Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Take to the Streets with Voltaire this Spring at Crowne Plaza London City

Voltaire Champagne & Cocktail bar, nestled in the vaults of the Crowne Plaza London City (across from Blackfriars Station in London) celebrated two special associations recently with a lavish launch for media, journalists and bloggers.

First of all the bar is working closely with three pop up restaurants over the next three months; Bill or Beak, The Cheese Truck and Randy’s Wing Bar.  Each one of these pop ups will take over a part of Voltaire’s kitchen Wednesday to Friday evenings (5:30pm – 10:00pm) for about a month and produce a small range of their signature food for customers of the bar.
The Cheese Truck, known for their meltingly gooey toasties served from their bright yellow food truck, will be in residence 25 March – 10 April 2015. Using artisan cheese and local free-range produce they will feature Classic Keen’s cheddar, Ogleshield and mixed onion; Cropwell Bishop Stilton, sweet cure bacon and pear chutney; Rosary goat’s cheese, honey, walnuts with rosemary butter and Queso Chihuahua cheese, choritzo and rocket.
Bill or Beak will serve fully loaded burgers 15 April – 22 May 2015. The burgers will be filled with either duck (bill) or chicken (beak) and topped with unusual sauces and served in a toasted brioche bun.
Bill: shredded duck and pork, topped with spring onions, coriander, mint and a Vietnamese dressing with tempura shallots.
Beak: grilled, corn-fed chicken drizzled with Caeser dressing topped with tempura capers, rosemary croutons and fresh Parmesan.
Sides of fries topped with hoisin, pickled cucumber mayo and finished with chicken scratchings.

Randy’s Wing Bar is a wonderful addition to the London street food scene with American style chicken wings will be at Voltaire 6 May – 22 May 2015.
Buffalo wings with blue cheese and celery; Asian wings sprinkled with crushed fried peanuts and toasted sesame seeds as well as Buffalo shrimp with a lemon and dill dip.

The Voltaire bar is cosy and comfortable and as well as ample seating inside also has a smoking passage and several little alcoves built into the wall which have recently been decorated with a whiskey theme by Glen Fiddich. You can book these alcoves if you want a cosy and private seating place, they are heated and tables have room for a large ice bucket should you have champagne or white wine to keep cool!
The second collaboration is with The Amy WinehouseFoundation, run by Amy’s father, singer and band leader, Mitch Winehouse. 
The foundation works closely with young people who are trying to recover from drug and alcohol addictions. The three paintings of Amy in the background of the photo will be auctioned at a gala event at The Savoy to raise funds for the foundation.
Everyone had a great time listening to some wonderful jazz music, drinking prosecco and eating the plentiful street food.  If you are in London pop into Voltaire’s Champagne & Cocktail Bar especially during their Tastes Of The Street this Spring promotion Wednesday – Friday evenings, 25 March – 22 May (5:30 pm – 10:00 pm).

I was an invited guest to the Tastes of Street Food launch. I was not required to write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Crowne Plaza London City - Dicinnove Restaurant Review

I like popping into London with Mr R for some quiet 'us' time.  We were invited to try the Crowne Plaza London City across from Blackfriars Station. Inside the hotel there are two top class restaurants, Chinese Cricket Club and across the entrance hall the Italian restaurant Diciannove19 the heart and soul of Italian cuisine.

It was the Diciannove we were dining in on this occasion.

Our Hostess, Danielle asked if we wanted time between courses to relax which was exactly what we wanted.  I also asked for Danielle's recommendations and put our meal in her hands.
While we read the menu we had a huge and beautiful wooden bread bowl to nibble on and which would go really well with our starter.  The different breads are made in their own kitchens daily.
We started with a sharing platter - Il Supremo which can be ordered to serve 1-2, 3-4 or 4-6 people.

I really like the new trend in sharing platters.  Ours had loads of goodies such as Fried Calamari, fried zucchini, proscuitto toscano, fennel salami, mortadella di bologna, parmegiano reggiano, mozzarella cheese and pickles.

We then had a pasta course.  I had the Tagliatelle al Ragu, a sauce of slow cooked beef and pork chunks so tender they were just falling apart in a tomato based sauce full of flavour and fresh herbs.
Mr R had the Spaghettini All'astice - pasta with a fresh lobster, pigato (a wine made from the white pigato grape), thyme and fresh tomato sauce.
At this point we should have stopped but Danielle wanted us to try the main courses.  I ordered the Pesce Spada, a char-grilled swordfish steak with cherry tomatoes and rocket salad.  I put the slice of lemon in view for the photo to give an impression of the size of the swordfish.  It was HUGE but perfectly cooked, medium rare and so much taste.  I must admit I struggled to finish it but persevered!
Mr R ordered the Fegato dei Vitello a calves liver with a sauteed spinach, raising, pine kernels and balsamic reduction.  The Italians cook calves liver to perfection, tender and without a strong 'liver' taste, subtle and tasty.  Mr R always orders calves liver in an Italian restaurant and this one certainly did not disappoint!
I do like to order a dessert but I am afraid we were so full there was no way we could eat another mouthful.  The temptation to order the Tiramisu was great but I had to say no.  I would like to pop in for coffee and pudding some other time when I could do it justice and really enjoy it.

