The Clarendon Royal Hotel, Riverside Gourmet in Gravesend

Blog post by Restaurant, Dining with the Husband, Invitation only! PR events, Non Michelin Restaurants, Uncategorized

Gravesend, Kent, home to a clock tower, Pocahontas statue, the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, New Tavern Fort and the Tilbury-Gravesend Ferry to name a few.  Gravesend is a river side town and has witnessed rejuvenation since the introduction of the High Speed 1 rail service.

Now Gravesend is not somewhere I would usually choose to eat out, to be honest I think my Gravesend eating experiences are limited to a sausage roll from Greggs after visiting Primark.
I received some Insta love from The Clarendon Royal Hotel.  I returned the love and had a look at their pictures.  Wow, really delicious looking food, I looked at their bio, located in Gravesend! No way!
The Clarendon Royal Hotel were reaching out to Kent based bloggers via Twitter to try out their restaurant and being a fifteen minute drive away from home I responded.  Me and hubby were booked in for dinner.
I drove to the venue which fortunately has its own car park.  We were warmly greeted and shown to our table.  The manager Stephen greeted us and told us all about the visions for the hotel and restaurant and raved about how talented and passionate his chef was.  We were impressed of his restaurant knowledge and felt confident the food would be of a ‘foodie’ standard.
We browsed the menus and chose our starters.
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Drinks. A delicious Virgin Mojito & Hop House 13

While we waited we wondered whether the food was going to be as good as it appeared on Instagram.  When the starters arrived I was pleased to see that they were photogenic but what did they taste like?  Bloody good!
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Ham Hock &Pig Cheek Terrine, Cauliflower Puree, Black Pudding Bonbon, Piccalilli, Popcorn Crackling

 

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Goats Cheese on Croute, Honey, Beetroot Puree, Pear Puree, Rosemary, Honeyed Walnuts, Frisee Leaf

 

I chose the Ham Hock, mainly because it was served with a black pudding Bonbon.  The Bonbon was as good as I hoped and I loved the popcorn crackling.   I was impressed that the piccalilli was homemade.  We also went for the recommended goats cheese on croute.  The flavours were great.  Beetroot and goats cheese is always a winning combination
My husband and I exchanged approving nods and smiles, so far we were really impressed with the food.
Next came the main courses of a twist on fish & chips and medallions of lamb rump.  Again, we were just so impressed by the standard of food. The portions are huge, much bigger than the usual London fine dining portions.
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Bawley Bay, Butter Poached Cod Fillet, Driftwood Chips, Gin Vinegar Batter Pebbles, Samphire, Clams, Mushy Pea & Cured Bacon, Pickled Cockles, Tartar Sauce

 

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Medallions of Lamb Rump, Puled Lamb Stack, Chorizo Dauphinoise, Pea & Mint Puree, Baby Carrots, Broad Beans, Petit Pois, Jus

 

The fish and chip dish was fantastic, such a clever and creative dish inspired by the river Thames which can be seen from our table.  As well as tasting amazing it was so beautifully presented.  I loved the crunch of the gin pebbles.  Such a fun plate of food and the flare and creativity of the chef really was showcased in this continuously evolving signature dish.
The Lamb was equally good, I liked the chorizo hidden between the layers of potato in the Dauphinoise.  The lamb portion was very generous and the Jus was gorgeous.
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The choice of desserts was hard to make.  I was torn between the cheesecake and fondant. Fondant won!  Hubby was torn between the soufflé and chocolate brownie, the brownie won for him.
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Both desserts were delicious.  We had been sharing each other’s plates but I begrudged sharing this one.  The molten chocolate lava was encased in a crisp shell and spilled out perfectly when broken open with the spoon.
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Black Forrest Fondant, Chocolate Fondant, Sour Cherries, Ice Cream

 

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Chocolate Brownie, Vanilla Ice Cream

 

We just had three amazing courses, over looking the Thames, a fifteen minute drive away from home, in Gravesend. It’s exciting to have experienced such high quality food made with love and passion so close to home.  As I mentioned earlier Gravesend is known for a lot of things but not its food scene,  but with the town slowly receiving a breath of new life through regeneration I’m excited for The Clarendon Royal Hotel Restaurant’s future and eagerly anticipate the tasting menu that will hopefully be launched in 2017.
Thank you to Stephen Ruffle for inviting my husband and I for dinner at The Clarendon Royal Hotel .

