Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Cartizze Bar

It was Good Friday evening and by all accounts, London was pretty dead. I think everyone headed out of town for the long weekend to visit relatives or bask in the sunshine somewhere warmer. Either way, Ellie and I weren't going to let that affect our night out. We headed to the cobbled streets of Lancashire Court in Mayfair to visit a luxurious new cocktail bar.

Cartizze is easy to miss. Unlike its sister over the street, Mews of Mayfair, it's not all open entrances and outside seating. The windows are reflective so you can see out but can't see in and the doors are kept closed. Of course it's all intentional; the owners want Cartizze to be a relaxed and intimate retreat from the bustling streets outside.

Inside the decor is fabulous. Soft lilac and blue leather stools are combined with elegant gold and marbled tables. There's a cosy Marquina fireplace in the back lounge which is burning in all weathers. Ellie and I couldn't get over how stunning the crystal glasses, decanters and even the water jugs were. We commented upon them and were informed how these 1920's to 1950's antiques were sourced from vintage markets across London and Italy.

As we cast our eyes over the menu, we nibbled on some truffle infused salted peanuts. It was clear that nothing here was going to be ordinary!

The cocktail list was created by super-mixologist Richard Woods and uses Italian influences to create some delicate and delicious combinations such as the signature Olive Oil Gin Fizz (gin, lemon, lemon sugar, olive oil, egg white and prosecco), Rhubarb (rhubarb liqueur, fresh rhubarb and prosecco) and Amor Y Amargo (Amaretto, Cynar, apricot liqueur, lemon, egg white, vanilla sugar and prosecco). It was very apparent how much love goes into their making. They looked beautiful and tasted wonderful.

You may have noticed those sliders above left. They were the hand dived Orkey Isles scallops with smoked pancetta in brioche buns served on a hot rock. And they were amazing. My first experience of a scallop burger, I must admit!

We also had the yummy San Daniele ham wrapped figs coated with truffle honey and roquette. 

The menu includes a small, hand-selected choice of wines and champagnes, plenty of whiskies, gin, brandy, rum and - incredibly - privately sourced spirits dating back to the 1800's! I bet that's cheap!

You can easily whittle away a few hours in this bar then wonder where they went, just like we did! We had a lovely experience here and it's the perfect place for world class drinks and a catch up with friends or colleagues. There aren't too many bars in Mayfair where you can relax in a stylish atmosphere and actually hear yourself speak!

I must also mention the superbly friendly and informative service we received from everyone working there. Cartizze is a real gem that I probably should have tried to keep to myself...but it's just too great not to share! 

If you fancy heading down, email in advance to reserve a table. They only allow around 60 people in at a time to keep it intimate so if you have a booking you won't be disappointed :)

Cartizze Bar
4 Lancashire Court
New Bond Street
London W1S 1EY

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Monday, 21 April 2014

A Special Trip To Disneyland Paris

My husband Alex loves Disneyland. In the six years since we met we've been to the one in Florida, twice to the one in LA, once to Paris and early next year we'll no doubt visit Disneyland Tokyo on our holiday to Japan. To be fair, it's hard for anyone not to get pulled in by the joyous atmosphere and happiness of the place.

So it seemed apt to book a trip to see Mickey and friends in Paris for Alex's 30th birthday. I tried my hardest to keep it a secret for as long as I could but I let the cat out of the bag a couple of days before - I'm rubbish at surprises! He was delighted. The plan was to travel there on the Wednesday afternoon, stay the night then we'd have a full day in the park on the Thursday.

But first, I had booked us a table for lunch at Plum + Spilt Milk

It's situated inside the Great Northern Hotel which is directly opposite King's Cross St Pancras - perfect for some elegant pre-Eurostar dining. 

