Tuyo

If you’re fed up of East London’s endless burger and sourdough pizza offerings, I say try something different at Tuyo, a pan-Mediterranean spot near Hackney’s Broadway Market.

It’s got an ex Salt Yard chef, Ricardo Pimental, at the helm who is serving up Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-inspired dishes. Just on the corner of Regents Canal, with floor-to-ceiling windows and baskets overspilling with greenery hanging all over the place. It comes complete with a bustling open kitchen as you make your way into the restaurant.

Tuyo serves up tapas-style sharing dishes and forces you to confront all your prejudices about fusion food. Line your stomach and whet your appetite with the blue cheese & date croquetas served with cumin alioil and roast walnuts. These small, sweet and salty croquetas are incredibly moreish, and disappear within seconds – a naughty but nice snack to have with your first round of drinks.

Moving on, you’ve got a whole range of dishes to choose from, from monkfish served with mushrooms and apricots, to ox cheeks and lemon grass, to butternut squashed accompanied with a harrisa and almond dressing.  The menu is unashamedly, yet mouthwateringly fused.

Then there’s the octopus which is the real show-stopper for me, dressed with hummus and cumin yoghurt, it’s delicious and so delicate; it’s one not to be missed.

On to dessert, because no meal is complete without it, try the dish which is described as baklava – only it isn’t. It’s far from the classic dish, but it’s a lighter version with almond pastry layered over minted yoghurt and garnished with fresh mango.

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Tuyo, 129A Pritchard’s Rd, London E2 9AP

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Lima London

When you take a seat in Lima, it doesn’t feel like you’re about to dine in a Michelin starred restaurant – it’s not the arty-farty, stuffy type. You’ll find this Peruvian dining spot on Rathbone Place in Fitzrovia, surrounded by pubs and casual pizza joints – so it’s not surprising that the vibe it extrudes is equally as relaxed. Without Conor grabbing my hand and pulling me in, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second glance.

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The restaurant itself is light and airy, complete with simple wooden tables and vibrant Peruvian artworks. There are a few seats available for al fresco dining, where we lounged in the sun and tried our best to decipher the menu. With 14 small plates and 12 large to choose from, as well as five ‘snacks’, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

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How I’ve never had a pisco sour is beyond me, pisco (a type of brandy) is mixed with egg whites, lime and sugar. Prepare to drink a few – and get the duck confit rocoto crisp to go with it. Rocoto is a type of a pepper which has been ground down into a paste and then dehydrated to turn it into a crisp, with a duck confit mousse on top. Hidden inside the confit are some delicious pomegranate seed surprises. It’s a total texture mash-up for your mouth, and it’s gone within seconds.

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The prawn and avocado ceviche is excellent – it’s like a circus cocktail with a chilli kick. Dig under the generous serving of plantain crisps and you’ll find fish which is tender and flavoursome, but the only problem was that the little bowl it was served in wasn’t nearly enough for Conor and me to share.

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Next up the came the Octopus Olivo, where seared octopus chunks come served on a bed of yellow quinoa, with lilac spots of alfonso olive mayonaise dotted around the plate. These little bubbles were incredibly tasty, but the octopus was a little too tough for my liking.

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Get the asparagus huancaina to cleanse your plate before moving onto their meat dishes. Stems of asparagus and cherry tomatoes are covered in a spicy, creamy sauce. We had the duck escabeche alongside it – which means the duck is basically is marinated in vinegar.  Thick, juicy, tender pieces of duck were served in a sweet syrup sauce with slices of radishes and bits of orange.

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Last up, my favourite dish of the evening, and a Lima signature – the beef tiradito. Thinly sliced raw beef pieces are presented in between swills of amarillo sauce, with flakes of parmesan and coriander cress sprinkled over the top. The beef melts in your mouth, I’d have seconds and thirds if my budget allowed me.

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It’s worth noting that they do a lunch and pre-theatre menu, so if you want to try unfamiliar flavours, with plates full of colours and ceviche, I’d book a table in to take full advantage of their deals.

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Lima London, 31 Rathbone Pl, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1JH

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Brunch at Bristrotheque

Is there anything more quintessentially East London than having brunch in a converted warehouse?

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Enter Bistrotechque – a restaurant in a converted warehouse hidden away in Dalston.

You’ll probably find yourself checking Google Maps, wondering if you’ve gone wrong along the way, and questioning all the endless rows of old warehouses and houses without a hint of ‘there’s a restaurant in here’ as you walk down the street – but don’t let that put you off.

