28 Jan 2015

M Raw Restaurant, London: Review

Sashimi Sharing Plate
A dining experience to remember despite the January blues - okay, let's all be honest to each other, who is feeling the blues? I'm still trying to shake off the Christmas partying and we are almost at the end of January - oh dear!

An extraordinary dining experience on a Monday night (yes a Monday) we went to M Raw in the City of London, just off Threadneedle Street near to the bank of England. And let me share this now – it is a fabulous space worthy of your attention, so keep reading.

As you walk in, I was struck by the vast size of the restaurant, the open kitchen and the stairs leading to the upstairs bar area. It’s a highly polished restaurant, very modern, slick with low lighting. Service from the start was five star with a warm welcome, bag check and guidance to a comfy seat being offered with precision.

The dining space falls into two areas. M RAW – which is casual dining and all about tapas style dining. Whereas, M GRILL is geared up to those serious about their meat which can cost up to £150 pounds for a 150g Kobe beef fillet (we never tried this!!!)

The menu is packed with exciting foods to share. As you order, the food comes straight to the table so it’s in its peak. I’d recommend choosing five dishes to start with then see how you go.

We chose the edamame beans served in chilli and lime - perfectly washed down with one of their organic wines - Alsace in my case.

edamame beans
From the Nibbles menu 
Then we went for the BEST fish sharing plate of sashimi which included sword fish. My dining companion was quick to say that it was the best he had ever eaten outside of Japan, he was right!

Next up was the Argentine beef tartare which was served with cornichons, shallots, sourdough and, rather uniquely an egg! Cooked at exactly 62 degrees and with a texture somewhere between a runny and a hard egg, it was very clever and a conversation piece.

beef tartare
Our choice from the Tartare and Tiradito menu
There is always space for dessert and we chose the white chocolate with lavender soup. Don’t let the word soup put you off here though – it was beautifully executed.

White chocolate and lavender soup
with poached apples and coconut tuile
After dinner we went taken on a tour. We were extremely lucky to be shown around by Martin Wllliams – former MD of Gaucho. He showed us the secret den with iPod booth featuring different whiskies kept behind numerous lock and keys.

There was even a funky Japanese toilet in the bathrooms with all the features you might expect from such a contraption and again made for great conversation. This one was for the boys!

toilet control panel
The toilet control panel - no I'm not showing the toilet!!
If there was ever a restaurant which is hip, right now, and very London, then it’s got to be this one. Go visit (if only for breakfast) and be prepared to be in awe.

M Restaurants
2&3 Threadneedle Walk
60 Threadneedle Street

Disclaimer:  We were invited to review the restaurant, all thoughts are our own.

27 Jan 2015

Breakfast Week 25th - 31st January 2015

Breakfast Week in January is an annual event to remind us how important our first meal of the day is for us.

I know the above isn't a healthy meal, but in my defence I only eat a cooked breakfast a few times a year. I cooked the bacon, sausages and bread in the oven. The egg and pancakes were cooked in a minimum of oil in a non-stick pan.

The potato & spring onion breakfast pancakes came from the BBC GoodFood 2015 Recipe Calendar. To be honest, I didn't enjoy the pancakes because the potato made them too much for me - I'm simply not up to eating heartily first thing in the morning.

Makes: 6 pancakes
140g potatoes cooked and mashed
50g self-raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 egg
5 tbsp milk
1 spring onion chopped
sunflower oil

1. Cook the potatoes until tender. Mash and cool.  Put to one side to cool.
2. Place the mashed potato in a bowl, add the flour and bicarbonate of soda.  Whisk the milk and egg together.  Add to the bowl and whisk until all the mixture is smooth.  Stir in the spring onions.
3. Add the oil and butter to a non-stick frying pan and heat until the butter has melted.  Spoon in 3 tablespoons of batter.  Cook on one side until brown, flip over and cook the other side.  Place in a warm oven.  Make three more pancakes.
4. Serve with egg, sausages, bacon, brown sauce.............

25 Jan 2015

Premier Housewares Green Leaf Placemats and Coasters: Review

These gorgeous on trend quality leaf placemats and coasters in shades of green remind us that the first new leaves of the year will soon be appearing on our trees. Spring is around the corner and a cheery design always lifts the spirits. They have certainly cheered up my dining table, the coffee table, my kitchen and the bedside table.   My usual mats are plain dark brown and I'd forgotten just how uplifting a pattern can be.

