Hicce, Coal Drops Yard

Hicce is one of a few new exciting food ventures to open in Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross. Found on the top floor of the Wolf & Badger store, Hicce is the creation of long time friends Pip Lacey and Gordy McIntyre. Pip previously gained experience working with Angela Hartnett at Murano and Gordy has worked for many top restaurant and pub groups.

HicceHicce

At Hicce, Pip uses a specialist holm oak charcoal barbecue to cook the majority of the meat and fish. The dishes showcase the finest seasonal produce and draw inspiration from Pip’s travels. The drinks list features a selection of biodynamic wines, craft beers and creative cocktails, all curated or chosen by Gordy.

Hicce

The whole menu is intended to be shared, but this concept is particularly obvious in the starter section, where diners are encouraged to make up their own cheese and charcuterie board, paired with homemade breads, chutneys and pickles.

From the selection that we chose, I would particularly recommend the Alex cheese (a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese with a wonderful nutty rich flavour) and the speck meat, which was delicious with the divinely soft and pillowy beer bread. My guest also really enjoyed the Octopus salad, a vibrant dish with generous seafood and zingy fennel and seaweed. Also don’t forget to try a couple of the hot sticks… we liked the Chicken thigh with spicy shiso and crispy chicken skin best.

HicceHicce

The main section of the menu sensibly has only a few options, three of each: meats, fish, vegetables and sides. Easily the best plate was the Brussel sprouts, indulgently fried with hazelnuts and kohl rabi. The texture was satisfyingly crisp and they were delicious dunked in the homemade mayonnaise. The Miso potatoes are also a must from the sides, simple barbecue scorched new potatoes served in a puddle of aromatic sweet melted miso sauce.

I really enjoyed my lamb neck with mojo and tomatoes. The meat had a lovely charred flavour, but the accompanying vegetables were a little lack-lustre, presented as a pile next to the lamb. The Halibut with jerusalem artichokes and trompettes was nice, but considering the special ingredients I expected it to shine more.

Hicce

For dessert we tried Pip’s legendary Creme Caramel with muscovado and the decadent Chilli & Chocolate Tart with Ricotta ice-cream. Neither puddings were exceptional, I liked the creme caramel but found it too sweet and samey, while the chocolate tart would probably have tasted better without the chilli, but I did love the ricotta ice-cream.

It was lovely to try Hicce, and meet the friendly, ambitious team. Though the food wasn’t perfect there is so much potential here, I’m sure they’ll iron out the kinks, and Hicce will become a culinary highlight in King’s Cross’ new Coal Drops Yard.

More information and book a table at Hicce here.

Restaurant 22, Cambridge

I haven’t found many exceptional restaurants in Cambridge, so when my chef friend alerted me to her new favourite, Restaurant 22, I was eager to try it.

Restaurant 22 on Chesterton Road has recently been taken over by Alexandra Olivier and Samuel Carter, a local Cambridge couple with lots of ambition and boundless talent.

Restaurant 22

The charming eatery is found in an elegantly restored Victorian townhouse nearby to the River Cam and Jesus Green.

Chef Samuel Carter has worked in some top kitchens across the country, including Maze in London and Hambleton Hall in Rutland, before settling at the helm of his own restaurant in Cambridge. At Restaurant 22 his regularly changing seasonal menu champions the produce from their Cambridgeshire neighbours.

Restaurant 22

We opted for the 5 course tasting menu when we visited for Saturday lunch. But first, we were treated to a few little snacks… my favourite of which was the whipped goats cheese, fig and almond macaron, a sweet and savoury delight. Then came the bread, pillowy soft brioche with salty whipped chicken fat and heavenly Guinness bread with rich and decadent Guinness butter… completely addictive.

Restaurant 22

Each course was thoughtful and immaculate, to start we had Wood pigeon with pear, celeriac and pine. This game dish was an assortment of comforting Autumnal flavours, beautifully cooked meat with velvety smooth celeriac puree and a wonderfully rich jus.

Restaurant 22Restaurant 22

For the next course we enjoyed Cornish mackerel with kohlrabi, lovage & apple and Jerusalem artichoke risotto. The fish course was fresh and vibrant cold dish, a brilliant contrast of flavours and textures. The risotto was completely different… a steaming hot bowl of deliciousness, with rustic woody flavours of artichoke and sage.

