Sunday, 8 December 2013

Ape & Bird

I visited Ape & Bird this week - Russell Norman's (Polpo) first pub!

I loved everything about it. The bar area, the ground floor dining room, and the sultry downstairs cocktail 'Den'.

I had a delish 'Damson Sour' cocktail when I arrived, waiting for my pals.

The lighting was just right throughout (very important) and the multi-coloured fairy lights in the windows were there to stay, as confirmed by Russell himself who was there as we were leaving. He seems like such a genuinely nice bloke!

Here's what we ate:

Blood pudding hash, sprouts & poached egg
Pig trotter Scotch egg with celeriac fries
Penny buns, squash and roasted garlic (my favourite dish and pictured above)
Winter chowder, Scottish mussels & black cabbage
Wild mushroom & chestnut cottage pie (Bec's main. See her blog for a verdict)
Cheeseburger (Paul's main)

The mussels were a bit too cold for my liking and tasteless in the chowder (I prefer it when they are cooked in sauce) but everything else was really enjoyable. 

We washed it all down with a couple of bottles of very nice Pinot Noir.

The whole evening was great fun (thanks in part to exceptional company) and a definite highlight of my week. I skipped off a little tipsily to the tube feeling festive. I just hope it doesn't get completely rammed once the PR machine is in full swing as we luckily visited during the first week of opening.

Keep up the good work Russell. ;)

Thursday, 5 December 2013

One of my favourite #52StanleyThursdays of the year.

Ayla & Stan.

Tower Hamlets Mums Website

Sorry for the silence.

I have been working on a very exciting project.

A website.

A website for mums!

A website for mums in the wonderful borough of Tower Hamlets.

Not heard of Tower Hamlets? Bethnal Green, Columbia Road, Spitalfields, Brick Lane, Canary Wharf, - yup they're all to be found in the brilliant borough. is an online magazine covering local schools, nurseries, shopping, dining, services and activities for parents and children in Tower Hamlets and surrounding areas.

Please do visit and have a read and sign up to receive monthly newsletters filled with news and competitions.

There is also a THMs card offering our members discounts and money off at participating partner venues and stores.

Hope you can come and check out the website soon:

Jo xxx

Monday, 15 July 2013

Clove Club, London

I knew I was going to love the Clove Club. I’ve eaten Isaac McHale’s food before at a really special pop up event I went to in 2010. (Read about Elliot’s inVictoria Park Pop-Up on my old previous Foodie in London)
I think Isaac has a lovely way with food, a soft blending of ingredients and complimentary combinations without ever being too fussy or too try hard. He champions heritage and locally sourced UK produce.
Since Elliot’s, he’s been getting rave reviews for his pop up at The Ten Bells as part of the YoungTurks and now he’s launched a solo venture in Shoreditch Town Hall.
I’ve been vaguely keeping up with the rave reviews about this grand new spot apparently filled with a gorgeous ‘hipster’ crowd.
I may not be a hipster but I’ve certainly been knocking around the area for many years, way back when the Mother Bar was one of the only places open late night mid-week and when Breakfast Club still meant having your mates over for brunch in your kitchen. 
Anyway my point being, those intimidating hipsters weren’t about to put me off from walking through the door. In we went......

A Beautiful Night Out at the Clove Club, London
We had a drink at the central reservation bar and marvelled at the jambons and charcuterie hanging down one side – nice touch.
Actually the crowd to me seemed a mix of ages and types and not at all hipster.
We we’re taken through to the dining room, with Isaac busy in the open-plan kitchen at the front of the room, surrounded by sous chefs and waiters.

Our table was right at the back of the high-ceilinged room, which I loved as we could watch all of the action and we also had a handy little ledge to put our wine up on. 
I personally love a tasting menu. It adds an extra sense of occasion to an evening and it saves you having to choose your dishes – something that I always struggle with - as I am so indecisive.
First up were a trio of pre-menu bites. 

(Posh melon & ham)

Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Pine Salt served on a bed of pine needles – which was soft and delicious.
Mantua Melon, Pancetta Cotto & Sichuan Pepper – our waiter described this as ‘posh’ melon and pancetta. I think he had forgotten the name.
Oak smoked Cod’s Roe on Rye – I loved this tiny little crispy cracker with a creamy cod topping.

