A weekend in Torino

We arrived into Turin around 8.30pm, checked into our apartment in Piazza Castello and headed straight out. After a quick aperitivo of Aperol Spritz and a web search for some good local pasta, we ended up in Defilippis.

We started with their sharing plate of Asparagus Flan and Cheese Fondue, Russian Salad and Vitello Tonnato. If I’m honest it was a weird combination, with the asparagus flan doing nothing for me. At least we got to try one of the local classics, the Vitello (sliced veal with tuna mayonnaise on top) which I’m pretty sure I won’t try again.

It was all about the pasta though and between us we shared the Agnolotti (mini ravioli) in a meat gravy sauce and Tajarin (in between spaghetti and linguine) with bacon and smoked buratta. Both pastas were cooked perfectly but both sauces lacked seasoning unfortunately. All washed down with a bottle of local red, a Borolo 2013 Damilano at €35. Overall an underwhelming first Turin food experience.

Defilippis KATER Score 6/10 – €80 for two inc. service

The next morning, after a wander around the various piazzas and cobbled streets taking in the local Torino life, we took the lift to the top of Mole Antonelliana for panoramic views of the city.

We also made a pit stop at the famous Al Bicerin Cafe, which serves Turin’s most famous drink of coffee and chocolate topped with cold pouring cream. The trick is not to mix it, but just drink it and let the cold cream complement the hot chocolatey drink. Delicious but so rich and we definitely did not need the side order of biscuits!

We stopped for lunch at GV2 and I’m so glad we did. Faith was restored and we enjoyed some delicious bowls of pasta. I had the Tajarin with rabbit ragu and Sam the agnolotti with meat sauce. Washed down with a Moretti and glass of local white wine, it was just the perfect lunch.

GV2 KATER Score 8/10 – €40 for two inc. service

The afternoon was spent sight-seeing and enjoying a few aperitivos before dinner. We stumbled upon a very cool cocktail bar called DDR with a quite off the wall cocktail menu. So cool I managed to nab myself a copy to bring back…for work purposes.

I had made reservations at BarBaBuc, a relatively new and upcoming restaurant run by a couple of young friends located in the heart of San Salvario. We started with a glass of prosecco, whilst pondering over their special porcini menu or black truffle tasting menu or their regular degustion menu. I was excited. I chose the porcini menu after the waiter told me they had just arrived today and Sam the black truffle menu – both at €35 for three courses.

We both started with a really fresh tasting veal tartare, mine topped with fresh porcini and Sam’s with black truffle. Unfortunately the black truffle was tasteless, the porcni was a lovely addition though. It would have been nice to have a few other garnishes to add such as shallots and egg yolk, but these weren’t available.

Again we both had the same main but with the different garnish. The tajarin pasta was fresh and cooked perfectly but sorry to say it lacked seasoning and was a bit disappointing. When it arrived our waiter made a point of saying the chef felt it didn’t need cheese, however it was available if we wanted. Well we had one mouthful and then asked for the cheese which totally bought the dish to life. Sorry chef.

My third course was a dish of very slow cooked beef with porcini, delicious and incredibly rich but perhaps lacked something like a potato. I get the simplicity and the need for the porcini to be the main attraction but you’ve got to get everything absolutely spot on for this to work. Sam’s third course was a bowl of cheese custard, topped with an egg yolk and shavings of truffle. It looked lovely but when mixed together it was unappetising with raw egg floating on top. Disappointing.

We chose to drink wine by the glass and picked a Brunello Monticello 2013 (memories from a previous Italy trip) and a Barolo. The wine was poured from some weird gas tap; something I’ve never seen before. Unfortunately when we ordered a second glass of the Brunello they had to open a new bottle half way through the pour and gave us no opportunity to taste or check the wine which when you’re paying upwards of €15 a glass and what was essentially a short pour was poor service in my book.

Overall the service was just ok however they did forget our water and didn’t apologise.