VIP Box Experience of Cirque du Soleil at the iconic Royal Albert Hall 

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My husband was amazingly lucky and won a competition with the Evening Standard for a VIP box experience with behind the scenes access to Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall.
We arrived a few minutes late as my husband had taken us on a detour (got lost). When we arrived we put on our VIP lanyards and sipped on a cucumber and mint mocktail while we waited for our tour guide.  

Our Royal Albert Hall tour guide greeted us along with the stage manager from Cirque du Soleil and we began our tour of the iconic Royal Albert Hall. We were shown the empty hall from all perspectives. Standing at the stage looking out at all the empty seats was quite an experience. 

   


One of the highlights of the tour was seeing the royal areas, we weren’t allowed into the actual royal box but we were allowed into the royal lounge area. This is where the royals enter the hall and hang out during the interval. It was very plush with lots of royal portraits hung proudly on the walls. 

The guide had told us how The Royal Albert Hall is actually a registered charity held in trust for the nation’s benefit to promote the Arts and Sciences. It is not funded and the income is generated from the hire of the hall.  

We were taken all the way up to the top of the theatre and shown the ‘mushrooms’ which dangle from the roof, these are the resolution to the bad acoustics created by the dome in the roof.    

   

  

We were then taken downstairs backstage and had a sneak peak of the star of the show limbering up for the performance in the make shift gym.  

When the doors opened up to the public we were shown to our own private box and provided with a full hospitality experience which included Pre-show canapés, a bucket of champagne, wine and beer all served by our own waiter! After we had been waited on the waiter left our box whilst we enjoyed the first half of the show, he returned during the interval to serve more food and delicious dessert canapés then left again so we could watch the second half.    

  
  
Cirque du Soleil are celebrating their 20th anniversary at the Royal Albert hall and are premiering their show AMALUNA, which is about a Mysterious Island Ruled by Goddesses, the cast and the band are made up predominantly of women, as appose to the majority of their shows being made up of mostly men.  

It’s basically a love story similar to that of Romeo and Juliet. Queen Prospera causes a storm, after her daughter Miranda’s coming of age. The storm results in a group of men washing up onto the island. A love story begins between Miranda and a washed up brave young suitor. There is also an element of comedy through the show as you witness the relationship blossom between the male and female ‘clowns’.  

   

The performers are incredible, their strength is phenomenal. Each performer had me on the edge of my seat with their breath taking acrobatics. The artists performed a variety of stunts swinging by their necks from Aerial Straps, jumping as high as my house and somersaulting on a teeterboard. Synchronised swinging on the uneven bars and beautifully swimming and balancing around aWaterbowl. One of the performers did an amazing performance of balancing varying sized sticks, thetheatre was pin drop silent nervously watching on hoping that the stack of sticks did not fall…….. and they didn’t until she prompted them to.   

At the end of the show our tour guide and the stage manager joined us once again and escorted us backstage to meet and greet two of the cast members, they were so tiny! Well I am 5ft 11 but the performers seemed really small to me. It was great to be up close and see their intricate make up and costumes.    

 
After meeting two of the beautiful performers we were taken to the stage and got to hold some props, the balls the juggler had skillfully used and the sticks from the balancing act.    


We then went to wardrobe and looked closely at the costumes which have to be washed daily. So even after the performers have gone, backstage crew are still washing and drying their costumes. Each performer also applies their own make up, they use the brand Mac, both Cirque du Soleil and Mac inspires each other for new trends and colours.   

This bought our tour to an end, what an incredible end to the most amazing VIP experience. If you get the opportunity to see the show (even if it’s not VIP) I would highly recommend.

