Monday, 1 September 2014

Back To British: Rules Restaurant


I've been lucky enough to do a fair amount of travelling this year; lazing in St Lucia, blogging in Barcelona, relaxing in Rhodes. There's nothing I enjoy more than discovering new places with my favourite people but when push comes to shove, there really is no place like home. Alex and I were on a date night and after all the tapas and delicate tasting menus I've had recently, I was craving a big plate of something comforting and delicious; something brilliantly British.

I turned to Rules to fulfil my longing. Established in 1798, it's London's oldest restaurant spanning the reigns of nine monarchs. They serve traditional British food, specialising in classic game cookery, oysters, pies and puddings. Yippee!


As we were sticking to water, I didn't sample the cocktails although I couldn't help but spy the Kate Middleton's "Royal 29" on the menu - Sipsmith, Pinky vodka, Lillet and crystallised violets. Sounds intriguing!

Both Alex and I kicked off our meal with a salad. Alex had the cured duck breast with endive, candied pecans and Stilton dressing, I had the smoked duck and fig salad.


Both were lovely; crisp, fresh and flavoursome. Figs are right in season at the moment and I'm a big fan.

Unsurprisingly though, it was the main courses that stole the show. Alex went for the chicken, bacon and tarragon pie with hand-raised pastry crust...


But for me it was all about the steak and kidney pudding, especially as I hadn't had one in such a long time! I added an oyster on top for an additional pound and had side dishes of leaf spinach and mash potato.


I can confirm that Rules certainly know their pies and puddings! The suet pastry was mouthwatering and I was impressed how much succulent sauce-coated meat was packed inside. The thick gravy was fabulous and the oyster added that extra little bit of excitement! This is what hearty, homely food is all about!

Our desserts were just as scrumptious. We enjoyed the golden syrup sponge with a wonderful creamy custard and sticky toffee pudding with caramelised walnuts. 


It's easy to see how Rules has stuck around so long and why it's so consistently booked up. The food is great and the service highly professional and friendly. If you love your comfort food as much as I, this is the perfect pre-theatre venue.

For Alex and I, it was onwards to the Savoy Theatre to see Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I love the hilarious 80's movie with Michael Caine and Steve Martin so was keen to see the West End show, this time starring Robert Lindsay and Rufus Hound. I enjoyed every single minute of it. It's really funny, entertaining and not in the slightest bit cheesy (I don't really like cringy West End musicals!). Robert Lindsay puts his all into the performance and is brilliant. Both Alex and I thought it was great - highly recommended!


I hope you all had a lovely weekend! x

Friday, 29 August 2014

Food Glorious Food! Bloggers In Barcelona - Part Dos of Dos


If I had to choose one thing that summed up our trip to Barcelona the best, it would be the food. The wonderful, glorious food. Laura and I definitely got our fair share - in fact, we probably spent most of the trip in some great restaurant or other. I blame the unexpected torrential rain...

Anyone who knows me is aware that I'm something of an organiser. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's turning up in a new place and being clueless of where to start so I like a good plan of where to go and what to do. With a little help from Twitter, Trip Advisor, newspaper articles, tour guides and friend's recommendations, we arrived in the city with a decent strategy on how to tackle it. We didn't have to stick to it religiously, of course, but it certainly guided us through our short time there quite nicely. Following our first night on the rooftop of the Ohla Hotel and bar-hopping in the El Born area, we woke up that next morning with aching heads but a firm destination in mind for brunch.

EL QUIM - LA BOQUERIA MARKET

I'd noted that El Quim was highly spoken of by a few Barcelona regulars online. I knew it was in La Boqueria market but it took a little bit of hunting to find it. In the midst of the market action, El Quim is a sixteen meter long counter with eighteen stools surrounding a small kitchen area. Laura and I were lucky to grab seats straight away - it seemed to be a theme on this holiday that we always arrived at places just at the right time! We ordered ourselves a glass each of cava (it appeared to be the 'thing to do') and started ticking the boxes on the menu of the tapas dishes that took our fancy. We ate the most delicious patatas bravas, ham croquettes, two fried eggs with prawns in cava, fresh sardines and we even gave calf's foot and head in vinaigrette a try (we weren't that keen but it's good to try these things at least once!).

El Quim was one of my big Barcelona highlights; eating their amazing fresh food with a glass of bubbles in the middle of a bustling market was exciting! Incredible value for money too. A definite recommendation from me.


MILK

Brunch on the Saturday was at Milk, a bar/bistro run by an Irish couple and located in the Gothic Quarter of the city. Described on the website as being like a 'millionaires drawing room', it's certainly a place that has character and life. You can enjoy their Recovery Brunch everyday from 9am until 4pm. Laura and I shared the salmon eggs benedict - served with potatoes - along with the American pancakes served with Danish bacon and maple syrup. A yummy and enjoyable breakfast that set us up for the day ahead perfectly! 


FEDERAL

Federal Cafe is another great little spot for brunch that we visited on our last morning. It's bright, airy and homely. We took two cushioned seats in the window and enjoyed fresh juices, a croissant with mascarpone and raspberry coulis, toasted scones with home made jam and scrambled eggs with asparagus, caramelised onions, halloumi cheese and toast. Wonderful stuff.

And scones for breakfast? Can we make this a prerequisite in London please?


TAPAS TOUR WITH FOOD LOVER

For our second night, we decided to book ourselves onto a tapas tour with Food Lover Tour. It was an opportunity to experience a few tapas spots the locals frequent, avoiding the typical tourist traps. It was EUR89 each, started at 7.30pm and didn't finish until around 1.30am! Our group of nine foodies and two guides visited three different venues where we enjoyed some delicious dishes and great drinks.

The first venue: La Bodegueta Provenca

This is an "after hour bar/restaurant" well-known by the people of Barcelona. We grazed on a few appetizers and a glass of wine as the guides talked us through typical Catalan cuisine. It was also the place where I shockingly discovered that I actually like anchovies! 


The second venue: Colmado

By now, the rain was crashing down outside but we were safe and dry at the back of this warm and dimly lit little tavern. At Colmado we were served up some very nice dishes and we both had our first ever taste of vermouth - fortified, flavoured wine. I now adore it!


The last stop: Bardot Restaurant

The final tapas experience was a proper gastronomical and gourmet dinner. Described by Time Out as 'the best designed restaurant in Barcelona', at beautiful Bardot we were presented with potato and ham croquettes, octopus, scallops, rock fish, ox tail, Crema Catalana, chocolate cake and probably one of the nicest joints of salted medium-rare cooked beef I've had. As well as all that, the food was paired with some fantastic red and white wines. We got much more for our money on this tour than we expected.



So in summary, Barcelona is an amazing city for eating and drinking. The locals are so passionate about their food and it shows. If you're planning a foodie trip, why not give these places a go (especially El Quim!) and learn all about the Catalan cuisine on a Food Lovers Tour. 

I feel lucky to have such a fantastic city with so much to offer just a couple of hours flight away. I hope to be back sometime soon to discover even more.