With only 48 hours to spend in Stratford upon Avon, we wanted to ensure we made the most of our time there. When we asked our friends for dinner recommendations, Loxleys was at the top of everyone’s lists as the 'must visit' restaurant in the area. Having come so strongly recommended, we couldn't wait to dine there.
Given its popularity, it's advised to book in advance, so we booked in for an early dinner.
There’s a very elegant little wine bar by the entrance, for those who want to enjoy a drink before their meal, however as we were famished, we asked to be taken straight to our table. The restaurant is spread over two floors, and we were seated on the ground floor, towards the back of the restaurant. Exposed brickwork throughout creates a very relaxed atmosphere.
During our visit on a Friday night, the place was pretty packed, however, the waiting staff were still attentive, without being intrusive.
Loxleys is a family-run restaurant with a mission “to offer customers a fresh, locally produced product with excellent service.”
The varied seasonal menu caters for all tastes and features an excellent selection of fish and grill specials, salads, classic dishes and small plates. To kick things off, we ordered a couple of small plates to graze on while we pondered our options for the starters and mains: the Nocellara del Belice olives, which come with smoked almonds, and the red pepper hummus, which was accompanied by a selection of crudités.
Given the menu had so many excellent options to choose from, we had the staff help us select our starters and mains.
The restaurant serves modern British dishes with a focus on classic flavour combinations. Head chef, Paul McCoombes’ aim is to cook simple food brilliantly with its own Loxleys' ‘twist’ that is impossible to find in any other restaurant in the area.
For starters we decided to go local and opted for the Cotswold Gin Cured Chalk Stream Trout with Horseradish Crème Fraiche and Pickles served with rye bread; and the whipped Black Pepper Goats Cheese with Butternut Squash, Filo Pastry, Pickled Beetroot, Vanilla Honey, Old Winchester and Walnut Crisp. The starters were well-sized portions and were bursting with an array of flavours.
For the mains we opted for a Loxley’s classic, the Super 12 Salad, which consists of quinoa, cape gooseberry’s, beetroot, pomegranate, red cabbage, edamame beans, bean sprouts, chickpeas, spinach, conﬁt garlic, chia seeds & tahini dressing with a side of grilled chicken. My dining partner chose the Thyme Roasted Chicken Supreme with soft herb giant couscous, glazed carrots, and celeriac served in a chicken reduction.
For drinks we opted to share a bottle of reasonably priced Laurent Perrier Champagne, which was superb. Unfortunately, we didn't have room for dessert as we were too stuffed, but it was probably for the best anyways as when we looked around the restaurant, we realised we were the last patrons! That being said, even though time had escaped us, the staff were waiting patiently to close up. This is the beauty of Loxleys, it is so relaxed, no one rushes you out the door and it's evident that service and hospitality are of the utmost importance.
The food is creative and well executed and the service is outstanding thanks to a hospitable owner and a service-oriented team.
Feast on meat at this stunning riverside restaurant
You can keep your Veganuary, we're going meaty all the way! Carnivores rejoice - this meat-focused oasis in Butler's Wharf is scrum diddly umptious.
I've long been a fan of the Butler's Wharf area near Tower Bridge with its wide assortment of riverside restaurant, cafes and boutique shops, perfect for popping into after a long stroll along the Thames. Given I hadn't been to the area since summer, I was excited to visit The Butler's Wharf Chop House, a relaxed riverside restaurant celebrating all things meaty and wonderful.
The location is hard to beat. Smack bang next to the River Thames looking directly across at Tower Bridge, you couldn't get any closer to the bridge unless you were dining on top of it.
Overlooking the crystal-clear, azure waters of Calida Tarida Beach, Cotton Beach Club is one of the most exquisitely decadent spots in Ibiza. Located on the west side of the island, teeming with dozens of sailboats, speedboats and super yachts, this fabulous beach club is second to none for luxe lovers seeking sublime food and wine with jaw-dropping views.
The decor & design
Almost as an homage to Ibiza's famous exports – salt, where Ibiza gets its name; The White Isle, and style; the Cotton Beach Club is gleaming white throughout, creating a sense of relaxed sophistication.