Five larger courses followed:

Isaac MacHale, Clove Club Tasting Menu

We started with English Broad Beans, Marjoram, Lardo & Iced Goats Milk. OMG. Iced goat’s milk is such a great invention, the cold temperature really brings out it’s flavour and my hubby marvelled at how they had managed to get boring old broad beans to taste good.

Second course was Wild Irish Pollan, Green Tomatoes, Brown Butter & Dill – a beautiful, soft dish. The green tomatoes looked awesome and the fish was topped with tiny little rings of crispy onion.

Slow Roast Lincolnshire Chicken, Peas, Girolles & Garlic Scape – a hearty course but not heavy at all and I particularly liked the inclusion of the garlic scape.
I’m not sure if it’s Issac’s trademark but both times I’ve tried his menus, they have had two desserts in a row - double dessert. Love it!

First up was Kent Raspberries & Sheep’s Milk Yogurt Mousse – the description says it all. This was divine and included tuile and a delicious raspberry sorbet.
We had several different waiters serving up different courses throughout the night, which was really nice and informal and they were all chatty.

A new guy served up our fifth and final course and as he explained our Corsican Peach, Iced Tea Jelly & toasted almond Ice Cream – he divulged that this was a new dish, his own creation and that he would appreciate some feedback.
This then immediately descended into a drunken conversation, between myself and hubby, about which tact of feedback we would be taking.
Husband: “Just tell them it’s nice alright? Don’t give REAL feedback.”
Moi: “No, he wants feedback, so I’ll give him some. I think the peach is a little on the sour side, the biscuit is too soggy and dense.
Husband: “They don’t really want feedback, just tell them it’s really nice.”
Moi: “No I’ll be nice. I’ll also tell them the iced tea jelly is delicious and so is this ice cream. Yum.”
I should point out here that we were not just drunk off  one beverage at the bar but had already had a cocktail at Dishoom, two drinks at The Spread Eagle and were no two thirds of the way through a bottle of Portuguese Duas Pedras.

The plates were cleared. We fed back that the dessert was ‘very nice’.
We finished with an espresso and then giddily toddled out of our new favourite ‘club’.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Peanut Butter Cookies – Take 2

I thought my last trialled recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies was a tad strange as it didn’t contain any flour – surely a requirement for a classic biscuit or cookie?
So, I consulted my biscuit-baking bible – gifted to me by talented cook, professional chef and dear friend to my mother Lani Boucher. Lani very kindly posted me - All About Cookies (by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker) - when I was at one point planning on opening a café.
This book is a great compendium covering all sorts of classic biscuits, sweets and treats and I am yet to try a recipe from it that has not worked out perfectly. 

Peanut Butter Cookies Take 2 - directions

These peanut butter cookies include – 2.5 cups plain flour, 1 egg, 1 egg white, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1 cup butter, 0.5 cup peanut butter, 1 cup superfine sugar.
Blend the butter and peanut butter in a mixer, then add the rest of the ingredients except the flour and mix some more and lastly add the flour and combine.
Divide the mixture into to and refrigerate for 1 hour minumum.
Preheat the oven to 190˚C
Take tablespoon portions of the dough, roll into balls and place on grease-proofed tray 2 inches apart. 
Then, using the bottom of a jar, press down until 1/8 of an inch thick.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.
The Verdict: A more satisfying peanut butter cookie (compared to previous attempt) with a shortbread texture. An ideal companion for your afternoon cup of tea! 8 out of 10.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Baking: Peanut Butter Cookies

This just might be the easiest recipe in the world!

I had a craving for peanut butter so I Googled peanut butter cookies and came across this recipe on UKTV Food: Read the UKTV Food Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies recipe

Despite this being a UK website, the recipe contains Hershey's Kisses. I wasn't too sure where I was likely to find these in East London (?) so I improvised and have decorated mine with Dr. Oetker Polka Dots and Chocolate Stars, Moons & Hearts - thanks Waitrose.

These took less than 20 minutes to make from start to finish - very easy.

The verdict: these cookies are a little on the sickly side but quite addictive after a couple of glasses of red wine. If you like  heavy peanutbutter sweets like Reeces Pieces Buttercups these will be right up your street.

If anyone tries these at home, let me know what you think. : )

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Stanley Goes To The Beach

Yesterday, Bank Holiday Monday, we took Stanley to the beach for the first time.