Reminiscence – The Fat Duck July 2011

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Food Obsessed Sam

I visited this mind blowing restaurant in July 2011. My husband and I had only just started getting into food and dining in Michelin star restaurants. The main reason being that we now had a child so drinking, dancing and grabbing a donna kebab on the way home in the early hours was not something we could partake in anymore. Not a bad alternative I know!

My husband’s new year resolution/challenge for 2011 was to dine in at least one Michelin starred restaurant a month for a whole year. I believe this was our first three Michelin star experience.  (We’ve since visited all the three Michelin star restaurants in the UK).  During our year of Michelin starred dining we would more often go for the set lunch menus, looking back this does not really do the restaurants justice as you just can’t compare a set lunch to an a la…

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Pierre Hermé, Pastry provocateur

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In the heart of Covent Garden is a rather special boutique,  Pierre Hermé Paris, which boasts the most beautiful display of macarons and my husband and I were off there for a tasting experience.  We had won a competition on Twitter, I’m partial to a competition and this was an incredible prize!  Pastry provocateur Pierre Hermé began his career at the age of 14 as an apprentice.  Heir to four generations of Alsatian bakery and pastry-making, Pierre Hermé has invented a variety of tastes, sensations and pleasures. With his original approach to revolutionise entrenched traditions he is always revising his own work, exploring new taste territories and revisiting his own recipes.

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We were greeted by the Store Manager Sara, and she sat us outside at the bright pink table, my husband was wearing a similar coloured polo top on that day, which I thought was quite comical so I teased him a bit!

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She explained how we would be presented four plates showcasing a variety of delights.

The first plate was presented.

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From left to right,
  • Caramel Mahogany, caramel candy with mango
  • Absolument chocolat au lait Mathilda, an almond praline and lemon zest,covered  in Pierre Herme’ milk chocolate 45%
  • Calisson, almond paste and candied orange flavoured with melon
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  • Macaron Eden with peach, apricot and saffron
  • Cake Satine, a pound cake with candied orange and passion fruit, kept moist by adding cream cheese to the mixture
  • Pate de fruit Satine, with orange, apricot and passion fruit
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  • Macaron Infiniment Chocolat Paineras (a brasilian pure origin, 64% cocoa, with spiced aromas, roasted cocoa nib notes and a long bitterness)
  • Drinking chocolate Cannelle de Ceylan, flavoured with cinnamon from Ceylon, prepared with mineral water and served cold.
  • Bonbon Chocolat Ampa, a pure origin from Madagascar, 68% cocoa, with citrus notes of passion fruit, baked caramelised pineapple and a biscuity aftertaste

The cold hot chocolate was soooooo rich and unbelievably was just made with water! Because of the quality of ingredients it doesn’t need milk.

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  • Bonbon Chocolat Chuao, a dark chocolate and blackcurrant ganache, matched with the parfum Milena for the aromatic and balsamic notes of the blackcurrant.
  • Glace Milena, fresh mint ice cream and red berry sorbet
  • Macaron Milena with fresh mint and red berries (a compote of wild strawberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrant)

You can see for yourself the products here are absolutely beautiful, so photogenic with such gorgeous colours.  The tastes were amazing.  Here are a few of more favourites.

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Aren’t the Macarons stunning? The one on the left had peach, apricot and saffron, middle chocolate and right mint and red berries.

The saffron gave the macaron a slight savoury taste in contrast to the sweet fruits.  My favourite was definitely the mint and berry.  As well as  looking magnifique the taste was delicieuse.  The fresh mint and berries worked so well and the amazing flavour was also replicated in the combination of ice cream and sorbet.

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Another of my favourites was the candied orange and passion fruit cake.  This cake is just amazing, the sponge is so light and fresh and the icing is so smooth and melt in the mouth.  It’s topped with tiny little macarons and its such a beautiful creation.

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To finish we were given a plate with four of the Veloutes selection.  These are made with yoghurt.

