Harry’s Dolce Vita, Knightsbridge

Harry’s Dolce Vita is the new IT restaurant in Knightsbridge, and it felt like I was the last foodie in London to try it. Tucked away behind Harrods, the street is chock-a-block with expensive cars and smartly dressed shoppers. I felt terribly unglamorous in my Mango dress but the friendly and attentive waiters quickly made me feel at home. We sat on the breezy al fresco terrace. Inside, the long dining room is chic and cosy.

Harry's Dolce Vita

The relaxed Italian menu has been created by Executive chef Diego Cardoso. There are plenty of classics to choose from, including Insalata Calprese and Tiramisu, but you can also experience dishes which truly showcase the kitchen’s creativity.

After a refreshing glass of rosemary lemonade I opted for the Fried courgette flowers with courgette, honey, mint and pinenut salad. It was delicate and light, the irresistable crunchy flowers paired with a fresh citrusy salad. Considering the price (£8.95) it was abundant.

Harry's Dolce Vita

For main courses we couldn’t resist sampling a few of the pasta recipes. The eatery’s speciality is Tagoliolini with truffle, parmesan and cream… but it felt too rich in the heat, so instead we chose lighter plates. The pea and mint tortellini was wonderful, little homemade parcels of pasta filled with mint and ricotta in a subtle lemon cream sauce. My only criticism is I felt some of the pasta was a little undercooked, but perhaps that is just my preference.

Harry's Dolce Vita

The 10th of August is the night of San Lorenzo in Italy, when people gather outside to watch the shooting stars. In honour of this special occasion, Harry’s Dolce Vita have created a starry ‘Milky Way’ cocktail and ‘The Comet’ dessert. Creamy, magical and golden this sweet duo is definitely worth ordering if you are visiting today.

Harry's Dolce Vita

The desserts are works of art, and the restaurant is lucky to have a pastry chef of this calibre. The Harry’s Toadstool has become a must on the sweet menu, thanks to its obvious instagrammability. The beautifully constructed toadstool is made from mascarpone mousse and iced vanilla parfait, and is encased in white chocolate. The colour and vibrancy is due to the raspberries and pistachio crumb and the alarmingly green warm pistachio sauce. It was a clever dessert with a balance of sweetness, sour fruit flavours and nutty pistachio texture.

I’m not surprised Harry’s Dolce Vita is packed every mealtime. This stylish eatery is a much-needed culinary asset to the Knightsbridge area, and with reasonable prices, generous portions and friendly service, it surpassed all my expectations… and I can assure you it is not at all style over substance, as first impressions may suggest.

More information and book a table at Harry’s Dolce Vita here.

Things to do in Oaxaca

Oaxaca is the culinary capital of Mexico. This historical town (designated a UNESCO World Heritage site) is found in the heart of the country, 6 hours drive or a short flight from the country’s capital, Mexico City. Oaxaca is known for its charming colonial buildings and colourful murals, which depict scenes from the region’s history. We spent a few days discovering the food and culture of the area, tasting street food and local specialities and travelling out of the town to nearby sights and natural wonders.

Oaxaca

To Stay

Quinta Real Oaxaca – Quinta Real hotel is found in the centre of Oaxaca historic town. The atmospheric building has a long and intriguing history, built in 1576 as the Convent of Santa Catalina de Siena. We were in a spacious ground floor room, a cool and calm place to rest after a busy day exploring.

Oaxaca

To Eat

Boulenc – The ultimate breakfast spot in Oaxaca. This stylishly rustic bakery has an array of fresh pastries every morning, or if you want something more substantial head to the cafe where they serve a menu of irresistable brunch dishes. We visited twice to get our morning coffee and croissant fix, I can highly recommend pain au chocolat and the hot-cakes (gluten-free pancakes with banana, citrus butter, whipped cream, berry sauce, basil and house granola) from the cafe.

