Blacklock Shoreditch

There’s no shortage of great bbq joints around East London but I think I’ve now found a solid favourite, by way of Blacklock which has three locations in Soho, Monument and Shoreditch. Their restaurant in Shoreditch is their biggest site and it’s the one Conor and I visited for some late birthday celebrations.

You’ll find their Shoreditch chophouse based in one of those classic Shoreditch ex-warehouse spaces, complete with exposed brick walls, large industrial-style windows and polished concrete floors. They have completed the renovated the old furniture factory with dark leather banquette seats and mid-century furniture.

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For those unfamiliar with Blacklock, they serve chops. You can opt for them ‘skinny’ at a mere £4 a pop, or ‘big’ served in increments of 100g. They come in various forms, think lamb cutlets, lamb t-bones, beef rump, beef rib, pork belly, porterhouse – I could go on, the list is endless.

All their meats are sourced from The Warren Family Farm in Cornwell whose animals are allowed to roam on the moors and live on a natural grass-fed diet. At Blacklock, they cook all their meats over charcoal and they sear them with an antique Blacklock Foundry clothes iron from the 1800s.

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But first, let’s talk about their drinks. They have a decent selection of cocktails for a fiver, namely the Gimlet, Negroni and Beefy Mary, and then they have their more ‘expensive’ cocktails priced at £7.75 (although in London that’s an absolute bargain)  with 25p from each cocktail being donated to End Youth Homelessness.

Anyone who knows me knows I can’t resist a Bloody Mary and for a woman who loves her meat, the added beef jus was a massive bonus and is the perfect accompaniment to the chops.

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To start, we opted for the pig’s head on toast and burrata on toast. For me, the burrata wasn’t runny enough, when you cut into it, it should ooze all over your plate and bread should be used to soak it up. Mine was served already cut in half and solid, like standard mozzarella. Don’t get me wrong, it still tasted creamy and delicious and paired beautifully with asparagus ribbons, radishes, fresh peas, pea shoots and spring onions.

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But the clear winner was the pig’s head. The fatty meat from the cut coated the charred slice of toast and topped with (a rather generous amount) of sliced red chillis, which cut through the oiliness of the meat perfectly. The best way to enjoy this dish is to pour liberal amounts of gravy all over it – I swear Conor and I would have drunk it straight from the jug if we were in the comfort of our own home.

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After the starters, we decided to go ‘All In’, which is the best way to go at Blacklock at a steal for just £20 per person. First, you receive three varieties of pre-chop bites – they’re basically little canapes. We were served a mix of egg and anchovy, cheese and pickle, chicken and horseradish, atop of circular crispbreads. I wish egg one came with more scrambled egg because the anchovies sure packed a salty punch and drowned out the rest of the flavour from the small bite. The chicken was by far our favourite, the unconventional pairing of horseradish was surprisingly delicious.

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Next up comes the pile of perfectly cooked beef, lamb and pork chops sat on top of two thick slices of flatbread, which help to soak up all those meaty juices. The meats are perfectly cooked, with the pork belly being the highlight from the platter. The fat was well rendered and starting to caramelise. Be prepared to use your hands here, otherwise you’ll miss out on all the scavenging possibilities.

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With the deal, you also receive two sides. We opted for the beef dripping fries and charred broccoli, sugar snap peas and asparagus (this is probably you’re only opportunity to get some greens in). The chips were crisp on the outside but tasted like they had been reheated – dip them in béarnaise and you won’t notice.

Blacklock is a meat lovers paradise and makes a meat feast so much more affordable than your traditional steakhouses. Come from a plate of chops, it’s bound to put you in a food coma.

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Blacklock Shoreditch, 28-30 Rivington St, Hackney, London EC2A 3DZ

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Pachamama East

Pachamama East is the Shoreditch off-shoot of the Marylebone original and is the latest restaurant from the team behind Chicama in Chelsea. Like its sister restaurants, they are still serving up Peruvian food, but this time with Japenese and Chinese influences – and let it be known, it’s seriously delicious.

The interior is something that you’d want to stick on Pinterest, think exposed brick, festoon lighting, marble tables, pink geometric floor tiles – But it’s not style without substance.

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Start with a cocktail (a pisco is a must) and a side of prawn toast whilst you browse the menu.

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The menu is divided into small plates categorised as Land, Soil and Sea. I recommend going heavy on the latter, it’s all about the ceviches when it comes to Peruvian food. Eat them all with a spoon and as you’ll want to be having as much of that citrus-y dressing as humanly possible. The salmon ceviche was divine, paired with a rich and zingy tigers milk and cubes of avocado and tomatoes. For me, the tuna on a bed on smashed avocado topped with jalapenos and radishes was one of my favourites.

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The tapioca marshmallows were another highlight from the menu and a real revolution. It’s chewy, but not cloying, and the fish has the exact springy texture of a marshmallow. It’s served with a drop of fiery chilli sauce on top (which was way too spicy for me) and the fish itself is packed in a crisp casing which oozes as you bite into it. Don’t be put off by the name – it’s a real winner.

