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The Truscott Cellar is a wine bar and restaurant in Belsize Park, a residential neighbourhood in North London. As the name implies, it has a strong focus on wine, but food is definitely not an also-ran; the short menu offers a range of small dishes that are delicious, fairly priced and a great sop to the wine. And speaking of  wine, it’s enormously pleasing to note that every single wine listed is available by the glass, carafe or bottle.

There is also a short cocktails list and some decent soft-drink options.

The Truscott Cellar Wine Bar and Restaurant in Belsize Park Londonl - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0236

With glasses of wine served in 125 ml measures, wine lovers can try a wider range than is often the case, and staff are on hand to advise and recommend, if you wish. Pete enjoyed a Muddy Water Pinot Noir from Waipara Valley in New Zealand (£8), a Bodega Ruca Malen Petit Verdot from Mendoza in Argentina (£6.50) and a Chateau Ksara Reserve du Couvent from Bekaa Valley in Lebanon (£5.50).

The Truscott Cellar Wine Bar and Restaurant in Belsize Park Londonl - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0241

The Meat board (£7 per person, one person serving pictured) includes pressed English pork, Potted Duck and Cured beef and is served with celeriac, slices of pickled gherkins, giant capers and crisp sourdough toasts (not shown). Ours also had additional charcuterie items from those mentioned on the menu. Looking around us, this was clearly a popular way to start the evening.

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The Cornish mackerel, purple potatoes, pickled cucumbers, lemon and chervil (£8) was probably my favourite dish of the night. Everything was perfectly cooked, the salad was beautifully dressed and the combination worked wonderfully. And purple potatoes always looks so pretty.

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The beef cheek, smoked mash and crispy shallots (£10) was Pete’s favourite and a very close second for me. Cooked perfectly, the meat was fork-apart tender and rich in flavour. The smoky mash was rich and buttery and with the beef and gravy, made for a supremely comforting dish. One not to be missed!

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The Heritage Potatoes (£6) is a plate of three generously-sized potato cakes – you can order all three the same or one of each flavour. On offer are Westcome cheddar and leek, smoked haddock and spring onion and blackened Lancashire bacon with ragstone cheese and truffle oil. Given the pricing, I’d really like the option of ordering these individually for £2 or even £2.50 each; a plate of three is a lot of spud between two and most fellow diners were solo or in parties of two. Flavours were decent though I’d like a little more of the flavouring ingredients in each potato cake; the truffle oil didn’t come through at all, either on the nose or the palate.

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The chocolate mousse, honeycomb, chocolate soil (£7) dessert was decent with a rich and dark chocolate flavour, but the texture was very dense indeed and had a hint of graininess. The combination with honeycomb was simple but effective.

Although the food is very good, I’d say that Truscott Cellars is aimed at drinkers first, diners second. How so? Tables are tiny oval-topped affairs on which it’s a squeeze to fit drinks and more than two dishes. Given that the menu offers small plate dining, it’s not unreasonable to have three dishes at a time and we only managed by borrowing space on a neighbouring table while we could. As the place filled up, this became less of an option.

The space looks modern and attractive on first glance but it felt to me that it had been designed for style over comfort and without sufficient thought to how the spaces would work when the seats were full of customers – the first table we chose was spaced such that pulling out the chair enough to sit in it meant that it pushed right into the banquette seating of the table behind; we decided to move to another table instead. The decor also seems to have been done on the cheap, with some messiness visible in the finishing.

It was surprising not to have coat hooks available; I’m curious how this will work when it’s raining – will customers really be expected to keep soaking wet coats with them at their tables? When I wondered where I should put mine, a member of staff did agree to take and store it for me, but this is clearly not the default option.

That said, within less than a month of opening, the place quickly filled up on a Tuesday evening and we were told that some customers were already regulars with multiple visits under their belts.

We enjoyed our evening and would certainly recommend visiting for a few glasses of wine and some tasty dishes.


Kavey Eats dined as guests of The Truscott Cellar.

The Truscott Cellar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Square Meal


The Sky Garden is one of the latest ways to enjoy a birds eye view of London. And it’s free!

Unlike some of the other tall buildings of London, it’s not a gherkin-shaped office block with no public access nor a soaring pay-to-ascend tourist attraction. You don’t even have to book a table for dinner and drinks – you are welcome to enjoy the terrace and garden area completely free, as long as you book in advance.

The Sky Garden is on the 35th floor of the building most commonly referred to as the Walkie Talkie, though personally I think it more closely resembles an old-school mobile phone.

We booked our free visit to the Sky Garden for a sunny weekday afternoon in March and marvelled at the views but didn’t stop for a drink or snack at the Sky Pod Bar, as all the available seating was taken.

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Instagram images from our visit back in March

Those looking for a full meal can book a table at Darwin, a brasserie located on the 36th floor, or Fenchurch up on the 37th, which serves a ‘British contemporary’ menu.

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It was drizzling mid-September evening when we visited Fenchurch but the rain didn’t temper the glory of the views.

Our table, next to the windows at the West of the restaurant was one of only a handful to look out across miles and miles of London.

Other tables along the south-facing internal windows had their views almost entirely blocked by a large empty terrace just outside the restaurant. With the building’s glass roof overhead, locating tables out on to the terrace would be so much lovelier and make use of a somewhat pointless space.

Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0202

We wondered if the original name for Fenchurch was 37? The menu branding seemed to suggest so.

Fenchurch offers a regular a la carte, a Tasting Menu (£70) and a vegetarian Tasting Menu (£50). The Wine Pairing for both Tasting Menus is an additional £39. With cockles and mussels both featuring in the regular Tasting Menu, Pete decided to order the vegetarian one, which allowed us to try many more dishes between us.

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The bread was excellent. The olive bread and rosemary focaccia were superb in taste and texture, and very fresh; the butter was soft and spreadable, rather than fridge cold. So many restaurants give scant attention to these two elements so it’s always a good sign when they are given proper respect.

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Although we giggled that the popped rice amuse bouche looked suspiciously maggot-like, the tiny nibbles were delicious. My crumbed pork was fantastic, Pete’s vegetarian one a little burst of flavour.

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First course on the non-vegetarian tasting menu: Chopped mackerel, pickled cockles, sea herbs and oyster cream. I loved this delightful jumble of tastes, textures and colours. Soft fresh mackerel, sweet pickled cockles and the most fantastic crunch from crispy tempura bits scattered through the mixture. Lovely bursts of flavour and salt from the sea herbs. A super dish.

Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0206

The vegetarian first course: Pea soup, poached egg yolk, mint and sourdough croutons. This was a beautiful soup; the essence of pea and mint, crunch from the croutons and richness from the oozing yolk.

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My second course was my absolute favourite of the menu: Rabbit bolognaise, harissa, Berkswell and sourdough. Again, the balance of textures between soft pasta, meat which was tender but not pappy and crunch from the sourdough was spot on. Likewise, the balance of flavours between rabbit and harissa was superb, with the harissa giving just the right level of heat and flavour.

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Second for Pete was Burrata, peach, grapefruit and fennel. The combination was given a thumbs up but the burrata was enormously disappointing, with none of the oozing creaminess that a burrata should have, this was far more like a regular ball of mozzarella and not a very creamy or fresh one at that. Still, the flavours worked.

Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0217

Confusingly, my next dish was not the Cornish turbot described on the Tasting Menu but Dover sole with brown shrimps, capers and samphire and a single squid ink pasta parcel stuffed with scallop mousse and more brown shrimp. Once again, the combination of ingredients was very good, with sea salt and crunch from the samphire, acidity from the capers and a welcome oomph of fishiness from the brown shrimp but the dover sole was a little overcooked, giving it a texture that was on the chewy side.

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Next for Pete was a dish very poorly described as Baked potato mash, sour cream and lovage. The description in the a la carte menu of the main dish version was far more accurate: Textures of potato. I loved this more than Pete did – he enjoyed it but felt it was more of a side dish, whereas I thought it stood alone rather splendidly. Potato was showcased three ways – a rich, layered block of fondant potato, a pool of smokey mash and soaring crisps that broke with a satisfying snap. Flavours were subtle but delicious. Pete was particularly impressed with the wine pairing for this course, a Tokaji Dry Furmint Béres 2013.

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Goodwood Estate lamb, garlic, artichokes, basil and olive jus was a generous dish with lamb cooked four ways – there was loin served rare, another cut I forget, a meatball and a pulled lamb croquette. The garlic puree was a little too raw garlic pungent for me, but the rest was well presented and delicious.

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Pete’s Jerusalem artichoke and ricotta agnolotti, summer truffle, hazelnuts and sage was one of his favourites. The dish was not the most attractive but once again, textures and flavours came together nicely. The tomato sauce was delicious but the fresh tomatoes were seriously under-flavoured and lacking in oomph. Our message to the chef – if you can’t source better tomatoes, take them off the menu! Critical sourcing of ingredients, and rejection of any which don’t meet standards, is surely a basic tenet of a restaurant of this calibre?

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The two dessert courses were the same across both versions of the Tasting Menu. The first was Coconut cream, lime granita with mango and sesame, a gorgeous little pot bursting with flavours. Very intense. Rich and yet refreshing.

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Last was this Glazed peanut and chocolate bar with banana yoghurt ice cream. I loved this! Intense, rich, sweet and salty peanut and chocolate against tangy yoghurt with banana flavour, this was, as we were coming to expect, a lovely combination.

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Petit fours were a decent chocolate truffle, soft and melting in the centre, and a mouth-puckeringly sharp elderflower lemon fruit jelly – so sharp the waiter gave a warning about it as he served it. Pete liked it, finding the level of acidity quite refreshing.

Our meal at Fenchurch was certainly enjoyable and fairly priced for the City location.

The cooking was accomplished; most of the dishes were very well conceived and cooked, providing superb balance of textures and flavours, with visual appeal an added bonus.

It’s a shame the layout of restaurant and terrace doesn’t give diners the view you might expect and I’d have been disappointed had we been seated elsewhere – we were allocated one of just a handful of tables with a wow-factor outlook. Of course, you can enjoy the views by walking around the Sky Gardens before or after dinner but be warned that if you don’t get the right table, you won’t enjoy the full effect of the views while dining.


Kavey Eats dined as guests of Fenchurch restaurant.
Fenchurch Seafood Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Square Meal


I’ve been visiting Shoryu for their tonkotsu ramen since the first branch opened in Regent Street in November 2012. It was diagonally opposite Japan Centre, though that’s now moved a couple of hundred yards to the South West end of Shaftesbury Avenue. There are now additional branches of Shoryu in Denman Street (a few steps from the current Japan Centre site), Kingly Court off Carnaby Street and Broadgate Circle just behind Liverpool Street station or a short walk from Moorgate. There’s also Shoryu Go, a delivery and takeaway only branch, and even a Wagon from which Shoryu sell their wares at street food market locations and festivals.

I mention Japan Centre because Shoryu, like Japan Centre, was founded by Tak Tokumine and the brands are both operated as a family-run business. Like Japan Centre, Shoryu has a strong focus on presenting real Japanese food to its customers, and certainly based on my two visits to Japan, it does a great job.

Of course, there are other purveyors of ramen in London these days – indeed it’s a niche that’s exploded in the last few years. I am also a big fan of Kanada-Ya – their ramen is fantastic but they fall down on lack of sides – onigiri is not, to my mind, a side I associate or want to eat with ramen; and these days there’s often a queue to get in. Tonkotsu are good too – it took me a long time to finally visit a branch and I enjoyed their menu when I did. There are many others too, some of which I like far less than others seem to, some of which I have never visited because I’m not a fan of queuing or waiting in a bar before I’m seated for my meal and some which have a very different slant on ramen which is cool but not for me. Shoryu is the one I keep going back to – the Dracula version of their tonktusu is a garlicky porky delight and their sides are always excellent.

Recently, I heard about the extended robata menu – food cooked over a charcoal grill – in Shoryu’s newest Liverpool Street branch, and was keen to try. Pete and I headed down after work one evening, determined to allow no ramen to pass our lips – tonight’s visit was all about the robata, with a few additional dishes for balance.

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Our visit was on a warm Monday evening in August and revealed the one big downside of the location; Shoryu sits at the lower level of Broadgate Circle – a two story development housing a slew of food and drink venues – and on a warm summer’s evening the outdoor courtyard area is rammed with office workers grabbing a drink and, more crucially, a cigarette; with the glass frontage of the restaurant completely open to the courtyard, anyone sat on a table near the front of the restaurant had better not be bothered by the stink of wafting cigarette smoke, not to mention the surprisingly loud volume of all that collected chatter!

Luckily for us we had a table at the back – tables extend in a ‘U’ shape around a central kitchen area that houses the robata grill at the front, the ramen station to one side and the rest of the kitchen on the other side and towards the back. I quite like the open kitchen approach and staff seem pretty good at keeping an eye on all the customer tables.

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First to arrive was not from the robata but an old favourite that’s also available at the other branches; Black Sesame Tofu (£6.50) with sweet miso sauce and tenderstem broccoli. Someone ranted about this dish on twitter recently and I wanted to check whether it was as delicious as I remembered – it was. Both of us loved this dish of sesame-flavoured wobby tofu in a sweet miso dressing; still a firm favourite.

You can also see my cup of Nigori Sake Cloudy Sake. A 120 ml serving is £4.80 and comes in a gorgeous wabi-sabi jug. I am a huge fan of nigori sake; if you’d like to learn more about what sake is, how it’s made and the different types available, read my recent Beginner’s Guide to Sake post.

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Very reminiscent of those often offered in Japan, the Yakitori Beer Set (£12.50 / £11) offers a discounted price for a skewer each of Yotsumi Chicken Thigh (usually £3.00), Negima Chicken Thigh (usually £3.00), the Kurobuta (usually £3.50) and either a pint or half pint of Kirin Nama draft (£5.20 / £3.10). Bought separately, these would come to £14.70 / £12.60.

The Yotsumi Chicken Thigh with teriyaki glaze was superbly grilled; the meat tender and moist and yet the surface had that pleasant texture and flavour from a touch of charring.

Likewise, the Negima Chicken Thigh with spring onion was expertly cooked and delicious.

My favourite, which I adored so much I order another skewer later, was the Kurobuta berkshire black pork belly, a skewer of succulent pork meat with generous layers of fat, grilled until the fat was melty inside and gorgeously browned on the outside.

