Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Tipsy Tea @ Mr Fogg's

Like most sane people, I love afternoon tea. As featured on Cocktails & Caroline, I've sampled several London afternoon tea offerings over the past couple of years and there have been all sorts; classic ones, trendy ones, 24-carat gold ones and the downright confusing.

I'd been eyeing up Mr Fogg's Tipsy Tea for some time. Listed in My Favourites as one of my top cocktail bars, the quirky speakeasy den is hidden away down a little road off New Bond Street. It's been a while since my first visit and I was keen to return. When my good friend Angela suggested that our next get-together should involve a good movie then afternoon tea (with a few cocktails thrown in for good measure) I knew exactly where to book.

I'm a member of the Everyman cinemas so we decided to begin our day at their new venue in Selfridges. You'll find the cinema on the lower ground floor, right next to a nice little restaurant and wine bar called Harry Gordon's. The perfect spot for a pre-movie snack and glass of bubbles!

Yes, I had smoked salmon - again! I'm going to turn into a slimy salmon at this rate...

We saw a film called The Judge starring Robert Downey Jr. It had mixed reviews so I went in with quite low expectations but ended up really enjoying it. It's not a courtroom drama as I'd feared but instead an easy-to-watch and moving story about love and family. We both liked it. 

Afterwards it was off to Mr Fogg's for cocktails and cakes!

We'd booked our table for their latest possible afternoon tea slot (4.30pm) and we arrived right on time, full of anticipation.

Having loved the bar when it first opened and because it had subsequently won several accolades including 'Best Bar' at the Food & Travel Awards, I'd been confidently advising Angela that this afternoon tea was going to be great. I had faith. We were greeted heartily on our arrival by a man wearing a top hat and shown to our table. It had already been laid out for us with pretty teaware, the menus and two fruity little cocktail shots served in expresso cups.

It's not your standard Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong fayre here; the teas are pleasingly alcoholic. You each choose either a gin tea or a champagne tea from the menu. The cocktail bit, without the alcohol, is presented in the big teapot; the booze is in the milk jug. 

And if you're naughty like us and choose the bottomless option, this jug gets topped up constantly throughout your visit. It doesn't matter how quickly you drink - more will come your way! How very spiffing.

And then the sandwiches and cakes arrived on their stand. I loved the retro look of the delicious finger sarnies - none of that posh, granary business!

But the cakes. Oh the wonderful, fresh, chunky, indulgent cakes! There was coconut and chocolate layer cake, big chocolate brownies, a beautiful fruit tart (big enough to share), macarons and on the top - my favourite - the amazing pistachio cake!

(sorry the photographs aren't as crisp as I'd like; it was quite dimly lit in there)

I've never been to an afternoon tea where you've got proper slices of cake. There was nothing delicate and dainty about it but how I loved Mr Fogg for that fact! They were truly scrumptious. I can think of no better word to describe them.

In fact, that pistachio cake was so darn good, I did my best Oliver Twist impersonation and asked our friendly waiter for more.

Extra cake = happy Caz!

We were only supposed to have that table for a couple of hours but we ended up staying there chatting, sipping 'tea' and scoffing cake until around 9.30pm. A credit to the bar; what a charismatic, wonderful little place it is.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Eggs, Bacon & Jimmy Chew

Jimmy Chew gets very excited when it's time for a trip in the car. With the exception of the dreaded vet, when that car door opens he knows he's normally being taken somewhere new and exceedingly sniffable. Alex had a rare day off work so we decided to take Jimmy with us for some brunch in Crouch End.

I'd love for Jimmy to be a therapy dog one day. It's impossible not to notice the big smiles he brings to so many faces when I take him out. He is such a friendly, gentle-natured boy and people just adore him. So why not put this to good use? I could take him into hospitals and old people's homes for cuddles! Everyone's a winner! But first I need to train him not to lick...that could take a little time.

We spotted a busy little cafe called Beam along the high street. It had tables outside and a decent breakfast menu so we settled there for some food.

Introducing Alex's fry up! How delicious and non-greasy does this look?

Alex was impressed. 

My smoked salmon obsession continued but this time it was accompanied by pleasingly moist scrambled egg (it's a huge bugbear of mine when it's over-cooked) and yummy grilled halloumi cheese. Three of my favourite things coming together to make one lovely, fresh breakfast. 

Appetite satisfied, it was off to Priory Park for a long walk in the autumn sun. A lazy Thursday with my two favourite people (well, person and pup) lay ahead; we had no real plans. 

Don't you just love days like that?

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Salmon & Champagne ❤

I've never had a big list of foods that I didn't like. I've always thought of myself as a reasonably unfussy eater. Take me to any restaurant in any country and there will no doubt be an abundance of things I'm happy to eat. Having said that, one of the items I would always mention as lower down in my 'delicious food' list was smoked salmon. I was never a big fan of the stuff and have spent most of my thirty-three years avoiding it. Then suddenly - about two months ago - being on a low carb diet lead me to order scrambled eggs & smoked salmon as a starter course whilst dining at Rules Restaurant in Covent Garden. And my goodness, it was delicious! I walked away that day a convert and appreciator of all things smoked salmon.

It's for this reason that visiting new opening Salmontini made perfect sense! Plus I got to catch up with my blogger buddy Angie of Silverpoon London.

Located in the heart of London's Belgravia, Salmontini launched officially only yesterday. With run-away successes already in Dubai, Lebanon and Jeddah, this is the first UK branch and a very welcome addition to the restaurant scene it is too. 

Inside it's bright, spacious and very elegant.

In typical fashion, the first thing Angie and I did was consult the champagne list. Salmon and champagne must be up there with some of the world's most enjoyable pairings; port & cheese, pancakes & syrup, Ant & Dec...

The menu was as tempting as I'd hoped it would be. Whilst the signature dish is unsurprisingly the home-made smoked Scottish salmon, there are many other options available including sushi, fish & chips, chicken, lamb and Angus beef. 

But Angie and I were going fish all the way! We ordered some starters to share; the crispy salmon salad, salmon tartare and sashimi. 

I'd already expected the standard to be high at Salmontini and I wasn't disappointed; all three of the dishes screamed quality with every mouthful. The tartare in particular was so soft and flavoursome, a little salty and sweet at the same time. With our bubbles on the side and fantastic company to boot, this was turning into one hell of a nice lunch!

My main course was beautiful. Just look at that photo! Ricotta stuffed salmon fillet with chive sauce served with perfectly al-dente broccoli. 

This was the sort of meal I would quite happily eat every day. Healthy, delicious but with that lovely sauce and creamy cheese keeping the dish alive and exciting. The salmon was succulent and cooked perfectly. A winner of a dish.

Angie adores her sushi and even though I'm not as much of a lover as she, I had to admit that her dish looked amazing! If I was able to eat rice, I'd have given it a try!

Before we knew it, two and a half hours had already passed us by. What a fabulous ladies lunch! I would definitely recommend Salmonita, particularly to you salmon and fish fans. The quality is there in abundance and the service was impressive too. Although I didn't think there was anything particularly mind-blowingly experimental on the menu, the food is fresh, lovingly prepared and of the highest quality. Also, it's the perfect restaurant for those of you on a bit of a detox! (perhaps just leave out those bubbles...!).