingredients in a very affordable £24 for three courses!) Aquavit has always been a treat back in New York, where it holds a Michelin star, and I’ll definitely come back to the London branch to try out more of their dishes.

Petersham Nurseries, Covent Garden

A weekday summer lunch with Alicia, a friend that just recently moved back to the UK from New York (hurray!)… we decide to treat ourselves to a terrace, as the weather is great!

Petersham Nurseries, a great restaurant out in Richmond, had recently opened an outpost in central London, smack in Covent Garden… and the best part? They have a huge terrace!

What I love about the food at Petersham is that it’s all very fresh, straight from the farm, and seasonal. Usually, each dish has a few ingredients, but then end up being perfectly placed together, making a great combination.

We started by sharing some burrata served with white peaches and cured ham. Wow. Again, simple flavours, topped with some red pepper chili flakes, olive oil, and ripped basil, these ingredients spoke for themselves (especially the white peach, which was SO juicy and flavourful).

Afterwards, I went for the hake, served on a bed of sliced, muddled courgette with some herbs and fresh spinach. See what I mean? Well-cooked, fresh ingredients, simply put together… and it turns out really good!

Alicia went for the salmon, topped with a fresh tomato and onion “salsa”, along with some basil… all on top of delicious-tasting but kind of anemic-looking beans 🙂 She confirmed that it was very good.

… sorry about this picture, I tried my best but couldn’t fliip it! But this was the best of the dishes… it was courgettes cooked three ways (really, cooked to three different degrees), then slow simmered with more basil. Look at how creamy and broken down the courgette has gotten… it was mushy and soft in the best way, really bringing out the fresh taste of the courgette, with little flecks of basil coming up from time to time.

And there we go! We were good and didn’t have any dessert this time. But I can’t wait to come back and try a number of their other dishes, especially once they switch to another seasonal menu!

Caravan, Kings Cross

This is not my first time to Carravan in Kings Cross, but it had been ages (the last time was right after it opened!) This time, we were here to check out the opening of the Coal Drops Yard complex in Kings Cross, with its new restaurants and shops. As it was POURING rain and freezing, we weren’t up for walking around too long, and quickly came in for food.

There is a Barrafina in Coal Drops Yard, but somehow, the thought of cured ham and croquettas at noon was too much! So we headed to Caravan and stood in line (luckily, only for 5 mins, as the queue is in blustery outdoors)…

And I ordered the warm spiced milk to start, which was so comforting… a mix of turmeric, cinnamon, anise seed, and other spices, it was warming and gentle… so I ordered two 🙂

And then, for food… I ordered the charred aubergine puree, served with a soft-boiled egg (which in turn was topped with a tomatoey and pickle salsa that gave a nice kick!), and a yogurt topped with chermoula. The toasted bread on the side had a nice dose of za’atar on it, which gave more flavour… and I took the option of adding a merguez as well! The merguez was very flavourful, it’s the first time in a while that I’ve tasted one with so much… of a merguez taste. But as Andre mentioned, it was not overcooked (which merguez tends to be, crispy which is one of the nice things about it!) But I was happy with the taste.

The aubergine puree, however, was pretty boring, even with the harissa and rest topping it… I think they could have done a better job at adding something to it!

But I do love Caravan over all, for their varied dishes, nicely-spiced foods, and fun combinations. Whether its in Fitzrovia, King’s Cross, or Southwark (though there are other ones elsewhere), it’s always at the top of my list!

Brasserie la Lorraine, Luxembourg

An overnight trip to Benelux, my first night was in Luxembourg, and I somehow managed to get there on a night when my father wasn’t in town! Being a Sunday night, everything was closed, so I headed to the main square, where the brasseries were open.

I went simple… a salmon tartare, which was nicely seasoned with some lime juice, olive oil, and mango. This was a delight, and I gobbled it up pretty quickly…

Served ont the side with some fries, and I ordered an extra side salad… I had a few of the fries, but there weren’t anything to write home about, so concentrated on the salad, with fresh (strong!) red onions and radish…

And that made for the perfect Sunday evening meal, washed down with a bit of wine!

Westegg, Notting Hill

A lazy Saturday in Notting Hill, and we’re in search of lunch with a terrace! The plan is to bike up to Golbourne Road and see if we can snag a table there, but as we bike by what used to be Raoul’s, you can see that it’s changed names and interiors…. and there are tables outside! Interesting…

So we dock our Santander Bikes and come back to claim a terrace table, and check out the menu. There are a few good brunch dishes, some salads and sandwiches, but also a special “Back from Greece” menu that seems perfect for me  (including shakshuka, all sorts of fresh salads, and what i finally ordered…

I went fo rthe kagiana, which is Greek-style scrambled eggs cooked with buffalo butter, fresh tomatoes, and feta. It reminded me of Turkish menemen eggs, which I love!  Andre got shakshuka, which is like no shakshuka I have seen…. you have the tomatoes and onions, but the egg on top instead of cooked inside… and some yogurt on the side. He was a bit disappointed with his lunch, as I would have been… it tasted fine, but really wasn’t a shakshuka!

But given the large menu with all sorts of different brunch items, and a terrace, this is definitely a place to come back to, when in Notting Hill and needing lunch.

Go Natural, Lisbon

Another lunch spot… this one looks more fast-food than the other places we’ve been lately, because of the menu above the ordering till, with pictures of the food (McDonald’s style!) But the food is quite good, so worth a visit.Andre had the cevhiche bowl with oatmeal, mango, and avocado, doused in lemon juice. I tasted this, but was happier with my choice…  I went for the salad of Thai chicken and rice, served wtih roast vegetables (sweet potato, bok coy and mushrooms), avocado, and some dried fruit, all mixed into a coconut sauce… delicious!But they were both good, cheap, and a wholesome meal… while the atmosphere leaves something to be desired, it’s central (in Chiado), the price is right,  and you leave feeling satisfied!