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From top left, Yogurt, Rose, Litchi and Raspberry.  Yoghurt and Grapefruit, yoghurt and banana and yoghurt and Lime.  These were delicious.  The yoghurt gave the macaron a slight sour taste, but it worked beautifully.

My husband and I really enjoyed our afternoon, who wouldn’t enjoy this amazing opportunity?! Thank you Sara for your incredible service, and thank you Pierre Hermé Paris for treating us to this fantastic experience.

Chocolate covered cookies! 

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Hands up, who likes Oreos?
Ok. Who likes chocolate?

And hand up who likes chocolate covered Oreos………………………..?

Well chocolate covered Oreos are actually a thing and I can testify that that are as good as you would imagine!

So I was dreaming away at work in a meeting and when I returned to my desk there was a gift from the gods. A bold and brash yellow paper bag had been delivered and inside a windowed gift box proudly displaying CHOCOLATE COVERED OREO COOKIES!!!!!!

   

  
  
  
I proudly showed them off ( leaving colleagues thinking I had an admirer) it was actually switched on Comms who had delivered them! But I selfishly didn’t share, I took them home for my nearest and dearest. Naturally my daughter chose the pink biscuit, my son the gold and my husband and I waited till they were in bed before we enjoyed ours! Verdict? Well the kids devoured them, “more, more” they were shouting. My son was impressed that buy letting it slightly melt it turned his hand gold! Kids! 

My husband and I were also silently shouting “more, more” in our heads after we’d savoured every crumb! The chocolate covering is so generously thick and smooth and creamy and melt in the mouth.   

The biscuits have just been launched in Selfridges food hall by artisan baker Sangita Anand from La di da Sweet Treats. You can grab ’em at the bakery counter on the ground floor. Be quick though, at only £1.20 they already sold out on their highly anticipated debut!  
 

 

 

 
 

Maison Blanc’s summer patisserie range

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I was invited to sample Maison Blanc’s summer patisserie range. Reviewing cakes, that’s my dream job! I chose to visit the Fulham Road store. It was a gorgeous summer day, perfect to try out summer patisserie, and I had brought my two year old daughter with me.  I had told her we were going to eat cakes so she was very excited. We approached the store and our eyes lit up! A brightly rainbow coloured display of macaroons, tarts and cupcakes welcomed us.


My daughter and I sat down. I had my daughter’s buggy but there was plenty of room, which is great. There’s nothing worse than trying to manoeuvre a buggy between tables and chairs. The cafe was very spacious there was also an outside area to the back of the restaurant. I was sat opposite the counter. The shop was very popular and a lot of the customers appeared to be regulars. I can see why as the service is very friendly.


Our table began to fill up with a selection of treats.

Ispahan Macaron 

A gorgeous pink crisp macaron filled with rose fragrant cream diplomat and fresh raspberries

Lemon Hibiscus Tart

A stunning summer inspired pastry filled with rhubarb and rosewater compote topped with lemon and hibiscus cream, decorated with edible petals.

Tarte aux Fraises 

Perfect crumbling pastry filled with pistachio almond cream, light mousseline cream finished with fresh strawberries and pistachio

Lemon Curd Cupcake 

A zingy lemon sponge with a lemon cream centre, topped with the most delicious lemon curd buttercream

My daughter indulged in a beautiful little dotty the ladybird dessert.


With our tummies full and cake smeared faces (mine only slightly). We said our thank yous and goodbyes and were given the remainder of the summer range to take away. A very welcome surprise for my husband and son later that evening.

Strawberry Cream Cupcake and Choco Berry Cupcake 

A moist vanilla sponge topped with strawberry buttercream and strawberry drizzle.