A Grappa Ian Italian liqueur made from grapes) and a coffee and we were ready to wend our way home. Our train home to St Albans stopped right across the street at Blackfriars station. This was one occasion I wished we had booked a room in the hotel so we could just float upstairs to sleep!

I was a guest of Crowne Plaza London City and was not required to write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Sunday Soup - Pig Pick -n- Vegetable in North Carolina!

Anytime we have a Sunday roast I will boil up any bones and make a soup for Sunday evening and maybe Monday lunches.

At a family engagement party in North Carolina last weekend we had a pig roast or 'pig pick' as they call it down south.  Believe me there are some serious bones left after that!!
When the guests were finished demolishing the roast pig I wanted to save the bones for stock. This was a stock opportunity I didn't want to miss!
I asked my sister if she wanted me to make some stock from the bones, she didn't but the chief pig pick chef, Dan wanted me to come back the following day and make him some soup. We were all invited back for lunch on Sunday which was a great opportunity to make the stock and soup in situ.

The cabin was equipped with a large stock pot, just perfect for fitting in all the pig bones, some laden with meat.
All of the bones including the trotters (feet) went into the stock pan!
While I was working on my soup Dan was making some fried Hush Puppies - little balls of a local dough deep fried and served warm and crispy.
The final soup bubbling away.  Dan had asked for some fresh curly kale to be added to the final mixture.  There was nothing in the soup except a home made stock from the bones, carrot, onion, celery, pepper, courgette, kale and the meat from the bones along with some salt & pepper and some spices from the larder.  This was a pot full of home made goodness!
My sister used some of the bones to make a green split pea soup as well.
Everyone was so interested in the final product and wanted a cup full. There were some jars left over from the party decorations so we bottled the soup up and gave everyone some to take home!
I had fun making a healthy and nutritious as well ad delicious soup and everyone had something hot with their lunch as well as some to take home. Win-win all around!!

Friday, 13 March 2015

Crowne Plaza Hotel - London Heathrow - Chill out before you fly out!

I hate early morning runs to the airport to check in and then wait around a couple of hours for your flight!  I would much rather stay at a hotel nearby the airport, get up at a more sensible time, HAVE breakfast then make my way to the airport (usually there is some short of transport available).  To this end I booked into the Crowne Plaza - London Heathrow the night before my flight to visit my sister in North Carolina recently.  The hotel has free Wifi and a selection of places to eat and drink.
I think I now know how it feels like to be a celebrity! When we walked up to the reception desk we were greeted like a returning friend. The receptionist said the Duty Manager would like to welcome us personally, phoned him and he came down to offer his services if we needed anything. (I was travelling on my own however Mr R had driven me to the hotel, was staying for something to eat and then going home).
We went up to my room (I was given an upgrade to the lounge floor and access to the lounge - I think this was because I joined their reward program earlier). We had a quick drink in the lounge then went down to the restaurant for dinner. We could have had a selection of nibbles and canapes however we didn't want to spoil our appetites for dinner!
The main restaurant, Orwells, is situated on the ground floor and is warm and inviting but not in your face! I liked that it had an open kitchen.
We both had the same starter, although often we try to pick different items to get as wide an experience as possible however the scallops were sounding too inviting!
The scallops were sitting on a bed of minty pea puree with a stalk of mini pea shoots.  The scallops were seared perfectly, moist and tender not tough.  It is very easy to overcook scallops and these were perfect!
I ordered the 10oz Rib Eye steak.  I usually have my steaks cooked medium rare but it is suggested to have your rib eye cooked medium which I do, The nature of rib eye steak has a bit more fat and benefits from that little more cooking to ensure it is tender, juicy and has a fantastic taste.  This one didn't dissapoint!
I liked the fact that the steaks were served on their own with a garnish with the simplicity making them even more appetising.  I sometimes find the plates filled with the chips or jacket potato and others such as onion rings, tomatoes, mushrooms makes the plate look too full and you almost feel full just looking at it!

