31 May 2014

A Nostalgic Wednesday - New Kids On The Block

The late 80's/early 90's. Thatcher was in power, the internet didn't exist, the world's biggest boy band looked like this

and I wore shell suits and headbands

Clearly a very special era, I'm sure you'll agree!

Last Wednesday night was exciting for me as I had tickets to see my first ever boy band love New Kids On The Block (yep, those guys with the incredible hair above).

Having successfully reformed a few years back, they'd brought themselves to London to perform two intimate shows at the Eventim Apollo (previously the Hammersmith Apollo). Their tour with the Backstreet Boys a couple of years back was entertainment gold and this evening promised to be another fantastic night!

First thing first though: dinner. We headed to the elegant Browns Bar & Brasserie in Mayfair. 

The building was once Wells & Co, a high-end gentlemen's outfitters where it's said Winston Churchill used to get his suits tailored. Inside it's grand and classy but with a relaxed air. The menu offers a bit of everything from burgers and steaks to pasta and salads.

While Mary went for the Browns steak, mushroom & Guinness pie, I decided to leave my low-carb rules at the door and plumped for the lobster tagliatelle in a parmesan, cream and white wine sauce. 

The pasta was rich, creamy and really tasty. The flaked lobster was throughout the pasta in addition to the half lobster on the top so I didn't come away feeling hard done by! 

For dessert, I had a dish I've not had in absolutely ages: Eton Mess.

Served with cherries, white chocolate, hazelnuts and clotted cream, it was a delicious indulgence. You can't really go wrong with those ingredients can you?

Appetites satisfied, it was on to Hammersmith for the show. Nostalgic fans hung banners, waved flags and wore their retro New Kids On The Block clothing. There was such a great atmosphere!

Deafening screams raised the roof when the five guys - now in their early to mid 40's - took to the stage. They kicked off the show with an up-tempo song from their latest album and had the crowd of predominantly 30-something women (like me!) whipped into a frenzy within seconds. From then on it was one hit after another, each accompanied by some impressive choreographed dance routines. They definitely still have it!

By the end of the show, Mary and I may have had sore throats from singing and aching feet from dancing but we certainly felt uplifted. It had been such a fun night!

I do love a good boy band reunion!

In fact it was such a great night, I felt that I just had to get the t-shirt! (or hoodie...)

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27 May 2014

Hutong Restaurant & Getting Stuck Up The Shard

I enjoy so many different world cuisines; French, Spanish, Greek, Polish, Indian and good old English grub. When I'm asked which one I love the most, I always say Chinese. Well, Chinese or Thai - they're on a par. It's the food I get most excited about - the sweet, the sour, the spices and incredible flavoursome sauces. I even have a soft spot for the prawn crackers (which I must have accompanied by hoisin sauce for dipping or else I get very upset).

My enthusiasm for the cuisine extends from the post-nightclub 'open all hours' restaurants in Chinatown (HK Diner, I love you) right up to the more expensive, lavish venues - like Hutong.

Hutong is situated on level thirty-three of The Shard, serving contemporary northern Chinese food to its well-dressed diners. I'm sure you already know about the incredible views from the upper levels of this building by now so I won't bang on about it - I'll just throw in the odd photo.

I was happy when I saw the menu. Being something of an up-market restaurant, I was half expecting something rather long, complicated and difficult to decipher. To my delight, the dishes were classic, the choice wasn't brain-breaking and it all sounded right up my street.

Mary and I started off with the vegetable spring rolls...

...and, because it's our absolute favourite and something of a tradition, the roasted Peking duck. 

My mouth is watering just looking back at these pictures. It was as good a Peking duck as I've had. The crispy skin was wonderful and the meat pleasingly tender. If it wasn't for the ridiculous fat content, general unhealthiness and duck guilt, I'm pretty sure I could eat this dish every single day.

The leftovers from the duck (i.e. legs, thighs) were taken away and then returned to us with our main course, chopped up and sautéed with vegetables and a tangy sauce. A nice touch, I thought.