BarBaBuc KATER Score 6/10 – €110 for two inc. service

Feeling a bit let down on the food front, the next day we consulted trusty TripAdvisor and found El puig d’Estelles around the corner from our apartment. With no reservation, we were warmly welcomed and shown a table inside, we instantly felt we were somewhere homely and local. We started with a caprese salad and then I chose the salami carbonara and Sam had the Tajarin ragu Bolognese. Both were just perfect and I would highly recommend. A glass of house white wine for me and a draft beer for Sam. Simple, local and delicious.

El Puig D’Estelles KATER Score 8/10 – €40 for two inc. service

Lunch was followed by an afternoon stroll taking in some more of the city, enjoying the sun and of course sampling some gelato before heading back for an afternoon siesta.

That evening we enjoyed aperitivos with a varying selection of snacks which included sausage rolls, ham sandwiches and mini pots of rice salad. No dinner required that night. Between 1730-1930 (usually) most bars offer a small buffet or selection of snacks with your drink at what seems to be at no extra cost! Its brilliant but also very carb heavy. We wondered around the cool end of town, watched the end of the Champions League final (shame Liverpool) and stopped to watch some locals dancing the night away in the street. A very lovely evening indeed.

On our last day we were a bit carbed out and fancied something a bit healthier. We headed for top rated Kensho, a sushi restaurant and were not disappointed. We enjoyed some stunning sashimi, nigiri, rolls and dumplings. We were even treated to an amuse of endamame sponge, fois gras and tuna tartare. It was a welcome change to pasta and probably one of the most modern restaurants we ate in during our stay.

Kensho KATER Score 8/10 – €80 for two inc. service

As I write this I am enjoying a very lovely bottle of Rosso di Montalcino, debating whether it will be pasta or pizza this evening. What a terrible choice to have to make.

Overall Turin has been great for a weekend break, just 1.5 hours from London its been the perfect escape. I’ve loved the culture, the people and of course the food has been pretty awesome too.

CUB Restaurant

My amazing husband surprised me with dinner reservations at CUB. I didn’t know where we were going until we arrived and I have to say I’d never heard of CUB so was impressed and excited about what was to come.

We were seated at the bar with a great view of the chefs and bar. I was struck at how small the place was, specifically the kitchen area. The two chefs worked efficiently and in harmony and seemed unaffected by their limited space.

It’s a set menu with some of the courses food and some courses drink. First up was a glass of Krug – a perfect start for my birthday dinner

Then came the first course which was a beetroot steak, apple sourz and a miso cream, unusual, simple and delicious.

Then came a succession of beautifully presented dishes each offerimg new flavours and textures including Jersey royals with blood orange and pennywort; shitake mushrooms with artichoke puree and kelp, chicken bone broth served with fresh sourdough and butter. We finished with a fennel based dessert topped with Japanese knotweed. So many new flavours and combinations which left me inspired and excited.

For the drinks, we had a belverdere and cherry blossom cocktail, a rare tea and a toasted lager to name a few. The drinks were plenty, generous and beautiful.

This was much more an experience for me, the concept and delivery was exciting and faultless. The staff were engaged and well informed about each dish and took pride in telling you about each course. After speaking to the owner and chefs I discovered that the ingredients are all sustainable and mostly would be waste items. The menu is mainly vegetarian with the exception of the bone broth but again showing sustainability using the bones. Even their plates have been made from recycled plastic and table tops made from yoghurt pots and lids.

This is a definite must try for all you foodies and I am super impressed with Sam for introducing me to this very exciting restaurant.

KATER Score 10/10 – £55 set menu per person (drinks inclusive)

Sri Lanka – Mirissa and Talpe

On arriving in Mirissa, we were slightly underwhelmed with our hotel choice, Handegadara Colonial Villa. The room was basic, a bit dirty and the pool looked very murky. Nevertheless we unpacked and headed straight out to check out the beach a 5 min stroll away.

After a quick beer and a snack of grilled prawns, we found some loungers and soaked up the sun for the rest of the afternoon. The next few days were spent sunbathing and eating.

