The Ivy Market Grill

Here’s a concept for you; take your well oiled high end brand, much sought after by the trendies, the tourists and the out-of-towners and turn it into an accessible, middle-of-the-range ‘brasserie’ bang slap in the middle of Covent Garden. Day two of opening I managed to get myself a table at the Ivy Market Grill for a catch up lunch with mother.

The menu is huge, although once you look properly you quickly find that half of it is irrelevant to dining at lunchtime. The wine list is fairly sparse; they’ve covered the basics and very little else. So we went for a bottle of Pinot Grigio and some tap water.

photo 3
For starter I had a favourite dish of mine ever since I once went vegetarian for lent – mushrooms on toast. Except restaurants do it so much better than I do because they have access to such a fantastic range of these delicious fungi. It was creamy, it was rich, it was probably saltier than it should have been but it was gorgeous. A lightly toasted baton of brioche held itself together surprisingly well languishing in a puddle of cream and weighted down by mushrooms. Sorry, I’ve gone all Nigella with that description. Mother opted for the crispy wasabi tempura prawns. Which came on a slate, sitting in a couple of different puréed. It’s a pretty looking dish, but it seems like an odd thing to have on a menu consisting of classics absolutely nothing else vaguely resembling a nod to Chinese / Japanese cuisine.

photo 2On to the mains and I had their version of what is gradually becoming my usual choice of dish vienna schnitzel, except it wasn’t veal – chicken Milanese with a fried duck egg and black truffle – which was way way too greedy for lunch, but it was lovely. The chicken was good and moist under the crispy breadcrumbed coating and it had a good flavour. The egg and the shaved truffle along with whatever sauce it was that was zig-zagged over the chicken made for a delicious dish, but as I mentioned above, too much even for me to finish.

photo 4The only slight gripe, and I imagine it’s purely down to it being very early days, is that the service is slow. Charming and subtle, but slow and it was clear a couple of times that the waitress’ grasp of English wasn’t as good as it should be, but at the same time, they didn’t get anything wrong, so it’s a bit unfair of me to say that. I had arranged with a colleague to take a long lunch but once the main courses had been cleared I realised we were approaching 2 hours which was a little over the – oh, I’ll be back in an hour and a half – casually said over my shoulder as I was leaving. So a quick coffee and the bill. And we were off.
I didn’t see the bill as mother kindly took care of that for us but, as a guess, for the quality of food and size of portions the bill wasn’t too scary. Obviously because it’s part of the Ivy and because it’s in Covent Garden they can probably charge a little more, but I think it’s a great addition to the area and I would choose there over Balthazaar any day.

Baked Eggs & chorizo

egg 5

I have discovered the huge problem with taking the long-haul ferry to France and stocking up with huge amounts of wine on the way back… It’s fairly obvious, but I didn’t realise (more likely ignored the flippin’ obvious) that my wine consumption would increase as a direct result. It is waaaay to easy to crack open another bottle or two and put the world to rights until 4am if you’ve got 12 bottles lying there just waiting to be consumed. Consequently yesterday was spent in a slightly hazy state of trackie bums, comfort food and movies. Oh and 3 hours of ironing – I know – don’t you all just crave to be part of my rock and roll lifestyle – yep, thought not. It got towards dinner time after what felt like the longest time without food, it had, in fact, been all of 2 hours. The remains of cottage pie I was informed was not enough for two – it clearly was – but none the less I went for a hunt through the fridge and came up trumps with this little beauty.

Baked Eggs & chorizo

Serves 2 as a starter
These are cooked in a Bain-Marie so you will need a baking tin as well as the ramekins

