Saturday, 5 January 2013

Afternoon tea at Athenaeum Hotel

As a little Xmas holiday treat this year, I took A to afternoon tea as
he has never been all the years he'd lived in London.

This is probably the best afternoon tea I've ever been to. The combination of
the exquisite sandwiches, scones and patisserie served in three
courses, private sumptuous settings, unlimited tea changes and
attentive service. I can see why this place won the Tea Guild Awards
for 2012. All the more fun being A's first ever afternoon tea.

Love love loved it!

First course of sandwiches - you can have as much as you like!

Ham and marmalade, cucumber, smoked salmon, egg mayo and turkey and cranberry. All so simple but executed perfectly on beautiful soft bread.

Our second course of hot buttery scones and being festive menu, mince pies.

Grand finale of the dessert trolley

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Monday, 19 March 2012


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"Bouillabaisse with haddock, sea bass, line caught cod, prawns and scallops. A bit deluxe for a Monday night but really felt like it. "


3 pounds of at least 3 different kinds of fish fillets, fresh or quick frozen (thaw first)
1/2 cup Olive oil
1-2 pounds of Oysters, clams, or mussels
1 cup cooked shrimp, crab, or lobster meat, or rock lobster tails
1 cup thinly sliced onions
4 Shallots, thinly sliced OR the white parts of 2 or 3 leeks, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large tomato, chopped, or 1/2 cup canned tomatoes
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2-inch slice of fennel or 1 teaspoon of fennel seed
3 sprigs fresh thyme or 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2-3 whole cloves
Zest of half an orange
1/2 teaspoon powdered saffron
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup clam juice or fish broth
2 Tbps lemon juice
2/3 cup white wine

Sliced French bread
1 Tbsp hot fish stock or clam broth.v
2 cloves peeled garlic
1 small red hot pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup soft white bread, pulled into bits
1/2 cup olive oil


  1. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large (6-qt) saucepan. When it is hot, add onions and shallots (or leeks). Sauté for a minute, then add crushed garlic (more or less to taste), and sweet red pepper. Add tomato, celery, and fennel. Stir the vegetables into the oil with a wooden sppon until well coated. Then add another 1/4 cup of olive oil, thyme, bay leaf, cloves and the orange zest. Cook until the onion is soft and golden but not brown.
  2. Cut fish fillets into 2-inch pieces. Add the pieces of fish and 2 cups of water to the vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Add oysters, clams or mussels (though these may be omitted if desired) and shrimp, crabmeat or lobster tails, cut into pieces or left whole.
  3. Add saffron, salt, pepper. Add clam juice, lemon juice, and white wine. Bring to a simmer again and cook about 5 minutes longer.
  4. At serving time taste and correct the seasoning of the broth, adding a little more salt or pepper if need be, and maybe a touch of lemon juice. Into each soup bowl place a thick slice of crusty French bread, plain or slighlty toasted. Sppon the bouillabaisse over the bread. If desired, serve with Sauce Rouille.
Serves 6.

Add 6 scallops pan fried over high heat for deluxe version.

Blitz some of the fish and soup together to get a velvety soup to pour over the fish, prawns and scallops.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Bright Courtyard, London

Bright Courtyard sits directly opposite the Royal China Club on Baker Street and it's easy to contemplate that this restaurant was intended to challenge the RCC in the posh Chinese restaurant stakes.  The modern Chinese decor reminded us a bit of the Princess Gardens in Mayfair.  Our friends G&S had stumbled upon this place to avoid yet another frustratingly long wait at the popular Royal China restaurant (not to be confused with the posh Royal China Club) further down Baker Street.  They had raved about the hot towels and good food so we had to come and see for ourselves.

Uncharacteristically, A and I decided to ride our bikes down on this lazy Sunday morning.  Narrowly avoiding being squashed by three buses on the busy Baker Street I was relieved to arrive at Bright Courtyard safely, and see that there were bike racks directly outside the entrance.  Fab, we can even keep an eye on the bikes through the floor to ceiling windows!

We were seated quickly upon entry - though there was mild confusion at which the waitress was about to seat the elderly couple with their grandkids at our table.  I had to chortle back a laugh as the grandpa gestured to his own table as if to say "Sorry I think we're going to sit at a separate table".  The tables were well spaced out and our table for 6 would normally probably sit 8 at other Chinese restaurants. 

But for us, it's always about the food and we were delighted as we worked our weigh through the dim sum favourites.  The skin of the Shanghainese dumplings (小笼包) were so delicate that it was reminiscent of Ding Tai Feng (鼎泰奉) in Yong Kang street in Taipei.  The top was a little thickly creased and filling a little firm but perfectly delicious morsel.  The shrimp dumplings (虾饺) were full of plump whole shrimp pieces, and the pork puff pastry (叉烧酥) delightfully crunchy. The turnip cake (萝卜糕) was a little lacking in the mushroom and Chinese sausage goodies - but aren't they always in Chinese restaurants - though very moist and tender.  On G&S's recommendation we tried the cuttlefish cheong fun (鱿鱼肠粉) - we'd never had it before - and it was a lot of fun. Crisp pieces of cuttlefish deep fried then wrapped in cheong fun. What's not to love! 

All the dim sum are on the small side, but seems somewhat appropriate considering the delicateness of the chef's handiwork.

