Smokehouse, Islington – A birthday celebration

For my impending 35th Birthday hubby treated me to a meal at Smokehouse in Islington. I love meat and smoked meat is even better!

We had a reservation for 6pm on a Saturday, just a short walk from Highbury & Islington station and we were promptly seated in an empty restaurant, evening sittings start from 6pm.

Our waitress was very friendly, talked us through the specials and made recommendations which we followed. The menu had a Korean infusion twist, and we chose the following…

Starters

Chopped Brisket Roll + Gochujang

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Chopped Brisket Roll + Gochujang

This was amazing. I got very giddy when it was placed in front of me as it looked like my second favourite food – croquette potatoes! Sorry, I know, but I can’t help it – I love them!

This was not a croquette potato, it was just a deep fried brisket roll, but it was delicious. Before I ordered I checked what gochujang was, and it is a spice Korean mayonnaise. It complimented the roll well, and was very tasty. I was reluctant to share this dish with hubby, but I knew I just had to try what he had.

Thai Chicken Livers, Toast & Duck Hearts

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Thai Chicken Livers, Toast & Duck Hearts

I only had a little taste of this, but it did include a duck heart. This was the first time I have ever tried one, it was a little chewy! The chicken liver pate was tasty but looked like it the dish would have benefitted from having more on the toast.

Main Courses

Hubby & I chose these together to we could share half & half.

Smoked Duck, Kimchi & Potato Cake

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Smoked Duck, Kimchi & Potato Cake

This was delicious, the duck looks like it is mainly cooked through the smoking process. (I was initially worried it was raw!). I had tried Kimchi when I was in China once, and this version was far superior giving the dish a nice little kick. The egg was a nice touch on the top. I was reluctant to share the other half of this.

“The Sphere” Smoked Hame Hock, Pigs Cheek & Cuttlefish Romesco

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“The Sphere” Smoked Ham Hock, Pigs Cheek & Cuttlefish Romesco

The Sphere looked like a giant arancini, it came on a bed of pasta, and was extremely tasty. By the time I moved onto my half I was getting stuffed. This dish was quite rich, and the smoked pig cheek lardons were to die for.

Side Dish

This dish was recommended by our waitress and we heard a few of the other servers recommending to tables around us. I’d never had goat before, so was game to try it.

Goat Bolognese

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Goat Bolognese

The goat was slow cooked and was so soft and stringy it melted in the mouth. It tasted quite similar to lamb (in my opinion), and I really liked this dish. Again it was quite rich, and this would have been nice as a meal on it’s own. Perhaps with the Lamb Stovies, another side that I lusted after, but was glad we didn’t succumb as I was almost beat by the end of the main course…

However, I just had to try a desert!

Double D Tart

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Double D Tart

Similar to a Double Decker (but for legal reasons abbreviated to Double D) this had a rice crispie base, nougat middle, peanut butter(?) and a chocolate top. Accompanied by pistachio ice cream. I was a little disappointed with this as it didn’t really taste of anything, and was troublesome to get through the crispy base without catapulting a piece across the table.

Drinks

Hubby loves a good craft beer, so he sampled at least 3 different beers all served in 2/3 pints, including the Redhook Longhammer & Rogue Dead Guy Ale. He finished his evening with an aperitif of Express Coffee Liqueur, which he discovered was basically Tia Maria – oh how I laughed!

I had a couple of glasses of the Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2008, which was lovely, and an Aperol Spritz.

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The meal for two came to around £120 including a 12.5% service charge. The staff were very friendly, knowledgable and helpful that I had no qualm with the level of the service charge. The restaurant is small and intimate and a nice atmosphere. It has a bar area, and with over 20 craft beers definitely worth a revisit  for hubby to try a few more. Plenty of other dishes on the menu to try on a future visit too. Can’t wait!

Rock Lobsta @ Mahiki – Soft Launch Review

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I’ll admit that I am no culinary reviewer, but thought I would give my views on our visit to Rock Lobsta @ Mahiki last night.

Hubby managed to bag a table for 19.45 last night as we have a new found love for lobster. They had great pre-dinner customer service, phoning to confirm reservation, and re-iterating that this was a soft launch so our patience and understanding would be appreciated.

We arrived early so headed downstairs to the cocktail bar for an aperitif. I had never heard of Mahiki before, hubby tells me this could be the bar Prince Harry got kicked out of, I haven’t googled to confirm or deny this info. The bar is quite a strange concept for Mayfair, I was expecting more sophistication rather than a full on cheesy tiki affair. What can I say I loved it!