Pete’s beer, by the way, was offered regular or frozen; the latter came cold in a chilled glass with a super cold head of foam.

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We’ve had some amazing wagyu in Japan. On our first visit, we went to a restaurant in Takayama specialising in Hida beef, and even the non-premium grade blew me away. Since then I’ve had the good fortune of enjoying more wagyu not only in Japan but here in the UK, where I tried some superb imported New Zealand wagyu.

The Shoryu wagyu skewers are pricy but that’s to be expected since wagyu is not a cheap ingredient; we gave the Wagyu Beef (2 pcs £11.00) a try.

The meat was glazed with teriyaki, though only lightly – the flavour of the beef came through clearly. And the flavour was certainly excellent, really distinct and delicious. The problem was that the texture didn’t resemble at all the highly marbled melt-in-the-mouth wagyu we’d experienced before, indeed this beef was chewy – moist, juicy, excellent flavour, but chewy rather than melt-in-the-mouth. I’m not sure that £5.50 per skewer of this is justified.

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Served joined by their crisp bottoms (formed by the starch and liquid in the pan creating a lacy pancake of sorts), the Hakata Tetsunabe Gyoza (3 pcs £4.00) were light and tasty, served immediately when ready in a hot cast iron pan. Whenever Pete and I ordered ramen in Japan, we could never resist a side of gyoza to go with.

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Kushikatsu (2 pcs £7.00) – generous pieces of belly pork coated in panko breadcrumbs and deep fried – were served with katsu sauce drizzled over; also known as tonkatsu sauce, this is based on British brown sauce. Again, the pork was perfectly cooked, tender and juicy and full of flavour.

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The Ginger Salmon Tatsutaage (£6.50) was not only a great dish but a great bargain too given the generous portion for the price. Oily salmon flesh works well with the zing of ginger, and is not at all dried out by the frying. Served with shichimi tōgarashi (a Japanese spice mixture) and mayonnaise, this is a classic dish and if it’s made traditionally (I didn’t ask), tatsutaage uses potato starch rather than wheat flour, so may be a good choice for those on a gluten-free diet.

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When asked if I like brussel sprouts (one of those universal Christmas-season questions), I usually say no but after trying Shoryu’s Brussel Sprout Tempura (£6.00) I will have to change my response. Baby sprouts were cooked to perfection inside a marvellously light and crisp tempura batter with a heady aroma and flavour of truffle oil, heightened by judicious use of the black pepper dipping salt. These really were a revelation and one of the star dishes of the meal.

In the foreground is a dish of Goma Kyuri Cucumber (£4.50). I am sure I’m not alone in occasionally fighting the urge to dismiss a dish because it’s so darn simple, and made with such inexpensive ingredients to boot, that it surely doesn’t merit my paying good money for it. But having tasted this simple dish of sliced cucumber, sesame oil and a generous topping of shichimi tōgarashi on a previous occasion, I knew it would be a refreshing balance to all the rich meat and fish dishes we ordered. Simple, sure, but a lovely balance of textures and taste.

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My second order of Kurobuta (£3.50) was also a delight. The flavour of this pork was just phenomenal, and the cooking of flesh and fat perfect.

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The Yuzu Rolled Cake (£6.00) was decent though surprisingly bland – the Japanese are so skilled at creating patisserie with elegance and flavour that I found this example a little disappointing.

But the amazing Sorbet (2 scoops £6.00) made up for it! The scoop of yuzu packed a huge flavour punch (everything the rolled cake lacked) and was refreshing, balanced and delicious. But the winner was the plum wine sorbet which not only had an incredible flavour but a strange tacky, almost chewy texture about it that I found utterly compelling.

I finished with a small pot of Gyokuro Green Tea (£3.50), a lovely shade-grown green tea with wonderfully rich umami flavours.

The menu at Shoryu has certainly grown since the launch of the first branch, and it now offers far more than a traditional ramen-ya alone – more akin to a ramen-ya-cum-izakaya (a casual Japanese pub or snack bar). Of course, the ramen is super and hard to resist, but I would urge you to give some of the other items on the menu a try, and do visit the Liverpool Street branch for the robata grill items.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Shoryu Ramen.
Shoryu Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Square Meal


Lizzie Mabbott is a prodigious cook and a prodigious eater!

I’ve been following her cooking and eating exploits on the web for many years, first on the now-defunct BBC food discussion boards and since 2008 on her well-known blog, Hollowlegs. If she isn’t eating she may well be cooking, if she isn’t cooking she might be shopping for ingredients, and if she isn’t doing either of those things, there’s a good chance she’s pondering on what to eat or cook next!

When I learned that she had secured a book deal I was not surprised in the slightest as her delicious personal twists on classic British, European, Chinese and other South East Asian dishes have long made many readers salivate, myself included.

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In Chinatown Kitchen she draws upon her amazing heritage; Lizzie is Anglo-Chinese, born in Hong Kong where she spent her formative years growing up not only on Chinese food but also exposed to the many cuisines of South East Asia. At 13 she was transplanted to England, where she has been ever since – albeit with some judicious globetrotting to feed those hollow legs!

To describe the book as simply another tome on South East Asian cooking is to put it into a box that it doesn’t neatly fit into. It’s much more than Chinese – or even South East Asian – food made easy; rather it’s a very personal collection of recipes that represent Lizzie’s personal food story. There are classic Chinese and South East Asian dishes, sure, but there are also a fair few of Lizzie’s own inventions including some excellent mashups such as this Chinese Spag Bol recipe and an Udon Carbonara.

Most recipes are illustrated with colourful and appealing photographs, styled but not overly fussy and with the focus firmly on the food.

At the heart of the book is the idea of seeking out ingredients in the food shops of your nearest Chinatown – or indeed any oriental supermarkets or groceries you can find – and putting them to delicious use. To that end, the book is not just a set of recipes but also a shopping and ingredient guide. Add to that an introduction to key equipment and techniques and you are all set to get cooking.

I tried hard not to bookmark every single recipe on my first pass, when trying to narrow down the list of what to make first. I ended up with 23 recipes bookmarked: Deep-Fried Whole Fish in Chilli, Bean Sauce, Japanese Spinach and Cucumber Salad, Grilled Aubergines with Nuoc Cham, Korean Rice Cakes with Chorizo and Greens, Sesame and Peanut Noodle Salad, Cabbage in Vinegar Sauce, Chinese Chive Breads, Griddled Teriyaki King Oyster Mushrooms, Banana Rotis, Poached Pears in Lemon Grass Syrup, Braised Egg Tofu with Pork and Aubergine, Spicy Peanut and Tofu Puff Salad, Fish Paste-Stuffed Aubergine, Mu Shu Pork, Steamed Egg Custard with Century and Salted Eggs, Cola Chicken Wings, Red-Braised Ox Cheek, Xinjiang Lamb Skewers, Red Bean Ice Lollies and Black Sesame Ice Cream with Black and White Sesame Honeycomb, plus the two I’ve already mentioned!

So far, we’ve made two recipes, Chinese Spag Bol and Roast Rice-Stuffed Chicken. We’ve loved both and will certainly be working out way through the rest of my “short” list over coming weeks and months.