Chocolate sponge topped with blackcurrant buttercream, violet drizzle and a fresh blueberry

Lemon Cream Macaron  

Sunshine yellow macaron shell filled with a silky lemon butter cream

Blackberry Mac-nifique Macaron

Beautiful purple macaron filled with vanilla cream diplomat and fresh blackberries


The macarons are so pretty to look at. They do taste as good as they look too. The buttercream on the cupcakes is amazing, it’s so silky and the sponge is lovely and moist. Unfortunately the cupcakes didn’t make it home in perfect condition as I had transported them home on the bottom of my daughters buggy. This was definitely not a concern for my son and husband when they enjoyed their after dinner treats. Of course I had to sample a piece of each too for review purposes! 😉

Gorgeous summer treats which can be enjoyed in store or at home, they also deliver!

Thank you to Red Kite PR and Maison Blanc for inviting me to sample their Summer range.

About Maison Blanc

Maison Blanc is the authentic French Boulangerie and Pâtisserie lovingly created in Oxford in 1981. Maison Blanc was the first authentic pâtisserie and bakery in England, setting the standard for subsequent pâtisserie. As a mark of its success, since then Maison Blanc has grown across the South East to include 14 individual local branches. Maison Blanc’s vision centre’s on providing customers with a taste of France making authentic French and high quality products daily. Maison Blanc serves a selection of fresh artisan breads, pastries, savouries and world-famous pâtisserie, all made in Maison Blanc’s very own bakery. Breakfast and lunch is made to order in every store and uses seasonal ingredients wherever possible. Maison Blanc is part of KFG Restaurants Ltd.

Shop locations

Burford

Chichester

Chiswick

Farnham

Fulham

Guildford

Hampstead

Henley

Holland Park

Muswell Hill

Oxford

St. John’s Wood

Winchester

Web: http://www.maisonblanc.co.uk

Twitter: @MaisonBlancUK

Amazing win of cocktails at Coppa and dinner at Lonzo courtesy of BarChick.

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I was lucky enough to win cocktails at Coppa and dinner at Lonzo courtesy of BarChick. I am writing this post as I was so blown away by the food I wanted to share my experience.

I had just left a birthday afternoon celebration at the Strand and had just over an hour to get to Hackney. I am a huge fan of walking and walk almost everywhere, I didn’t have enough time to walk to Hackney so decided to walk to Liverpool street and catch the overground to London fields. I got off the train and made my way to Coppa. I must admit I’ve never been to this part of London. There was such a great atmosphere, the sun was shining, the fields and streets were packed with people, there was a lovely summer vibe. I spotted a small chalk board with “Coppa” and a man directed me up the staircase. I reached the top and walked out onto a lovely decked roof terrace.


The summer vibe had continued up here with cute little beach huts, gingham tablecloths and decorative lemons. I sipped on a Aperol Spritz.


This was my first time trying Aperol. It had a sweet orangeade taste but with a bittersweet almost salty tang.  The taste definitely does grow on you.


Coppa is a private event space but they are open to the public on their open weekends.

We made a move to our dinner venue, Lonzo which was a short walk through London fields. I used my google map and was slightly confused by the direction. I looked down Helmsley Place and thought that there didn’t appear to be any restaurants down there, then I spotted the sign. We made our way down to the warehouse. We were greeted and welcomed in. There were no other diners so we got our pick of the seats.


Lonzo is bakery which provides breads, pastries and doughs for it’s restaurants Lardo and Lardo bebè these are also available to buy to take away. Lonzo is also a wine shop/wine bar and a dining space serving antipasti and small plates. The menu was written in chalk under the shelves of wine.


I let the host choose our dishes.

  CHILLI COPPA & WILD BOAR SALAME

CROSTINI PAN SEARED SALMON, RUSSIAN SALAD

 AUBERGINE, AVOCADO SALSA, SUNDRIED TOMATO PESTO

ROMESCO, CHARRED SPRING ONION, QUAIL EGG

ASPARAGUS, RICOTTA CREAM, PECORINO

 ARTICHOKE FRITTI, ROAST TOMATO SALSA

 TORTELLINI IN BRODO

 PARMIGIANA MELANZANE

 GORGONZOLA DOLCE

The food was incredible. Such amazing flavours, so rustic and simple. The salume was so delicious and was freshly sliced before being served. The selection of crostinis were great. My favourite was the one with the grilled asparagus.