Casa Oaxaca – There are two Casa Oaxaca restaurants in town, both are run by the same company, but I recommend heading to the larger ‘El Restaurante’, not the hotel eatery, as there is more choice and you have beautiful views over the town. Star chef Alejandro Ruiz serves up traditional dishes with a creative twist, we enjoyed the crispy duck tacos, rack of lamb with mole, and the vibrant salsa which the staff make for you at the table.

Pan:Am – This fun, neighbourhood bakery serves all-day brunch and bakes wonderful bread and pastries. We visited one morning for their hearty baked eggs and fresh juice.

Casa Taviche – For a reasonably-priced dinner, head to local restaurant Casa Taviche. The colourful eatery is homely and welcoming and the service is very friendly. At lunchtime it is especially cheap… you can get a three course set lunch for £3. For dinner we had comforting sweetcorn soup and pork ribs with red mole, washed down with homemade lemonade.

Criollo – For a special meal in Oaxaca head to Criollo, by Pujol chef Enrique Olvera, who aims to return to his Mexican roots with this beautiful eatery.  There is no a la carte so you have to opt for the tasting menu, 7 courses for £27. The dining space is minimalist and stylish and the food is exciting and delicious, firmly rooted in the traditions of Oaxacan cuisine.

Oaxaca

To Drink

La Mezcaloteca – This unique bar offers in-depth Mezcal tastings and teachings. La Mezcaloteca is dark and intimate, and the staff’s expertise is immediately obvious. Book ahead and sit at the bar for an hour session trying three hand-picked craft mezcals.

Cafe El Volador – Cafe El Volador is a little speciality cafe that serves the best espresso in Oaxaca. Sit at one of the few tables and soak up the atmosphere while getting your caffeine kick.

Sabina Sabe – Head to Sabina Sabe for delicious cocktails, food and a fun evening. We tried a couple of great cocktails – the Trinidad and Pequeño Gigante – and a strong but alluring Mezcal Old Fashioned. Vegetarian Talyudas and Chicarrones were the ideal accompanying snack.

Oaxaca

To Do

Jardin Etnobotanico de Oaxaca – Located in the centre of town, beside the church of Santo Domingo, this stunning and large garden features plants from Oaxaca state. My favourite was the dramatic alley of cacti. Guests can only visit these beautiful botanic gardens on a guided tour – costing £4 per person. There are English tours on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11am, and they also run daily tours in Spanish.

Alvarez Bravo Photographic Centre – Born and raised in Mexico City, Manuel Alvarez Bravo (1902-2002) was one of Latin America’s most important 20th Century photographers. This small gallery space exhibits the work of promising current Mexican and international photographers. Entry is free.

Museo Textil de Oaxaca – Get an insight into Mexico’s tradition of textiles at this calm and colourful museum. Entry is free, but be sure to take some money to spend in the great shop.

Oaxaca

To Shop

Colectivo 1050 – This collective of artists and artisans produce handmade ceramics to celebrate Oaxacan pottery in a contemporary style. The pretty shop has a wide range of special and unique items.

Tienda Q – A high-end concept store selling Mexican clothes, accessories and homeware. The collection is carefully curated and beautifully presented. Look out for the amazing set of coloured wax candles.

Miku Meko Atelier – Get lost in this emporium of lovely things. The shop was opened by Alelí Hernández as a place for female artisans to work independently and sell in a group space. Pick up a one-off ceramic piece, exceptional textiles or a handmade gift to take home.

Lanii Gifts – Lanii concept shop is best known for its woven bags, but you can find so much more in this stunning tiled boutique. Set up by three friends – Sara, Michelle and Sophia – Lanii promotes Oaxacan crafts through a range of colours, textures, materials and dyes. I wanted everything in this chic store.

Oaxaca

To Escape

Hierve el Agua – These natural pools and waterfalls are a 90-minute drive from Oaxaca. Surrounded by stunning scenery, it is best experienced early in the morning before the crowds arrive. Swim in the natural pools, and don’t miss a hike up to the viewpoint.

