Alfred Leroy Canal Cruises

Crate Brewery was started up by a brother and sister duo from New Zealand who hoped to bring some of their jolly kiwi drinking culture and fun to East London’s deserted canals. The success was almost instant as local hipsters flocked to enjoy a pint and a pizza overlooking the River Lea.

This Spring, the Crate team have found a new innovative way to utilise their waterside asset, offering guests a cruise along the city canals in a charming boat. The Alfred Leroy has been beautifully restored and now functions perfectly as a boat-bar, serving well mixed cocktails and delicious charcuterie boards, cheeses from Neal’s Yard and bread from E5 Bakehouse. Crate’s celebrated range of craft beers and house-made cider are also served on board.

The boat is named after a legendary 70s pub landlord and boat driver, and it’s a name that suits this enchanting vehicle perfectly. Visitors can admire Hackney Wick from the water and enjoy the British summer from this lovely summer hang-out. The journey passes iconic London landmarks such as the Olympic Stadium and picturesque areas like Springfield Park and Warwick Reservoir.

Cruises take place every weekend and tickets cost £40 for a two hour trip round the canals including a charcuterie and cheese board and two cocktails. During the week the boat will be moored outside the brewery and available for private hire.

More information and book a tour here.

No.1 Duke St, Richmond

Richmond is an area of London that is perfect for lovely walks, welcoming pubs and family eateries, but never before have I visited a stylish café that I feel suits my needs. No.1 Duke Street is an elegant neighborhood bar and restaurant offering irresistible breakfast dishes, lunch classics, and dinner feasts. Alternatively you can pop in for a quick coffee or cocktail to relax after shopping in town, or walking round the green.

I visited on a gloriously sunny Sunday morning with all my family in tow. Despite the abundance of space (there is even a private floor upstairs) the main dining room was packed and we were lucky to find a table on the front terrace. Before I looked at the menu, I ran in to admire the instagram-friendly décor – white walls, worn wooden tables and plenty of pretty plants. Unsurprisingly, the interiors are photographed as much as the food.

The breakfast menu features a long list of morning favourites and a few imaginative additions. My brothers were immediately won over by the No.1 House Breakfast – sourdough toast with poached or scrambled eggs, accompanied by dry cured streaky bacon, pork and sage sausages, slow roast tomatoes and field mushrooms. The less greedy end of the table (!) settled for Blueberry ricotta pancakes with maple crème fraiche and syrup, Breakfast sourdough bruschetta with roast tomatoes, spinach, avocado, dry cured bacon and breakfast mayo, and No.1 Eggs Benedict with honey roast ham, avocado and spinach on sourdough with housemade hollandaise.

Fresh juices and strong (Caravan) coffees arrived to quench our thirst, before the morning feast was delivered. After copious photos of the photogenic spread I set about tasting each dish. Despite the simplicity, my favourite dish was the light and fluffy pancakes served with a dollop of sweet crème fraiche and topped with plump blueberries. I also loved the crusty farmhouse-style sourdough bread that comes toasted with many of the dishes. No.1 Duke St work hard to offer ingredients that are high quality and taste great, the meat was all butcher standard and the sauces are freshly made in house. Needless to say, silence fell over the table as the group devoured the delicious food.

Though I now live in South London I am often visiting family in West London and it is wonderful to find new venues that I am excited about visiting in this part of town. Next on my list to visit is the sister establishment, No.197 Chiswick Fire Station, which has also been receiving rave reviews.

More information and book a table at No.1 Duke St. here.

The Masons Arms, Knowstone

I am constantly amazed by Michelin’s ability to find the country’s best restaurants even when hidden away in an unlikely corner of the English countryside. The Masons Arms is a quaint pub in Knowstone, Devon, and is recognised by Michelin as one of the UK’s best pubs for foodies. The pub is run by a friendly couple who are passionate about good food and service.

This charming 13th century pub will transport you; as a Londoner I felt completely removed from the busy city life. I particularly loved the old-fashioned thatched roof. The dining room is cosy and comfortable offering lovely views of the verdant surrounding countryside. Before opening his own eatery, chef and owner Mark Dodson was head chef at Michel Roux’s renowned Waterside Inn in Bray. At Masons Arms he produces hearty, tasty food, which is what most of the visitors desire after a bracing walk in the area.

An a la carte menu is available at lunch and dinner and features a range of dishes championing British ingredients with a creative, often Asian twist. We sampled the reasonable lunch menu which allows guests to indulge in three courses (£25) or two courses (£20) at a cut of the normal price.

