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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Salt Yard | The Best Tapas in Fitzrovia

Tapas. Either you love the concept of small, sharing plates, or you hate it.

And if you’re anything like me, you often find yourself flicking through a menu thinking – ‘how badly would my dinner companion judge me for ordering more than one main course’ – then tapas is definitely for you. You can pretty much order anything off the menu with offending anyone with your greed.

Last weekend I found myself sitting in the Salt Yard waiting for Serena to join me for dinner, drooling over the menu whilst sipping on a white peach cocktail. Salt Yard is an award winning tapas bar and staple of Fitzrovia. The restaurant itself is spilt across two floors but both are on the small side, so reservations are essential.

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The menu retains classic tapas dishes including Spanish omelette and patatas fritas, whilst offering some interesting new creations, like their stuffed courgette flower (but more of that later). Their menu is distinctly Spanish, yet there are noticeable Italian influences, such as the crab arancini or the occasional raviolis that appear on their special board.

The menu is spilt up into up categories of meat, fish and veg, so there’s something for even the most fussiest of eaters. I highly recommend you try at least two things under each category, but trust me you’ll need to save room for desert!

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The smoked haddock croquetas with caper ailoi were the first thing to hit the table. They came in a neat row of four with a dollop of ailoi on top. To me, the perfect croquette is one that has a crisp coating and gives way to a creamy filling. And boy, these croquettes from the salt yard definitely lived up to my expectations. Once you’ve cut through the breadcrumb coating you’ll find a delicate smoky, fishy filing.

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We kept with the fish theme as the next plate to arrive was the slow-cooked octopus, which was served with potatoes, capers and saffron aioli. Octopus has to be cooked just right otherwise it can be quite chewy, but the dish was so tender and it melted in the mouth. The capers were duly needed to help cut through the sweet taste of the dish and provided the perfect balance of flavours.

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The highlight of the meal, and the one dish you must order, is the courgette flower stuffed with goats cheese which is served smothered in honey. The courgette flower itself contains a rich, salty, creamy cheese and is then covered in a light, crisp batter. It is served with lashings of honey which acts to contrast the flavours coming from the goats cheese. None of these ingredients however acts to overcome the flavour of the courgette itself, which is a rare delight.

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We were recommended the dulce de leche mousse by our waitress, and my god, we were not disappointed. The plate was piled up with layers of mousse, chocolate wafers, slabs of honeycomb and mounds of salted chocolate sauce. You’ll struggle to get through it all by yourself as it’s incredibly rich and indulgent. It’s a chocolate lovers delight.

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Salt Yard, 54 Goodge St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 4NA

We almost escaped the Escape Rooms

I booked the Escape Rooms back in September for Scott’s birthday (that’s the problem with December birthdays as it means you have to book months in advance). It’s a five minute walk from London Bridge station, and it’s a real-life escape game where you’re locked inside a themed room where you and your team need to solve a series of puzzles, riddles and hints in order to escape within 60 minutes.

They recommend Room 33 for four people, yet Scott and I felt up to the challenge. I can honestly say we were gutted when we found out that we were only 30 seconds over the time limit. After reading reviews afterwards, most said this room was for more experienced players, so I’m really chuffed at our time and effort.

All the rooms are themed: Room 33 is set in 1675 China, and you’re lost one of the emperor’s prized processions, a golden vase. You and your team stumble upon a time machine where you’ll travel to Room 33 of the British Museum and you’ll need to find the vase and bring it back to the emperor.

I found it odd that one of the tasks is a physical one (you have to avoid lasers and if you hit them you’ll receive a time penalty), and a smaller group definitely helps with this.

I cannot express how much fun we had, Scott and I are dying to go back and try the Pharaoh’s Chamber!

 

There’s no sugar in my coffee anymore!

I’m a zombie without coffee, and it usually takes a couple of cups to get me going in the morning – with warmed frothy milk and 2 spoons of sugar. And that’s just in the morning! I’m also a massive tea junkie, and will always have a mug on the go.

I track all my calories using My Fitness Pal, but I wasn’t logging how much added sugar I was consuming in my hot drinks, and I’ve been consuming so many empty calories.

Someone once told me it takes 3 weeks to kick a habit and for your taste buds to change. I won’t lie, it was tough (especially after the Christmas party and all you can think about it have a sugary coffee to get your through the day).