Restaurant 22

The main event was a beautiful plate of Mutton, prepared three ways. The different cuts of meat were paired with aromas of cumin, coriander and curry. Each element was wonderful, but together it was a real joy, I particularly loved the curried meatballs. The friendly restaurant team advised us on drinks, and we enjoyed interesting wines that matched well with the food.

Restaurant 22

After so many successful savoury courses I was concerned that the pastry section may not live up to expectations… but I didn’t need to worry as it was as spectacular as the earlier plates. On the menu it was listed simply as ‘Chocolate, coffee, mascarpone’, which instantly reminded me of tiramisu. A striped chocolate and coffee mousse structure was the most striking element on the plate, accompanied with dark chocolate crumb, coffee gel and burnt white chocolate ice-cream. It was a wonderfully balanced dish, and we demolished it in happy silence.

Restaurant 22

The meal concluded with a wooden box filled with sweet treats… chocolate fudge and fluffy marshmallows. I absolutely loved our meal at Restaurant 22 and can’t wait to return to try more of their culinary creations, definitely a new highlight on the Cambridge restaurant scene.

More information and book a table at Restaurant 22 here.

Things to do in Chicago

I had heard Chicago was a city for foodies and art lovers, but I did not expect to also find amazing architecture, charming neighbourhoods and interesting history here. It was brilliant spending four days in the ‘Windy City’ last week, exploring with the Choose Chicago tourist board and discovering the diverse and varied range of activities on offer. Wrapped up warm we ventured out on a river boat tour, ate our way round Chinatown and visited a classic blues bar for legendary late night music. Here are a few of my must-do favourites from the trip… though there is plenty more I’d like to go back for!

Chicago

To Stay

Chicago Athletic Association – This centrally located, historic hotel had years of restoration before its reopening in 2015. There are 241 luxury bedrooms along with a host of great facilities. Don’t miss Milk Room, a hidden eight-seat microbar with a carefully crafted cocktail menu made with only the rarest vintage spirits.

Chicago

To Eat

Lost Larson – Andersonville, a neighbourhood on Chicago’s north side, is known for its Swedish roots. Lost Larson draws on this heritage, a charming Swedish bakery and cafe with the best Cardamon buns in town.

Big Star – This lively Wicker Park hangout is the place to go in Chicago if you have a Mexican food craving. With tasty tacos and great margaritas, you will never fail to have a good time at Big Star.

Little Goat Diner – The ‘Goat’ eateries are top of every foodies ‘to try’ list. There are three venues to choose from, all in the Fulton Market district. Each has a slightly different menu but all have the same mission; to present bold vibrant flavours. I tried Little Goat Diner, a favourite for brunch and loved the quirky dish ‘Little Piggy went to China’ (sesame cheddar biscuit with sunny side eggs, sichuan pork sausage and chilli garlic chive sauce).

Doughnut Vault – If the quaint exterior doesn’t convince you in to Doughnut Vault the scent of sugary goodness will. The tiny bakery has limited stock of their freshly made donuts each day, and they close up when they’ve all sold out. Try the Buttermilk Old Fashioned.

Lao Sze Chuan – This beloved Chinese restaurant serves up irresistible Szechuan cuisine. Found in the centre of new Chinatown, the service is attentive and the prices reasonable. Order the Dry Chilli Chicken and the Garlic Eggplant.

Longman and Eagle – A brunch institution, Longman and Eagle is a hipster spot in Logan Square. The kitchen is known for its farm to table fare… opt for the waffles and fried chicken.

Stan’s Donuts – Stan’s Donuts has long been a favourite for donuts in its LA and California branches. The 50 year old donut company now have several branches in Chicago offering an endless range of donuts, in every flavour imaginable. There are vegan and gluten-free options too.

Dove’s Luncheonette – This easy-going Wicker Park diner is a great weekend brunch option. The interiors are classic and nostalgic and the menu is filled with American comfort food. Sit at the bar and soak up the atmosphere.

Lou Malnati’s – Chicago is known for its Deep Dish Pizza. There is lively debate about the ‘best’ establishment, but Lou Malnati’s features on every must try list. The high-edged pastry leaves plenty of space for layers of cheese, tomato sauce and toppings of choice. Filling, gooey and dangerously delicious.