Most evenings were spent in The Shack (thanks to Hannah & Chris) for sunset drinks and snacking on their delicious poppadoms and homemade pineapple chutney – YUM.

We found a fab little Chinese place called Little Red House, so good we ate there twice. Really authentic Kung po, fried rice, chilli greens and the most amazing prawns dripping in garlic over noodles to soak up all the delicious sauce.

Little Red House KATER Score 10/10 – £25 for two inc. service

We tried a seafood bbq on the beach, part of Serendipity, which looks better in the pics than it tasted sadly. The prawns were good but fish and calamari over cooked. We ended up having to carry our dinner across the road into a small hut when the heavens opened – always a risk I suppose, but was quite a funny end to the night.

Serendipity KATER Score 6/10 – £20 for two inc. service

We booked a whale watching tour through the Whale Watching Club, who I can highly recommend. They looked after us so well, didn’t fill the boat, fed us (a slightly weird breakfast), gave us beer AND we saw two blue whales playing and diving. Each dive takes them about 12 minutes to resurface and then it’s like a game of spotting where they’ll pop back up.

We had a pretty good captain but you’ve got to be really lucky to be right next to a whale when it resurfaces. Because of their size (approx 30m) they don’t breach like smaller whales so you get to see only their backs and then a slight flick of their tails as they go down.

We followed and watched for about an hour until there were too many boats and our captain wanted to move on. On route back we were treated to hundreds of migrating dolphins swimming alongside our boat. It was awesome to sit back and watch.

After an early start of 6am, and seven hours at sea, it was time to hit the beach.

We decided the leave Mirissa one day early, our next hotel had availability and it was much nicer than the current one. We skipped our hotel breakfast as it was rubbish and nipped to the Aloha Coffee Gallery and enjoyed proper coffee and some much missed avocado on toast. Served with feta and grated beetroot, sprinkled with black sesame seeds it was delicious.

Packed into a tuk tuk we made our way to the Owl & The Pussycat in Talpe.

This hotel was by far the nicest we’d stayed in so far (and the most expensive). Set on the beach with a beautiful pool and sun deck, it just felt really chilled and special. It was also right in front of the famous stick fishermen which was not only a great photo op but amazing to just sit and watch them fill their bags with tiny fish balanced only on a stick.

We ate here, in the Runcible Restaurant on our first night excited as the reviews had been so good. Sad to report I had a mediocre chilli crab linguine and Sam a bland chicken curry. What a disappointment.

The breakfasts were great on the other hand, a mix of western and local and we of course went local.

Overall the menu here was not to our taste, a bit too western but they did have a good looking specials board and on another night I treated myself to their jumbo king prawns with garlic butter. Delicious and made even better washed down with a cold glass of pinot grigio.

We spent two nights out of the hotel in neighbouring town Unawatuna, a five minute tuk tuk ride away. A similar beach to Mirissa with restaurant, bars and guesthouse scattered along. However it felt much more chilled and quiet in comparison. We enjoyed some sunset beers, ate in the Pink Elephant and Black and White, both not worth writing about if I’m honest. Both average.

We did go to the local beach party one night though which was pretty cool. We sat in our little cabana, sipping our cocktails and watched the youngsters dance the night away!

Overall our seven days on the beach was fab, exactly what we wanted and really relaxing. Now it’s onto Galle, our penultimate stop before home.

Sri Lanka – Yala National Park

We arrived in Yala delighted with our hotel pick, Cinnamon Wild Yala (thanks Rob). Set on the outskirts of Yala National Park with the pool overlooking a large watering hole which was full of buffalo cooling themselves from the sun, an array of birds and plenty of crocodiles. We spent the afternoon enjoying the pool and watching the wildlife.

Dinner was buffet style with everything from local to western and we of course chose local and filled our plates with curries and sambals. It was delicious. No photos unfortunately – hard to take a decent pic of a buffet to be honest.

We did manage a pretty nice sunset before the heavens opened and we had to be escorted back to out room incase we came across any wild animals!