The majority of the seating options are inside the terrace with its unobstructed view of the seascape, however, there are a few tables outside for those who wish to enjoy the heat under the cover of sails and parasols. There is also a decked area adjacent to the terrace where people can imbibe while appreciating a cool sea breeze or the small, private beach that’s perfect for lounging with a cocktail in hand.
This gorgeous venue attracts equally gorgeous patrons; making it the perfect escape for the jet set who appreciate the finer things in life. Its sophistication is evident in every detail from crisp white linens to sparkling glasses.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by two beautifully spirited girls with abundant smiles, who led us to our table past the reception area with its cute lounge area with comfy armchairs (a great spot where guests can chill out).
As you’d expect with an establishment of this calibre, all ingredients are locally sourced, and everything is handmade with panache on the premises. The menu is an interesting fusion of influences across Asian and Mediterranean cuisine and includes a selection of meats (beef, ham, burgers, lamb and pig), fish and seafood and salad. The desserts are pretty special and the wine list quite an adventure. I'm a big fan of sharing and being so close to the ocean, we fancied diving into some of the seafood, sushi and fish on offer. We went for a mix of South American and Asian flavours.
We ordered the heavenly Peruvian Ceviche with Tiger Milk, which was oozing with delicate fragrant flavours; the catch of the day with sweet potato, coriander and corn of the Andes (€30). We also splurged for oysters (€15) and the Chef’s sushi plate – a mix of sashimi, nigiri and premium rolls (€78).
It was so hot on the day that unfortunately the sushi Chef's Plate got warm pretty quickly without us realising, so we didn't finish the last few pieces, which was a shame. So, if you order this, ask your waitress to hold it until you are ready, so it’s served perfectly chilled.
To finish, we went for the incredible coconut crème brulee with vanilla, coconut and lime and the creamy white chocolate soup, which sounds odd, but is divine.
The service was fantastic throughout our meal; at no point did we feel rushed nor suffocated by over-eager staff and our wine and water was always topped up in perfect rhythm.
Open daily from April until October. Food is served from 1.30pm until 01.00am.
Carrer Posta de Sol
Carrer de Cala Tarida, 21
London is undoubtedly awash with some serious heavy hitters in the dining world, but sometimes you just need some comfort food. I love a fancy-pants restaurants as much as the next girl, but you can’t beat a night out with friends enjoying pub grub, non-wallet-busting beverages and a buzzing vibe. You can generally rely on a Drake & Morgan pub for all the above and with several dotted around town, they aren’t difficult to find.
Located smack bang in the middle of Monument, The Folly ticks all those boxes. This popular bar/ restaurant has an upstairs dining room and a downstairs lounge bar with a dance floor. I’ve been a few times on various weekday evenings and it’s always packed. Its current wintry guise is home to fairy lights, blankets and reindeer hides strewn across the back of chairs, giving it a surprisingly cosy alpine vibe.
The menu is what you’d expect - British pub-grub classics done well with a few different hits. The extensive menu has more than 50 items, from bangers and mash to burgers to a butternut squash risotto and cauliflower and pesto fettuccine, ensuring there’s something for everyone. Be warned though - the portions are generous, so be careful if your eyes are bigger than your stomach!
If you’re an olive fan, the olives are great; get a dish alongside your starters. For our starters we had the hot and crispy Szechuan pepper squid with lemon mayo and a rather delicious dish of heritage beetroot with whipped goat’s cheese and walnuts - always a winning combination and perfectly light, which was ideal given we opted for an indulgent main.
Their steak is decent value and arrived perfectly cooked, a simple yet juicy rib eye packed with flavor and accompanied by exceptionally tasty Parmesan, truffle and rosemary Roman fries; the holy trinity of seasoning, in my opinion.
Burger lovers will be in their element as there are a plethora of burger options on the menu and while we did get a spot of food envy from seeing the Wagyu burger with blue cheese and tomato chutney arrive at the table next to us, I can confirm that the buttermilk chicken was the bomb. Seriously crispy and with a decent kick from the chipotle mayonnaise, it went down a treat.
Given the hefty portions, we didn’t really have space for dessert, but we ordered one anyway. The mixed berry crumble was big enough to share and it had a gorgeously crunchy topping.