Mitla Archaeological site – Mitla (meaning ‘underworld’ in Zapotec) is one of Mexico’s best known ruins. There are five groups of buildings to see, look out for the rare tiled structures and don’t miss the eerie underground tombs. Tickets cost £3 per person, and tours are available for those who want a more in depth understanding of the ruins.

Gracias a Dios Mezcal factory – Santiago Matatlan (an hour East of Oaxaca) is known as the world capital of Mezcal. There of hundreds of distilleries in the area, but I recommend a tour and tasting at Gracias a Dios. This charming artisan maker is one of the smaller factories and has been run by the same family for four generations. They produce a range of handmade, double-distilled mezcals, that you can see being made and then taste. Our favourite was the award-winning Espadin Reposado, which is aged for four months in American Oak and has woody taste not dissimilar to bourbon whiskey.

Atzompa – This tiny town is known for its green glazed pottery and tiles. Just a 20 minute drive from Oaxaca, we bought a collection of 12 miniature dishes for just £4.

Monte Alban – This famous archaeological site is the historic capital city of Oaxaca. Dating back to the 8th century, this important collection of ruins consists of pyramids, plazas, underground passageways and tombs. Wander round and take in the panoramic views.

Five new restaurants to try in London this summer

This summer season has already been hotter than most in London, so the restaurants have been emptier and the openings have slowed down. But there are a few new exciting eateries that should be on your radar, from new pasta joints to cocktails & small plate venues. Ottolenghi has a new restaurant making waves in Fitzrovia and zero-waste conscious Native has a new, bigger home in London Bridge. It has also been interesting to watch some of the capital’s best restaurants open second and third venues, building on their reputations and introducing new concepts to London’s thriving culinary scene. Here are five of my favourites to try this summer.

Cora Pearl

Cora Pearl – This Covent Garden restaurant is the new opening from the revered Kitty Fisher team. The name is inspired by a 19th-century courtesan who spent time in London and Paris and lived a life of luxury. The dining room echoes this lavish lifestyle with opulent forest green velvet seating and moody lighting. Chef George Barson has created a short delectable menu showcasing seasonal produce and simple, delicious recipes. Every dish I tried was faultless, from the subtle Cow’s curd agnolotti with truffle to the hearty Pork & Onions. Whatever you do, don’t forget to order a portion of their irresistible chips.

Gazelle

Gazelle – A stylish eatery hidden away in the heart of Mayfair on Albemarle Street. Gazelle is the newest venture from cocktail connoisseur Tony Conigliaro who has curated a menu of sophisticated and innovative drinks to pair with chef Rob Roy Cameron’s bold small plates. The interiors are decadent and sumptuous, with fuchsia pink walls and mustard yellow seating. We loved the Babydoll cocktail and the Leek with chicken and chives.

Rovi

Rovi – Ottolenghi’s new vegetable-centric restaurant opened last month, with a menu that focusses on fermentation and cooking on an open fire. The kitchen is headed up by Neil Campbell who was previously head chef at Grain Store. Highlights from the menu included tempura stems with elderflower vinegar and hot tomatoes with cold yoghurt & Urfa chilli.

Bancone

Bancone – Bancone is the newest homemade pasta eatery in town, opened by restaurateurs William Ellner and David Ramsey of Joanna’s in Crystal Palace. Tucked away on William IV street in Covent Garden Bancone serve a range of unfussy modern Italian cuisine, with a focus on pasta. Of the recipes we tried the simplest potato gnocchi with sage butter was the best – perfectly light and indulgently buttery.

Native

Native – Although not strictly a new opening, Native restaurant has recently made the move south of the river, after being booted out of their previous home in Neal’s Yard. The concept and menu concentrates on foraged food and local British produce. I was very impressed with the zero-waste mentality that sees the kitchen produce beautiful snacks from yesterday’s leftovers. The courgette stalk “penne” was a triumph as were the creative desserts.