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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Tease, Lisbon

In the spirit of trying out different lunch places that the regular cafes (Kristof, The Mill, Brooklyn), we went to Tease, a new cafe on a small square with… this was the key… outdoor seating! There’s a large inside, along with a number of outdoor tables as well.

They’re open from breakfast and make a mean lemonnade… but after noon, we were getting a bit hungry and decided to try the lunch menu. There are a number of salads, sandwiches, and tartes to choose from.

Andre went for the vegetable quiche, which was full of delicious veggies and served with a side salad.

They only had one piece left, so I decided to try one of the sandwiches, the Vegetarian, which was filled with delicious veggies such as spinach, a tomatoey pepper spread, and black beans. It was pretty good, especially toasted!

While there was nothing especially great about Tease (oh, and actually, the coffee really leaves something to be desired), the outdoor seating and sandwiches mean that I’ll probably come back and try a few other options sometime soon.

Tartaruga Cafe, Praia Nova, Portugal

The next day, we went back to the beach a bit later and Andre hopped onto his kite. I was starving, so grabbed some food before heading to the beach. I wanted something a little less formal than the day before, so headed to the next cafe on the beach… and got a much lower-key option for sure!They have many sandiwches and burgers on the menu, along with a few salads… I went for the shrimp salad, which included bundle-fried shrimp on a bed of feta, corn, carrot, tomatoes and salad. And was I satisfied? Well, I felt a bit greasy after the shrimp (fried) and potato chips, even if they were surrounded with greens… but this was a good option for a quick lunch rather than a long, drawn-out sitdown lunch.

Later in the, we went to the newly reopened Botanical Gardens in Principe Real. Ever since my first time in Lisbon with Andre in 2016, I had been waiting for these reopen… two years later, they have, and the trees are amazing. Many are quite prehistoric-looking…

A great place to sit out and enjoy some quiet in the bustling city…

Porto Santana, Alcacer do Sal, Portugal

The second day in Comporta, the weather wasn’t very good, so instead of heading to the beach, we explored some of the neighbouring towns including Grandolfo and Alcacer do Sal. Alcacer do Sal sits on part of the Troia pensinsula, and the town itself overlooks a river coming from the bay.

We found a lovely, quiet restaurant that was packed full of families on a Sunday. When we sat, we were quickly given the “cover” for the table, a fragrant carrot and dill salad, olives, and a surimi crab dip that Andre turned his nose up at, while I tried a few bites… it was okay.

And the cheese… this cheese was pretty good – it was firm but had a nice, strong taste to it. It was one of our favourites from the trip.

Andre went the healthy route and got the tuna nicoise salad, which was quite oniony, and I must say, quite good. Very fresh, I was slightly jealous when it showed up…

But I wasn’t disappointed with my meal – I went for the seafood stew, which was all sorts of clams, mussels and shrimp cooked in a veggie and tomato broth… the only odd thing was that instead of the typical rice that you would usually get in a stew here, it was served with little macaroni. A lot of them. The stew was good, and there was a decent amount of seafood inside, but it was really overpowered by the macaroni… to the point that I was left with a bowl filled with it when I finished my meal!

The owner of the restaurant came and chatted with us, having already offered us an aperitif at the bar before our meal. He had spent years working in Paris, and had now come back to Alcacer do Sal for a more quiet life. Having tried out other ventures in the area, the restaurant is now his main business.

After lunch, we crossed the river to discover the town, walking up the winding roads to the old castle and look-out point. Given its proximity to Comporta, we were surprised at how quiet the town was on a Sunday in late August… was it the time of day? Were people on holiday elsewhere?

Restaurante a Peixaria, Sao Jacinto, Portugal

Next, we were heading down towards Lisbon, stopping 45 minutes north in Ericeira. But one of Andre’s friends had told us about Sao Jacinto, a small town just south of Porto, that was worth checking out, so we detoured there for lunch and a walk on the beach before heading further south.

Sao Jacinto is based on a peninsula that is similar to Cap Ferret on the Basin d’Arcachon. Sao Jacinto is on the end of the peninsula, and like Cap Ferret, has a bay side and ocean side to the town.

Again, not knowing anything about it, we went on Google maps to find a place to eat, and really hit a home run! When we arrived at Restaurante a Peixaria, it was heaving and had a long queue waiting outside. When we finally got the waitress’s attention to put our name down, we asked if we could sit at the bar, and she sat us right down. Great!

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Outside, while we were waiting, we watched the chef prepare and grill the squid that everyone seemed to be having…

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Look at that, how could you not want to taste it?!

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So we ordered some squid and some of the fresh prawns on the specials board… These were just off the boat fresh, still slightly crunchy and tough to take the shells off (I ate a lot of shell out of laziness… but it’s good for calcium, right?!), these little guys were delicious.

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Then came the calamari with some sides, and a nice salad wash it all down… we did a pretty good job with all of the food, and were licking our fingers at the end… it was all so good, and we didn’t feel like we were going to explode afterwards!

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A little bar-side selfie… and then off to the beach for a walk in the sand, before we headed back to the car and down to Ericeira.

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PEARL Hackney Wick

A Friday afternoon and I’d taken off to grab lunch with Andre in East London… I’d booked Cornerstone, a new restaurant with Cornish vibes that looks absolutely delicious…. and when we got there, it was closed! Checking the reservation, I saw that I had booked for the next week… damn.

So, we went across the road to the cafe nearby and decided to have lunch there instead. The options on the menu are simple, with lots of egg dishes, a few salads, and a few burgers.

I went for the haloumi and falafel salad, which was quite substantial, served with roasted aubergine, tomato, and big, leafy greens. The falafel wasn’t overfried, and the haloumi was generous.. it was a big dish! Topped with drizzles of a tahini-based sauce, I enjoyed this salad quite a bit (if not as much as I would have, a lunch at Cornerstone!)

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Andre got an omelette with tomatoes and mushrooms, with some salad on the side… it was HUGE.

While we waited for our food to come out, we started to play chess… then, overwhelmed by the idea of how long the game could take, abandoned it pretty soon after the food came!

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Old Town 97, Chinatown

The weather’s been pretty crappy, rainy and cold the past few days, which is a real change from the 30 degree, sunny weather we’ve had for most of the summer. It almost feels good for a few days, until you’re sick of having wet feet…

One of these days, I headed down to Chinatown for a bowl of noodle soup to warm me up. Seeing the roast duck and char siu hanging in the window, I walked into Old Town 97 to have a bowl there.

The place is quite simple, not very decorated, and the staff is quite busy, so it took me a good ten minutes to order. Then much longer to get my food.

But when the soup came, it really hit the spot. The duck was good, large pieces with a good amount of fatty duck skin and not much bone (my pet peeve is ordering roast duck, and being given the scraggly pieces with lots of bone and not much meat, what’s the point!?!) – but the real winner of the soup was the noodles; soft, springy and almost fluffy, these were the lightest noodles I’ve had in a while, all while not being mushy or breaking apart. I usually notice bad noodles, but never good ones, and these ones were really that good.

At £7.50, this was a perfect lunch break that warmed me up, and the noodles brought that extra little bit more that will make me come back here for noodle soup again.