We were up early for our safari the next day with a 5am pick up by Shehan Safari Tours. In our own private jeep we entered the park and soon after we were tearing along as a leopard had been spotted. Mayhem ensued and our driver drove like a maniac. That said he got us there in time to see the elusive leopard.

Hiding in the trees we got to admire this amazing animal – all pictures are on the SLR camera I’m afraid. It was just amazing to see a leopard up close.

We moved on to see what else we could spot. Lots of peacocks, mongoose, wild boar, buffalo, crocodiles, a jackal and later we finally came upon an elephant.

Such majestic animals and just amazing to watch them move about. We only saw a couple of elephants, I was hoping for more but hey ho. After three hours of racing around we headed back to our hotel for breakfast. The remainder of the day was spent chilling by the pool.

The next day we were headed to Mirissa beach, a three hour drive away. The journey gave me an opportunity to really take in some local life and I watched as mothers took their kids to school shading them from the sun with their umbrellas. Farmers herding their buffalo. Older kids playing cricket on sandy pitches.

We drove through or on the edge of Bundala National Park and saw two elephants heading into the trees, too quick for a photo op unfortunately. Lots of monkeys and beautiful birds everywhere. We occasionally had to swerve to get out the way of the oncoming herd of cows down the road whilst king coconut sellers sliced the top off their coconuts with a machete.

Needless to say the three hours flew by and we arrived in Mirissa.

Sri Lanka – Ella

We arrived late into Ella to thunder storms and pouring rain. We grabbed the first tuk tuk and headed straight for our guest house, The Marvellous Inn. This turned out to be quite far up / down a long road out of town. It was nestled in the most beautiful valley with absolutely stunning views of the surrounding mountains and waterfalls. Yes even in the rain we got a sense of how special this place was.

We were warmly greeted by Ari, our host for the next three nights and immediately offered some tea and biscuits. Once settled into our room and the rain still pouring down Ari came and offered us some dinner.

We were served home cooked chicken curry with rice. It was delicious and served in what seems to be the usual way, a variety of vegetables and sambals to accompany. We tried banana flower for the first time and finished off with ice cream and chopped banana. Ari even bought us a couple of beers, albeit warm but very welcome after a long day travelling.

We were up early for a delicious home cooked breakfast served on our terrace of coconut pancakes, fresh fruit and scrambled egg toasties (new one on me). We were headed for Little Adams Peak followed by the Nine Arch Bridge.

The walk to Little Adams Peak took us through the town and then up through the tea plantations. A relatively easy walk which took us around an hour to get to the top. The last climb is a bit tough in the heat, for me anyway.

The views are stunning from the top with a fantastic view of Ella Rock (the next days venture) and surrounding area. After a few pictures and chance to cool down a little we headed back down in search of the Nine Arch Bridge.

The walk to the bridge took us through more tea plantations walking past local houses and fruit sellers. A kind lady pointed us the the right direction after we took a wrong turn. It’s worth mentioning that there are absolutely no signs to any of these places, you are solely reliant on locals and any research you may have done via google.

After a fairly hairy climb down through a very narrow passage way we caught our first sight of the Nine Arch Bridge. I thinks it’s so impressive because of its setting, surrounded in a valley of beautiful tea plantations and stunning views you can see why everyone flocks here for pictures.

We were hoping to see a train pass by but after an hour of picture taking and waiting around we decided to head back to Ella via the train tracks for a well deserved beer.

We checked out Matey Hut at the top of town for lunch. It didn’t look like much but I had heard great things and stories of people queuing so thought it must be worth a try. Sam ordered a vegetable curry and rice (4 curries) and and I ordered a Daal Paratha which is a like a large pancake filled with Daal and potato curry and folded to make a parcel.

Up to this point we hadn’t really had anything too spicy so when Sam was asked if he wanted mild, medium or spicy he of course opted for spicy. I didn’t get asked assuming mine would come as is. Mistake.

Mine was absolutely delicious but so hot I struggled to eat it. I think they assumed we both wanted spicy. Sam’s curry included Banana Curry, Okra, Tomato Sambal and Daal.