  • The mats come in sets of four
  • Placemats: 22cmh x 29cmw x 0.5cm depth -  RRP £9.99
  • Coasters: 10cm x 10cm  -  RRP £3.49
  • Wipe with a damp cloth
  • The top is PVC
  • Cork Base
The mats are part of a great value and quality co-ordinating collection, there is also a 16 piece dinner set, matching mugs, beanbag lap tray, single and double oven gloves, apron and matching tea towels.

Available from Amazon.

Disclaimer:  I was sent the above products for review from Premier Housewares, all thoughts are my own.

22 Jan 2015

It's January 2015 - Let's Get Blending

Ingredients ready for whizzing
@paulfoodie has let me use his Nutribullet and with limited time restraints I got whizzing and whirring.

I'm not used to putting green veg into my drinks as suggested in the recipe book, but I had some spinach leaves in the fridge and this went in the base of the cup, topped with chopped fresh pineapple, frozen redcurrants and strawberries.  Adding seeds to the cup is recommended but we were impatient and just wanted to whizz a few items from the fridge and freezer.

The finished drink
It wasn't a looker but tasted really good, the seeds from the frozen berries didn't break down and I found this spoiled the drink.

Cleaning is a breeze and drinking a cup of nectar can only be a winner. I haven't tried the milling attachment and so I am unable to comment on this.

Blender Method
I got my trusted blender out from the back of the cupboard and more or less replicated the above drink.........

Ingredients for the healthy drink
I've got a chop function on my blender and used this to get everything going, I then pressed the puree function to whizz everything together until all was blended and frothy.

Sadly I used too much spinach and the drink was a bit 'yuk'.

The finished drink 
When you make smoothies with green vegetables they can separate as in the photograph. A quick stir and it was soon amalgamated.  The texture of the drink, in my opinion, was more palatable and I didn't have the berry seeds issue.

If you already own a blender, have a miller to grind seeds, don't have the budget to buy yet another kitchen gadget, then I'd dust off your blender and #loveyourblender.

A Couple More Blender Smoothies 
These are delicious - no quantities required, just throw everything into the blender, add some water and whizz.

Spinach, Kiwi Fruit, Pear, Frozen Mixed Berries
Clementine, pineapple, apple
Use fruit which has been chilled in the fridge to give a lovely refreshing cold drink.
Peel over-ripe bananas, slice and place into freezer bags, blend from frozen.
Grapefruit can interact negatively with some medications.
For those who can't tolerate fibre a juicer would be the better option.
Just two components to wash and clean after using.
Make and go.......
Easy to make part of your daily routine.
Five components to wash and clean.
The finished drink has to be poured into a glass.
I preferred the texture of the drink from my mid-price range blender.

Disclaimer: The above is an overview, both of these products are private purchases.

18 Jan 2015

Hyatt Regency Birmingham - The Gentleman & Scholar Pub: Review

Hyatt Gentleman & Scholar
The Gentleman & Scholar Bistro Pub
with it's very own dashing Manager
Maggie, our West Midlands Reporter on an 'extreme weather January day', experiences The Gentleman & Scholar Bistro Pub located within the Hyatt Hotel Birmingham.......

The Hotel
Just a short walk from the city centre, shops, and the many attractions nearby. The interior of the luxury 4 star hotel is beautiful and elegant, there are comfy seats galore where you can sit, relax and unwind.

I've been here several times over the years, my first visit was a treat from hubby for afternoon tea, I loved it so much we've returned several times for lunch, Sunday lunch and dinner.

The Bistro Pub
Hubby came along with me as my dining partner to visit The Gentleman & Scholar which opened early in November 2014. The interior is sophisticated and easy on the eye with a mix of traditional and contemporary furnishings, original artworks adorn the panelled walls, the bistro has a warm and welcoming ambiance and I truly felt as though I was sitting in a gentleman's club.

After arriving for lunch, on what can only be described as a 'cold wild January day', we were greeted with a warm smile, drinks were promptly served to us and we then studied the menu.

The Food
There are six starters to choose from, I could have quite happily ordered any one of them but a choice had to be made........

Fried Goat's Cheese & Melting Camembert
Fried Goat's Cheese with Homemade Tomato & Chilli Jam
Soft goat's cheese encased in melting Camembert with a tomato and chilli jam - the perfect pairing. It has gone on record that this is the best starter I've ever eaten. Beautiful.

Hubby took ages choosing his starter........