Following our lovely-yet-windy early Bank Holiday Monday trip to Whitstable (okay that was a beach too but it’s pebbly not sandy so not included), Uncle Tom and Auntie India and I had planned to take the car for a repeat getaway on the second Bank Holiday Monday.

This time round we were treated to a real rarity - UK Bank Holiday Monday sun! It was a little windy but gloriously blue skies shone above throughout our day.

Camber Sands Picnic

We drove down to Camber Sands near Rye and it took just under two hours. We stopped at a farmer’s shop just a few minutes from the beach and picked up a picnic consisting of:

1 family sized pork pie
1 avocado,
2 freshly cooked beetroot (oven cooked at the farm shop, cute!)
4 flour baps
1 x hunk of cheddar
1 x hunk of stilton
4 tomatoes
1 x tub of unsalted peanut butter
2 Braeburn apples
1 x pack of oatcakes
1 x Fentiman's Curiosity Cola

When we arrived at Camber Sands, we parked up and I bought Stan a little cap at a beach-side shop to keep the sun off him and then we headed to the sea.

Camber Sands must be one of if not the best beach in Sussex. It’s a large wide SANDY bay with hilly sand dunes running all the way along the coast which makes it ideal for a picnic as you can walk along until you find your ideal place to perch.

We walked up the hill and picked a spot on one of the dunes looking down at the sea. I love sand dunes! There’s something so nice about dozing off in the sun, sheltered by the wind. Camber Sands has a very flat shore with virtually no shelf so when the tide goes out you have a very long, wide beach to run around in – which Stanley adored.

Slightly older kids were building all sorts of sand castles and I can’t wait to take Stanley back when he’s a bit older but yesterday he mostly enjoyed crawling head first down hills, dipping his feet in the sea, falling over and generally getting covered in sand.

That’s pretty much the extent of our lazy Bank Holiday Monday but less is more once your days are spent running after a toddler and it was definitely one of the most loveliest days of my year so far.

It took us just under two hours to drive there each way and Stanley spent virtually the whole time asleep and only woke at the very end of the journey. We staved off a cranky session with some repeat renditions of 'The Wheels on The Bus' and 'Old Macdonald' and managed to keep a melt down at bay.

If you’re thinking of a day trip to the South Coast, wait till it's sunny and then head for Camber Sands.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Mr. Buckley’s – Small Plates on Hackney Road

Ever since a friend tipped me off about the little cocktail bar/ restaurant that had opened up on Hackney Road and I caught a peek of the unassuming frontage and neon sign as I travelled past on the bus, I've been trying to make it down to Mr. Buckley’s. Six weeks on
yes this is how spontaneous life is post baby I finally made it there for dinner.

Mr. Buckley’s is half way down Hackney Road, a couple of blocks down (if you’re heading into the city) from the Broadway Market and Hackney City Farm turning.

The raised restaurant is a couple of steps up from street level when you enter. There is a downstairs bar but this was closed when we visited on a Wednesday. Our waitress said it opened on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays when things get a bit busier. Upstairs had just a scattering of tables but most were full.
My friend arrived and we started with a couple of Rhubarb Flip cocktails – made up of cognac, rhubarb syrup, egg whites and sugar. These were DELICIOUS. They we’re thick and made largely of fresh rhubarb and had just the right amount of sweet VS booze.  
Mr. Buckley’s menu is made up of small plates designed for sharing. We salivated over all the wonderful sounding dishes as we tried to choose the best combination the six things we wanted to try the most. The menu recommended three dishes per person - although in the end we settled on just five. 
First to arrive was ham hock with homemade pickles. This was nicely presented with some greens and pickled carrots and onions scattered around the plate and what really made the dish shine was a wasabi-pea tasting green sauce that cut really well with the ham.
Small sharing-style plates have been in fashion at restaurants for some time now but last night made me wonder if these type of establishments are giving themselves a harder time by offering up a menu and saying ‘eat it all together’ if you want to.
After the ham hock, the dishes went down hill for me and I can’t help but think this was more down to the combination of flavours and dishes we chose rather than a fault with the food itself. 