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Lizzie Mabbott’s Chinese Spag Bol

As Lizzie explains, this recipe has little in common with the bastardised ragu we call Spag Bol in Britain – there are no tomatoes, nor red wine for a start – but it is made by simmering minced meat in a sauce and dressing noodles with the results. The predominant flavour comes from yellow bean sauce, with additional notes from soy sauce, hoisin and Shaoxing wine. Lizzie servies it with fresh vegetables and finely sliced omelette.

Serves 4

2 free range eggs
2 tbsp cooking oil
2 spring onions, white parts finely chopped, green parts sliced into rings
5 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
2 tsp peeled and very finely chopped fresh root ginger
400 g (14 ox) fatty minced pork
3 tbsp yellow bean paste
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
100 ml (3.5 fl oz) water
2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 carrot, peeled
Half cucumber
300 g fresh Shanghai noodles


  • Firstly, beat the eggs. Heat 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil in a wok, or a nonstick frying pan, until shimmering, add the beaten eggs and cook them over a medium heat until set to make a thin omelette. Remove to a plate and set to one side.
  • Heat up the rest of the oil in the wok over a medium heat, add the spring onion whites, garlic and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant. Then add the minced pork, breaking up any clumps with your hands, and cook until browned. Add the yellow bean paste, soy sauces and hoi sin sauce with the water and Shaoxing rice wine and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it’s looking a little dry, add a touch more water.
  • Meanwhile, julienne the carrot and cucumber and set aside. Roll the omelette up and slice finely.
  • Cook the noodles in a large saucepan of boiling water for a minute, then drain and place in a big serving bowl. Pour the meat sauce on top, then add the vegetables and omelette and stir to combine. Garnish with the greens of the spring onion and serve.

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Lizzie Mabbott’s Roast Rice-Stuffed Chicken

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The Roast Rice-Stuffed Chicken is a slightly more involved dish requiring the chicken to be marinated overnight (in a marinade that includes red fermented tofu and oyster sauce, amongst other ingredients) and the sticky rice filling to be made ahead ready to stuff inside the chicken before roasting. I made the wrong call to substitute a black sticky rice I had in my larder for the white sticky rice Lizzie’s recipe stipulates, and I’m sure that was the reason my mandarin peel and Chinese sausage-studded rice wasn’t sufficiently cooked through, but I do want try again with the right rice, as the flavours were fabulous. What’s more, the marinade on its own was super easy and amazingly delicious; even if we don’t have time to do the rice stuffing every time, I know the marinade will be used again and again.


Chinatown Kitchen: From Noodles to Nuoc Cham is currently available on Amazon UK for £10 (RRP £20). Kavey Eats received a review copy from publisher Mitchell Beazley. Recipe text reproduced with permission from Mitchell Beazley.


Lobos Meat & Tapas is exactly the kind of place that is responsible for my recurrent idle fantasy of moving house to be in close proximity to Borough, Maltby Street and Bermondsey Markets and all the fabulous food and drink places this area of London affords. Of course, this fantasy is hugely unrealistic, not least because I’m such a dyed-in-the-wool hoarder that I’d never manage to squeeze the ‘stuff’ I’ve amassed over the decades into the minimal-storage space in the clean, modern, uncluttered and tiny city pads that we might just about be able to buy if we sold our house up in the ‘burbs! And of course, I wouldn’t actually want to give up a back garden (or our allotment plot nearby) in exchange for a shared public garden that no one ever actually relaxes properly in (if they use it at all) or a single pot of tomatoes grown on the ledge that’s rather generously described as a balcony. But still… to have so much of London’s constantly evolving, constantly improving, constantly surprising and constantly exciting food scene right on the door step must be a thing of wonder. If you live near Borough Market, or even if you don’t quite frankly, I recommend you make your way to Lobos for some very delicious treats. Lobos is folded origami-like into an arched, two-storey space carved out under the railway bridge, right next to the modern glass-fronted Market Hall that went up a year or two back and just a stone’s throw from Southwark Cathedral. Downstairs is the bar space with a couple of high tables; upstairs is the restaurant space with a handful of small tables and cosy leather-padded booths.

Lobos Tapas-PWF-0021-Paul Winch-Furness Image by Paul Winch-Furness, provided courtesy of Lobos

Lobos – which means wolves in Spanish, so I’m told – was launched last month by three friends who met while working at Tapas Brindisa – chef Roberto Castro, Joel Placeres and Ruben Maza. Let me be clear, this isn’t a place for vegetarians or pescetarians – pretty evident from the restaurant’s name, but it never hurts to spell it out. Meat is the name of the game and the menu focuses on prime cuts of Iberico pig, Castillan lamb and beef sourced from The Ginger Pig. It’s classic tapas, beautifully cooked, served in a very cosy space by friendly and helpful staff. And of course, being a tapas bar, you can pop in for a drink and some small nibbles or make a proper meal of it, as we did.

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We settled in for an early weeknight dinner. Even in summer, with August sun keeping the sky light until late, inside was dark and cosy with bare-filament lights casting a very orange glow. Wine is available by the glass, carafe or bottle and there is a short cocktail menu as well as regular soft drinks. I’d love to see a little more thought put into the soft drinks, but then I’m one of those rare non wine drinkers. Pete was appreciative of the choice of wines by carafe and enjoyed a Tempranillo from Rioja (£6.25/ £17.75/ £34 per glass/ carafe/ bottle).

Lobos Meat and Tapas - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9344

The flavour of this Iberico Bellota Ham (£14.50) – that’s the acorn fed stuff – was terrific and somehow it disappeared from the board awfully quickly. That said, I would have liked it to be better streaked with silky white fat; the fat is always so good!

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We ordered Baked Tetilla Cheese (£ 9) on our waiter’s recommendation, not least because he described it arriving to the table as a flaming spectacle. Any brandy had already burned off before it reached us but the dish was still a big hit. Thin, super-crunchy fried toasts were served alongside this hot pan of melted cheese adorned with soft and sweet roasted vegetables.

Lobos Meat and Tapas - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9348

I always consider Croquetas (£ 7) a great test of a tapas kitchen, and subconsciously hold them up to José Pizarro’s offering – José was chef-partner in Brindisa before he launched his own restaurant in 2011, and his croquetas are to die for. Well now I can confirm that chef Roberto’s are equally fantastic – filled with ham, chorizo and bacon studded into rich, soft bechamel and served piping hot.

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With a name that translates as secret, of course secreto Iberico is still referred to as the hidden cut of Iberico pork, its natural fattiness giving fantastic flavour. Secreto Iberico, Mojo Chips (£ 9.50) pairs strips of secreto simply grilled and served with paper-thin freshly-fried crisps dressed with a herby green mojo (sauce). Super, super tasty and I liked the choice of crisps over a more mundane side.

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It’s a rare skill to be able to cook ribeye steak so it’s properly pink inside but the fat has had enough time to render down to melty goo in places and lightly charred and crisp in others but that’s how it was in the Ribeye and foiegras (£ 14.95), and same goes for the foie gras; beautifully caramelised and almost liquid inside. No sides, just adorned with slivers of soft and sweet cooked onion. Amazing.