Cocktails were reasonably priced, although at that early hour could benefit from a happy hour to draw more people in, and all cocktails are served in novelty vessels such as heads, shells etc!

The restaurant was situated up a floor. We had a nice table in the corner, although the table was a little too high for my short stature, and the lighting a little too ambient.

We were served promptly from a friendly waiter.

Initially we ordered two snacks for starter Soft Shell Crab & Lobster Corndogs, and a for main course we were going to share a whole Native lobster with extras of salad & dripping chips. Whilst our starter came we debated as to whether a whole lobster would be enough to share, so relented and ordered another Half lobster just in case.

The starters were delicious with the soft shell crab beating the corndogs.

Our main courses came out separately, but the waiter was very apologetic and kept advising that it wouldn’t be long. I finished the half before the whole came out, but this was not a major issue. The chips didn’t seem very dripping like, and our salad turned into greens. Not major issues given it was a soft launch, and hubby really liked the Greens so that was an extra bonus.

How was the lobster? Fantastic, if a little small. It had a nice smoked chilli butter which made it so tasty. We are relative lobster novices so never sure if we get the most out of a lobster, unlike the lady on the table next to use that sucked every last bit!

We were full from all the savoury so didn’t try a dessert.

As it was a soft launch the bill had 50% off food, and this made the meal good value, had it been full price I probably would have been disappointed as you can get Lobster for £20 at Burger & Lobster, whereas they charge £32 for a lobster.

Always surprises me that you only get one claw, but guess they have to make the corndogs out of something 😉

I would recommend it for the experience and atmosphere. Really attentive staff and good grub. I hope it does well!

Smiley London Collection as Music Ambassador!

Just wanted to share some work related blogs. I work for Smiley, who own the iconic Smiley logo, and license out to over 200 companies. This is some of their recent PR with Celebrities & Musicians.

Stooshe were spotted wearing our Smiley London collection  – Cool!

Smiley London Collection as Music Ambassador!.

STK London – Anniversary Meal

For our 2nd anniversary we decided to try STK at the ME hotel on The Strand.

The hotel and restaurant are part of The One Group who are also the owners of The Cosmopolitan, where we stayed for our honeymoon in Vegas, so it was an apt choice to go for our meal.

We reserved around 2 weeks in advance and could only get an early sitting of 6pm, with a 2 hour time limit for the table.

The hotel is quite understated from the outside, so not easy to spot, but sits on the island between Aldwych and The Strand, so not too difficult really.

The restaurant is very stylish, with a dark and glitzy look. A nice selection of booths and tables, with ample space, so you don’t feel like your all squished in together.

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Our waiter was very attentive and took great pride in telling us how lively the place got later, with dancing on the tables when the DJ cranked up the volume. Seeing as we had to leave by 8pm this was a cunning ploy to pique our interest and maybe try for a later sitting next time.

We ordered a Cocktail for me, Oh L’Amour, and Beer for Hubby.

For food we chose the Chateaubriand to share, Lobster Mac & Cheese and Parmesan Truffle Chips. The main also came with Foie Gras and Spinach. The meat was cooked perfectly and there was plenty of it, so much we took home a doggy bag! The mac & cheese was delicious, and chips super tasty!

With my steak I had a glass of white wine and hubby a glass of Malbec.

Hubby had spotted a Cheese & Champagne restaurant earlier in Coventry Garden, so he already had dessert sorted, so I opted for the Cold Chocolate Fondant. It was amazing! The base had popping candy in it, and the orange sauce was lovely.

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At every course the waiter had some interesting fact to share about what we were eating or drinking, and was a great host for the evening, always ensuring we had enough water etc.

The atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable. Food was perfect, and not too unreasonable for central London.

We have seen how lively The Cosmopolitan got as the evening drew on, so can only imagine what STK London could be like after dark.

Only negatives would be the distance to the toilets – around 4 flights downstairs. And the fact that the service charge doesn’t go just to your waiter/waitress, but to the restaurant. This isn’t a big surprise, it was more the fact that they point this out on the bill, which almost guilts you into adding extra to the 12.5% already on your bill.

We would definitely go back to try some of the other items on the menu, especially their great choice of cocktails.

LONDON – Dirty Martini – Chocolate Heaven

I recently went to the Covent Garden Dirty Martini, and I just had to post a blog about the experience.
Now I know I’ll probably be told by all you experts that it’s not the best bar in London, but compared to many of the bars found in the Covent Garden area I really liked it.
Plus the Chocolate Martini blew me away! I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

I actually started the evening with a Strawberry & Rhubarb Fizz, which consisted of fresh strawberry and rhubarb puree and Crème de Fraise syrup, topped with Prosecco. This was very nice and light, however the fruit was a little stringy, and I often had bits of fruit hanging out my mouth after every sip – attractive!