Next up was Ragstone with almond, broccoli, beetroot and ruby chard (not this florescent in the flesh the image was taken with a flash). I was expecting this dish to be more salad-based but the strong whipped Ragstone really took over and I found it overpowering compared to the rest of the elements on the plate. The broccoli was a little over-cooked and under seasoned for my taste.
We then had blue cheese polenta, sautéed wild mushrooms and truffled oil. The polenta was fabulously cooked and all the flavours married well but this was a bit of a full-on dish to follow the Ragastone and chard.
Our last two dishes to arrive were jerk crusted onglet steak, smoked paprika and mango butter with sweet potato crisps and lobster mac ‘n’ cheese.
I loved the steak dish. The Jerk seasoning was fiery and powerful and the mango butter made for a great combo.
The lobster mac ‘n’ cheese looked impressive, a neat tower of thick pasta topped with shiny bright orange roe. It tasted fine but wasn’t stand out and I couldn’t help but reminisce about the green chilli mac ‘n’ cheese I had at Rita’s in Dalston.
These guys have absolutely nailed it with the environment. The atmosphere was warm, inviting and relaxed. The lighting was just right and interiors were simple with exposed brickwork and a few tea lights dotted around. All the diners were enjoying themselves and our waitress was helpful and not at all intrusive. 

Despite some of the dishes being not 100% spot on, there’s something about Mr. Buckley’s that just makes me want to like it. The menu is varied and the dishes have clearly been imagined and put together with creative flair. I’m keen to go back and do it all again but this time with more cocktails and some lighter menu choices.
Mr Buckley’s
277 Hackney Rd, London E2 8NA
020 3664 0033 

Mr Buckleys on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Thursday, 16 May 2013

52 Stanley Thursdays - so far

I can't believe it's May already, nearly half a year of 52 Stanley Thursdays. I've been late with a couple but have managed to post once a week so far.

Stan changes and grows so quickly so it's a really nice way to record his growing up. This week's pic is from our trip to the swings in the local park.

Click here for :

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Paper and Cup - St Paul's Way

Here's my piece for the latest NCT Tower Hamlets newsletter. Thought there was no harm in putting it up on my blog seeing as it's a bit unloved at the moment due to work commitments, boo...

Paper & Cup Coffee Shop Opens

Stop press. A coffee shop has opened on St Paul’s Way in Bow. Having grown up in this area, I can confirm that it has been completely bereft of any decent eateries (unless you rate Perfect Fried Chicken) for over 30 years, so when I pushed the buggy past the snazzy blue frontage last week my heart all but skipped a beat.
Paper & Cup is a community spirited venture that trains and creates jobs for former addicts who have successfully graduated from an addiction recovery programme. It has opened on the ground floor of the new St Paul’s Way Centre social housing development. If all of that’s not already making you feel warm inside, pop in for a decent latte (they use Fairtrade Union coffee) and a homemade peanut butter cookie and you almost certainly will be.
The café is light and bright, offers wifi throughout and opens out on to a grassy communal area out back that will have additional seating in the summer. There’s a little kid’s area with toys and games, a sparkling new baby change and high chairs.
Ingredients are sourced from local, independent suppliers and homemade cakes are made daily. When I visited a batch of flapjacks had just come out of the oven and raspberry mini muffins, apple & toffee cake and chocolate cheesecake were all on the counter. 
The weekend breakfast served on trendy white and blue striped enamelware consists of beans, grilled tomato, a fried egg, toast and a Cumberland sausage - all non-greasy and for a mere £4. 
Local art is on the walls (for sale) and you can browse an interesting collection of second hand books and ornaments also up for grabs and all reasonably priced compared to any ‘vintage’ finds you might come across in neighbouring Hackney.
 Do pop in for a cup of tea if you're passing by.

Paper & Cup

St Paul’s Way Centre, 83 St Paul’s Way, London, E3 4AJ
T: 0207 537 4427

Monday, 8 April 2013

Stanley’s First Birthday

It seems like only yesterday that I was wapping my boobs out in public all over East London (primarily at DLR stations and on the D8 bus) to feed my tiny, screaming baby. At the time, unwanted comments from passers by included, ‘Your baby wants’ feeding’ shit! And, ‘Enjoy every moment, it goes so fast, mine’s 18 now….”. Yawn, really? I don’t believe you but I’m so tired I only have energy to smile back at you through gritted teeth.