The artichoke fritti was delicious, the batter was perfect, and the salsa was so tasty I could have happily eaten a bowl of it. Amazing dish!
The tortellini in brodo was another gorgeous dish. The broth it was served in was slurped up with a spoon when I had devoured all the pasta.
I enjoyed every single dish and actually sampled almost the entire menu! I was blown away by the food and I really enjoyed the communal table. It’s great to be able to see what others are eating and drinking, I think us eating almost everything helped with them with their choices too.
I can’t recommend this place enough. Thank you to Bar chick, Lonzo and Coppa for such a fantastic evening

LONZO

5 Helmsley Pl

London, E8 3SB

http://www.lonzo.co.uk
COPPA is situated on the roof of the Hothouse Building, Martello St, E8.
For more info contact events@lonzo.co.uk.

Authentic Italian food made with love at Evoluzione 

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I was privileged enough to be invited by Zomato to a Guest Chef Event at Hotel Xenia’s gorgeous restaurant Evoluzione. The restaurant’s resident chef is Andrea Angeletti who boasts previously being awarded a michelin star. Every six weeks an Italian Guest chef each from a different region of Italy is invited to showcase their skills for an exclusive evening of food and drink.


The guest chef of the evening I attended, which was the third event of eight, was Teresa Buongiorno of Osteria gia Sotto l’arco.  Osteria gia Sotto l’arco was established in the fifties as a simple family tavern, now after two generations is an elegant restaurant overlooking the main square of Carovigno. Located in the region of Puglia (also known as Apulia) in the south of Italy (if bad at geography, like I am, it’s the heel of Italy’s boot). The restauranteurs are husband and wife team Teodosio and Teresa Buongiorno. Teodosio personally chooses ingredients each morning and Teresa creates traditional, innovative but simple dishes which change regularly due to the seasonal offerings of the region.

I was first to arrive at Evoluzione, I mingled, drank Prosecco and ate delicious canapés as we waited for all the guests to arrive. To amuse our taste buds were bruschetta, vegetarian meat balls which I think were actually made with bread, and a lovely little cheese and tomato calzone.


  All very delicious. A cool feature of the room was a transparent Perspex piano which was played while we dined. A lovely elegant touch.


We were lead into the beautiful dining room which has a seated counter area. I bagged a seat here so I could get a front row view of the chef. As well as being a fan of food I really enjoy meeting the chefs too. So to be sat and able to engage with a chef is a real pleasure for me. The resident chef, a translator, Teresa and her husband all stood and introduced their selves and welcomed us to the evening.

Guest chef Teresa Buongiorno and resident chef Andrea Angeletti

First course was a very quirky presented broad beans and chicory. We had a demonstration of how the chicory had been transformed into a sponge. It had been put into a canister, squirted into a bowl and microwaved. Magic! I really liked this dish, I enjoyed the different textures and liked how such simple ingredients had become so exciting.

Broad beans and chicories

Next course was my favourite, Burrata, an Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream, served warm covered in delicate crunchy strands of pastry. This was accompanied by dry cured pork and a tomato sauce underneath the cheese. The cheese was amazing! Inside the mozerella shell the texture of the cheese resembled marshmallow, the type you get inside a tunnocks teacake, it was delicious! A really surprising dish, again such simple ingredients but the dish made such an impression. There was a brief demonstration for this dish too, showing how simple it was too assemble.

Fresh filled spun – curd cheese in kataifi pastry on a tomato sauce, with capocollo cold cut and dried tomatoes

The next dish was traditional homemade pasta. Orecchiette (which resembles a small ear) is home-made pasta typical of Apulia. I actually participated in making this pasta. It was not easy. The chef skilfully rolled out a sausage of dough, sliced off a cm and spread it with a knife to make the ear shape. I sliced off some of the silky dough and made a fairly good attempt of an ear shape (dumbo’s) but discovered it was far harder than it looked. Incredibly the pasta is hand made everyday at her restaurant. That’s dedication! The pasta was served with mussels and peas. Great combination and perfectly seasoned too.