Something else I have a great fondness for (and I know a lot of you do too, fellow bloggers!) is soft shell crab. I've ordered it in a few different restaurants recently and it really is a delight. However, never before had I had it served up to me in a massive metal Game of Thrones-esque lantern or in quite such a huge portion!

It may not be cheap but you get a fair amount for your money! It's served on a bed of dried red chillies and tasted as impressive as the portion size.

We also ordered the fried grouper fillet in black bean sauce braised with chilli & onion and the crispy shredded beef & chilli with carrot, celery & garlic.

The grouper was over-salted for my liking and the beef, despite tasting great, was a little difficult to chew. So for these reasons, it wasn't one of the best Chinese food experiences I've had. However, the restaurant was worth the visit for the duck, crab and those ridiculous views alone! The service was very good too.

After an hour and a half, we were gently informed that the restaurant needed their table back in thirty minutes time so we rounded off our meal with some lychee ice cream to share and a couple of Irish coffees (which initially were served to us without any alcohol - we soon put them right!).

We decided to round off this rather opulent evening with a glass of bubbles before heading home. A lovely member of staff in Hutong had secured us a great little table in the Aqua bar, right next to the window. Perfect.

But things were soon to get a little less perfect when we tried to leave. The lifts had broken down.

We were thirty-three floors up, our taxis were waiting outside and the options were either a) stand next to a useless man with a walkie-talkie for the next half hour waiting for something to happen, or b) get our flats on and start walking.

Deciding we could probably do with working off some of those duck-calories, we went for the latter. Getting bored after eight floors, we managed to keep ourselves entertained with a series of ridiculous photos.

Thirty minutes later and we'd made it to the bottom!

Yay us!

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25 May 2014

Magnificent Macarons at Anges de Sucre

First thing's first: what's the difference between a macaron and a macaroon?

Well, cake lovers, they are not alternate spellings of the same thing. A macaron is an almond meringue-based cookie filled with a buttercream or ganache. The delicate treat has a crispy exterior and a soft, weightless interior, almost nougat-like in texture. A macaroon is a generic phrase applied to a number of small, sweet confections but most usually a dense coconut biscuit often piped in a star-shape and dipped in chocolate.

However, it's worth mentioning that macarons are often referred to as French macaroons, just to confuse matters further.

Let's leave it at that so I can tell you about a wonderful place that sells lots of lovely, tasty things...

Anges de Sucre is a gorgeous new boutique patisserie that's just opened its doors on Holland Street in the heart of Kensington. Its welcome arrival follows the huge success of the online shop from which Anges de Sucre has become supplier to many weddings, prestigious venues, leading hotels and brands across the country.

The company was founded by Reshmi, an ex-investment banker turned professionally trained chef who also happens to be a friend of Alex and I. We popped along to visit on Saturday afternoon and were dazzled by how beautiful Reshmi has made the place. Both the outside and inside have been lovingly hand-painted with delicate little birds and flowers. The window is dressed with strings of colourful macarons and the bright floral displays are stunning.

The macarons come in all sorts of different flavours such as pistachio, vanilla, earl grey, raspberry ripple and lavender. My personal favourite was the Ferrero Rocher! Each one is hand-made using some of the best ingredients; organic vanilla pods, free-range eggs, fine Belgian chocolate and fresh fruit.

But that's not all you can indulge in here. There are delicious marshmallows that are as light as air, mini cupcakes, ganache-filled pastries, croissants and some of the best coffee you'll find in Kensington, specially roasted in Paris. 

You could also grab yourself a hot chocolate (perfect for those marshmallows!), a nice cup of tea or even an expresso martini if you're feeling extra naughty. In fact this shop is just so damn lovely I basically felt like I wanted to move in!

I'll let my photos do the rest of the talking...

Anges de Sucre are holding a blogger's shindig this Thursday 26th May from 5.30pm until 8pm. There will be cocktails, canapes, goodie bags and of course, those gorgeous macarons! If you're a blogger and you'd like to come along then just send an RSVP to events@angesdesucre.com.

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