I absolutely adore St Petersburg. The last time I visited, back in 2012, we really only had one day there and I was desperate to go back and really explore. I absolutely love its buzzy vibe, the gorgeous beaches and the way the downtown area absolutely comes alive at night, with restaurants, bars and cafés thronging with people. Even as recently as the 90s, Downtown St Pete was really quite unloved. Remember Cocoon? Jeff, our lovely guide told us that the movie was filmed in St Pete in the 1980s, and it was an area known as ‘God’s Waiting Room’, full of retirees and not a lot else. Slowly, though, the locals transformed their beloved neighbourhood, and now it’s such a creative, lively place to visit, with a wonderful arts scene and fabulous shops, restaurants, galleries, stunning museums like the beautiful new Morean Arts Centre and the Dali Museum, and beautiful open spaces. Read more
I meant to tell you that we finally visited Bill’s in Berkhamsted. I’ve been meaning to go for ages, so my Mum and I decided to go for a Friday evening catch up and a glass of fizz. It’s a lovely old building, right in the heart of Berkhamsted high street. I’ve lived near Berkhamsted my whole life and it’s been various cafés and restaurants over the years, but this particular incarnation looks so twinkly and welcoming, we’ve been desperate to go and sample the food. Here’s how we got on…
One of the incredible dining experiences of our recent foodie trip to Leeds was a visit to Stockdales of Yorkshire. I’d heard great things about this very stylish restaurant in the heart of Leeds city centre, with a menu that celebrates the best produce that Yorkshire has to offer, including some stunning 28 day aged black Wagyu beef, sourced from a farm in nearby Doncaster and cooked on a state of the art Josper charcoal grill. Read more
This last week before we head off on our long-awaited cruise has been a bit strange. We’ve barely seen the boys as they’ve been spending time making the most of their last few days of freedom before education beckons again, and I feel a bit like I’m in limbo: like I know that this really is the last of our English summer and that when I come home it will properly be autumn. Already, as we’re walking the dog, the blackberries are ripe and ready to pick, and even on a really hot day, there’s that little nip in the air when the sun goes in. I’m still loving quick, healthy eating and we’ve been packing away easy summer dinners of warm salads, fish and stir fries. Read more
As you might know, it was my birthday over the Easter weekend. One of the things I was determined to do was head out for a family meal with NO EXCUSES (we make so many plans only for the boys to suddenly remember that they have to be somewhere else or they’re double booked) with my Dad. We love Pizza Express for relaxed family dinners, so we booked there for Easter Saturday to celebrate and try out their new spring menu.
On a chilly day, is there anything better than a proper English pub with a roaring log fire? Well, yes, actually, there’s The Hinds Head, Bray. Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to the tiny village of Bray, about 5 mins from Maidenhead, to try out Heston’s glorious ‘gastropub’ (I always think that’s such a weird term – let’s just call it a pub please?). The beautiful 15th Century building is the most welcoming, cosy pub and restaurant with leather chairs, dark wood panelling and low ‘duck or grouse’ beams: just Heston enough to have a Michelin star, but pub enough that the clientele is a mix of excited visitors (me) and the locals just popping in for a pint and a chat.
Years and years ago, Allan Pickett taught me to fillet a fish. My knife skills are appalling (think Nigella but with considerably less dexterity) and he was very sweet and patient. It was at a special event at Billingsgate for Seafish, and by the end of it, I remember feeling quite clever as we sat down to eat fish we’d prepared ourselves. I still buy the odd whole fish now and give it a go, just to keep my hand in. At the time, Allan was head chef at Plateau in Canada Place, but we’ve kept in touch and I’ve known for a while that he’s been planning to open his own restaurant.
It’s been a mad week here at English Towers. The Sainsbury’s #loveyourfreezer campaign has gone live and it’s been really lovely receiving tweets, texts and Facebook messages (and AWFUL screenshots – thanks guys haha) saying ‘ooh, I’ve just seen you on the telly!’. I’m SO proud of this campaign – Sainsbury’s have been amazingly lovely to work with, and there are loads more exciting things coming up.