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Yes I was just being greedy when I ordered the Double Chocolate and Pistachio Cake (£ 5) but oh, it was worth it. On a layer of dense chocolate cake sits a huge pile of chocolate mousse, equally rich and made with decent dark chocolate. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s dressed not just with a tiny sprinkle of crushed-to-death pistachios, as is so often the reality of ‘pistachio’ desserts, but a fistful of quality green nuts that are perfect against the chocolate. Dessert, doce puntos!

Lobos Meat and Tapas - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9354

Pete enjoyed the Dulce de leche Cheesecake (£ 5.00) just as much, appreciative of the restrained sugar levels; much more appealing than the sickly sweetness that so often equates to dulce de leche desserts. We’ve been fortunate to experience some wonderful meals out recently (and one much less satisfying one which I won’t be sharing with you here). Lobos provides yet another great choice in the area and has been added straight to the shortlist for places to visit when we head down to the food markets. We’ll definitely be returning for more of their tasty tapas menu. Kavey Eats dined as guests of Lobos Meat & Tapas.
Lobos Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Square Meal


One of my food and drink goals in recent years (and certainly for the next few too) is to learn more about sake. Not just how it’s made (which I understand pretty well now) and the different categories of sake (which I finally have downpat) but – most importantly of all – working out what I like best in the hope of reliably being able to buy sake that I love.

Here, I share what I’ve learned over the last few years plus some of my favourites at this year’s HyperJapan Sake Experience.

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Images from shutterstock.com

What is Sake?

Sake is a Japanese alcohol made from rice.

Although it is referred to in English as rice wine, it is often pointed out that the process is more akin to brewing beer, where one converts the starch to sugar and the resulting sugar to alcohol. In wine making, it is a simpler process of converting the sugars that are already present in the fruit. Of course, it’s not entirely like beer making either as the sake production process is quite distinct.

Wine is typically around 10-15% ABV. Beer is usually lower, with most beers coming in between 3-8%, though there’s been a trend towards ever stronger beers lately. Sake is brewed to around 18-20%, but often diluted to around 15% for bottling.

Until a few years ago I’d only ever encountered cheap sake served warm and was not a huge fan. However, since trying higher quality sakes served chilled, I’m an absolute convert.

In terms of typical flavours, my vocabulary is woefully lacking, but for me the core flavour is a subtly floral one – perhaps this is intrinsic to the rice and rice mould? The balance of sweetness and acidity varies though classic sake is not super sweet. Sometimes it is fruity and sometimes it has a more umami (savoury) taste. I am often able to detect clear differences on the palate but unable to define these in words – clearly I need to drink more sake!


How is Sake made?

Sake is made from rice, but usually from varieties with a larger, stronger grain with lower levels of protein than the rice varieties that are typically eaten.

The starch sits within the centre of the rice grain, surrounded by a layer of bran, so rice is usually polished to remove the outer layer before being made into sake. The more the rice is polished, the higher the percentage of starchy centre remains, but of course this is more expensive as it needs far more rice to produce the same volume of alcohol.

After polishing and being set aside to rest, the rice is washed, soaked and steamed. kōji rice mould (Aspergillus oryzae) is sprinkled over the rice which is left to ferment for several days. This mould helps to develop the amylase enzyme necessary to convert starch to sugar. Next, water and yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) are added and the mixture allowed to incubate. Water and yeast are added multiple times during the process. The resulting mash then ferments at 15-20 °C for a few weeks.

After fermentation, the mixture is filtered to extract the liquid, and the solids are often pressed to extract a fuller range of flavours.

In cheaper sakes, varying amounts of brewer’s alcohol are added to increase the volume.

Sake is usually filtered again and then pasteurised before resting and maturing, then dilution with water before being bottled.

These days you can also find unpasteurised sake and sake in which the finer lees (sediment) are left in. I’ve even had some very thick and cloudy sakes where more of the solids have been pureed and mixed in to the final drink.


What are the different categories of Sake?

Because the most desirable bit of the rice is the core of the grain, the amount of polishing is highly relevant. Labels must indicate the seimai-buai (remaining percentage) of the original grain.

Daiginjo means that at least 50% of the original rice grain must be polished away (so that 50% or less remains) and that the ginjo-tsukuri method – fermenting at cooler temperatures – has been used. There are additional regulations on which varieties of rice and types of yeast may be used and other production method restrictions.

Ginjo is pretty much the same but stipulates that only 40% of the original rice is removed by polishing (so that up to 60% remains).

Pure sake – that is sake made only from rice, rice mould and water – is labelled as Junmai. If it doesn’t state junmai on the label, it is likely that additional alcohol has been added.

So Junmai daiginjo is the highest grade in terms of percentage of rice polished and being pure sake with no brewer’s alcohol added.

Coming down the scale a little quality wise, Tokubetsu means that the sake is still classed as ‘special quality’. Tokebetsu junmai means it’s pure rice, rice mould and water whereas Tokebetsu honjozu means the sake has had alcohol added, but is still considered a decent quality. In both cases, up to 60% of the original rice grain may remain after milling.

Honjozo on its own means that the sake is still rated above ordinary sake – ordinary sake can be considered the equivalent of ‘table wine’ in France.

Other terms that are useful to know:

Namazake is unpasteurised sake.

Genshu is undiluted sake; I have not come across this yet.

Muroka has been pressed and separated from the lees as usual but has not been carbon filtered. It is clear in appearance.

Nigorizake is cloudy rather than clear – the sake is passed only through a loose mesh to separate the liquid from the mash and is not filtered. There is usually a lot of sediment remaining and it is normal to shake the bottle to mix it back into the liquid before serving.

Taruzake is aged in wooden barrels or casks made from sugi, sometimes called Japanese cedar. The wood imparts quite a strong flavour so premium sake is not commonly used for taruzake.

Kuroshu is made from completely unpolished brown rice grains. I’ve not tried it but apparently it’s more like Chinese rice wine than Japanese sake.

I wrote about Amazake in this post, after we enjoyed trying some in Kyoto during our first visit to Japan. Amazake can be low- or no-alcohol depending on the recipe. It is often made by adding rice mould to whole cooked rice, allowing the mould to break down the rice starch into sugars and mixing with water. Another method is to mix the sake solids left over from sake production with water – additional sugar can be added to enhance the sweetness. Amazake is served hot or cold; the hot version with a little grated ginger to mix in to taste.


HyperJapan’s Sake Experience

Last month I tasted a great range of sake products in the space of an hour’s focused drinking as I made my way around Sake Experience in which 11 Japanese sake breweries shared 30 classic sakes and other sake products.

Once again, this was my personal highlight of HyperJapan show.

For an extra £15 on top of the show entrance ticket, one can visit stalls of 11 Japanese sake breweries, each of whom will offer tastings of 2 or 3 of their product range. You can learn about the background of their brewery, listen to them tell you about the characteristics of their product and of course, make up your own mind about each one.

One reason I love this is because tasting a wide range of sakes side by side really helps me notice the enormous differences between them and get a better understanding of what I like best.

A large leaflet is provided as you enter, which lists every sake being offered by the breweries. A shop at the exit (also open to those not doing the Sake Experience) allows you to purchase favourites, though not every single sake in the Sake Experience is available for sale.