10cm piece of chorizo
3 chestnut mushrooms
A squeeze of garlic purée or a clove finely chopped
1tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley
2tsp creme fraiche
2 eggs
1tsp fresh grated Parmesan

egg 2


  • Pre heat the oven to 170. Place the clean empty ramekins in to the baking tin and boil the kettle for later
  • Place a small saucepan on the heat – no oil necessary due to the fat in the chorizo
  • Peel and chop the Chorizo and mushrooms into small chunks
  • Add the chorizo to the pan (try to keep it moving in the pan so it doesn’t burn), once it’s been sizzling for a couple of minutes add the mushroom chunks
  • Sqeeze in the garlic into the pan and stir
  • Add a 2 tsp of water to stop the ingredients catching on the base of the pan and add in the chopped parsley
  • Stir through the crème fraiche and pour the lot into the ramekin

egg 3

  • Crack an egg into each one – making sure it doesn’t overflow
  • Place the baking tin into the oven – pull the shelf out of the oven slightly and pour hot water into the tin until 1/3 way up the side of the ramekin

egg 4

  • Close the oven door and bake for 10 minutes
  • After 10 minutes sprinkle the grated parmesan over the top and change the oven to grill
  • Grill for no more than 2 minutes otherwise you’ll have a hard yolk
  • Remove from the bain-marie and place on a small place and serve – either on their own or with a bit of bread to mop up the creamy bits.

As an aside – I didn’t put any seasoning in this as the chorizo has so much flavour, coupled with the rich crème fraiche, egg and salty Parmesan on top it shouldn’t really need anything except maybe a teeny grind of black pepper when serving.

Also – on a completely different note – the layout of this blog will be changing soon – it annoys me everytime I click on it, so please bare with the messiness of it at the moment. I am working on a solution.

The Imperial, New King’s Road


Obviously the diet isn’t going too well as my number of blog posts is increasing slightly… Another sort of local of mine this time. The Imperial has had a number of re-incarnations over the years, I used to try (and fail) to get served in here has a teenager – the joys of being a redhead – I’m rubbish at lyin    g, the blush factor is huge when lying about my age, it was then and still is now. It went a bit dodgy a few years ago and was very footbally, not the sort of place you’d go for a nice mid-week meal. But now, it’s under a newish ownership – I think they’ve had it for a year or so – and it’s great.

Imperial 6

I went for the tail-end of someone’s Christmas party last year and this year I’ve been for dinner twice. The staff are so friendly, the décor is comfortable and if you don’t fancy sitting at the one and a half tables outside the front looking onto the busy New King’s Road to smoke they’ve got a lovely garden out back where they grow loads of vegetables, salads and herbs.

The first time we went we sat outside, it was seriously quiet. It was a Friday in August, and in that area all the Fulhamites bugger off to their parents’ holiday homes yaaaah every Friday (yeah,yeah, I know I’m one of them). But having been outside for an hour we had the garden to ourselves. With the rosé going down a treat we stayed for dinner. Moules to start for me were delicious and the sauce was perfect for dipping the gorgeous toasted homemade bread into.

Imperial 2 The Cornish Crab & Fennel, Chilled Tomato & Saffron Tea was a cute dish that came with a little teapot to pour over the crab. The second time we went, we shared the meat platter of salt beef & pickle, slow cooked duck egg, lamb sweetbreads & brioche, chorizo salsa to start which was also very good and a perfect sized starter for two.

imperial 1

The first time I went I had the charred pork tenderloin with sautéed wild rice, broccoli, chilli & soy, coriander & spring onion which was really good. The pork was slightly pink and tender as anything (I suppose it should be, given it’s called a tenderloin) there was slightly too much soy for me which was unfortunately as it did overpower the pork – we fed this back to the waiter / co-owner who was very kind and open to feedback it seemed.

Imperial 3 For my main course on the second visit I went for the burger as I had remembered having slight food envy last time round. Well cooked, with smoked melted cheese oozing over the top with chips and a massive gherkin quarter which I avoided. It really was very good.

Imperial 5

But both times I’ve been it’s been super quiet, a Friday in August and a Monday in September are probably not the best judges of how busy it gets and I walked passed on Wednesday evening and it was busy. But I really really hope it stays busy because it’s a fantastic place and the owners have put a lot of tlc into the place. You should go. Definitely.

Harwood Arms, Fulham

harwood 1

Last week I decided that I needed a list. Not a shopping list as such but a list written down of the London restaurants I really wanted to go to. The usual happened, when I started it, I couldn’t think of any restaurants all of a sudden, my mind went blank, but it has now been populate with some 20 places and is being added to on a daily basis. A local pub of mine that I went to 11 years ago  is on the list, it now has a Michelin star and I’ve been meaning to go back for years. Often, I’m told, you can get a really good deal at places with stars if you go at lunchtime. So in a bid to keep my early birthday party vibes going I booked in at the Harwood Arms and off we toddled.