Orecchiette pasta with mussels and peas

Next course red snapper, potato and vegetables. Another delicious course. It was my first time trying red snapper, the fish taste was mild, which I like, and slightly sweet. The potato was perfectly smooth and the combination of vegetables worked well with the dish.

Sliced red snapper on potato’s cream with julienne vegetables

Dessert was up next, a delicious little ricotta cheese sponge cake with white chocolate and forest fruits. I really enjoyed the dessert and the accompanying wine which tasted of almond worked so well. A really lovely comforting dessert.

Ricotta cheese cupcake with white chocolate and forest fruits.

I had such a lovely evening and was sat a seat away from the chefs husband. He spoke very little English and he looked on so proud of his wife. I managed to communicate with him, I was curious to know if this is the type of food that he eats at home and he said yes! What a lucky man!

If you want authentic lovingly made italian food in a stylish setting then Evoluzione is the place to come.

The next Guest Chef event at Hotel Xenia will be on 24th June 2015

For more information http://www.hotelxenia.co.uk/Guest_Chef.html

 
Evoluzione by Andrea Angeletti - Hotel Xenia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

RACE FOR LIFE Rochester 

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On Sunday 17th May 2015 I took part in the Race for Life, Rochester to raise money for Cancer Research UK.  I lost my Dad to Cancer on the 24th March 2015 so this was my motivation to lace up my trainers and give it my all.  Events like this are vital in funding Cancer Research UK’s life-saving work into preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer. 

The race was at 11:00.  I arrived at 10, as instructed, to enjoy the warm up, soak up the excitement and be inspired by survivors stories.  As I arrived at the castle grounds I was quite overwhelmed to see a sea of women dressed in pink.  The pink army ready for battle.  It was estimated there were 2000 participants!  It had been an emotional morning and I had put off writing my back sign as I knew it would be tough.  My dedication was made to my Dad, Ray.  I was a bit of an emotional wreck until it was time to actually run.

  

We were all gathered on the grass in the glorious sunshine in front of the Rochester Castle, really fitting for the pink army.  There was a stage with a Heart FM DJ gearing everybody up.  A survivor was invited onto the stage to share her story and a minute of silence was also conducted.  A few dogs chose not to participate.  We were also told to turn round a read the message on the person in fronts back.  This set me off again.  It makes you realise that everybody at some point in their life will be effected by cancer.  

  

I took part in a pre race warm up which involved dancing, and anyone that knows me knows I love to dance, however my son was not amused.  I didn’t realise I was already an embarrassing mum!  

It was almost time.  We were asked to decide if we were runners, joggers or walkers.  I had been training for a couple of weeks prior to the race so thought I’d take up the challenge and join the runners.  

  

We then headed to the start line.  I made my way to the front with my fellow runners.  I felt nervous, again overwhelmed but determined, I was ready.  The countdown began 10, 9, 8…….GO! I began to run along the cobbled high street, the faster runners speed off.  It was very warm and after a few minutes I began to get comfortable with my pace and my breathing, then the course began to climb up a hill, I had read there were inclines along the route but the hill was never ending and hid around the upcoming corners, I still kept running, when the course levelled out and began descended down hill it gave me time to catch my breath, we were back near the castle.  The cheering clapping crowd were great motivation.  I started to recognise the route now.  First lap of my 5k was done, oh no I’ve got to go uphill again I thought to myself.  I was dreading climbing those hills again.  I was so determined not to stop and has trained myself to run the whole distance without stopping, but three quarters of the way up the hill I reached a point where I had to stop the hill was too much, I needed to catch my breath.  I sipped some water, reached the summit, composed myself then went for it, all the way to the finish line. I passed my husband’s parents with my son cheering me on, that brought such a smile to my face, then on the last climb up the hill into the castle grounds I spotted my husband and my daughter.  That was the motivation to run the last few metres.     I crossed the finish line!  A huge wave of pride swept over me.  I did it!   I claimed my medal, my pink army dog tags!  I managed to run the race in 31 minutes.  During training my best time was 33 minutes.  I used an app to track my race it actually only recorded a distance of 4.75K.  Guess the track divisors were more lenient because of the hills?! 😉 