Mr R is a rare steak man and he chose the 12oz Sirloin on the Bone.  A sirloin (as I am sure you know) is one side of a T Bone steak and leaving the meat on the bone ensures you get all the lovely beefy flavour.
The steaks came with a sauce on the side - I like my on the side then I can taste it first and put on the plate if I like it.  I had the Bernaise sauce, lovely and creamy and Mr R had the Bacon and Stilton sauce.  They were both delicious with the steak but also doubled as the best creamy salad dressings as well!
We were full and satisfied but not that overstuffed feeling and had enough room for pudding.  I almost always have Tarte Tatin if it is an option.
I also predicted Mr R would have the Stick Toffee Pudding and I was right! Not hard really because he will usually have this if on the menu!
In the morning I had my continental breakfast in the Lounge upstairs but could have gone down to the main restaurant for the full cooked breakfast.  Following checkout I took the Hoppa Bus to the airport terminal which took about 8 minutes door to door and runs every 20 minutes throughout the day.

We are planning another trip this year and next year we have a wedding in the States to attend and will  will certainly be having another overnight stay at The Crowne Plaza - London Heathrow.  You can also arrange a 'Stay-n-Park' with the hotel, leving your car whilst you are away with easy retrieval upon return.

Many thanks to The Crowne Plaza - London Heathrow for their hospitality. I was a paying guest of the hotel but was treated to the meal in the restaurant.  I was not paid to review the restaurant or the hotel nor to write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Giveaway - Premier Housewares Green Leaf Dinner Set

I have mostly white plates and bowls so that I can mix and match with a few chosen more colourful items. Now and again it is nice to  get a set of plates, bowls and mugs that match especially when they will match with the white ones.
Premier Housewares have launched a new collection for this Spring called the Green Leaf collection which includes place mats, drinks mats, oven gloves, beanbag lap tray, machine washable tea towels and more as well as a 16 piece dinnerware set.

The cereal bowls are lovely and deep and the mugs will look lovely anywhere you sit down for a few moments to relax and enjoy a cuppa!
If you want to win a set of Green Leaf collection dinnerware follow the instructions below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway I received a set of Green Leaf collection dinnerware however I was not paid to review them or write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Follow the Yellow, Blue, Green & Red Brick Road - Festival of Holi at Cinnamon Kitchen

Holi is the Indian festival of colour. Cinnamon Kitchen, Vivek Singh's restaurant just a stone's throw from Liverpool Street Station is celebrating it big time.  They have a special arena where participants dress in protective clothing and start throwing coloured powder at each other.

It was colour carnage! You book a 30 minute session and just get your friends and fellow participants covered in colour.
Cinnamon Kitchen will be celebrating Holi until 14 March 2015 as well as getting plastered in colour (optional by the way) they have a special Holi Festival of Colours menu.
Mr R and I were invited to try the Holi menu out. This menu will be available until the 14th March at £30.00 per person and includes tea or coffee and petit fours at the end of the meal.
Mr R picked which red wine he wanted but our waiter politely suggested a different one that would compliment our food even better.  We like this and his suggestion was perfect, a red Portugese, full bodied wine.
While we waited for our starters the Chef sent out a little 'amuse bouche' for us. Little pieces of chickpea cake with a tamarind sauce and on a bed of yoghurt.
We both had the same starter although often we try to have different ones to get to taste a larger selection.  'Bhaditraka' or grilled Kentish lamb escalopes with black stone flower and smoked paprika raita.  The lamb was tender with just the right amount of pink inside.  The green coriander relish had a heat and explosion of lovely flavours in your mouth.
Another little morsel while we waited. A little crispy, deep fried pillow made with chick peas with curry sauce and grated chickpea.
Our 'Rest Course' a 'Thandai' sorbet. I have never had anything like this, sweet and cool but peppery and refreshing at the same time.
I wanted the 'Jhinga malai curry' - King prawns in coconut & cardamon curry with ghee rice.  This was sublime, a touch of warmth in your mouth but never conflicting with the amazing taste of the sauce and the tender (and huge) king prawns. I could eat this on a daily basis!
Mr R fancied the vegetarian option; 'Khumb sarson ka saag' in other words Tandoori mushroom with mustard greens and chickpea bread.
A Selection of Indian Holi sweets; Carrot samosa (really crispy and fresh), pistachio burfi and fig and semolina halwa.  My favourite was the carrot samosa but Mr R raved about the pistachio burfi.

Mr R said of his meal .......
"I would like to confirm that the flavours of the courses we had were very tasty for a person who doesn't like very hot curries these were full of flavour and the whole meal experience was very professional.  Would I recommend a visit? Yes. With the added bonus that it is so close to Liverpool Street Station making travelling to the restaurant very easy.

I have to say the Holi paint options looked far too messy for me but it appeared that many people were enjoying themselves as well."......................

I was a guest of Cinnamon Kitchen and was not paid to write a positive review.  As always all opinions are mine and that of my guest. All photos are my own.