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Kavey’s Sake Experience 2015 Picks

My Favourite Regular Sakes

Umenoyado’s Junmai Daiginjo is made using yamadanishiki rice and bottled at 16% ABV. The natural sweetness is much to my taste and the flavour is wonderfully rich with fruity overtones, and a spicy sharp piquancy that provides balance.

Ichiniokura’s Junmai Daiginjo Kuranohana is made with kuranohana rice and bottled at 15-16% ABV. This one is super fruity; the brewery team explained that they use a different yeast whch creates a different kind of flavour. There is less acidity than usual, which emphasises the sweetness.

Nihonsakari’s Junmai Ginjo Cho-Tokusen Souhana is made with yamadanishiki rice and bottled at 15-16% ABV. To me, this Junmai Ginjo represents the absolutely classic style of sake; it has a hint of dairy to the aroma and a typical sake flavour, subtly floral and very crisp.

My Favourite Barrel-Aged Sake

Sho Chiku Bai Shirakabegura’s Taruzake is barrel-aged and bottled at 15% ABV. The wood flavour comes through clearly, though it’s not overpowering – this is a clean, dry style of sake with a hint of greenery. Although it’s not hugely complex, it’s well worth a try.

My Favourite Sparkling Sakes

Ichinokura’s Premium Sparkling Sake Suzune Wabi is made with Toyonishiki and Shunyo rice varieties and bottled at 5% ABV. Unlike some sparkling sakes on the market that are carbonated artificially, the gas is 100% natural, produced during a second fermentation. This sake is sweet but not super sweet, with a fruity aroma balanced by gentle acidity. If I understood them correctly, the brewery team claimed that they were the first to develop sparkling sake, 8 years ago. Certainly, it’s a very recent development but one that’s become hugely popular, a way for breweries to reconnect with younger markets who had been turning away from sake as their drink of choice.

Shirataki Shuzo’s Jozen Mizuno Gotoshi Sparkling Sake is made with Gohyakumangoku rice and bottled at 11-12% ABV. Although most sparkling sakes are sweet, this one breaks the kōji (mould, kōji, get it?) as it’s a much dryer style, though not brut by any means. I can see this working very well with food.

For the sweeter sparkling sakes (which are usually marketed almost exclusively to women by the breweries), Sho Chiku Bai Shirakabegura’s Mio and Ozeki’s Jana Awaka are
sweet, tasty and affordable.

My Favourite Yuzu Sake

Some of the yuzu sakes I tried were perfectly tasty but very one dimensional, just a blast of yuzu and nothing else. One was a yuzu honey concoction and the honey totally overwhelmed the citrus.

Nihonsakari’s Yuzu Liqueur is bottled at 8-9%. The yuzu flavour is exceptional, yet beautifully rounded and in harmony with the sake itself. It’s not as viscous as some of the yuzu liqueurs certainly but has some creaminess to the texture. Be warned, this is one for the sweet-toothed!

My Favourite Umeshus

Learn more here about umeshu, a fruit liqueur made from Japanese stone fruits. Umeshu can be made from sake or shochu, but those at the Sake Experience were, of course, sake-based.

Urakasumi’s Umeshu is bottled at 12% ABV. Made with fruit and sake only, no added sugar, it’s a far lighter texture than many umeshu and has an absolutely beautiful flavour, well balanced between the sweetness and sharpness of the ume fruit. Because it’s so light, I think this would work well with food, whereas traditional thicker umeshu is better enjoyed on its own.

Umenoyado’s Aragoshi Umeshu is bottled at 12% ABV. A complete contrast from the previous one, this umeshu is super thick, in large part because the ume fruit, after steeping in sake and sugar, are grated and blended and mixed back in to the liqueur. The flavour is terrific and I couldn’t resist buying a bottle of this one to bring home.

My Favourite Surprise Sake

Ozeki’s Sparkling Jelly Sake Peach comes in a can and is 5% ABV. The lightly carbonated fruity liqueur has had jelly added, and the staff recommended chilling for a few hours, shaking really hard before opening and pouring the jellied drink out to serve. The flavour is lovely and I’d serve this as a grown up but fun dessert, especially as it’s not very expensive at £3 a can. I bought a few of these home with me!


HyperJapan in Images

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Kavey Eats attended the event as a guest of HyperJapan.


Today’s product review is a guest post by Debbie Burgess.

A high quality product which is easy to use, quick and absolutely delicious, this new range of chilli based cook sauces from Capsicana is suitable for all occasions and certainly good enough to serve to guests.

Capsicana Chilli Cook Sauces - photos by Debbie Burgess for Kavey Eats-IMG_8627-1

There are four sauces in all from the Latin Flavours range. All are suitable for vegetarians and have no artificial colours or flavourings. This is not a powdered mix, paste or a jar of slushy sauce to just pour over meat/fish and serve, but a 100g portion of a thick sauce with intense flavour and plenty to serve 2 persons once prepared. Each are labelled either hot, medium or mild and there is no need to add any additional seasoning. There are recipes on the outside of each pack which are identical and simply require the addition of chicken or fish, an onion and pepper of any colour. Each is easy to prepare with a cooking time of no more than 20 minutes, to be served with rice, tortillas or nachos. Inside each pack there is a different recipe, these are just ideas and you can experiment and just do your own thing! I decided to follow the basic recipe printed on the back for two of the sauces and the recipe on the inside of the packs for the remaining two.

Chilli & Garlic

A Mexican style sauce, hot and full of intense flavour and this one uses Manzano chillies. I followed the basic recipe and intended to use a green pepper however due to a shopping mishap had to substitute that for green beans, I served this dish with rice however I can see it would be equally great with tortillas. There was a satisfying linger to the heat but no unpleasant burn or aftertaste; the garlic is a background flavour and not overpowering; it also contains mustard. There was no need to add anything extra to the dish as the chicken and vegetables were evenly coated, for a more liquid sauce you could add some water if desired.

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Chilli & Coconut

A Brazilian style sauce, hot and pungent with a fruity chilli hit using Frutescens chillies, tomato and a hint of coconut. The pack labels this as medium heat although I found it was hot. I used the recipe on the inside of the pack for this one to make ‘Moqueca’ a Brazilian style stew using King Prawns which I served with rice. This recipe uses the addition of 400ml of water to provide a thinner stew like sauce, personally I prefer thicker sauces and when I make it again (as I surely will!) I will add less water. However the flavour of the sauce was fantastic and the taste was not impaired in any way by the addition of the water.

Capsicana Chilli Cook Sauces - photos by Debbie Burgess for Kavey Eats-Chilli and coconut 2-1

Chilli & Honey

A Mexican style sauce, with a medium heat coming from the Ancho Poblano and Chipotle chillies. Although my palate could not detect the specific honey taste, this along with the tomato flavours added to the overall deep richness and colour. I followed the basic recipe on the back of the pack with the addition of 100ml of water to provide a little more sauce to suit my preference and served with rice. If I had to pick a favourite of the four sauces, this would be it!

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Chilli & Lemon

A Peruvian style sauce, which uses Amarillo chillies with a hint of lemon. I followed the recipe from the inside of the pack and used it as a marinade on chicken drumsticks. The pack labels this as a medium heat sauce however I found it to be the mildest of the range, as it was light in both colour and flavour with just a hint of the lemon fruit flavour which accentuated the chicken rather than add a strong flavour.