Caesar Salad
Classic Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken, Parmesan and Croutons
We were both surprised how generous our starters were and hubby said his impressive Caesar Salad was full of flavour, with all the elements working together perfectly.

After enjoying our starters so much we were really looking forward to choosing our mains, although I was still waxing lyrical about the fried goat's cheese...........

Pork Burger
Pulled Pork Roll, Apple & Chilli Sauce, Chips
The brioche bun was filled to overflowing with melt in the mouth pulled gammon and came with a generous serving of chunky chips, sitting alongside was a jar of sweet apple and chilli sauce - I'm sure the sauce came as an accompaniment to the gammon but it made a great dip for those crispy chips.

There are seven mains to choose from, hubby deliberated over the menu for ages..........

Ribeye Steak
Rib Eye Steak, Smoked Sea Salt, Sweet Potato Chips, Tomato
The steak was a good size, juicy and cooked to medium rare, as he had requested when asked how he liked his steak. Hubby missed having a serving of potato chips with his steak and said a plate of traditional steak and chips, for him, is still a winner.

After all this fabulous food we hardly had room for dessert from the main menu and were treated to a glass of champagne and a surprise dessert...........

Champagne Sorbet Dessert
Strawberry Champagne Sorbet,  Basil Ice Cream,
Crumble and Shortbread
Dessert was divine, we've never tried basil ice cream before but all the flavours worked so well together. Our desserts looked absolutely stunning and went really well with a glass of champagne! We're both huge fans of dessert, so much so, we usually choose dessert first from the menu and then work backwards!

After finishing our delicious meal we had opportunity to meet Chef who made our wonderful meal, it was a privilege to meet him and that he took time out to come into the bistro to speak with us.

Hyatt Birmingham

We enjoyed a fabulous lunch time experience and one I hope to repeat in the not too distant future. The Hyatt staff are always friendly and everyone looks after you really well without being overbearing.  Our waiter gave us exemplary service.

The pub is open to residents or non residents.  They specialise in drinks from the Golden Age of Cocktails.

A huge thank you to all the staff for a fabulous Hyatt experience.

Hyatt Regency Hotel
2 Bridge Street
B1 2JZ

Disclaimer: We were invited to review the meal, all thoughts are our own.

13 Jan 2015

L'atelier des Chefs London, Sweet Pastry Class - Review

L'atelier des Chefs St. Paul's
I'm really pleased to start 2015 with an event that was both extremely enjoyable and informative.
I was delighted to be given the opportunity to attend a Sweet Pastry Class in the St. Paul's area of London last week.  I'm still eating sweet treats from Christmas and attending a sugar laden class wasn't even a consideration when I booked my place. Everything for the class is provided all you have to do is turn up.

The friendly professional chef who taught the class.......

Throughout the two hour class our chef explained techniques, tips and equipment. It didn't matter how many questions were asked they were all answered in a patient and friendly way.

I was given a welcome coffee, and we then got to work making vanilla sable pastry for the lemon tart.  I soon realised that my trusted wooden rolling pin I've had for many a year requires an upgrade to a seriously heavy one, a few rolls with the rolling pin used in class and the pastry was rolled out to perfection.

The uncooked pastry shell - after being shown the correct technique to form perfect edges
Chef taught me how to neatly line a tart tin with a double layer of cling wrap and ceramic beans
The cooked pastry case waiting patiently for the lemon filling
The table was prepared for the lemon curd filling 
Lemon curd filling looking amazing
The finished luscious Lemon Tart
We moved on to making profiteroles - I haven't made these at home for many a year, mainly because I've never been happy with the finished result. I quickly learnt about the mistakes I've been making and the correct way to achieve the perfect profiterole.

I was also taught how to correctly hold the piping bag for filling, removing air and piping techniques.

I was really pleased with my golden profiteroles
Salted butter caramel cream 
Beautiful golden caramel
Profiteroles filled with salted butter caramel cream and coated in crunchy caramel 
Next up my profiteroles were filled with a vanilla cream and dipped into a vat of shiny chocolate ganache. All class recipes are emailed to everyone who attends and so no excuses for not trying these again at home! At the end of the very enjoyable lesson all of the goodies I made were boxed up for me to take away........with the help of my willing family we ate as much as we could, it wasn't difficult.........

All boxed up and ready to take home

The two hour Sweet Pastry Class costs £72 and is held at L'atelier des Chefs London, there is a full list of classes on their website.

Disclaimer:  I was invited to attend the class, thank you to all the staff.