After a round of delicious crusty bread our starters arrived. Cream of cauliflower soup was a simple and comforting dish, lusciously smooth soup with subtle seasoning and finely flaked and toasted almonds on top. Duck liver parfait was a richer option with a luxurious and complex flavour accompanied with wonderful pear chutney and granary toast. The chef also delivered a plate of Seared peppered tuna with Oriental salad to our table, an eclectic and intriguing dish full of punchy ingredients with the highest quality fish steak.

Main courses were generously sized, especially for lunchtime. Classic Roulade of pork belly was sweet and indulgent, perhaps a little too sweet. A tender piece of pork was perched on a bed of braised red cabbage, apple compote and roasted vegetables. It was the ideal dish for a lazy weekend lunch. I chose to taste the vegetarian option (which would have been suitable for vegans too), a very pretty plate of Baked aubergine with roasted vegetables and balsamic reduction. It was artistically presented and tasted good but could have benefitted from a contrasting texture, perhaps some cheese or carbohydrate within the recipe would have been nice.

Dessert was my favourite course, a delicate and creamy Tonka bean creme brûlée with sharp, exotic passion fruit sorbet and a board of irresistible local West Country cheeses and chutneys.

Masons Arms is a popular local haunt perfect for satisfying Sunday lunches. Though more pricey, I would recommend opting for the a la carte menu which offers much more choice and finesse, and more exciting culinary variety and creative flair.

More information and book a table here.

Paradise Supperclub Series

Paradise by Way of Kensal Green is so much more than a pub. I have enjoyed boozy brunches here, danced the night away to upbeat DJ sets and relished romantic dinners in the grand dining room.

Thanks to head chef Cat Ashton (previously at Petersham Nurseries) the food on offer at Paradise is better than ever with the kitchen presenting creative dishes showcasing the best of British ingredients. This season, Paradise welcome a host of talented chefs into the kitchen for their exciting supperclub events. The series will feature Ella Woodward (Deliciously Ella) on 17th May, Nicolas Balfe (Salon Brixton) on 16th June, Adam Rawson (Young British Foodie award winner) in September, and Anna Jones (cook, stylist and writer) in October.

I joined a group of food enthusiasts for the opening evening of Cat’s Spring Supperclub, which is kicking off the summer series. Our evening feast featured imaginative treats like Stinging nettle & cave-aged cheddar souffle, Slow cooked lamb shoulder with truffled pecorino and Vanilla cheesecake with early season strawberries. But my favourites were the luxuriously rich and woody Morel mushrooms with garlic bruschetta and Drunken pineapple with prosecco jelly.

The food perfectly suits the setting, rustic with a twist of sophistication, and plenty of character and flavour. The Paradise parlour has a lovely atmosphere and is particularly good for groups, so get together all your friends for a night of delicious food and fun.

Supperclub tickets are priced at £35 and can be booked here.

More information:

The Larder, Fitzrovia

There could never be too many breakfast spots in London. I am always on the lookout for new cafes, and am constantly amazed by the variety on offer, from healthy hangouts serving yoghurt and fruit, to venues offering indulgent towers of pancakes with all the trimmings. The Larder, in Fitzrovia, has a nice mix of post-gym snacks and weekend treats. I joined a group of famished bloggers to get the scoop.

This new all-day café & store comes from Executive Chef Diego Cardoso and his team, who focus their recipes on ingredients that are seasonally available. The neighbourhood eatery has a casual feel, with welcoming wooden sharing tables and shelves stocked full of delicious items. We devoured a banquet of: chia seed pots with mixed berries; ham & cheese croissant melts; and crushed avocado on toast. I particularly enjoyed the pastries which were flaky and buttery, just like they should be. The Larder have their own brand of coffee, created by the celebrated Dorset roasters, Reads Coffee. It had a smooth and rich taste and is on offer with a variety of milks for fussy coffee fans. A range of fresh juices provide customers with a morning vitamin boost.

Those working nearby will enjoy the lunch options, simple but tasty toasties, fresh salads showcasing British produce and house-made sausage rolls and sandwiches.

Tucked away in Pearson Square, just a short walk from Oxford Street, The Larder is ideally located for morning meetings or weekend catch ups with friends. With 35 seats there is plenty of space to get all of your friends together and share as many dishes as you can fit on the table!

More information about The Larder here:

Mustard, Brook Green

There is a strange part of London, in which I used to live, in-between Shepherd’s Bush, Holland Park and Kensington. This pretty residential area has huge potential and yet there is a real shortage of nice cafes, restaurants and shops. So recently when I was alerted about Mustard, a new bistro on Shepherd’s Bush Road, I was keen to visit and try the food as soon as possible.

Mustard is housed in an old butchery building, the glorious interiors offer charming hints to its previous use, with the original tiles and features still intact. We made use of the small terrace at the front of the restaurant, and sat outside enjoying the springtime sunshine while having lunch.