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The only marker that you’re reached Bistrotechque is a discreet little opening between a couple of buildings, which is given away by some dangling lights and some foliage.

Once you head inside and make your way up the stairs, you’re greeted with a massive bright, airy, white room. There’s a large bar running down the side of the restaurant, with an open kitchen at one end, and a piano at the other.

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The room is stark and is simply decorated with industrial drop lighting, original concrete floors and brick walls, plus it comes complete with white-clothed tables, which really brings the place together.

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The menu at Bristotheque is filled with your standard brunch fare, but with a few surprises thrown into the mix. I was gutted to find out that only two weeks after we visited that they added a soft shell crab benedict to their menu!

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I opted for the Bistrotheque Breakfast, which comes with sausage, bacon, baked beans, layered potato, eggs, and toast. It’s a whole lot of food and Conor had to help me finish it off as I couldn’t quite manage it.

Their layered potatoes are something else though – they’re basically fried potatoes but served as stacked, thinly sliced cubes… I dread to think about how many calories they contained.

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Conor went for the Eggs Royale, which was served the traditional way on English muffins but it comes with a little twist, however, as the eggs are topped with caviar.

Now brunch isn’t brunch without a bloody mary (or two), and Bistrotheque mixes up a knockout – just don’t get your spice wimp boyfriend to try it because it really packs a punch.

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Bristotheque, 23-27 Wadeson St, London E2 9DR

 

 

 

Pastaio London

Pastaio. It means pasta-maker in Italian and making pasta is exactly what they do here. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll spend the whole time pronouncing it wrong when people ask you where you’re going for dinner that week.

It’s a no-bookings style restaurant which serves up plates of handmade pasta with powerful sauces. It’s located just off Carnaby Street in Soho, with a huge large glass front plus a bright, Insta-friendly art mural along the back wall. It comes complete with an open kitchen where you can watch the Pastaio’s at work and rows of communal tables.

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Their starters are pretty simple, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook them. We opted for the burrata which was served swimming in olive oil and had chilli and oregano sprinkled over it.

As their burrata is incredibly creamy, if not a little too juicy, you’ll need to grab yourself a side of their sourdough bread to help you mop up all that cheesy goodness.

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The main event: the crab, chilli, agretti, black & white spaghetti, and now that spring is just around the corner, this is the type of food I long for. It packs a punch and the crab does well to hold it’s own.

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Their slow-cooked sausage malloredus keeps the standards high and it’s a brilliant vehicle for another great sauce. It’s a dish comprised of small, striped shells of pasta and the sausage sauce is topped with crust crumbs from the bread – which really cuts through the richness.

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To help wash all the carbs down, we ordered the prosecco slushies. Their blood orange one giving me flash blacks to wandering Milan from bar to bar drinking Aperol Spritz.

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Would I go back? Most definitely – although I can’t help but feeling that I’m cheating on Padella.

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Pastaio, 19 Ganton St, Carnaby, London W1F 9BN

*Main photo courtesy of Pastaio 

 

Breakfast in Bread at The Barge House

If you’re looking for an Instagrammable Sunday brunch, then you’ll want to hit up The Barge House in East London. You’ll find it on the Regent’s Canal between Hoxton and Haggerston set in an old Victorian warehouse – all of which are now either places to grab a bite to eat, craft breweries or design studios. The place is decked out fairy lights which cover their floor-to-ceiling windows, with tables along the waterside and a minimalist dining room and an open-plan kitchen.

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Their Breakfast in Bread brunch menu is exactly what it says on the tin – a hollowed-out sourdough loaf packed full with traditional breakfast fare. There are a couple of options to choose from… the original is your standard full English complete with slow-roast tomatoes, oyster mushrooms, leeks, Cumberland sausage, spinach, bacon with an egg. Or you can grab yourself a vegetarian version which comes with avocado, spinach and asparagus.

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Whilst there’s limited choice for veggies, and no vegan options, they do try to source all their produce as ethically as possible. All their eggs are free-range and their sourdough loaves are baked just around the corner at the Better Health Bakery – an artisan bakery who provide trainee placements for adults recovering from mental illness.

I opted for the smoked salmon bread bowl. It’s filled with spinach, leeks, smoked salmon, creme fraiche and topped with an egg and a sprinkle of cheese. It’s a food coma in waiting.