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Debbie received review samples from Capsicana on behalf of Kavey Eats. Chilli Cook Sauces cost £1.95 each and are available from Capsicana’s online store or specialist food retailer, Sous Chef. Many thanks to Debbie for her guest review.


Isn’t it wonderful when a restaurant meal utterly surpasses your expectations? That’s exactly what happened when Pete and I visited the Angel branch of Jamie’s Italian for a weekday evening meal.

I’ll put my hands up and confess – one reason it was able to do so was because I had relegated Jamie’s Italian to the ranks of a mainstream, mass-appeal chain; Bella Pasta with a celebrity face-mask if you will – so I was expecting dishes that were ‘decent’, ‘satisfactory’, ‘competent’, ‘good value’ rather than ‘superb’, ‘delightful’ and ‘damn tasty’. And Jamie’s Italian serves delicious food that is way better than chain-standardised menus, spaces and services often produce.

We decided to eat the Italian way: a light antipasto, then two pastas for our primo, followed by a shared secondo meat course served with contorno vegetable side dishes. We skipped fruit and cheese and finished with sweet dolce desserts and caffè in the form of coffee cocktails!

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Jamie’s Bruschetta (£5.50) was a lovely start. That creamy buffalo ricotta flecked with herbs was rich and fresh, perfect over crunchy toast. The garlicky tomatoes were cooked and perfectly tasty – and I do like roasted tomatoes, don’t get me wrong – but both of us agreed we’d prefer the fresher flavour of raw tomatoes here. The scattering of lemon zest added an appealing citrus note, lifting all the other flavours.

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I’m giggling as I write because the Three-Cheese Caramelle (£6.95 / 11.95), we ordered the small) was so very good it made us grin as we ate! Described as ‘beautiful filled pasta with ricotta, provolone, Bella Lodi & spinach, served with creamy tomato, garlic, basil & rosé wine sauce’ it had a lightness of texture and brightness of taste that was very unexpected for such a rustic dish. I could eat this every day and be happy.

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But hang on, Jamie’s Sausage Pappardelle (£7.45 / 12.25), we ordered the small) was also fantastic. In this ’ragù of slow-cooked fennel & free-range pork sausages with incredible Chianti, Parmesan & herby breadcrumbs’ everything was spot on from the chewy folds of pasta to the soft, meaty sausage, redolent with fennel seeds, to the light crunch of the crumb topping – this dish was full-on comfort. Perhaps I’d have the caramelle every day through summer and the pappardelle every day through winter?

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We were very relieved we’d opted to share our main when this enormous Turkey Milanese (£13.50) arrived. Of course, the turkey had been properly flattened before proscuitto and provolone were added and the whole lot was bread-crumbed and fried. Served topped with a fried egg and generous shavings of black summer truffle, it was wonderful – the truffle heady, earthy and decadent. I liked the lemon zest scattered over but Pete noted that, although he liked it too, it was a little overused across the menu, such that it made dishes that are actually very different taste a little samey.

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Our first side of Garlicky Green Beans (£3.50) would have been plenty on its own, and was a perfect side for the turkey. The spicy Sicilian tomato sauce, shavings of pecorini and slivers of fried garlic made a delicious dressing for beans that were perfectly cooked to retain a little crunch – I dislike beans served either over or undercooked.

The Royal Caprese Salad (£3.95) was also delicious, but oddly presented and not very well balanced. Half of the heritage tomatoes were roughly chopped but two enormous slices were left as unwieldy slabs on the plate. Against all that tomato was plenty of basil, some sharp salty capers and lots of olive oil but disappointingly little mozzarella; just one tiny ball broken into two pieces.

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Molten Chocolate Praline Pudding (£6.50) is listed on the menu as served with salted caramel ice cream, an accompaniment which swung my choice from the Epic Brownie in its direction, so I was disappointed to be told that the kitchen had run out of salted caramel ice cream only when the dish being served to the table with chocolate ice cream instead. I prefer being advised of changes as soon as the order has been handed to the kitchen, so I can switch to something else if the change is significant to me. Still, the pudding was very good – perfectly liquid within and soft and squidgy without; the dark chocolate and hazelnut combination a gratifyingly poshed-up take on Nutella.

Tiramisù (£5.95), described as ‘the classic Italian dessert topped with chocolate shavings & orange zest‘ wasn’t as classic as all that – the Cointreau-like orange flavour was all the way through rather than just in the scattering of zest over the top. That said, the texture was spot on, with lusciously liquid-laden sponge layered between light-as-air cream. The stick of cardboard stuck to the side, which we mistook for a chocolate decoration until bitten into, was a minor let-down.

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On arrival, I chose a Passion Fruit & Mango Smash (£7.95) – rum with passion fruit, mango juice, fresh lime, vanilla syrup and ginger beer; super sweet and way too easy to drink! Pete took advantage of the wide range of wines available by 500 ml carafe, enjoying his Montepulciano D’abruzzo Il Faggio (£16.05) throughout the meal.

After dessert we switched our usual coffees for some very tempting coffee cocktails, a Tiramisù Martini (£7.15) for me and an Espresso Martini (£7.50) for Pete. His was served with rather more froth than cocktail but the vodka, Kahlua and espresso combination was a hit. I judged my combination of Bacardi Gold, amaretto, Frangelico, Kahlua, espresso and double cream even better!

Jamies Italian Restaurant - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle-195737 Jamies Italian Restaurant - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle-9277

Service was friendly and professional and, for the most part, pretty responsive; there were occasional moments where flagging a member of staff took a little longer than ideal – the place was busy and each waiter has a slew of tables to look after. But what I noticed much more is what came across as a genuine desire for customers to have a great experience, a willingness to give guidance on the menu and to steer customers according to their professed tastes. The usual checks that all is well after each course was served seemed less perfunctory than usual too.

The space is cavernous, which makes it a little noisier than ideal, but I know Pete and I are in the minority when it comes to our preferred balance between peaceful and buzzing. Seating isn’t hugely comfortable, though it’s far from the worse I’ve encountered. Hard seats are never as welcoming for a leisurely meal as padded ones!

On summer evenings, floor to ceiling windows let in lots of golden light, making it easy to imagine oneself in a bustling Italian trattoria.

The menu is prosaic – a solidly predictable offering of classic Italian cuisine – but the dishes themselves are anything but dull; deftly cooked with good quality ingredients that are a joy to the eye and an even bigger delight to eat. The food is pretty damn good here, and great value. I’m also comforted by the confidence that quality should be consistent across multiple visits – one of the unsung advantages of a well-managed chain, when they get the formula just right.


Kavey Eats dined as guests of Jamie’s Italian, Angel branch.
Jamie's Italian Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Square Meal


Every once in a while, I encounter a food or drink product that is so damn good it makes me giggle with delight.

Bonieri is one such brand, which I first encountered at The Chocolate Show last October. Launched in 2013, Bonieri was founded by Amber Rust to bring chocolates and other sweet specialities originating in Italy’s Piedmont region to UK consumers. She fell in love with these products while living and working in Turin many years ago and wanted Brits to have access to the superb quality chocolates made by master chocolatiers of the region.