It was busy but not full, it was only Wednesday lunchtime afterall. Bread, butter and menus were instantly brought to the table along with filtered water. I have no idea what was in he bread but it was lovely – dense in the hand but light when eating – weird, but good. And the butter was wonderfully salty, I hate being that person who adds salt to restaurant butter.

harwood 5

To start, a glass of sherry, well, why not? I went for the special starter of Hereford snails with oxtail, stout and parsley which were so beautifully presented and had a slice of cheese and Guinness on toast which was divine.

harwood 6 Although the snails were good, I think, if I’m truly honest I wouldn’t order them in that format again, I think I’ll stick to garlic, parsley and butter with my snails. The pigeon faggots were delicious though – very rich but fantastic.

harwood 7

For my main I did Grouse. I’ve not had it yet this season so a Michelin starred version I thought ought to good. It was. The breast meat was very pink and beautifully tender with brown bread sauce, cabbage and bacon and some gorgeous chanterelles.

harwood 10On a separate board were the legs and a grouse and venison consommé. The legs were way too gamey for me – that’s not at all meant to be a criticism – it’s just my tastebuds aren’t up to that level of game.

harwood 9But the consommé was amazing – a tiny Pyrex glass which was hotter than the sun, filled with a browny clear liquid that was the most comforting and warming 4 sips I’ve almost ever had. Campbell’s tomato soup and Heinz beef consommé can do one, this was delicious. The Muntjac dish was beautiful, with several different cuts of meat on the plate, beautifully pink and a generous portion too. All washed down with a delicious bottle of Crozes Hermitage Les Amandiers, Domaine Du Murinais 2011.

harwood 8

Obviously it being a super posh recovery lunch it would have been rude not to have a pudding and the doughnuts with damson jam and vanilla cream which were straight out of the fryer coated in warm vanilla sugar, just perfect.

harwood 13

Such a lovely way to spend the best part of a mid-week afternoon. I’m glad I’ve been back, I probably won’t be fighting to go back in the immediate future, that’s not to say I didn’t like anything. I think I might go back outside the game season when things are a little lighter to see what they do with their summer menu.

Simplicity is simply the best

photo 2 Following that amazing mozzarella salad thing I had in Paris what was now nearly a month ago, I’ve been dying to have it again. But it’s so hard to find that kind of a dish in London, restaurants seldom do such simple food lest they get booted for charging too much for a couple of slices of tomato and a hunk of mozzarella. But it’s the quality of the ingredients they use in restaurants are so fantastic they do have to charge a premium rate to actually make their margins.

So, rather than wait to find it on a menu, or indeed until I go back to Paris, I made it for lunch today. I’m currently dog-sitting and sifting through old photos while my parents are at a party ‘Up North’ for the weekend. The bonus about doing this, is that Mum fills the fridge with all my favourite food and I happened to come across some vine ripe tomatoes and tub of buffalo mozzarella. I can’t really call this a recipe as it’s so simple, the importance of using the best ingredients you possibly can will make this dish what it should be. Mine was just a solo lunch but the recipe below is for two.

6 vine ripe tomatoes
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella
10 or so fresh basil leaves
1 tsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp good olive oil
1 garlic clove

  •  Finely chop the garlic and crush it under the knife so it releases all its juices
  • Pour the white wine vinegar and olive oil into a cup. Add the garlic and a teeny tiny pinch of salt and leave it to one side
  • Cut the tomatoes into wedges – I did about 8 per tomato and place in the serving dish
  • Rip apart the mozzarella gently and add them to the dish so you have uneven morsels throughout the dish
  • Dressing time – and it’s a bit ponsy – but dip the tip of a fork into the dressing and let the drips drop onto the salad, do this until there are a few drops 5
  • Basil leaves onto the salad and a sprinkle of black pepper
  • Serve and enjoy

photo 4

Bistrot Paul Bert, Paris

french flagThe French Chapter

Our faith having been restored in the food to be found in Paris, ironically by a chippy owned by an English bloke, we were eagerly anticipating dinner that evening. Well, if I’m honest I wasn’t, purely down to the fact that I wasn’t remotely hungry from ginormous fish and chips at lunch and a huge dinner the night before. I know, I know, it’s unlike me to not be looking forward to a meal… You’ll be delighted to hear I perked up once I saw the menu at Bistrot Paul Bert.