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The Barge House, 46a De Beauvoir Cres, London, N1 5RY

Main photo courtesy of The Barge House

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Season | Finsbury Park

Season. This restaurant in Finsbury Park is as simple as the name suggests. It tries to only use ingredients that are in season and can be sourced within the United Kingdom, so the small menu changes every couple of months.

I’ve started to gain a real affinity with Finsbury Park. It’s got everything a girl could need; from my favourite brunch spot, Fink’s Salt and Sweet, to Clapton Craft, a shop which sells craft beer, and now Season.

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We visited Season as a family in July for my birthday (and I’m well aware it’s now late September and the menu has definitely changed since I visited. Check their social media for their most current menu). Expect modern British fare, served in a compact dining room lit by candles.

As soon as we were seated, we were brought complementary baked bread and bottles of water, both sparkling and still – something I’m a big fan of.

The menu is short but what they do, they do exceptionally well. I ordered the duck leg to start which was served with a watercress and orange salad. A classic combo.

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I also tried some of the bone marrow topped on sourdough toast. It was probably a bit too salty for my taste, but my brother and dad raved about it.

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I couldn’t help but order the mussels for my main, they arrived piled high and in a white wine sauce. I opted for a side of wedges and French peas. The potatoes were crisp and the perfect accompaniment to dunk in my sauce.

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My dad and sister’s boyfriend feasted on the lamb which was cooked to perfection and served with crispy pieces of onions.

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Whereas my mum and sister dinned on the halibut which was simply accompanied by some grilled spring onions and a salsa.

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Because no birthday celebration is complete without dessert, I opted for the chocolate rosemary pot. It was incredibly indulgent and rich, and if you have a sweet tooth you won’t want to share this pudding.

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And because they’re decent people, Season’s doesn’t charge you £20 for one dish. It’s all reasonably priced and the portions are modest. Plus they have a no markup policy on booze, so all the wine is charged at cost…If that doesn’t incentivise you to go here, I don’t know what will.

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Season, 53 Stroud Green Rd, Finsbury Park, London N4 3EF, UK

Afternoon Tea at Sketch Gallery

Afternoon tea is such a quintessential British tradition and it’s one I often link with tea rooms in the countryside complete with dainty china and holding your pinky up. To me, afternoon tea is a treat – and as much as I dine out, I rarely spend a lot of time eating small sandwiches and sipping champagne. So when I do indulge, I want the experience to be something special and different to the norm – and Sketch does just that.

It’s set back from the hustle and bustle of Regent Street, the restaurant is located in a beautiful Mayfair townhouse. As you enter through the front doors you’re met by a game of hopscotch on the floor and ladies wearing pastel pink dresses.

We were guided into the gallery,  and it was every bit as magical and pink as the photos I’d seen online. Scalloped, dusty pink velvet booths are dotted throughout the room and playful, witty art works by David Shrigley deliberately contrast the sugar-coated pastel interior. The place settings are also designed by David Shrigley too, with salt and pepper shakers labelled ‘dust’ and ‘dirt’.

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I took Serena here for her birthday, so naturally, we opted for the champagne afternoon tea – which is poured overhead.

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From matcha to your classic breakfast tea, Sketch boasts a 40-strong selection. I opted for a chai tea which was served alongside our eggs and soldiers.

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A dinky and delicate starter which consists of a spoon of rich, creamy caviar, served with an egg yolk nestled on top on an ‘egg white’ made from cheese.

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Next, a tower formed of three layers of food was brought to the table (which can be refilled when you run out).

The first tier consisted of sandwiches of smoked salmon, cucumber, coronation chicken and egg. The next layer was littered with small patisseries, tarts and cakes. Followed by the final tier of marshmallows and cheesecake.

All the elements that formed the tower had a modern and creative twist; the cucumber sandwich came topped with a quails egg.

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As we were wolfing down our finger sandwiches and mini cakes, we were brought warm scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Delicious.

After eating we went to explore as the whole building is unique and each room is is like stepping into another world. Make sure you take a trip to the toilets, where each loo is basically an egg pod, (if you’re an Instagram addict like me, you’ve probably seen many photos of these toilets before).

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Now Sketch is an expensive treat, and it’s not somewhere I could afford to eat at regularly but for a birthday treat for one of my best friends, it was the perfect place.

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Sketch, 9 Conduit St, Mayfair, London W1S 2XG

Main photo courtesy of Sketch