Strawberry & Rhubarb Fizz

Strawberry & Rhubarb Fizz

I then thought I would try a house speciality, seeing as I haven’t had a Martini before, the Chocolate Martini caught my eye straight away, consisting of Absolut Vanilla Vodka, Frangelico hazelnut liqueur and Crème de Cacao, shaken with cream and cocoa.

OMG! It was AMAZING!

What is even more amazing is that they have Happy Hour everyday, and these two drinks are half price, amongst other Martinis, and Prosecco cocktails – BARGAIN!

Link to their drinks menu here

The Covent Garden venue is quite small, and most tables were reserved for later that evening, so it’s a great venue if you book, or just going in for a quick couple of drinks, and there’s not too many of you.

Dirty Martini - Covent Garden

Dirty Martini – Covent Garden


Service is good, they happily corrected their mistake when I received a Tropical Pear Martini instead of Chocolate (very tasty as well!), and the waitresses are very attentive as soon as you finish your drinks. They even have a good selection of bar snacks, not sure where they fitted the kitchen though!

I would definitely go back again and recommend to friends. Did I mention that they do an amazing Chocolate Martini?

Images from http://dirtymartini.uk.com/covent-garden/gallery.php

Nervous Networking: A Silicon Drinkabout event

The other week I decided to do something very brave and out of character. I decided to put myself in a room with some complete strangers and force myself to network.

“But surely that’s what you do at Band of Bakers” I hear you cry. But that’s different, as at least we have baking in common to talk about.
Randomly this was a techy networking event called Silicon Drinkabout, and apart from a Digital Media degree from 2002, my superb social media skills and “crappy” (husband’s words not mine!) online gaming that’s about as techy as I get!

So what made me put myself in this awkward situation? Two words Mind Candy. I love what these guys have done with their online game Moshi Monsters, particularly with their consumer products and licensing program that has stemmed from the success of the game.
Coming from a licensing and product development background myself it’s great to see how a start up IP has gained momentum and is being marketed so well and that is just in the UK, so far!

Plus I was very intrigued to see their offices as apparently it had a slide!

Mind Candy has been voted one of the best employees in London and have employed over 100 people in the last 12 months, and hosting the Drinkabout is just one of many ways they look to recruit new (mainly) techy staff.

The Drinkabout is actually organised by a group called the 3beards, they do indeed have beards. It was through twitter that I found out about this gathering at Mind Candy’s new HQ near Old Street.
I tweeted Silicon Drinkabout with my concerns that maybe I wasn’t techy enough, but they instantly replied saying ‘all were welcome’.

What further encouragement did I need? Errr? Actually courage!

This came in the form of another random tweeter who wanted to rock up and have a nosey at the new offices (you know who you are!). So after checking she wasn’t a murderer, I.e. check her twitter photo and last few tweets to check they didn’t contain any murderous inclinations, I tweeted to see if she wanted company to crash the event. Luckily she said yes and team ‘Drinkabout crash’ was formed.

Talking to strangers is hard, even harder when you don’t actually work in their field. Most of our conversations lasted a maximum of 10 minutes. The longest conversation was with Jack McCall of Mind Candy. It must be weird having all these random strangers rock up to your work place, but all the Mind Candies seemed to take it in their stride.

The idea behind the Drinkabout is a brilliant one, particularly with the amount of startups we have in London and the Google Campus, there was definitely a lot of investment hunting going on that evening.
My networking skills improved by 100% but more practice is definitely needed, and strangely I felt comfortable around the techies.

Who knows I may even rock up to another in the near future…now where did I store that courage? And that video camera 😉

How rubbish am I?

True to form I have neglected my blog posting. Lucky this blog is not a pet otherwise the RSPCA would be onto me.
I have no excuse other than laziness as it’s not like I haven’t got things to write about, and with my memory it’s unlikely I’ll remember them all now. Since I last blogged I’ve hosted Christmas, run another 10k, signed up for a half marathon, did some techy/geeky networking with a complete stranger I met on Twitter and lots more. The only thing I haven’t be doing much of is baking, but that all changed last night. (Blog to follow).

I solemnly promise to keep up with my blogging, lets call it a March resolution. Plus I was very surprised when one of my friends said ‘You haven’t done a blog for ages – come on I’m waiting!’ So this is me ‘coming on’ so you can wait no longer, plus more to follow – Brownies promise.

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