The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is particularly popular at the weekend with the locals, who must be delighted with this stylish new neighbourhood hang out. The menu focuses on fresh, seasonal British produce from land and sea, and there is also a great selection of vegetarian options. The Express Lunch menu is available daily, a reasonable £9.95 for two courses or £12.95 for three.

To quench our thirst we opted for a couple of glasses of the Furleigh sparkling wine from Dorset. It was a delicious, light bubbly wine with subtle fruity notes of peach and lime… refreshing and very easy to drink. Just-out-of-the-oven fennel and linseed bread arrived alongside crispy pork belly soldiers with apple dipping sauce.

In the mood for spring we chose summery dishes from the a la carte menu. The free-range half roast chicken for me, and pan-fried woodland mushrooms with braised lentils and pearled spelt for my veggie guest. The chicken was divine, with irresistible crispy skin, a faint charcoal grill smokiness and a rich dill and wheat berry gravy. I was particularly happy devouring it alongside the lusciously smooth creamed potatoes. The mushrooms were very tasty too, perfectly seasoned and cooked, with a light but filling risotto-like lentil and spelt mix.

I had just enough space, and more than enough greed, to agree to a taste of dessert. The almond and blood orange cake was dense but moist, accompanied with a dollop of sweet soft cheese. Though I liked the flavour, I found the hefty slice too big for pudding and would have preferred something a little more refined, especially considering the £5.50 pricetag.

As we sat sipping on fresh mint tea, I realised how relaxed and at ease I felt. Unlike chaotic central London venues, or tiny trendy locations in East and South London, Mustard manages to maintain a lovely low-key and local feel. So you can really relish your meal out and enjoy the company without worrying about a thing.

More information and book a table at Mustard here.

The Prince Alfred, Maida Vale

There is something wonderfully British about enjoying a meal in a London pub, and it’s something I don’t do enough. Last week I visited The Prince Alfred, a beautifully restored Victorian building in Maida Vale offering good quality and creative food in a wonderful setting.

The Prince Alfred and the adjoining Formosa Dining Room are grand and imposing, standing majestically on the corner of Formosa street near Warwick Avenue tube station. Inside, the original pub is beautifully kept with the snob screens still in tact (so staff and guests could avoid eye contact). To the average pub goer these screens appear as tiny wooden doors connecting different sections of the room; it is charmingly old fashioned, and makes the pub feel cosy and intimate. At the back, the more modern Formosa Dining Room is decorated with blue leather banquettes, patterned wallpaper and intriguing artwork.

The menu features British pub favourites presented in a stylish manner. Crispy Suffolk pork belly with crackling, braised cabbage and bacon, Worchester, sage and apple sauce was a decadent lunch time option. Cooked with finesse and arranged neatly on the plate. The pork was tender with a caramelised edge and the gravy soaked cabbage offered some moisture to the meat. The beef burger is a favourite with the locals who come in for lunch, and I can understand why… Flavoursome British beef is nicely seasoned and coarsely ground to give a delicious patty, accompanied with cheese, bacon and red onion pickle. I found the bun quite limp and lack lustre, perhaps a lightly toasted brioche bap would work better. The skinny fries were an upmarket version of the McDonalds variety and sadly were way over salted for me.

The puddings on offer are big and bold, from Apple tart with brandy snaps, to Prince Alfred’s take on an Eton Mess. I couldn’t resist trying the Grilled Pineapple with nougat glace and raspberry coulis, which wasn’t the prettiest of desserts but tasted delicious – tart, caramelised fruit with a nutty sweet glace. Sticky toffee pudding with vanilla bean ice cream and salted caramel sauce was a hit with my guest. The classic dessert was light but indulgent with a contrasting creamy vanilla ice cream.

After a long walk round the Venice canals on a crisp Sunday morning, a hearty roast at The Prince Alfred pub would be a comforting reward. The locals are very lucky to have such a beautiful British pub on their doorstep.

More information on The Prince Alfred here.

Bombay Sapphire Rooftop Retreat, Harvey Nichols

I used to envy those sophisticated fellow travellers who would breezily order a g&t while I always stuck to white wine or a Diet Coke! Despite trying the drink regularly I found the taste too bitter, until my friend carefully made me a gin drink with a twist of lime that I couldn’t resist. Ever since that night I’ve known that the exact proportions of a gin and tonic are crucial if you want to make a drink that is tasty and refreshing.

And so when a Bombay Sapphire invite pinged into my inbox, I responded instantly with a resounding YES. Eight of us met on a chilly terrace of the London landmark, Harvey Nichols, for an evening of cocktail making with Bombay Sapphire Brand Ambassador Renaud de Bosredon, a charming man who has almost definitely been sipping the perfect g&t since childhood.