Matey Hut KATER Score 8/10 – £7 for two inc. service

That evening we decided to stick to local food but somewhere a bit fancier and chose the Ceylon Tea Factory restaurant. A round of beers and some masala cashew nuts (amazing) were quickly ordered. I followed with a Jaffna prawn curry and Sam had the coriander beef curry. Both amazing, expensive in comparison to what we had been paying but worth it.

Ceylon Tea Factory KATER Score 9/10 – £25 for two inc. service

Another early start and another amazing breakfast of egg hoppers and tomato sambol we set for our next hike, the dreaded Ella Rock. Probably only dreaded by me as I’m no hiker and after yesterday exertions I was feeling a little jaded. Still the show must go on and off (up) we went.

A quick climb up to the train tracks and we were on our way. It took is approx. 1.5 hours to reach the top and the walk took us along the train tracks, through more tea plantations and into a beautiful forest. The forest marked the start of the real climb through fairly rocky and at times slippy terrain. Much to Sam’s amusement I had to stop and rest every few metres, I told you I am not a hiker.

We finally reached the top and all that sweat was worth it. The pictures below say it all.

Back at our guesthouse some rest was in order then into town for a late lunch. It was no booze day in Sri Lanka (once a month for full moon) so we had to settle for some delicious fruit smoothies instead.

We’d spotted a proper busy local restaurant the day before, Raha Cafe so decided to check it out. Wow. Sam had the masala dosa probably as long as he is tall (well not quite) and I had the chapati with Daal curry, coconut sambal and a side order of their spicy onion sambal. Both filled with the most deliciously spiced potato curry full of mustard seeds and when topped with the sambal and daal, incredible. Everything was delicious and so cheap.

Raha Cafe KATER Score 10/10 – £6 for two inc. service

As dinner was so good the first night we decided to stay in on last night and enjoyed a different selection of chicken and vegetable curries all served with rice, including green beans fresh from our hosts garden. Good job as it was raining again and we enjoyed a spectacular lighting show from our balcony.

We loved Ella, far more touristy than anywhere we’ve been so far but a really foodie town and a ton of activities to keep you busy.

Next stop – safari in Yala National Park 🐘

Sri Lanka – Kandy to Ella

The train journey between Kandy and Ella is one of the top things to experience in Sri Lanka due to the stunning scenery. We were excited for the journey, and once on board we settled into our first class seats, booked via Visit Sri Lanka Tours.

The train made its way slowly climbing though local villages, high into the hills and through into the tea plantations. We passed through fields of tea pickers, woodland forest and beautiful valleys full of fruit and vegetable farmland. The local children quick to give us a wave and a big smile a long the way.

This train journey is also famous for tourists sitting in and hanging outside it’s open doors to get THE picture. The ones I’ve seen on instagram make it look easy. Well it’s not and I am glad that I didn’t have to sit in a train door way for seven hours!

We managed a few pictures half hanging out and half hanging on for dear life, trying not to drop the phone while the train chugged and juddered along.

All the while we feasted on Sri Lankan snacks; vegetable samosas, egg samosas, vegetable patti and spiced nuts sold by locals between stops.

The last part of the journey goes over the famous Nine Arch Bridge in Ella, however by the time we got there it was stormy and absolutely bucketing down with rain. Which meant doors closed and no beautiful picture. I did manage a picture with our train driver on arrival to Ella though.

What a perfect way to celebrate 10 years of being together.

Coming up – Three jam packed days in Ella, hiking and eating.

Sri Lanka – Kandy

With only one night in Kandy, you’d think we’d have done a bit more research, but that’s not our style. With temples on offer and storms forecast for the afternoon, we decided to head straight out and have a wonder. What an assault on your senses – Kandy is a little bit manic.

Cars, tuk tuks, buses and scooters everywhere. No one following any rules and non-stop horns beeping. We quickly escaped into the Secret Alley Cafe for a cooling iced coffee made with coconut milk and cinnamon. Other people clearly had the same idea as it quickly filled up and was obviously a tourist bolt hole.