Part sleep-deprivation and part disbelief I couldn’t quite believe that this little screaming ball was ever going to let me sleep again. But here we are a year on and like all the rest of those clichéd people – I’m not sure where the time has gone.
We had a little party at the weekend to celebrate Stan’s turning 1. In the end I opted for a Victoria sponge birthday cake – as it was the simplest cake to make and I was running out of time. Inside I filled the cake with Bonne Maman Berries & Cherries Conserve and I topped with raspberries and whipped cream.

I made some baby-friendly banana & apple cupcakes – made with fructose sugar. Okay there was a little bit of cream cheese frosting on top with some icing sugar in – but hey it was a birthday party. These seemed to go down very well with the kiddies but they were a bit messy.

I also bought iced gems and party rings for retro effect - a reminder of the parties I went to when I was a child.

Lucky little Stanley got lots of amazing gifts including  Mon Premier Piano from Auntie India and uncle Tom, a tambourine from Auntie Ames and bumblee bee maracas from Auntie Becs – thanks guys I’m going to have a constant headache for the next three years : )

Stanley was in his element all day with so many people to play with and so much going on at home that he skipped his afternoon nap and crashed straight out at 7pm at the end of the party – bliss!

Happy birthday Stanny B, love Mom. xxx


Sunday, 24 March 2013

Sorry for the silence...

Oops, one month and no blog posts. Well everyone trips up on their New Year's Resolutions around now right?

I started a new job and thus have not really had time to do anything above and beyond work and baby while getting my head around it all.

Here's the link to the latest 52 Stanley Thursday's: Click here for 52 Stanley Thursday's

It's only a couple of weeks until Stan's 1st birthday so an Easter party/domestic goddess/ mummy-hostess-with-the-mostess post to come.....

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Weekend in Paris – Valentine’s 2013

Brunch at bookshop/cafe and ultra cool store Merci

Shopping at boutique children's store Bonton

Huitres at Les Petit Celestine

Spotting my father in law's book in the bookstore window. Buy Les démons de l'île Saint-Louis on Amazon.

Steak dinner at Le Royal Turenne, Marais

Lunch in the Jardin des Plantes

Coffee at La Favorite - sister engaged. Yes that is an engagement ring!

Knackered out on the Eurostar. Bye, bye city of love.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Spice Market Raw Bar at W Hotel, London

Hallelujah. Praise the lord. Big in the scene, etc. etc. After a year and four months at long last I HAVE AN I-PHONE AGAIN.
My last one vanished somewhere between the sofa and the corner shop when I was pregnant and the f**king insurance w**kers, f**ked me over and I have been using an old knackered blackberry ever since – and as you can see I am still not over this.
So obviously on my first evening out in town with my new phone clasped firmly in my hand (you’ve heard about the masked bicycle phone thieves right?), I got snap happy while on my way to the launch of Spice Market’s Raw Bar.
I walked through Trafalgar Square and the fountains were lit up and looked so pretty:
Looking up at the colossal W Hotel on the corner of Leicester Square:

So What Exactly Is The Spice Market?

Spice Market is an Asian-fusion restaurant at the W Hotel, sister to the Spice Market in New York’s Meatpacking district. The menu is inspired by legendary French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s travels around South East Asia and the street food scene he encountered there.
Over here though, it seems executive chef Peter Lloyd is in charge of the kitchen and he has developed a new ‘raw bar’ menu that is made up at the bar in front of diners and is based entirely out of raw ingredients. Shaved rare tuna with chilli tapioca and Asian pear; salmon ceviche with avacado; and beef tartare with pickled cucumber were some of the canapés we sampled. All of the dishes are citrus-filled, fresh and zingy with barely a carbohydrate in site.
Happy raw bar chefs hard at work:
The medley of cocktails on offer as we entered the restaurant:
I'm keen to return to the Spice Market and sample the raw bar dishes in their entirety as I must admit after the canape-sized portions my journey home was via a takeaway pork bun from Chinatown. Finally, below, it just goes to show that even with today’s state of the art technology there is still some skill involved in good photography. Apologies to those at the Raw Bar as this photo is not the remnants of my Saturday night kebab but is indeed a Raw Bar salad. Don't worry it tasted better than this looks.


More from me on The Spice Market's Raw Bar  


Spice Market RawBar on   *Foodie Mom in London was an invited guest to Spice Market Raw Bar launch  
Spice Market on Urbanspoon
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