Around a table we were taught the basics: one part gin, two part tonic and as much ice as you can fit in the glass. Then we had the chance to try the method for ourselves. It was delicious, especially with a squeeze of lime, but I wondered if the great taste was just thanks to the premium brand of Bombay Sapphire and its vapour infused 10 exotic botanicals, rather than my limited cocktail making talents! Renaud encouraged us to be creative with our drinks and we were sent off into the wonder emporium that is the Harvey Nichols Food Hall, with a £20 voucher each to spend on imaginative ingredients. There were plenty of magical products, but I decided on rhubarb bitters to add a fruity flavour and pink candy floss for decoration. It was a strange but tasty combination, and great fun to learn about how to combine flavours into a classic g&t.

Open from 13th April – 11th July, The Bombay Sapphire Rooftop Retreat offers an oasis in the middle of London for guests to experience the exquisite taste of Bombay Sapphire and discover their perfect gin & tonic. With a menu featuring a range of unusual ingredients inspired by the artful creation of Bombay Sapphire and its vapour infused 10 exotic botanicals, guests can create their own bespoke gin & tonic to suit their taste.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the start of Spring.

More information on the Rooftop Retreat and Bombay Sapphire gi masterclasses here.

SmartBuyGlasses – Floral Frames for Spring

As ever London seems to be teasing us with a taste of Spring. The blossom is out and the sun’s occasional appearance means there is an excuse to buy yourself a seasonal pair of sunglasses and a new bikini. SmartBuyGlasses are my go to website for the cheapest designer glasses and contact lenses, and this year they are showcasing a range of pretty floral frames to get you in the mood for warmer weather.

With over 30,000 pairs of designer sunglasses to choose from there are styles to suit all, and with their shopping guides and Virtual Try On feature, SmartBuyGlasses help you find the right pair quicker than any other site. I love the unique collections from Woodys Barcelona, Matsuda and Adidas Originals, as well as classics from Ray-Ban, Prada and Tom Ford. 

These sophisticated Dolce & Gabbana frames have a lovely light pattern that will look great with a tan. The feminine shape will compliment a pretty Springtime look, and the good quality frames will outlast the sunshine.

Maui Jim Silk Orginals

Make your sunglasses more effective than ever with the SmartBuyGlasses prescription lenses, which are anti-scratch, anti-reflective and UV protective. Or if you prefer, wear contacts with the normal lenses to give you versatility in temperamental weather. I love these Maui Jim Silk frames with floral arms, great for men or women.

For a sportier look, go for a pair of Adidas Originals with wacky tropical floral design. These casual frames will look great for a game of volleyball on the beach or for sundowners in the city. Priced at just £81.95 on SmartBuyGlasses, they are as affordable as they are chic.

SmartBuyGlasses have the largest selection of designer eyewear online, and you can trust that their collections are always up to date with the season’s latest trends. Shop online now here.

The Ninth, Charlotte Street

After spending five months on the road it has been a joy to rediscover the food scene in London. The Ninth is one of the many new restaurants to arrive in the capital recently. I rarely visit any eatery more than once, but in the last two months I’ve been to The Ninth twice, an obvious sign of my admiration. This sophisticated but discreet venue on Charlotte Street is the first solo venture for Jun Tanaka, a chef whose previous credits include stints at The Square, Brasserie Chavot and Pearl. He has created a menu which celebrates the seasons with imagination and flare, and the dishes served have a French feel while illustrating Tanaka’s eclectic influences.

The Ninth is particularly reasonable at lunch when two plates cost £17, or three are £21. I found the menu exciting and varied with deliciously inventive dishes like Nettle and fregola risotto with grelot onions and yoghurt or the vibrantly fresh and simple Asparagus with truffle butter and crispy egg. One of my favourite dishes was the crispy duck salad with blood orange and pomegranate, the perfect combination of irresistible meat with sweet tangy fruit.

Venture off the set menu to enjoy richer recipes from the a la carte. The dishes change regularly depending on produce. When I visited I enjoyed the silkiest cut of lamb with a Mediterranean mix of wild garlic, tomato confit, courgettes and lemon.

Dessert was my favourite course. The Pain Perdu with vanilla ice cream was utterly delicious, a melt-in-the-mouth sugary delight that was both light but indulgent. Guests can also choose to order the Tarte Tatin to share with rosemary ice cream, a classic French pudding made in a rustic style with an unusual flavour of accompanying ice cream.

This little unsuspecting venue is one of my favourite new eateries to eat at. With an inspiring menu of delicious dishes and prices that won’t make you wince, The Ninth is the perfect place to dine on Charlotte Street.

More information and book a table at The Ninth here.