Emilia’s Crafted Pasta

It is no secret that homemade pasta is my absolute favourite thing to eat. So when I was notified about Emilia’s Crafted Pasta opening up in St. Katharine Docks I was keen to get along and try the food asap.

Emilia's Crafted Pasta

This charming neighbourhood eatery is tucked away amongst other food venues, all with a lovely waterside view of the docks. It is extremely convenient for nearby offices, who I imagine are delighted with this new Italian arrival, but is a bit of a trek if you don’t live or work in the vicinity.

I chatted briefly to owner Andrew Macleod and chef Simone Stagnitto about the inspiration behind the pasta bar and it’s offering. Together they hope to bring authentic and delicious homemade pasta to the city, the essence of Italian tradition, handcrafted in London.

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The menu is short and sweet with a couple of starters and a range of pasta dishes to suit every palate. Parmesan balls were sadly off the menu when I visited so we settled for burrata with toasted ciabatta and extra virgin olive oil. It was, perhaps, the best burrata I have eaten in London, impossibly creamy and light, sprinkled with coarse black pepper and sea salt.

It was tempting to try one of each from the pasta list, but we restrained ourselves to three bowls between two of us. News of Simone’s exquisite pesto had reached me long before I visited Emilia’s so we had to try this simple dish. It was wonderful. We also ordered the bechamel bolognaise and the lamb ravioli. The bolognaise was indulgent and comforting, the perfect winter dish. Slow cooked for four hours the meat had a delicious depth of flavour, and I was pleased to see plenty of meat sauce coating the beautifully cooked pappardelle. The ravioli was filled with subtly-flavoured lamb and parsley, and then cooked in a light sage and butter sauce. I loved the filled pasta but felt the butter sauce could have been cooked for a little longer in order to give a more caramelised taste and crisp up the sage leaves. Emilia’s offer a few wine options, reasonably priced, and easy to drink with pasta.

Emilia's Crafted Pasta

For dessert we opted for lemon and polenta cake and affogato. The cake was our favourite, light and fragrant topped with flaked almonds, yoghurt and honey.

If you are in the area I would definitely recommend popping into Emilia’s for a delicious bowl of pasta. The restaurant also hope to offer pasta masterclasses too so you can learn the Italian secrets to help you make perfect pasta at home.

More information and book a table at Emilia’s Crafted Pasta here.

Bar Douro, Flat Iron Square

Thanks to chefs like Nuno Mendes, Portuguese food is now getting an opportunity to shine, with eateries showcasing this much forgotten cuisine all over London. Bar Douro is the latest noteworthy Portuguese restaurant to open, finding a cosy home in the Flat Iron Square foodie hub.

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I went along with a fellow food-obsessed friend to try out their speciality dishes. The restaurant is relaxed and atmospheric, with bar seats offering a view of the small kitchen. The blue and white patterned tiles reminded me instantly of days wandering round Lisbon’s pretty streets. Owner Max Graham was previously running supper clubs around London with Head Chef Tiago Santos. Max’s family have been creating Churchill’s Port in the Douro area of Portugal for centuries and his passion for Portuguese wine is evident from the thoughtful wine list.

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We were treated to a feast of the best dishes from the menu, including delicacies like Croquetes de Alheira and Octopus with sweet potato. The food was vibrant both in flavour and presentation. I loved the Chanfana rolls, bite-sized pieces of milk-fed lamb with a deliciously fragrant herb sauce. For something a little more decadent try the Roast suckling pig with homemade crisps, which is prepared and cooked to perfection with caramelised baby carrots and fresh orange. Not all the dishes worked… Bacalhau a Bras (Salted cod with scrambled eggs and chips) was bland and uninteresting, and sadly our Octopus tenticle arrived so charred it overwhelmed the subtle flavour of the seafood.

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I’ve never known much about Portuguese desserts, partly because I’m usually too full from main course to make it that far down the menu. At Bar Douro we were presented with three sweet plates, so I had a quick, and tasty lesson in this country’s pastry traditions. A delicate Abade de Priscos (Portuguese Bacon Pudding) was paired with wonderfully contrasting citrus sorbet and fresh orange. The second dessert, Bar de camelo was very sweet but delicious, made from condensed milk and topped with ice-cream and a shard of chocolate. And don’t leave without trying the fresh-out-the-oven Pastel de nata with cinnamon ice-cream, which works very well with a glass of the Churchill’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port.

It is lovely to see the arrival of new food ventures in South London and Bar Douro does a wonderful job of showcasing the best of Portuguese food and wine.

More information and book a table at Bar Douro here.

Things to do in Toronto

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Toronto, other than very cold weather. Since visiting Vancouver a few years ago, I feel a fondness for the Canadian way of life… outdoorsy and healthy with cool, eclectic cities. Toronto is less of a ‘pretty’ city than I expected, with a sleek business district and a downtown hipster neighbourhood which reminded me of Brooklyn. The casual food scene is thriving, with every cuisine readily available and offered to a high standard. Creativity doesn’t stop at food as there are also plenty of local designers, artists and musicians to inspire you while you explore this city. Here’s my favourite things to do, see and eat from the four days I spent in Toronto.

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To stay

Fairmont Royal York – For convenience and location you can’t beat this hotel. Dating back to 1929 with over 1000 bedrooms, this luxury hotel is a popular choice for business travellers, though it also satisfies those travelling for leisure with plentiful spa and dining options.

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To eat

Buca – There are several branches of this upmarket Italian eatery, most say the Yorkville restaurant has the best food. The house-made salumi di mare is very popular, though I preferred the comforting homemade pastas and can particularly recommend the Bigoli duck egg pasta with duck offal ragu, venetian spices, mascarpone and basil.