So if you pop in occasionally, you’ll know that Mr English and I recently spent a while in Florida, visiting the Macy’s stores in both Orlando and Sarasota. We particularly loved Sarasota – it’s a beautiful area and there’s bags of stuff to do as well as a really cool foodie scene. We whittled our favourite experiences down to five really fab experiences:
I’ve written before about how gorgeous our local Prezzo is. The staff are lovely, the atmosphere in the place is amazing (helped by an open kitchen featuring a massive pizza oven) and the food is consistently good. Last week we popped in to try the new summer sharing specials.
One of my favourite places in Miami is Lincoln Road. It’s a huge, pedestrianised area stuffed with shops, restaurants, cafés, and on certain days there are market stalls and food stalls too. After working up an appetite on our cycling tour of Miami Beach, we headed to SushiSamba and flumped down in the shade of their gorgeous orange brollies to do a bit of nibbling and people watching.
We’re big fans of Prezzo and pop in quite regularly for dinner, or occasionally Mr English and I will pop in for a quick lunch and a glass of wine. They’ve just launched some lovely new Summer menu items, and we went along to try a few.
So as you’ll see from part one of my cruise diary from my trip aboard the NCL Breakaway, we were mightily impressed with all the facilities on board. A big part of ‘cruising like a Norwegian’ is the amount of flexibility in the choices you have: gone are ‘formal nights’ and, indeed, formal dressing for most of the restaurants, and instead you’ll find informal dining at a time that suits you. That’s not to say you can’t push the boat out, dress up and have a proper evening out, oh no – they even have a name for it: Norwegian’s Night Out is your chance to get dolled up in your favourite outfit and have some fun, but if you want to wander to the buffet in your shorts, that’s fine too. Read more
Last year I visited Edinburgh, home of my fellow food-loving friend Erica. We toured some amazing restaurants and markets and decided to make our ‘Foodinburgh’ trip an annual occurrence. If you think Edinburgh is all haggis, neeps and tatties (not that there’s anything wrong with that – I had my first taste of haggis too, delicious!), then think again, it’s a serious destination for food lovers, with no less than five Michelin starred restaurants and a fabulous array of affordable restaurants and cafés. I’ve put together a list of my favourites so far, but I’ve got a feeling this could change – we’re already planning Foodinburgh 2014!
This week, we were invited to our local Prezzo to try out the new Christmas menus. We pop in to Prezzo every so often for pizzas and salads, but I hadn’t really considered it particularly for Christmas. Someone on Twitter even suggested turkey pizza when I mentioned I was going to Prezzo to try their Christmas menus!
Happily I was completely wrong. The place was absolutely buzzing – our local restaurant is housed in the town’s old Post Office building and it’s got a lovely industrial feel to it, with a huge oven at the centre of the open kitchen. It was lovely inside – all warm and sparkly, with candles, an open fire and a gentle buzz of conversation. We were shown to a lovely big table by the fire and got stuck in to the menus (and a very nice bottle of Barbera d’Asti).
There are three menus for Christmas:
The Classic (3 courses for £16.95)
This menu only offers a few choices and you’ll find most things are on the normal Prezzo menu anyway. We tried the bruschetta starter, which was a really generous portion of flatbread, topped with loads of yellow and red cherry tomato quarters, red onion, fresh basil leaves and a generous drizzle of pesto. It was really fresh and tasty.
Mains include pizzas, pastas and a Caesar salad and desserts include Charlie’s favourite chocolate profiteroles, filled with chocolate cream and generously drizzled with vanilla sauce. The choux pastry was light, the filling generous and the vanilla cream sauce REALLY yummy.
The Premium (three courses for £19.95)
This menu has more choice. We ordered one of each of the starters and had an absolutely fantastic time sharing and dipping. The king prawns served in a rich, garlicky tomato sauce with a generous touch of chilli are utterly delicious, and we ended up dipping the crispy calamari in there too. Yum. The pane con cipolla – garlic bread smothered with sweet sour balsamic onions and mozzarella is like a huge pizza – perfect for sharing (and scoffing with those delicious king prawns).
Mains are varied and tasty: we ordered the VIP tre gusti pizza – a massive pizza piled with pepperoni, chicken, pancetta and mozzarella. Charlie found the amount of fresh rosemary a bit overwhelming and ended up picking it all off – apart from that it was spot on. We were also tempted by the pene al zafferano (chicken with red chilli, spinach and garlic in saffron sauce) and the fusilli Gorgonzola with chicken, pancetta, and veg in a creamy sauce. The king prawn risotto looked great too.