The chef here, Mark Sargeant, created a menu based on beautiful seasonal ingredients cooked simply yet creatively and a number of luxury takes on British classics. Alex had the Angus sirloin steak with beer battered onion rings and - in anticipation of eating a lot of not-so-healthy food in Disneyland - I ordered the rather delicious fillets of mackerel with pickled rhubarb and fennel alongside a gorgeous beetroot, blue cheese and walnut salad.

For dessert I had the Vahlrona chocolate tart (above right) and Alex had the iced peanut and salted caramel mousse complete with candle and a chocolate Happy Birthday!

The food at Plum + Spilt Milk is really good and the service was great too. It's an impressive choice if you want to do something a little special before catching your train. 

Appetites satisfied, we were ready for the off.  I was armed with the essentials...

...and three hours later, we were at Disney!

We were so lucky with the glorious, warm weather and even though it was bustling during the Easter holidays, it wasn't unbearably busy. We walked, ate ice creams, got on a few of our favourite rides (thank goodness for fast passes...) and had lunch in the very pleasant Blue Lagoon restaurant. Despite getting caught up in a two hour Eurostar delay on our way home, it was a fantastic trip.

And here are a few snaps!

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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Cinderella Cake

I felt quite excited when I got my first ever order for a Cinderella cake. I've seen the pictures - the pretty Barbie stood within the iced sponge dress - but I hadn't got round to making one myself.

Until this morning!

It's for a client's daughter who turns 3 years old tomorrow.

The cake itself is chocolate fudge. Poor Cinderella had to be stripped of her original frilly blue dress and wrapped up in cling film in preparation for her placement inside the cake. I achieved the skirt shape using two standard 9" round tins and a bowl for the rounded top. After filling the layers with chocolate buttercream, I completed the shape using a bread knife. The cake was then covered with a 'crumb coat' of buttercream, in went Cinders and the fun bit began - the icing!

I used a Wilton 18 tip to do the blue rosettes and a small petal tip for the white frills.

It took me about 5 hours from start to finish including baking time. Cake decorating can take a lot of patience but this was a really enjoyable cake to do and I was pleased with the results!

I hope Ruby likes it!

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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Fasta - The Fresh & Fast Pasta Bar

I like to do the occasional 'local' post. I know the blog entries with venues located centrally will end up appealing to more people but I think it's nice to support my local area and do my tiny bit to help get the word out. Also, this new little restaurant in Muswell Hill has so got it going on that I reckon it'll be a successful chain before you can say "linguine" at which point I'll be able to say I blogged about the very first one! And, of course, I shall be smug...

The place I speak of is Fasta - a newly opened fresh pasta bar which is located on Muswell Hill Broadway, a fifteen minute walk from Highgate tube. They specialise in authentic, fast, made to order pasta.

Inside it's half homely Italian tavern with its brick wall and knick-knacks dotted around and then half colourful, family-orientated diner. It works though - Fasta already has a very appealing identity.

The service couldn't be more friendly and welcoming. We were seated and the menu was explained: you pick your pasta, you pick your sauce, you pick a topping or any sides if required and then you will be presented with a bowl of Italy's finest before you know it.

There are pasta alternatives on the menu too such as hot sandwiches, salads and shakshuka as well as takeaway options.

I ordered the lunette quattro formaggi pasta with crema funghi sauce. Creamy, tender and absolutely delicious - definitely worth dumping that low-carb diet for! I had it with side dishes of golden gnocchi and tomato & mozzarella salad. 

The freshness of it all leaps from the page, doesn't it?

So if you ever find yourself up the north side of London - perhaps you're going to an event at Alexandra Palace or fancy a Sunday walk in Highgate Woods - Fasta is worth a little visit. 

82 Fortis Green Road
London N10 3HN

In other news, I've finally got round to re-arranging my wardrobe; a job I've been meaning to do for so long. I've ended up with a black sack full of old clothes for the charity shop and a wardrobe organised by colour.

I'm a little bit miffed about how many white, grey and black clothes I have though - I thought I was brighter than that!

A new reason to go shopping perhaps...? 

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