With all day breakfasts and Sunday roasts also available, The Folly isn’t short of dining options. If you favour a quiet evening out it’s probably not the place for you, but if you’re looking the perfect post work pit stop in The City with no-fuss food and drinks, then you’ll love it here.
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The Prince Albert, Battersea
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The second September is upon us all foodie thoughts undoubtedly turn to autumnal comfort food. Hearty dishes, full of delicious seasonal ingredients and indulgent, warming ﬂavours are the perfect remedy for dull and drizzly autumn days, which is why the new pie menu at Smith & Whistle hits the spot.
Each pie has been expertly paired with its perfect mash partner as well as a unique alcoholic beverage designed to complement and enhance the ﬂavours on each plate. The pie menu includes six pairings featuring traditional ingredients as well as modern takes on the celebrated dish.
While each of the pies were delicious in their own right, there were deﬁnite standout dishes including Best of British, which featured a mouth-wateringly tender ﬁlling of short rib beef, seasonal root vegetables and potato enclosed in a light and ﬂaky puff pastry, accompanied by a sweet caramelised onion and bacon mash. Paired with a Curious IPA, the perfect partner to cut through the beef, it was a seriously hearty dish. Our favourite pie, however, was Fishing for Clues; with salmon, crayﬁsh, smoked haddock and mussels in a creamy sauce, paired with a dangerously moreish cauliﬂower cheese mash and a sparkling rosé from Kent vineyard Chapeldown, to cleanse the palate and complement the oily texture of the ﬁsh with a refreshing, fruity contrast. Perfection.
The exclusive Pie & Mash Menu is available daily at Smith & Whistle until the end of November (available Monday - Saturday: 12pm – 12.30am and Sunday: 12pm to 6 pm). Prices start from £9.
Smith & Whistle
Park Lane Hotel
Raymond Blanc’s collection of French brasseries has expanded to include Brasserie Blanc at Fulham Reach, which sits only a stone’s throw away from Hammersmith Bridge. The restaurant occupies a pivotal riverside site where the Haig whisky Distillery once stood overlooking the disused 19th century Harrods Furniture Depository, which only adds to its charm.
The ultra-modern floor-to-ceiling glass exterior is exquisitely lit at night and ensures that this bar and restaurant is the most eye-catching on the waterfront. Inside is a rather classy affair with a striking bespoke brass bar with suspended decanter lighting, parquet flooring throughout, velvet banquettes and leather armchairs which create an intimate dining space – making it the perfect mix of classic and contemporary. The open-plan kitchen provides an insight into the fast-paced cockpit of the restaurant and allows you to watch the skilled chefs in action while you sup on a gin and champagne cocktail – aptly named the ‘French’ – at the bar.
Quite rightly the menu honours the French classics such as garlic butter escargot, moules frites, beautifully fresh bouillabaisse, hearty beef Bourgignon and the luxurious chateaubriand for two but more contemporary plates of rock lobster, potted Cromer crab with sourdough and an outstanding burger in brioche shine through. It must be said I often think of their celebration of anchovies (the ultimate amuse bouche washed down with a glass of fizz) and the steak tartare as some of the best I’ve had the pleasure of eating.
Desserts offer something for all tastes with the ubiquitous tarte au citron, a rich chocolate delice as well as a summer berry pavlova and pistachio soufflé.
The set menu changes every month and is a steal at £11.95 for 2 courses. I have no doubt their roast sirloin or Bretagne chicken on a Sunday, which is served all day and is very much en famille, would be a triumph.
What to quaff
The quote featured on the drinks menu seems to reflect the generosity of options here – “Once during Prohibition I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water”. There is a section dedicated solely to Gin encouraging you to tailor your own perfect G & T, the cocktails are expertly designed with your French classics but also some more adventurous seasonal offerings like rhubarb and honey Martini.
The cellar is also as diverse with good solid French bottles as well as European and New World varieties. The house champagne though, Blanc de Blancs, is just outstanding, full of peach and apple notes, and is very reasonable at £28.50 a bottle.
This is a brasserie in the truest sense of the word. It brings the glorious taste of France to London’s riverside scene in the most welcoming fashion, and I just couldn’t get enough of its stylish sophistication and charm.
With the smorgasbord that is Camden Lock market, you'd be forgiven for thinking NW1 was saturated for good food, but there's one restaurant you need on your radar.