The final test was the dessert.  I'd been disappointed by Princess Garden's Heavenly Scent (杨子甘露) dessert which is a sweet cold dessert made up of mango blended coconut milk, sago balls, grapefruit pieces and (very importantly) fresh* mango.  I'm pleased to report that unlike Princess Garden's dessert, the Heavenly Scent was in fact made of fresh mango as promised by the waiter.  Ok so the mango was a little on the green side ... but it was indeed fresh!

All in all, excellent dim sum, ability to book and decent service and having found an alternative quiet bike route (on our way back) means this place is going to be our choice of dim sum venue from now on.  We can't wait to go back to see if this place holds up!

43-45 Baker Street London,W1U 8EW | Tel: 0207 4866 998
Bookings recommended (online booking available)

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Le Relais secret sauce

Our adaption of a recipe from the internet:

1 cup dry white wine
1 cup minced shallots
6 anchovy fillets, chopped
1 cup low-sodium beef broth 
100 gms unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh chervil
1/2 cup chopped fresh tarragon
(and any other herbs you like)
2 tablespoons mustard

Either using the pan the steaks were cooked in, or another pan:

Add the wine to pan and deglaze all
the nice brown bits, dislodging them with a wooden spoon if necessary. 

Add the beef stock, shallots, anchovies, and cook until the liquid reduces to a glaze.  Make sure you reduce the sauce sufficiently at this point to around one cup (but its not too salty).

Remove from heat, whisk in the butter a couple of cubes at a time, then add the mustard and finally add the herbs.  

For the next recipe, we'd probably try adding some green peppercorns at the start and possibly even some bone marrow for more depth of flavor! 

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Shanghainese sweet & sour porks ribs (糖醋排骨)

I've always loved these sweet & sour pork ribs, with their sticky molassy brown sauce and the meat meltingly tender just about pulling away from the bone.

I found a recipe from Chinese website, which is surprisingly quick.  I would have thought it takes hours to get the ribs tender and sticky but you could get this dish sorted within an hour.  The original recipe is here in Chinese, and I've posted my English translation below with a few of my own additions.


  • pork spare ribs - 1 kg
  • salt - 3 grams
  • spring onions - 6 stalks, sliced into 5-6 cm lengths
  • ginger - 6 slices
  • rice wine - 2 tbspn
  • light soy sauce (生抽) - 3 tbspn
  • dark soy sauce (老抽) - 2 tbspn
  • rice vinegar - 5 tbspn
  • white sugar - 45 grams
  • white sesame seeds - 1/2 tspn
  • springs of coriander (as much as you like)
As with most Chinese cooking, the above quantities are suggestions and while it works well, you can definitely adapt it to your own taste buds.


  1. Cut the pork ribs into 4 cm lengths.  I use a large cleaver for this and swing it down heavily to get a clean cut.  Place ribs in a bowl with the rice wine and 1 tbpsn of the light soy sauce.  Mix well and leave to marinate for 20 mins. 
  2. Heat up a saucepan, then add around 2-3 tbspn of oil and heat using a high flame.  When the oil is hot, turn the heat to medium and pan fry the ribs until they are half cooked, moving the pieces about when they are frying.  Remove the ribs from the pan.
  3. Add a little more oil to the pan.  Once the oil is hot, add the spring onion and ginger and cook for a minute or two until fragrant.  Add the half cooked ribs, the remainder of the soy sauce and sufficient hot water to just cover the ribs.  Then add the white sugar and rice vinegar.  Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes, check the flavour of the sauce.  If its not salty enough, add a little bit more sauce.  Afterwards, turn up the heat to high to reduce the sauce. Keep on high heat until the sauce has reduced and thickened to a nice sticky gravy.  This may take 5-15 mins depending on how hot your high heat is! 
  5. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and coriander. 
  6. Serve with plain white rice & lots of Chinese greens like baby bok choi (these are so rich you'd want something quite light).

I've found that this sweet & sour sauce is also great for coating a crispy pork belly (I'll post the recipe to that next time!).

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Guacamole kinda afternoon

GU chocolate cheesecakes

Just love the gorgeous ramekins they come in, so handy for making more home cooked desserts or holding dips or sauces!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Banana "bruffins"

We were recently left with a lot of ripe bananas and I couldn't quite face another banana in my morning cereal so A decided to make a banana loaf from Mary Berry's "Baking Bible".  Unfortunately we realised we didn't have any bread tins in the house so these "bruffins" (bread muffins) were born.

You'll need:

100 g softened butter
175 g caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas
225 self-raising flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons milk

(Makes 12 muffins)

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius.  Line a 12 x muffin tray with muffin paper cups.

2.  Place all the measured ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat for about 2 minutes until the mixture is just evenly combined.  Be careful not to overbeat the muffin mixture otherwise they will taste a little tough.  Divide the mixture up into the 12 muffin cups evenly.

3.  Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20 mins until the tops of the muffins are just golden and they are well risen.  A fine skewer inserted should come out clean.  Leave to cool in the muffin trays.

You can serve these with vanilla ice-cream as a dessert or have a couple for breakfast with a tall glass of milk. 

Enjoy! :)

Sunday, 19 December 2010

It's just so pretty when it snows

In London ...

We woke up to a blanket of snow on Saturday, which continued throughout the day.  It looked more like a french ski resort than NW London.  Somehow the snow just makes everything look so clean and enchanting, a bit of a winter wonderland.

Very very pretty and great day to stomp outdoors with my mukluks. 

A bit more and we would have gotten out the snowboards I think!