Bang Bang Pie – For the ultimate afternoon treat head to Bang Bang Pie, where the wholesome pies and savoury dishes satisfy every appetite. The interiors are rustic chic and the service is among the friendliest in Chicago. Try a slice of the Key-Lime Pie or the Autumnal pumpkin pie.

Chicago

To Drink

Sawada – This is the first U.S. coffee shop from world renowned barista and latte art expert Hiroshi Sawada. The coffee is delicious and poured to perfection. Stop by the Fulton Market cafe for a donut and drink… Sawada are known for their matcha drinks, mixed with chocolate and coffee.

CC Ferns – A quaint coffee house in Humboldt Park. The vintage interiors make CC Ferns perfect for a cosy afternoon drink, and the venue is always filled with hipster locals. The cafe offers Doughnut Vault donuts and housemade croissants to accompany your coffee.

Intelligentsia Coffee – There are lots of branches of this failsafe speciality coffee brand in Chicago. The coffee is smooth and delicious, and it’s one of the only independent cafe options in Downtown Chicago… the perfect caffeine-kick to go while you go sightseeing.

Cindy’s Rooftop – The rooftop bar at the top of the Chicago Athletic Association, Cindy’s has a menu of great cocktails and the best panoramic views.

Four Letter Word – Heisner, Ria Neri, and Eylem Ozkaya opened their first coffee shop & roastery in Istanbul serving Turkish-style coffee and single-origin coffees from Central & South America. They have recently opened a second cafe in Logan Square in Chicago and serve some of the best coffee in town. (Opposite the brilliant neighbourhood restaurant, Cellar Door Provisions).

Lost Lake – A tropical tiki bar in Logan Square, Lost Lake is recognised as one of the best cocktail bars in Chicago. The menu pays homage to 80 years of exotic cocktail history, order a bourbon based ‘Hazy Lazy, Like, Kinda Crazy’.

Chicago

To Do

The Art Institute of Chicago – The Art Institute of Chicago, located in Grant Park, was founded in 1879 and is regarded as one of the finest art collections in the world. Wander round the many galleries exhibiting old masters and modern works while looking out for paintings by important artists such as Georges Seurat, Edward Hopper and Grant Wood.

Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture River Tour – Chicago is known for its architecture around the world. This 75-minute boat tour is a great way to see 40 city landmarks, while listening to the expert guide explain the engineering and history behind some of the most prominent skyscrapers.

Buddy Guy’s Legends – This classic blues bar is famous in Chicago for its brilliant band line-up. Head to Buddy’s for the best blues music in town and New Orleans inspired grub.

Skydeck – Head up to the 103rd floor of the Skydeck to see incredible views of the whole city, 1,353 feet below. The building is the highest in the Western Hemisphere, if you are brave enough stand in the overhanging glass boxes for an even more immersive experience.

Chinatown tour – The Chicago Food Planet tours are fun and informative. We enjoyed a 3-hour tour of old and new Chinatown, with 5 tasting stops while also learning about the history of the area. For a more general neighbourhood tour I highly recommend ‘Chicago Greeter’, free tours run by enthusiastic volunteers.

Chicago

To Shop

Martha May Art Supplies & Beautiful Things – This little pink shop is found in the charming neighbourhood of Andersonville in the north of the Chicago. Named after owner Jean Cate’s pet dog Martha, this shop is carefully curated with lovely stationery, specialist art supplies and beautiful objects.

Bari Zaki – Bari Zaki is a wondrous emporium of wonderful stationery and creatively bound books. The shop also hosts bookbinding workshops for those keen to learn the skill.

Norcross & Scott – This lovely furniture and design store is found in Andersonville. The selective collection includes accessories from Tom Dixon, Bend Goods and Norcross & Scott’s own range.

Koval – Established in 2008, Koval is Chicago’s first distillery since the mid-1800s. All the Koval organic craft spirits are made from scratch, and the company is particularly well known for their whiskeys, though they also make vodka, gin and liqueurs. The simple packaging is very stylish, making a bottle of Koval a great gift to take home.

I visited Chicago as a guest of Choose Chicago, more information on the destination here.