Alo – For me Alo was without a doubt the most special eating experience in Toronto. Chef Patrick Kriss presents immaculate tasting menus of modern French food with a twist. The service is professional and friendly… and I loved the option of white or navy napkin at the start of the meal. If the full experience is too pricey, head to the bar for equally delicious, more casual dishes.

Oddseoul – Ossington Avenue has plenty of great casual eateries to choose from. We loved the flavoursome Korean small plates at Oddseoul. Highlights included the O.S wings and the moreish Squash Poutine.

Saving Grace – Expect to queue for this lovely neighbourhood brunch spot. We arrived early to secure a table at the tiny eatery that serves tasty sweet and savoury brunch dishes. Our most memorable dish was the tiramisu waffles.

The Drake Hotel – Ask anyone where the coolest place to stay is in Toronto and they will most likely say The Drake. This hipster hang out also boasts a brilliant restaurant which is particularly good for weekend brunch. We feasted on delightful dishes like Shakshuka, Eggplant sandwich, and the most addictive pecorino and truffle fries I’ve ever had.

Dandylion – If I lived in Toronto this is the restaurant I would want to return to time and time again with friends. The minimalist dining room is modern and stylish and the short menu offers simple but delicious recipes highlighting the best seasonal ingredients.

Chabrol – A quaint and cosy restaurant in the Yorkville district serving comforting French cuisine. Try the warming Ttoro fish stew and the irresistably good Apple tart with Calvados Sabayon.

Grand Electric – This shabby chic taco hang-out is always filled with hungry locals. The whole Mexican menu is delicious but I particularly loved the super cheesy Quesadillas.

Nugateau – Nugateau is Toronto’s first eclair shop, offering a range of beautiful pastries in an array of creative flavours. Located on Queen Street West, the patisserie is perfectly located for a mid-afternoon shopping break.

Rosen’s Cinnamon Buns – This bright bakery is on a mission to perfect the humble cinnamon bun. The cafe has no seating but drop in for a soft and delicious takeaway bun whilst in the neighbourhood, you won’t regret it.

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To drink

Sam James – Without a doubt my favourite coffee in Toronto, the Sam James brand serves deliciously smooth and creamy coffee from their pared back and hip cafes.

Bar Ravel – This Gaudi inspired bar is worth visiting just to admire the amazing design and decor. The kitchen serves a short menu of delicious Spanish tapas whilst the experienced barmen can help you choose a refined cocktail to suit your palate. Sister establishment Bar Isabel should also be on your to do list.

Early Bird Espresso – The ideal Sunday brunch spot, Early Bird Espresso is found on Queen Street West and serves simple, classic breakfast dishes like avocado on toast, accompanied by their delicious strong coffee.

Sorry Coffee – This cute, marble clad coffee shop is found in the Kit & Ace store in Yorkville, and is a great place to stop for coffee and cake after shopping in the area.

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To do 

Distillery Quarter – Located east of downtown Toronto, the Distillery Quarter contains numerous cafés, restaurants, and shops housed within heritage buildings of the former Gooderham and Worts Distillery. It is a lovely part of town to spend a morning wandering round.

Royal Ontario Museum – This striking museum has got something to entertain and interest everyone with a diverse art, world culture and natural history collection. Wildlife Photographer of the Year is currently on show at the museum.

Toronto Bicycle Tours – I usually shy away from active experiences when travelling, but discovering a new city by bike is a wonderful way of learning about your surroundings. Toronto Bicycle Tours is a dynamic company which offers brilliant tours of Toronto. We had a three hour ride in the downtown district, stopping off at notable buildings and parks, while company owner Terrence enlightened us with interesting facts and stories.

Art Gallery of Ontario – This art museum has an impressive collection including more than 80,000 works spanning the first century to the present day. I loved looking round the permanent collection, whilst also admiring the amazing architecture of the museum building… look out for the wooden spiral staircase.

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To Shop

Mjolk – It is worth venturing out to the Junction neighbourhood to visit this design haven. Mjolk was started in 2009 by husband-and-wife team John and Juli Baker as a lifestyle shop and gallery, representing work with an emphasis on functionality and craftsmanship. The shop stocks beautiful items for everyday life from Scandinavia and Japan. I left with serious pangs of home envy.

Drake General Store – Just across the road from the effortlessly cool Drake Hotel, this shop stocks great products from homeware to jewellery and foodie luxuries. Pick up a Toronto souvenir to take home.

Souvenir – I returned to this shop twice during my short time in Toronto. The beautiful boutique is home to design products from emerging artists, all hand-picked by owner Danielle Suppa. I loved the soy scented candles by Brennen Michael and unisex fragrances from Libertine.

Brandon Olsen Chocolates – This immaculate shop is more like a museum, displaying and selling the most beautiful chocolates. Owned and operated by chef and chocolatier Brandon Olsen and artist Sarah Keenlyside, this confectionery company is an expression of their shared love of food and art. The splattered chocolate designs reminded me of Jackson Pollock paintings and are available in intriguing but tasty flavours like orange blossom and honey, or cinnamon and brown butter.

Outclass – a stylish Toronto menswear company on College Street, dedicated to made in Canada products.

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To Escape

Niagara Parks – I had always heard fellow travellers comment that if you are going to see Niagara Falls it is more spectacular from the Canadian side. This great waterfall runs between America and Canada, with views from either country. Just a 90 minute drive from Toronto, this day trip is a must and a lovely escape from the city. At the parks there are plenty of activities to keep families or solo travellers entertained for the entire day: wander round the beautiful Butterfly Conservatory or take a tour of the historic McFarland House. The waterfall is best experienced with the ‘Journey Behind the Falls‘ which gives you a spectacular insight into this magical world wonder.

Many thanks to Tourism Toronto for assisting with this trip.