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Get a couple of dishes from the ‘soil’ section to balance it all out. I highly recommend the caramelised aubergine with peanuts and asking for the plantain for dessert. I don’t have the biggest sweet tooth and this dish comes with feta, black olives and yacon syrup. It’s an incredible fusion dish and right up my street.

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It’s the perfect place to have in your arsenal when you want fresh seafood. Prepare to want to go back often.

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Pachamama East, 73 Great Eastern Street, London, EC2A 3HR

 

A Road to Turnpike Lane

I moved to Turnpike Lane just under a year ago, I didn’t really know anything about the local neighbourhood. Sure, I knew I could get to Kings Cross in less than 15 minutes on the tube and that Ally Pally was just around the corner, but I just found the perfect little flat and hoped that the rest was sure to follow.

A year of exploring the local haunts with Conor in tow, I’ve now got some solid favourites and places I take everyone who comes this way. So I thought I’d share a few treasured places of mine around the area to get you started, should you fancy a visit north of the river…

The Salisbury

One of my favourite pubs in the area is The Salisbury. It’s a stunning Victorian pub with cosy corners and obligatory taxidermy, yet unlike most London pubs it’s absolutely massive. The beer-focused bar has a great craft beer selection, think Magic Rock, Siren and Crate on tap.

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Blend

A bloody great brunch spot with beautiful interiors (think scandi-inspired with mismatched comfy chairs and whitewashed walls). Enjoy delicious gastro fry-ups washed down with Climpson and Son’s coffee. Blend is a real gem in the neighbourhood.

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Harringay Local Store

Everyone’s fav deli when they head this way. Harringay Local Store is like a farmers market in a shop which even sells vinyl. Think doughnuts from St Johns, craft beer from Hackney Brewery,  honey from the bees in Finsbury Park by Pearly Queen Honey. It’s the only place I’ve found which stocks my favourite cheese of all time – Burrata!

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Bun & Bar

One of the best burger joints in the area by a long shot, and one where vegetarian options are not an afterthought at Bun & Bar. I go for the bun buster (beef patty, tomato, chorizo spread, cheddar, rocket, red onion, garlic mayo) every time – oh, and the rosemary fries are also too good to pass up on. Not to mention they host weekly live music nights which can range from anything from soul and funk, to jazz, blues and covers.

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Gökyüzü

Green Lanes is well known for having the best Turkish food in the whole of London. Gökyüzü is one of the busiest places on the lane and with the generous portions and vibrant flavours, it’s clear why. It’s where to go when you’re hangry on the weekend, my fave is the Yoğurtlu Tavuk Şiş… don’t miss it!

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5 vegan grab-and-go highstreet lunches

Slate it all you want, but attempting Veganuary and not eating animal products for a month requires real dedication. I’ve never really considered myself a “meat-lover” and I actually was vegetarian for almost a year back in my teens (purely because my dad bet that I couldn’t do it…). But I am someone who would happily have fish or cheese with every meal, plus when I do go out for dinner, I often always order a meat dish. So for me, Veganuary, is a real test of my self-restraint.

With food chains and supermarkets waking up to the fact more and more people want tasty vegan food, the range of options has been growing year on year. Because of this, it is easier than ever to have a plant-based diet, which is why I have compiled my top 5 high street vegan lunch options that won’t break the bank.

Leon – Meatless Meatballs

A firm favourite of mine which is really helping me get through Veganuary. These meatless meatballs from Leon are a real winter warmer, the tomato sauce is almost like a hearty soup with the texture of the aubergine, black olive and rosemary meatballs satisfying my meaty cravings. Topped with a vegan garlic aioli, these are a must try for any first time vegans or those trying a plant-based diet.

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Pret – Avo, Olives & Toms Baguette

After opening their first ‘Veggie Pret’ back in the summer of 2016, Pret have been changing their offerings due to a rise in veganism. They now boast four purely veggie shops – three in London and one in Manchester. They have an impressive selection of vegan lunch options and although not all of them are available in every branch, the avo, olives and toms baguette is a real winner in my eyes. This baguette is made from sliced avocado, olive tapenade, roasted tomatoes plus a handful of rocket. Garnished with fresh basil leaves and pine nuts.

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Arancini  Brothers – Nuddy Box

Back in January 2018, Arancini Brothers turned their Old Street shop into a 100% vegan eatery and it was so successful that now all their restaurants only offer up plant-based options. Apart from the classic option of vegan burgers and wraps, the Nuddy box is a hit. The risotto balls sit proudly on top of a bed of salad (which rotates daily), topped with roasted mushrooms, onion jam, aubergine tomato sauce and a sprinkling of seeds for good measure.

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Itsu – Veggie Sushi Collection

I have a sushi addiction and eating a plant-based diet this Veganary means I can’t get my mitts on salmon nigiri which I adore so much. I am a mad Itsu fan, and since working in London, it has remained a firm favourite. Luckily for me, Itsu have four vegan sushi dishes which are helping to curb my cravings. The most popular thing on their vegan menu is the veggie sushi collection. In the box, you’ll find crunchy veggie maki rolls, baby avocado rolls and steamed veggie dumplings on an edamame bean salad.