Nearing lunch time but not feeling particularly hungry, we braved the streets once again. An old guy helped us cross the road to then tell us he was from Surrey and would like to show us his kitchenware shop…err, no thanks.

Making our escape, we headed for the lake which is in the centre of Kandy and an easy walk around. Feeling a bit despondent we remembered our friends Hannah and Chris recommended a rooftop bar nearby, Slightly Chilled.

We headed straight there and ordered a couple of beers and some cashew nuts. The menu was Chinese influenced and we got very excited to see they served dumplings. Another round of beers and a portion of dumplings ordered. Happy customers.

A quick stop at our homestay and feeling refreshed we were soon back at Slightly Chilled to watch the sun go down. Needless to say a few more beers were had and some tasty Chinese food including Sichuan Gang Boa Chicken and sizzling beef.

Slightly Chilled KATER Score 7/10 – £15 for two inc. service

A quick tuk tuk back to our homestay, Sweet Lanka Kandy. Wanting something sweet, we popped into the restaurant above our place and ordered some ginger tea and curd and honey. That’s all they had, but boy I’m glad as it was delicious. The curd is made from buffalo milk and the locally made honey gave a perfect sweet and sour contrast.

Our breakfast was probably the best so far – simple yet delicious. A well seasoned omelette served with the best tasting daal yet, coconut sambal and taboula. Followed by fresh pineapple, banana and papaya. Yum.

A perfect start to our long train journey to Ella.

Sri Lanka – Sigiriya

We arrived in Colombo in the early hours to be greeted by our driver Anoj, booked via withlocals.com. After a 11 hour flight we were shattered, so took the opportunity to have a snooze in the car as we had a three hours transfer to Sigiriya.

On route we stopped at the side of the road, welcoming the opportunity to stretch our legs. Anoj treated us to our first taste of King Coconut, a local favourite here in Sri Lanka and a perfect way to refresh after a long journey. We watched as a guy expertly opened up the coconut, stuck in a straw and handed them out. They were surprisingly full of coconut water too.

We arrived at the Hotel Sigiriya in Sigiriya and took in the amazing view of Lion Rock whilst enjoying our welcome drink of fresh watermelon juice. The afternoon was spent snoozing by the pool.

We decided to venture out into the local town for dinner, so after a few local Lion beers we set out. I knew I wanted to go to the top rated Wijesiri Family Restaurant, a family run restaurant known for its tasty food at amazing value. We were not disappointed (only that they didn’t serve beer!). We quickly ordered a fresh pineapple juice and perused the menu. Chicken curry and rice – served with 8 curries was definitely happening, along with their local speciality of devilled king prawns. And for good measure a portion of the vegetable kotthu roti.

The curry was something else, so many dishes of tasty daal, okra, green beans and curry. We probably could have shared but that would have been boring. The devilled prawns reminded us of a sticky Sichuan style Chinese dish, really tasty. The kotthu roti is a mix of diced up vegetables, noodles and herbs and a famous snack in Sri Lanka. I have a feeling we may be eating more of this over the next few weeks.

Wijesiri Family Restaurant KATER Score 8/10 – £11 for two inc. service

The following morning we were up with the birds for an early breakfast Sri Lankan style followed by a hike up Lions Rock. Breakfast was a buffet serving everything from hoppers to curries – the perfect fuel for our walk.

Climbing Lion Rock was tiring in the heat, but well worth getting there early to beat the crowds. Over 1600 years old and a UNESCO world heritage site it’s impressive, with fantastic views across Sigiriya and surrounding areas. It’s £21 entrance which for Sri Lanka is steep.

We were back by the pool at 9.30 and a rewarding beer ordered by 10am – we are on holiday after all!

That night we ate in the hotel, enjoyed their buffet of various local curries including a rendang style beef curry, vegetables and sambals, the coconut sambals being my favourite. We treated ourselves to a bottle of red which cost more than our meal – what are holidays for!