Asian restaurant Inamo has migrated north and added a new location at Mornington Crescent to its portfolio already including Soho and Covent Garden. Influenced by the flavours and dishes of Japan, China, Korea, Thailand and beyond, the food is great, but that isn't the best part of it...
The chain is passionate about creating a point of difference delivering an experience for the diner that brings a sense of fun to add to the flavour, and so with the help of sister company Ordamo, they were the first to launch an interactive ordering system.
Trust me, it's fun. Through an overhead projector, diners can set the table ambience by changing the background, see an illustrated food and drink menu on the table, check out what's going on in the kitchen via Chef Cam and play games while they wait. Not just for kids - we were a bit gutted that our food arrived so quickly, to be honest.
About the food; it's tough to choose - it was all delicious. Fresh, sharp flavour pairings, seriously moreish sauces - your eyes WILL be bigger than your stomach.
Though the extensive sushi offering looked pretty divine, we went for a selection of Asian tapas. The chicken satay was succulent and juicy, with a fantastically fresh peanut sauce (sounds obvious but I've tried some really bad ones that tasted like they came from a can). We tried the beef tataki on the waitress' recommendation, a classic Japanese dish of rare British rib-eye steeped in ginger and ponzu sauce - so melt-in-the-mouth delicious we easily could have devoured two!
The pork Char Sui Buns were perfectly fluffy, while the sticky Korean Chicken Wings in a tangy sauce came sprinkled with dessicated coconut - a tasty touch that added an extra layer of flavour. I'm a big fan of the Chicken Karaage, marinated in ginger, garlic, soy fried & served with teriyaki. In fact, the only thing that didn't work for me was the Baby Crispy Seaweed, baby tiger prawns and squids in Japanese tempura that had a little too much batter and not much flavour.
Make sure you hit up the cocktail list as well; I can heartily recommend the Lychee Martini - Absolut vodka shaken with fresh lime juice, lychee liqueur & juice.
There's also a rather lovely looking terrace to enjoy on a lovely summer's day.
For delicious, fuss-free Asian cuisine, Inamo's the one.
Food and drink: ★★★★★
Staff attentiveness/friendliness: ★★★★★
While I used to be an East Finchley resident, it takes a lot to drag me up north these days, but the sound of Tootoomoo was just too tempting to resist. With four locations in Highgate, Whetstone, Islington and Crouch End, the pan-Asian restaurant fuses Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese influences to create a menu packed with mouthwatering dishes, combining a pinch of the ancient with modern cooking techniques from executive chef Ricky Pang.
Modern, chic, but full of character. The Crouch End branch has red walls scribbled with quirky words, gorgeous tiled sections and plenty of greenery. It was empty when we arrived at 7pm, but within about 15 minutes the place was buzzing - we’d clearly hit their golden hour. with a menu of light bites and tapas-style small dishes, it attracted a crowd of locals popping in for a quick bite, groups on a post-Christmas catch up and even the odd date night couple.
Tootoomoo boasts a very impressive tasting menu, with the Explorer (for 2 people, 6 dishes for £30) and Discovery (for 4,10 dishes for £50) both very cost effective options. We went for the former, choosing three dishes from the small Plates or Sushi sections and three from Sashimi, Salads, Tempura, Grill or Wok.
Sampling the former, we started with some juicy plump chicken gyoza in an incredibly moreish black rice vinaigrette and perfectly crispy shichimi Japanese pepper and sweet chilli squid. The duck and watermelon salad is highly recommended, refreshingly summery and definitely one I shall try and recreate at home. The salmon sashimi was properly melt in the mouth and came with a fresh homemade wasabi, a pleasant - if fiery - change to the green sludge usually accompanying shop bought sushi. The Pad Thai was perfection and their satay chicken hands down some of the best I’ve ever tasted.
Being January we stuck to mocktails, sampling the Virgin Orchid, the delicious combo of cranberry, apple and lychee, though it’s worth noting that if your postcode falls under one of their delivery areas they can deliver cocktails to your door…
For fast, fresh, affordable pan-Asian cuisine - you can’t beat it. I admit, I’m a bit gutted they aren’t south of the river. For the rest of January, you can also satisfy your cravings with a ‘£5 from 5pm menu’, saving up to 50%, available exclusively from 5pm – 6:30pm, Monday – Friday, so now there’s no excuse not to try it.
