Bar Launch: The Toy Shop

“Putney, one of the pleasantest of the London suburbs, as well as the most accessible” wrote J. C. Geikie in his 1903 The Fascinations of London. 

If I’d have been heading to ‘the pleasantest of the London suburbs’ from my abode, I’d have walked to Waterloo and caught the train, and then its label as ‘most accessible’ would have been apt. As it was, I was coming from Sloane Square and that meant a 25-minute, eight stop sweaty tube journey to East Putney and then a 15-minute walk to 32 Putney High Street. Accessible yes, but not ‘most accessible.’

I was Putney bound thanks to a kind invitation to the launch of new bar The Toy Shop, and I was in Sloane Square before having a celebratory drink with my sister and mother – which I will fill you all in on at a later date. What I will tell you is we drank the most overly priced Bellinis I’ve come across…

Here’s a snap of my sister and me appreciating them…very slowly (and my mother taking the photo):

alice and claud 2

Back to Putney. I met my companion as the sky progressed from spitting to drooling rain, which resulted in me looking like a drowned rat.  This was bad, but when my comrade informed me that Henry Cavill was going to be there, was suddenly very much worse.

“Superman! I can’t meet Superman looking like this!”

Luckily we had arrived early, and after being ticked off the list by two formidable looking bouncers, I walked briskly through the bar straight to the baby pink painted ladies, found the hand drier, and stuck my head under it for couple of minutes. Slightly afro, but better.

I returned upstairs and took in the surroundings properly. The bar was like being thrust into a packet of skittles; turquoise velvet sofas, yellow velvet armchairs and orange bar stools blended together in a kaleidoscopic interior. Dangling LEDs lit up individual round oak tables and waitresses glided between these wielding trays groaning with cocktails. Small ones, big ones, I’m-not-entirely-sure-what’s-in-these ones.

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To the background of chequered wall paper, mixologists bore wide smiles as they created further cocktail concotions. Prosecco on draught lubricated the crowd as they waited, and a series of canapes appeased those who’d missed supper. If these were anything to go by then the bar, which will be a bar-cum-restaurant, is going to be a foodie’s haven.

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Grilled prawns sprayed with a lemon grass based sauce, circular chicken liver pate and sweet jelly bites, balls of herb crusted goat’s cheese and deep-fried tomato and risotto balls, were readily devoured to the extent where the waitresses were stalked as soon as they left the kitchen. Free good food, I mean what more could you want?

Live music. It wasn’t until it arrived, that I realised that is what I wanted – which is always the best way around. Out came a drummer, who doubled as a saxophonist, and was truly sensational. Infectiously happy, this born entertainer wowed his audience, especially during a set where he played half of it with a drum stick behind his ear. Brilliant.

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I had forgotten about the arrival of Superman, which didn’t actually happen. Though a friend of the owner, the A-lister unfortunately had more pressing matters – the premiere of his film in Leicester Square. Boo.

More cocktails, a stint sucking at a treasure chest, a chat with a psychic (who predicted good things! yay!) and dancing ensued and before I knew it, the launch was over and the formidable bouncers extricated us from the building. Decidedly merry, after one final farewell and thank you, I left the bar, which even if it isn’t ‘most accessible’ to me, I will be accessing again. This is a Toy shop which is definitely worth playing in.

toy shop treaure chest

The Toy Shop, 32 Putney High Street, London SW15 1SQ

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Megan’s

Considering its length, it’s no wonder that people spend so much time talking about the King’s Road. There’s a lot to talk about.

On Wednesday night, nestled on a number 22 bus, my mother, sisters and I got to see a lot of it – for it turned out, that the restaurant we were dining at, number 571, was at the opposite end than Sloane Square tube. In fact, in terms of TFL guide lines, we probably would have been better off getting off at Fulham Broadway. Our bus voyage, however, was actually rather pleasant.

Perched on the top deck, we picked out the restaurants we wanted to dine – and had dined – at, and peered at copious window displays, which were filled with beautifully dressed skeletal plastic mannequins –  clothes which, visiting the aforementioned restaurants would mean, we’d never fit into. One pair of hot pants and strapless bikini later and we found ourselves outside number 571, Megan’s.

We were shown to our table, sadly the quaintly decorated terrace was fully booked, but our cubicle upstairs was, nonetheless, decidedly agreeable. A level up to the rest of the restaurant, it gave us a great panoramic and seated seven comfortably. Seven? Yes, in addition to the four Audley girls, there would be three Mintos – and both of these families descended from the Shores. In simplified terms, we were out to supper with our cousins. Some of you may remember my post on Made in Italy. Well after the success of our shindig at this King’s Road pizzeria, we decided that another sister/cousin, female family, extravaganza was a must. So, three months and a dozen emails later, we finally made the rendevous, and I’m happy to report that it was just as great as the first. Company was first-rate, food was – though overwhelming in portion size – very agreeable and service came with a smile – if a little slow. Here are some snaps of the evening.

female familyThe female family

Megan's
Megan’s

IMG_2305Coarse chicken liver pâté

Fish soup (soupe de poisson)
Fish soup (soupe de poisson)
Chargrilled Salmon, chips, salad and a parsley & butter sauce
Chargrilled salmon, chips, salad and a parsley & butter sauce
Côte de boeuf, salad and béarnaise sauce
Côte de boeuf, salad and béarnaise sauce
571 King’s Rd  London SW6 2EB 020 7371 7837

Pescheria Mattiucci

There are restaurants that don’t stand out, there are restaurants that you have to look for, but there are also completely indistinguishable restaurants, when – even though your taxi has dropped you outside the exact number on the road – if you take just the tinsiest look away, you’ve lost it. Pescheria Mattiucci is one of these restaurants.