The following day we relaxed by the pool some more and decided to venture out and climb Pedurangula Rock later that afternoon. This rock looks over Lion Rock, is a fraction of the cost and overall felt like a much more rewarding walk (£2 entrance). The views are spectacular, the climb hard especially in flip flops (don’t believe all you read on trip advisor) and I’m not surprised this is favoured over the two rocks. Oh and be prepared to do a little rock climbing at the top.

A quick walk down we found the only bar in town (or so we thought) that served beer, the Rasta bar. It was a bit run down and full of mosquitos so we quickly moved onto to Pradeep Restaurant for dinner. We were happy to discover they too sold beer (whoop) so another round of beers ordered along with their vegetable curry and some chicken fried rice. All very nice but not a patch on its neighbour Wijesiri.

Pradeep Restaurant KATER Score 6/10 – £8 for two inc. service

For our last breakfast in Sigiriya I enjoyed an omelette with chicken curry and Sam had his first egg hoppers filled with daal and sambals.

Next stop Kandy.

Frog by Adam Handling

I was lucky enough to visit The Frog by Adam Handling with my work colleagues on a rare night out last week. It was so good that I just have to tell you about.

First impressions of the restaurant itself were that it was a bit of an odd space, and a bit sparse. We were warmly greeted but the cloakroom unfortunately felt a bit temporary. But then we spotted Adam on the pass, and all we could look at was him and the decor was forgotten.

We quickly ordered a cocktail. For me it was an Adam’s Apple, which is the frog gin, pink apple cordial and calvados served with a gorgeous mini toffee apple on the side. A bit sweet (for me) but delicious and the sourness of the apple helped offset some of the sweetness. We all agreed on the five course tasting menu and accompanying wines. We also ordered an extra helping of the now famous cheese doughnuts – a must!

First to arrive were the ‘snacks’ or as my colleague calls them, the shnicky shnacks. Wow.

We started with the most delicious crispy cylinder filled with soft velvety smoked cod, topped with caviar and beautifully presented. Then came the beef tartar which was my favourite and the tastiest tartar I have ever eaten. The final snack was smoking mussels, literally served with smoke pouring from them and flavoured with lemon and sherry vinegar. Amazing, and a real touch of theatre. Of course these snacks were additions to the five courses, we hadn’t even started yet!

Next came the bread and butter – this is not your ordinary bread and butter but the most amazing sour dough and soft butter flavoured with crispy chicken skin with the most delicious morsels of crispy chicken skin on the top. So good we had to ask for more butter (diet was on hold this evening). With this and the snacks, if I ate nothing else ever again, I would have been very happy.

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We were finally ready to start our five courses; first up and delivered by a lovely chef was the ‘Celeriac, date, lime, truffle’. This was the perfect start as it was light, fresh and delicious. Next up was the ‘BBQ mackerel, potato, apple’, another beautifully presented dish with really smokey notes from the mackerel. We washed this down with a fruity little Spanish white.

Our third starter was the ‘Cod Prawn Cocktail’, the Frog’s take on a classic. The cod was perfectly cooked served with a lightly cooked piece of cos lettuce on top still with a nice crunch. I wish I had saved some of my bread for this one to mop up some of the delicious sauce. The Australian Riesling served alongside was the perfect accompaniment. All three dishes presented and delivered by the chef who had prepared each one, such a lovely personal touch.

It was finally time for the main course of ‘Pork, cauliflower, kimchi’ and wow what a dish. The pork served pink and the cauliflower lightly roasted. The kimchi was a revelation and really bought the dish together. I could quite easily have eaten another portion. We were served a Romanian Pinot Noir with this dish was perfectly light and complimentary to the pork.

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Our additional course of cheese doughnuts came next. These have become the must try in any of Adam Handling’s restaurants and rightly so. Soft doughnuts with melting rich cheese in the centre topped with truffle shavings. What’s not to like?

The finale (or so we thought) was pudding which was the one course we had to pre-select. I went with the ‘Caramelised apple, vanilla, salted peanuts’ and was not disappointed. In fact I think I chose the best. We of course made sure we had all four puddings covered on the table so we could try them all.