Winter is a sad enough time without depriving oneself of good grub; it’s the time to lay down the kale smoothies, sack off January diets and seek out a proper London pub for a hearty roast. If it’s a prefect roast you’re after, then the recently reopened Fentiman Arms is a good start.
Located in the heat of Vauxhall, this ‘contemporary cool with a retro vibe’ pub has been gently restored to expose period woodwork, which contrasts with statement walls of the deepest blue, bedecked with vintage cricket prints - a nod to cricketing mecca The Oval. Here punters relax on reclaimed wooden classroom chairs while feasting their eyes on bookshelves laden with classical literature, dictionaries and nostalgic toys, all of which play their part in immersing cricket fans, beer aficionados and neighbourhood foodies into this vibrant hideaway.
If you head upstairs, you’ll find The Refectory, a new dining room reminiscent of a schoolmaster’s study with quirky harlequin wallpaper, zinc-topped tables and bookcase-lined walls. The Library Room at the back of the bar features nostalgic Penguin books wallpaper and gives easy access to the heated terrace and sheltered beer garden.
Reflecting the school time vibe is the Back to School menu, which rotates monthly and features childhood favourites such as bubble and squeak; liver, bacon and onions with a jam roly poly to finish. Available at a set price of £20 (Monday to Thursday) this is one school dinner that’s not to be missed.
Those after a little more sophistication can tuck into The Fentiman Arms’ seasonal British menu including must-try mains of whiskey and maple glazed ham with fried duck egg, pineapple croquette and triple cooked chips; wild boar and sage sausages with smooth mash; or a garlicky chicken Kiev, all updated classic British dishes with a distinct Geronimo twist.
We started off with a chicken liver parfait with winter pickle and toasted sourdough, pleasant enough but clearly straight from the fridge - it would have been a whole lot more flavoursome had it not been quite so cold. The baked camembert, however, was a sterling choice. We followed our starters by tucking into a hearty roast - the obvious choice for a Sunday dinner. A veritable mountain of crisp roasties, veg, a slab of meat (mine succulent, salty gammon, hers a melt in the mouth piece of beef) all topped with a Yorkshire pud and oodles of gravy, it was deceivingly filling; we were stuffed to the gills. That being said, we (just) managed to find space to squeeze in a proper old-school Bramley apple and cranberry crumble with custard.
WHAT TO DRINK
While The Fentiman Arms does a good line in beers, with craft brews in the fridge and Sharp’s Doom Bar, Meantime London Pale Ale (a Fentiman favourite) and Wimbledon Tower Pale Ale all on tap, our waitress was particularly clued up about the wine list, recommending a very good Viognier, which went well with our meal.
On a rainy Sunday morning, I wasn't keen to prise myself out of my bed and into the deluge, but the thought of a scrumptious brunch ahead propelled me to Noak, a laidback cafe in Brockley, South East London. Luckily for those lazy bones who can't bear rising before noon, brunch is served until 3:30pm, so there's no excuse to miss it.
Their 'market-driven menu', which changes weekly, is lovingly prepared by their Head Chef who works with local suppliers to source local produce whenever possible and the make everything they can on-site including: preserves, butter, dressings, sauces, and cured fish and meats.
The restaurant is very casual and the main focal point is a large, wood fired oven in the open kitchen where you can watch the chefs busily beavering away. The atmosphere here is very chilled out with the cafe becoming busy around 11:00 am with locals filing in for a hearty feed.
The menu features typical brunch offerings (e.g. smashed avocado on thick slabs of sour dough bread, poached eggs and salmon, pancakes, etc. - with dishes priced from £6-£11) but they also have other treats on offer such as the baked banana bread with mascarpone, seasonal compote and nut crumble (£5.50), which was gorgeous and beautifully presented with a small edible flower. We also loved their baked beans, which aren't the typical English baked beans you get with a full English, but a hearty portion of mixed baked beans with a smokey flavour, which reminded me of something that I reckon cowboys would have eaten back at the ranch, but perhaps I've seen too many Westerns!
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