I didn’t go completely cold turkey, first I made the change to just using sweetener, and then from two spoons to only one. Then finally, this December I decided to get rid of it completely. Since cutting down sugar my skin has gotten notably clearer and I’m much more alert – no more 3pm crash for me!

Here are my top three tips if you’re considering doing the same:

  1. Drink loads of water and also stop drinking fizzy drinks, otherwise you’ll end up replacing your sugary hot drinks for those instead (which are just as bad!)
  2. When you cut out sugar you mind find yourself reaching for sugary cereals. Start your day with a healthy breakfast, I usually have Avocado on Toast or a bowl of Porridge.
  3. Use full-fat milk and dairy. The low-fat stuff is usually sweetened and has a lower levels of vitamins.

10 Things That Happen When You Get Into Yoga

  1. You become one of those people who won’t shut up about your practice
  2. You develop muscles you never thought you had
  3. You’ll use any space to practice in – no matter how small
  4. Inversions used to scare you, but now you see how satisfying and challenging they can be
  5. You try to get everyone into yoga – even your dog
  6. Perfecting your vinyasa is at the top of your goals

  7. Your collection of to-and-from class shoes expands rapidly

  8. Other forms of physical activity now seem impossibly tedious
  9. You’ll start to spend loads of money on fancy yoga gear
  10. But sometimes, you really ARE just there for the savasana

 

I’m certainly no Yogi, but I’ve done a fair few classes now and I’m pretty familiar with many of the poses. I really started getting into Yoga after a summer series hosted at work and I’ve only properly started to understand it and learn how effective it can be.

At the start I was just trying my best to follow the teacher and copying everyone else, trying my best to get into the poses which all felt so weird – I was often leaving the class feeling like I didn’t work out but very relaxed. Now though, I really try to think about every part of my body when I’m getting into a pose, from lengthening, to how I should be holding my chest, to stretching out my arms. It’s only then that you get a proper sweat on, and really ache the next day.

 

Brunch in London | Where to Find the Best Brunches

I seriously love brunch – ask me what I’m doing on the weekend and I can guarantee you I can be found in a café or restaurant eating eggs benedict or avocado toast, sipping on a cappuccino (or a glass of prosecco).

This was a hard post to put together and I’ve been planning something like this for months. I’ve spilt the post up into areas to help make scouting out the top brunch places in London a little easier.

Central London

Ever since Scott took me to Roka for my birthday, I’ve been dying to head back to try their brunch menu. Now, don’t be expecting traditional brunch dishes and the menu is generally considered rather expensive. But their bottomless brunch is mad good value for money at £39 for 12 courses or £55 for unlimited Proesecco. It also runs until 8pm on the weekend so it’s not even strictly brunch….

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Finding decent pancakes in London is difficult – i’m not talking about crepes, I’m talking about delicious mounds of buttermilk covered in maple syrup. Luckily, Granger and Co nail it. They’re not called pancakes, but referred to as hotcakes (but they’re basically the same thing). They’re fluffy and light, and served with ricotta which undercuts the sugaryness of maple syrup and honeycomb butter. Sod your waistline and order yourself a plate of these.

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I’ve only recently found out at Ping Pong’s Lazy Sunday Brunches and it’s only £25 for unlimited dim sum and bottomless bellinis. For me, the best dish on the menu is the char sui bun which are soft, fluffy buns filled with a sticky honey barbecued pork.

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North London

As a North Londoner narrowing down this section has been seriously difficult. There’s so many good places to choose from. I’m going to start this part by mentioning Fink’s Salt and Sweet. It’s a little bit out of the way for your average punter, a 10 minute stroll from Finsbury Park station, but I promise you, it’s worth it. Their avocado toast is some of the best I’ve had and it’s such good value for money.

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Now, you can’t write a best brunch post without mentioning Caravan. There are no reservations and if this were any other restaurant, I wouldn’t bother, but for this quality of coffee and food, I’ll definitely wait. On my last visit I opted for the sweet potato and cumin waffle. The cucumber raita was brilliantly whipped and the mango and coconut added that desired sweetness.