Today you can buy Bonieri in both Selfridges and Harrods, as well as via their website.

At the heart of their range is the ‘Tonda Gentile delle Langhe’ hazelnut grown in Piedmont, which features in Bonieri’s traditional gianduja products. The local story goes that gianduja was first invented in Turin during Napoleonic times, when cocoa (imported from South America) was expensive and scarce. Local chocolatiers looking to stretch the precious cocoa further combined cocoa and sugar with roasted and ground hazelnuts, and the resulting spread quickly became very popular. The individual chocolates, known as gianduiotti, were created a few decades later.

Bonieri 1 Bonieri 4

Products include the cuboid Cremini – a layer of pure hazelnut cream sandwiched by two of gianduja cream – and traditional gianduiotti. The intensity of hazelnut flavour in both of these products is utterly amazing, and the texture of the pralines is wonderfully silky too. Bonieri also make praline-style chocolates featuring pistachio and coffee flavours, which I adore. Unsurprisingly, the Cremini praline was recognised with a Gold in last year’s Great Taste Awards.

Probably the biggest surprise in the parcel of samples Bonieri sent me (since I hadn’t already tasted it at The Chocolate Show) was their chocolate-covered nougat which, hand on heart, is the tastiest I’ve ever had. I’ve since learned that the nougat (known in Italy as ‘torrone’) is worked by hand rather than a machine and is made using fresh egg whites, those delicious Piedmont hazelnuts and a clear honey from the local area, known as ‘millefiori’. The nougat is steamed for several hours, shaped by hand into moulds, then cut and left to cool before it’s coated in high quality dark chocolate. It has a wonderful almost-crunchy texture but still the chew you’d expect from nougat and the flavour is utterly wonderful.

Another one to try is Bonieri’s Gianduja Spread, which goes in Italy by the wonderful term gianduja spalmabile! It’s miles beyond that high street brand and well deserving of it’s Great Taste Awards gold star. A generous dollop in hot milk makes a decadent hot chocolate or just eat it with a spoon straight from the jar!

Bonieri 2 Bonieri 3


Bonieri are giving away a wonderful prize to one lucky reader of Kavey Eats.

  • A bag of Chocolate Hazelnut Nougat (250 grams, £14.95)
  • The Bella Box Gianduja (250 grams, £23.95)
  • A jar of Gianduja Spread (200 grams, £9.95)

The prize includes free delivery in the UK.

Entry to the giveaway is via Rafflecopter and we’ve provided lots of ways to gain extra entries and increase your chances of winning!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


And if you don’t win (or if you’re feeling greedy for great gianduja right now) Bonieri are offering 20% off to Kavey Eats readers. Enter KAVEY20 on checkout; valid till 31st August 2015.


Kavey Eats received review samples from Bonieri.


I don’t often gravitate towards cookery books focusing on a single ingredient as they so often have a core of fabulous recipes padded out with a bunch of weak page fillers.

But Diana Henry’s A Bird In The Hand is a wonderful exception, chock – or should that be chook? – full of appealing recipes for simple, tasty chicken dinners.

A-bird-in-the-hand Diana Henry's Chicken with Pumpkin Cream and Gruyere - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-withtext

In the UK we purchase and eat a lot of chicken. It’s so good roasted, grilled or barbequed, fried (pan or deep), poached, cooked in a stew or casserole… and well-suited to flavours from all around the world – a wonderfully versatile meat.

In this book Diana Henry shares a collection of over 100 chicken recipes that range from quick and casual to impressive and celebratory. I am tempted by nearly all of them! Some, like Baked Chicken with Tarragon and Dijon Mustard, Chicken Forestière, Thai Chicken Burgers, Soothing North Indian Curry and Japanese Negima Yakitori are similar to recipes we have made and enjoyed before; a good reminder to make them again soon.

Others are dishes we’ve not thought to try ourselves. My copy of the book is frilled along the top edge with little scraps of paper bookmarking those I want to try soon – Spanish Chicken, Morcilla and Sherry, Vietnamese Lemongrass and Chilli Chicken, Bourbon and Marmalade-glazed Drumsticks, Chicken with Shaoxing Wine, Crisp Radishes and Pickled Ginger, Tagine of Chicken, Caramelised Onion and Pears, Chicken Legs in Pinot Noir with Sour Cherries and Parsnip Purée, Roast chicken stuffed with black pudding and apple and mustard sauce, Ginger beer can chicken, Chicken Pot-Roasted in Milk, Bay and Nutmeg, Pot-Roast Chicken with Figs.

They all sound so good, don’t they?

Diana Henry's Crusted Chicken and Chorizo Paella - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-1 Diana Henry's Crusted Chicken and Chorizo Paella - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-3

Both dishes we have made so far have been enormously comforting, delicious and likely to be repeated again and again. Though there are only two of us, we felt the Crusted Chicken and Chorizo Paella was best made in a large quantity; we scaled it down to make two thirds and that served us both for two meals, plus a generous portion for my lunchbox one day too. Warm, comforting, tasty and not complicated to make.

The Chicken with Pumpkin, Cream and Gruyère actually blew me away. As you can see, it’s such a simple recipe and yet I would never have thought to combine chicken and pumpkin, nor to cook the combination so simply in cream flavoured with garlic and grated cheese. Be warned, this is a rich dish, so small portions will be plenty. A crisp vinaigrette-dressed green salad is my perfect accompaniment.

Again, we scaled the recipe down by half. We used chicken thighs (which I much prefer to breasts) and butternut squash and switched the two hard cheeses for close cousins we had on hand. We also decided to cut the thighs into three pieces before frying, rather than after as in the recipe.

Full, original recipe provided below.

Diana Henry's Chicken with Pumpkin Cream and Gruyere - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-1

Diana Henry’s Chicken with Pumpkin, Cream and Gruyère

Serves 6

1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) pumpkin or butternut squash (unprepared weight)
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
8 skinless boneless chicken thighs or breasts
400 ml (14 fl oz) double cream
1 garlic clove, crushed
25 g (scant 1 oz) grated Gruyère
25 g (scant 1 oz) grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F. Peel and deseed the pumpkin and cut it into wedges. Put the wedges into a roasting tin, brush with olive oil, season and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until completely tender (and even slightly caramelised). Now put the squash into a gratin or other ovenproof dish, one that is big enough to accommodate the chicken too.

Meanwhile, cook the chicken. Simply season it all over, heat one and a half tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the chicken on both sides until golden and cooked through, eight to ten minutes. Cut each piece into three. Add the chicken to the pumpkin.

Heat the cream with the garlic until it’s boiling, take off the heat, season and pour over the chicken and pumpkin. Sprinkle on both cheeses and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The dish should be bubbling and golden. Serve. You need something to cut the richness so a salad of bitter leaves is good. Children like it with pasta, but I prefer brown rice or another nutty whole grain.

Diana Henry's Chicken with Pumpkin Cream and Gruyere - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-1 Diana Henry's Chicken with Pumpkin Cream and Gruyere - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-2 Diana Henry's Chicken with Pumpkin Cream and Gruyere - KaveyEats (c)KavitaFavelle-3

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A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry is available from Amazon for £9.99 (RRP £20). Published by Mitchell Beazley. Kavey Eats received a review copy from the publisher.

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