Desserts on this menu are nothing short of fabulous. We fought over the sticky toffee pudding – a huge slab of the most delicious, sticky softness, and the white chocolate bombe (mascarpone ice cream covered in white chocolate with raspberry sauce) was lush.
The Signature (four courses and a glass of Prosecco for £24.95)
This menu starts off with a small tray of marinated olives and a glass of fizz. Starters include the most delicious, crispy, soft centred crab cakes (you only get two – we could have eaten ten) and gorgeous gnocchi stuffed with Gorgonzola and walnuts in a tasty, herby tomato sauce.
The mains were the star of the show: panciotti (little pasta parcels similar to ravioli) stuffed with scallop and prawns in a dill sauce, the most deliciously savoury wild boar tortelli in a creamy tomato sauce (slightly let down by being a bit gristly in places but otherwise meaty and satisfying), and a tender roasted duck leg served on a big plate of potatoes and vegetables with tomatoes and a touch of chilli. The pollo al funghi – a plate of chargrilled chicken with mushrooms and spinach – wasn’t particularly generous, but the marsala sauce was delicious and it’s served with lovely rosemary potatoes for mopping it all up.
Desserts on the signature menu include the white chocolate bombe again and a perfec, rich chocolate orange cheesecake with a crunchy chocolate topping, served with a big dollop of mascarpone.
Service was attentive and friendly, even though the place was busy. We walked out absolutely stuffed (I couldn’t even manage a calzone mince pie and I was really looking forward to it) and imbued with Christmas spirit. And it’s only November!
Our verdict? Splash out and go for the Signature menu. The choices are more varied and the dishes are really special. Christmas menus are available now. Click here to have a look at the menus.
Thank you to lovely Prezzo for inviting us xx
Recently, we were invited to visit the Canary Wharf branch of Camino London, perched right on the riverside next to Gaucho. First impressions were a little marred by the fact that we got horribly lost (there doesn’t seem to be any directions on the website, and not being Londoners we ended up going completely the wrong way out of the DLR station). No matter, we were soon seated and enjoying a cool glass of rosado (Beronia Rioja Tempranillo 2012) under the shady umbrellas on the terrace, watching the boats whooshing up the glinting river.
The menu is in Spanish (obviously) and unless you’re fluent you need a handy waiter to translate. Luckily we had Javi, who took us under his wing and explained all the dishes to us, giving us advice about roughly how many dishes we’d need for the four of us, and telling us what he recommended.
It’s best to just chill out and eat as the dishes come out, rather than wait until you get a big table-full, so we started with delicious, crispy squid with a garlicky alioli (chipirones), then some succulent tiger prawns, drowning in chilli, garlic, olive oil and white wine, all just begging to be mopped up with loads of bread.
Next up was a ‘mixto’ platter, with chorizo, Padron peppers, croquetas, olives and cangrejo (crab) in a delicious paprika-spiced oil with crispy bread for scooping. The next platter out was a mixed grill with some more chorizo, tender steak and flavoursome chicken. We also had a meaty monkfish dish with a leek gratin and a romesco sauce.
Moving on to cheese then (and feeling more than a little stuffed already), we ordered the platter, with blue Valdéon with moscatel grapes, a delicious salty Manchego and little cubes of plum jelly, amongst other things.
Finally, and rather unwisely, the boys talked us into ordering the dessert platter, with Crema Catalana: soft, creamy and fragrant with orange and cinnamon, and a really zingy crema de limón – a lemon cream topped with lime jellly and a shortbread biscuit. Javi also spoiled the boys by bringing out extra portions of their favourite: crispy on the outside, soft on the inside churros, with lashings of chocolate mousse for dipping. The surprise hit was the Tarta Santiago, a bakewell tart-reminiscent almond tart with a cakey texture and raspberry sauce. Delicious.
By now, Sam was complaining of stomach ache and I did worry one of us might pass out from overeating, but a nice strong coffee and a breezy ride back to Embankment on the river taxi woke us up again.
Our verdict: Fabulous. Mr English summed this place up when he said ‘I don’t have a bad word to say about it’ and we’ll definitely be back very soon.
Best for: lazy lunches and family dinners – don’t go if you’re in a hurry – linger over the dishes, sip wine, dip bread into sauces and savour every moment.
Massive thanks to Camino London for having us, and special thanks to Javi, our lovely waiter.
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