  

I raised a total of £323, which I am really happy with considering my target was £100.  I am very proud of myself and all my generous sponsors, some of whom were people I had never met, it’s so overwhelming that strangers will dig deep into their pockets to help fight for a cure for cancer.  Thank you to everyone that helped me raise money to support Cancer research UK.  I raced for life and showed cancer that hell hath no fury like a woman in pink!

  

For my next race for life I will be upping my game and taking part in the Blackheath 10k on the 5th July.  Please sponsor me and help me smash my previous target by donating to my just giving page, just click on the link.  

http://www.justgiving.com/samanthaharding20


Experience premium Japanese food and drink 

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I was invited to attend an experience premium Japanese food and drink event.  It was held at the InterContinental London Park Lane.  The purpose of the event was to promote the export of Japanese agriculture, marine and food products.  The emphasis was on five major categories rice, beef, tea, flowers & bonsai and marine products.  This was an extremely important event with lots of VIPs and I felt very privileged to have been invited.  

I attended a seminar in which I learned about and got to sample Wagyu beef.  This was my first time sampling Wagyu beef, it’s actually only been exported to the UK since 2014, so I was very eager to try some.  Whilst the speakers were explaining about the highly regarded beef an award winning butcher was literally preparing the beef ready for us to try.  

  

Japan’s wagyu is unique for it’s extensive marbling and very strict grading system, it also holds a logo which guarantees authenticity.  

The melting point for wagyu fat is very low and can even be melted at body temperature.  I can testify to this, I was brave enough to hold a piece of the butchered fat between my fingers and it almost dissolved into hand cream.  

  

I was given a gorgeous brochure which went into great depth about the beef and how it is raised and graded and the different ways it can be served.  

During the seminar I sampled it thinly sliced with soy sauce.  To be honest I immediately thought of a donner kebab! Once I tasted it I very quickly dismissed the thought. 

  

It is very different to any beef I have tasted before.  It has a rich taste and a deep aroma and is very succulent. It was very savoury and sweet at the same time.  It is suggested in the literature that it tastes of coconut and peach, I can’t agree I picked up on that but there was definitely a contrast in the taste.  

Once the seminars were over everyone was invited into the main ballroom where a reception was held to sample the delights Japan had to offer.

The Wagyu beef was proudly on display as well as the sake and gorgeous flowers, the chefs were busy, focused on slicing the fish for the beautiful sashimi. 

   

  

   

 Being a foodie I immediately spotted an area where there were small dishes of food all neatly displayed ready to be announced.  Fellow foodies huddled round.  We were like runners at the start line bursting to get going.  

  Char grilled wagyu sirloin, confit garlic potato purée, English asparagus tips

 Coco dusted seared yellow tail tuna, shaved fennel, orange and avocado salad   Mizo glazed scallop, soba noodles, tempura green onions

  English truffle and wild mushroom risotto, shaved Berkswell ewes milk cheese 

 Sencha poached chicken breast on a Spring salad of baby gem, green peas, broad beans, radish, lemon dressing

Once we were given the green light I pounced.  My sights were set on the char grilled wagyu sirloin, confit garlic potato purée, English asparagus tips.  Wow!  Absolutely gorgeous! Star of the show!  

 There was a truffle risotto showcasing Japanese rice, I wasn’t quick enough to sample this dish.  It smelt amazing though.  

I did get to try sencha (green tea) poached chicken breast and a Mizo glazed scallop with a delicious tempura green onion.  I also wolfed down a beautiful Japanese strawberry eaton mess! 

I got to sample some sparkling sake and a few sweet treats.  

   

     What a fantastic way to spend an evening, transported to Japan in the heart of London only just a short walk away from my office.