PB 2

We had successfully booked dinner on the night before we actually turned up, but they very kindly fitted us in. A blackboard menu was propped up on the table and a ginormous wine list was placed in front of us.


To start with I went with the buffalo mozzarella and heritage tomato salad, I’d seen it being taken to other tables and despite the fact that it is presented in a cheapo Pyrex dish with a paper doily under it, it was utterly gorgeous. The mozzarella was proper mozzarella, none of your rubbery-cut-with-a-bread-knife lark, it was gooey and falling apart with bits sticking to the wonderful tomatoes, such a colourful and fresh dish. I was in absolute heaven. Dad had the terrine, of course, and loved it while Mum and Will went for a beetroot dish with a soft boiled egg and lambs lettuce which has got my mum cooking beetroot again now she’s home, so must have been good!


I didn’t have a steak the entire time I was in France that weekend (nor the next weekend) which was slightly disappointing, and I really wanted one after my mozzarella, but having seen the size of the, knowing how greedy I am and my incapability of leaving food on my plate, I thought it best for all concerned that I went for something else… I absolutely love beans, not green beans specifically, although they are good, but I’m talking flageolet / cannellini / butter beans, the Europeans do them so so much better than we do here in the UK. So I went for the pork chop, something I never order in the UK because of one or two occasions when it’s arrived and I could have knocked someone out with it it was so dry. My fat arrived with a side of pork. Fortunately, even though the fatty bit was huge, there was lots of meat on the plate as well. And the beans were delicious if a little under seasoned (the fork in the picture is my Dad trying to pinch some beans). Mum and Will’s steaks looked and apparently were delicious – although, as I thought, enormous. And Dad’s rack of lamb was beautiful and pink.


Having spotted a cheeseboard floating around, we wondered if you had to know the owner or be a party of a certain size to have the cheeseboard plonked on your table for you to essentially eat as much as you want. No no, it arrived with more bread and we went to work on the 6 cheese available to us. All were fantastic and, needless to say, we didn’t make much of a dent in it, given how much we’d eaten already.


A slightly cheaper night than the evening before, but the atmosphere and service and food and wine, oh, the wine, Will and I chose some really special stuff were worth every penny. I will be back there next time I’m in Paris.

The Sunken Chip, Paris

french flag    The French Chapter

When I sent a pic of my fish and chips I’m Paris to some friends in England they were horrified… If I’d sent then a filet de sole meunière avec frites they wouldn’t have said a thing of course, but I was sitting on the side of a canal eating battered hake, awesome chips and minty mushy peas out of a paper wrapper with a wooden fork so it didn’t sit right with them at home.

photo 1

The Sunken Chip, owned by and English and a Frenchman is the quintessential Fish and Chip shop with a trendy hipster ultra cool vibe, and the Parisians love it. The interior is fairly sparse, with a ‘takeaway’ neon on the wall above a shelf of pickled onions and pickled eggs of varying flavours. They’ve spent a great deal of time importing some British childhood favourites – who remembers Wham bars and sherbet dib dabs… Well they’ve got them, as well as refresher bars and curly wurlys, oh and the drinks – who wouldn’t want a can of IronBru with their fish and chips?! For the grown ups wanting a taste of home, they’ve got Newcastle Brown Ale that my Dad loved!

photo 5

Three of us went for the Hake and chips while Dad opted for the haddock and chips – be aware what is on the menu isn’t always there, they rely on their fishmonger bringing the freshest catch each day – cliché I know, but it’s true.

photo 4

The hake was delicious, juicy and flakey and perfectly cooked. The batter was crispy and light. It’s a generous portion of fish and even more so of chips, which are much better than your local chippy, the right ratio of softness to crispy ends.

To the Mushy peas… I’m not a fan generally… Too much school snot look-a-like stuff is etched into my memory, but I was assured by my brother that these were fantastic. Of course they were. On the cusp of being crushed rather than mushy, but they were fresh and minty and lush (yep, I really did just type the word lush).

I’d go back there any day, if I can find it, it’s bloody marvellous.

photo 2