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Crussh – Cheese Toastie

Crussh has over 50 vegan options on its menu and as a Veganuary special, their Soho store has become 100% plant-based for the entire month of January. They were the first high street outlet to serve a vegan cheese toastie – which is perfect for a hungover lunch at the office. Their vegan smoked gouda-style cheese is served with red pepper tapenade and rocket, in between slices of spelt sourdough.

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Still hungry? Check out Veganuary’s list of chain restaurants which serve up plant-based dishes to sink your teeth into.

There’s dumpling you should know about Baoziinn

Baoziinn is easily one of my favourite restaurants in London. I could and would happily live on their dim sum. There’s nothing that I love more than little handmade doughy parcels with a crispy bottom stuffed with crunchy prawns, steamed pork or salty mushrooms. Baoziinn is a small joint located on Romilly Street in the heart of Soho and is named after the Cantonese baozi dumpling.

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Situated in a converted corner townhouse, Baoziin is arranged over three floors and divided into five distinct dining spaces. Each room is decked with traditional Asian lanterns and decorative shutters, yet has some contemporary touches – with sleek slate floors, exposed brickwork and light oak tables.

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Here the dumplings steal the show from their other dim sum offerings and are a real work of art. They are cased in vivid pinks and bright greens from the dough which has been coloured with natural flavourings such as beetroot and spinach, meaning they are perfect from the ‘gram. However it’s not just the instagrammable appeal of Baoziin’s food, but the bursts of flavour that come with each bite.

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All of the dishes here are perfect for sharing, so just order a bunch for the table. Get the xiao long bao which are steamed dumplings made from a mix of spinach and turmeric juice and are filled with the classic pork mince, with a broth which explodes from the parcels as your bite into them.

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The ruby prawn dumplings wrapped in beetroot pastry, a spinach pastry containing prawn and chive dumplings and watercress prawn dumplings encased in turmeric pastry are a trio not to be missed. They were all perfectly steamed, with the flavoured pastry adding subtle extra depth to each dish.

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But enough about the dumplings, for you can’t go to Baoziinn are not order the pork baozi buns; either in spinach juice dough or just plain. They’re soft and fluffy on the outside, but sweet and sticky on the inside.

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I recommend ordering the ma la beancurd sheet minced pork and prawn rolls from the grilled section. The crisp beancurd wrapped around plump prawns comes in six bite-sized pieces which are crunchy and delicious. By using beancurd sheets rather than traditional pasty gives the rolls a texture and flavour that will leave you wanting more.

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The dan dan noodles also impressed me, the homemade noodles are not too thin nor too fat. They’re served tender and fresh but in a spicy, flavoursome sesame and peanut sauce, which is topped with minced pork and Sichuanese preserved mustard greens – this dish really does pack a punch. So if you’re lucky enough to visit with your spice wimp boyfriend, you can gobble the whole dish to yourself.

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Baoziinn has quickly become my go-to place in London for affordable and tasty dumplings. If you’re a dim sum fan, Baoziinn should be next on your hit list.

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Baoziinn, 24 Romilly St, Soho, London W1D 5AH

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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Psycle London | Spinning in Shoreditch

If you asked me about spinning over a year ago, you’d have got a very blunt and definite answer – I hate it. But now, I’m a total convert – and that’s all down to Amy Bateman’s class at the Virgin Active in Barbican. I’m now one of these city-dwellers who is addicted to spinning, booking into my class in record time before it inevitably gets full.

In my bid to explore London’s best spin classes and get my high-energy cycling fix, I tried out Psycle – The name blends cycle and ‘psyche’, which is Greek for soul or spirit. Could it really be that different from the spinning classes that I take part in at my normal gym? I mean, spinning is spinning… right?

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Classes at Psycle start from £20 for 1 credit, but they offer an introductory pack for 2 credits for £20. I went one weekend to their studio in Shoreditch, which hidden down an alleyway decked out in street art. The space is white, open and very minimal, a complete contrast to the spin studio; which is down in the basement, with no windows and flashing LED disco lights.

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Cycling shoes are included in the price (always a nice bonus), and as a newbie, my instructor came over to me and helped me get my feet into the pedals and adjust my bike. As you enter the class, you’re also told to grab some hand-weights. This is because the classes are designed to give you a full-body work out using choreography and weights, which focus on the riders all riding in sync together with the music rather than just racing on your own.

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Music is a big theme at Psycle and the tunes really help to carry the class – and one thing I love about this studio is that you can check out a snippet of the instructor’s playlist online before you book into their class.

If it wasn’t for my shoes being strapped into the bike, I would have fallen off at the end of the class. After our cooldown and stretch, I wobbled towards the door, ready for a sweaty high-five with my instructor, full well knowing that I’d be back for more.

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Psycle Shoreditch, 17-23 Whitby Street, London, E1 6JU