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Most of the places I’ve featured so far have mentioned high calorie dishes. If you’re wanting something a bit lighter then The Grain Store needs to be on your hit list. It’s mainly a vegetarian restaurant and has some vegan options too.

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East London

Broadgate Circle has now turned into a hub for foodies and if you’re looking for a very special brunch, try Beany Green. They showcase bold, healthy food. Think: coconut, quinoa, chia and flaxseed porridge served with fresh berries and gluten-free broccoli and corn fritters served with avocado, eggs and and home-made chilli pesto. My favourite is the avocado toast served on fermented activated charcoal sourdough.

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For an Indian inspired brunch, try Dishoom. Get the egg naan roll, where the naan comes wrapped around two fired eggs, chilli jam, cream cheese and spicy green herbs. Plus, their chai tea is bottomless!

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The city can be eerily quiet on the weekend, but at The Modern Pantry it’s a different story. The brunch menu includes dishes like a coconut and cassava waffle served with a rhubarb & lemongrass compote. You won’t regret ordering the tea smoked salmon with two poached eggs, english muffins, yuzu hollandaise and hazelnut and macadamia dukkah.

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South London

My knowledge of anything south of the river is a little rusty but after a few taste tests, I think I’ve managed to come up with a good selection. Now, a disused carpark might not sound the most glamorous place to go for brunch, but the Bermondsey Yard Cafe is the perfect spot for Sunday brunch. I can’t resist ordering their avocado and teriyaki salmon with picked chilli on sourdough.

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Brickwood in Clapham offers a brunch menu with refreshing tweaks to old classics. Their corn fitters are served with a beetroot creme fraiche and roasted vegetables. If you’re wanting to indulge try their warm, homemade banana bread topped with a whipped espresso. butter.

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Foxlow holds its own among Balham’s many brunch spot. It’s the sister restaurant of Hawksmoor so it’s unsurprising that brunch here is comforting and meaty. Get the fried chicken which for brunch it’s served with an egg and croissant waffle.

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West London

Since Scott moved to West London, I’ve been dying to check out The Parlour in Kensal Green. We’re finally heading there for dinner this week, and it’s decorated in what I can only describe it as ‘homely-industrial’ furnishings. You get free reign on yesterdays bread station so I can guarantee you that you’ll walk out of here happy.

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The Good Life Eatery is exactly was it says on the tin. Think: Acai bowls and poached eggs served with quinoa, kale, sweet potatoes and cashew cream.  This place proves that eating healthy can actually be damn tasty too.

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Farm Girl is a all-day breakfast cafe on Portobello Road. I’ve  been following them on Instagram for a while now, and their berry pancakes and rose lattes look good enough to make anyone drool.

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I hope this post has introduced you to or helped you plan any future brunch visits to London. There’s a lot of choice so sadly I couldn’t squeeze them all in (in fear of making it too jam packed), but please so pop your suggestions down below. 

 

Brunch at The Grain Store

I love it when old friends come to visit me in London as it provides me with the perfect excuse to visit new restaurants and The Grain Store is somewhere I’ve been planning to visit for a while now. It’s only a few minutes walk from Kings Cross Station and is located next to Caravan in Granary Square.

It’s got high ceilings and big open windows, with exposed industrial steel pips and bare brick walls which both compliments and contrasts the choice of furnishings. All my friends who have been have raved about it, so it had some big shoes to fill.

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I simply adore the fact London is moving away from American diner staples and is shifting towards healthier eateries and The Grain Store is a perfect example of this. It’s great to see so many vegetarian dishes on a menu that look inspired; and whilst it’s not solely a vegetarian restaurant you could easily eat there as a vegetarian or vegan and feel that you have plenty to choose from. The menu is rather large and with so many inventive dishes to choose from, we were left pondering a little longer than usual over what you have.

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In the end I opted for the Kimchi Omelette which is topped with Smoked Salmon and a dollop of Crème Fraîche. I’ve never had Kimchi before so was keen to try something new, it’s basically a Korean spiced pickled cabbage – I loved my flavours in my dish.

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If you like sweet things, there’s the toasted banana loaf, vanilla ricotta, warm passion fruit sauce.

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I already can’t wait to go back for dinner and try their surprise menu which is only £39 per person for six dishes!

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The Grain Store, Granary Square, 1-3 Stable St, London N1C 4AB

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