We ended the evening with a few very well made cocktails in the basement bar which I highly recommend you do, an Old Fashioned being my drink of choice. The sugar coated doughnuts filled with rhubarb were the final treat in what was one of the best meals / experiences I have had in a long time.

I will be back and be sure to have my husband Sam with me next time, he will love it.

Frog by Adam Handling KATER Score 10/10 – £140 for one inc. service

The Frog by Adam Handling, 34-35 Southampton St, London WC2E 7HG | 020 7199 8370

Keeping it local – Singburi

It gives me great pleasure to tell you all about my favourite Thai restaurant, Singburi right here on my doorstop in Leytonstone, London.

singburi

Sam and I absolutely love this place and have been coming for well over eight years now. Every year we are forced to go through a weird kind of withdrawal when the owners take a break and close for two months. Well, last night they reopened and we were quick to call and book our spot.

Singburi is run by a lovely couple, Thelma and Tony along with their son Richard. Thelma is originally from the Philippines and Tony from Thailand and the food is authentically Thai. I can honestly say I have not had better Thai food in London, or anywhere outside of Thailand for that matter. The menu at first glance includes all the classics but you’ll find some really interesting regional dishes that won’t be so familiar, along with regularly changing specials.

You can also ask for your preferred level of spice, mine being Thai medium and Sam’s Thai extra hot. They also accept western medium etc. You get the jist. After so many years they know us well and get the spice level spot on every time; although sometimes testing Sam’s request for extra hot!

We can be creatures of habit and tend to choose the same main dishes which Thelma often rolls her eyes at. We like to try their specials though which means we also order far too much. Sam’s go to is usually the Gaeng Daeng (red curry) and mine is the Gaeng Penang Nua which is a dry curry of tender beef strips in an aromatic and medium spiced Penang sauce. Last night we kicked off with some delicious Miang’s, a traditional Thai snack. Fresh and aromatic flavours of lemongrass, shallot, garlic, pomello (which Thelma hand carried all the way from Thailand), Thai basil and peanuts piled on top of a betel leaf and sprinkled with toasted coconut. A mouthful of pure deliciousness. I could have eaten many more. We shared another special of the day called Larb Moo Tod, a croquette of pork served with a Thai shallot salad which perfectly cut through the fatty pork.

For mains, I stuck to my usual Gaeng Penang Nua (its been over two months) and Sam choose the special Gang Keow Wan, a green curry with beef short-rib. Of course a meal at Singburi is not compete without their vegetable Pad Thai. Not a dish we particularly loved in Thailand, or in any other Thai restaurant since, but this one is amazing. Whilst chatting with Thelma last night we asked what her secret was and she let slip that it was the tamarind. I’m sure there is more to it but either way this dish is a winner.

It’s worth mentioning some of our other favourite dishes that we have been lucky enough to eat in the past. The Moo Crob, delicious pork crackling and chilli. The chilli clams are amazing. Every now again they include whole seabass on their special board. This is another must try. Steamed in sweet soy, ginger, coriander and a very special secret ingredient.

Their Som Tam (papaya salad) is deliciously spicy and fresh. The Yam Samun Phrai is a herb salad of ginger, lemongrass, cashews, sesame, carrot, crispy shallot and crispy bean curd and really yummy. The Gaeng Daeng (red curry), Gaeng Massamun with beef and the Moo Pad Prig King (stir fried pork with chilli and long beans) are also some of our favourites and well worth trying. I could go on…

Thelma operates a strict seating schedule of 7pm and 9pm but you can get a table in between you just have to book well in advance. This place is always busy. The staff who work there also deserve a mention – they have been loyal to Thelma and Tony for years and provide some of the best and friendliest service I have experienced.

Singburi is open Tuesday – Sunday for dinner and it only accepts cash. Smaller dishes cost around £5 and the larger main courses around £10 – incredible value for money, especially with their BYOB policy too.

KATER Score 10/10 – £40 for two inc. service

593 High Rd Leytonstone, London E11 4PA  | 02082814801