Situated a short walk away from Ladbroke Grove Underground (8 Blenheim Crescent), though it has a thick white frame above its door screaming to be painted upon, Pescheria Mattiucci only advertises itself with a thin, fluorescent-blue-lighted script which reads ‘Fish Boutique.’ Perfect to attract the fly, or insects in general, but rather less captivating for the homosapien. Once, however, you have managed to locate Pescheria Mattiucci, it’s worth the wait.

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With Italian foundations, this family rooted restaurant prides itself on the locality and sustainability of its produce. Line-caught fish are sent fresh from Naples, Sicily and their small hometown (the name of which now escapes me), every other day, so menus are always changing and the meal that I tell you about, may very well not exist when you go to test it out. For your sake though, I hope it does.

I was out with Blackhouse man again; our second supper together in just four days. This meal was also courtesy of his website, which after losing £20 on the Grand National just hours before, was all the more agreeable. Welcomed by the front of house; a petite, dark-haired beauty, we were given a history of the restaurant, before being brought over a booklet filled with brown paper print-outs of the latest dishes. For the size of the restaurant, there was a surprising amount on the menu. Rather than choosing ourselves, we opted to ask the waitress/owner/front of house for her advice. “What would you recommend?”

And under this guidance, over the next three hours we tested eight courses. And here they are:

1IMG_2134Crudo Mediterraneo (Raw Fish Platter: prawns, sword fish, squid & tuna)

Told to start with the white fish, I tucked into the squid and the sword fish. Raw squid is a texture too far for me and its flavour was nothing special. The sword fish was better, but if it was a dish by itself, not worth ordering. The tuna was brilliant; sprinkled with black salt and dabbed in lemon, it was fresh, smooth and moreish. The prawns, better still; a brilliant bite to the body, followed by a good, long, hard suck on the head – what more could you ask for?  If they did a Crudo purely of the darker fish, it would be an absolute winner.

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IMG_2136Calamaro stuffed with prawns, provola cheese and zucchini

Rather like a healthier version of a potato tot, the Calamaro was nicely familiar in texture. It would work well as a side, rather than purely as a course.

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IMG_2137Tartare of Red Head prawns from Marina di camerota

We’d already sucked on its contemporaries’ heads, but this prawn matched up in taste. However, by this point in our dining proceedings, I’d rather reached my limit with raw shellfish.

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IMG_2138Mix of telline and Sardinian veraci clams cooked with lemon, chilli and parsley

‘Cooked’ – hurrah. After being told we were going to have clams, I had a flash back to a story that one of my best friends told me last year. She was on a trip to Mexico and was taken out to supper at a fish restaurant by her hosts. They ordered her clams. A plateful came to the table and were served with slices of lemon. My friend was told to pick up a clam, sprinkle it with lemon and then eat it. She picked up her clam, sprinkled it with lemon…and, to her horror, the little creature started wriggling and writhing. She said it was like it was wailing: “Please, please don’t eat me!”

Fortunately ours didn’t put up such protestations and, though were a hassle to eat (a lot of effort for not a lot of food), were good.

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IMG_2140Crunchy scallops served with potatoes puree and spicy cabbage

They were back in their element with this dish. Crunchy scallops were crisp on the outside, moist on the inside, and worked beautifully with the puree and cabbage. A must have.

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IMG_2142Sfogliatella Riccia (puff pastry, ricotta cream with candied peel)

Flaked perfectly and had just the right amount of filling. Would be nice for breakfast with a cappuccino.

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IMG_2143Pastiera, wheat grain cooked with milk and ricotta with add of orange blossom and rose water, a sublime mix baked Naples.

Oh my! Oh my! This is something special. Aromas of roses and oranges hit your nasal passage and taste-buds simultaneously in one of the most pleasurable ‘put it in your mouth’ experiences out there. YUM.

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IMG_2145Cassata (Traditional cake from Trapani, Sicily)

Sweet, really, really, really sweet. Too much of this number and even the non-diabetic will be reaching for the insulin. One bite’s enough; this is a pudding to share.

A hidden gem, though outshone physically by its neighbours, once you’ve made it in to Pescheria Mattiucci there’s no going back. Fresh and affordable, an evening in this fish boutique, is an evening well spent.

Food: *** Wine: *** Experience: **** Price: ££

 8 Blenheim Crescent, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, W11 1NN

Sausage Time

On Tuesday night I went to the Hammersmith Apollo to review Harry Hill’s new stand-up Sausage Time.

I took my friend Annabel Jewers as a +1, who thought (as did I) that we would just be watching the show. Collecting our press tickets, we were also handed after party wristbands…We weren’t just watching the show, we were going to be meeting the voice of You’ve been Framed himself.

Sadly this was after we had endured his two-hour show. Yes, endured. It was not good. And meeting a comedian who has failed to make you laugh, is rather less exciting than meeting one who had fulfilled their job prescription. Here is my review:

Sausage Time at the Hammersmith Apollo

Harry Hill is the equivalent of flares to fashion: not yet ready for a comeback. This, however, is exactly what the voice of You’ve been Framed has done; he’s come back with new stand-up show Sausage Time.

Hill is best known for his ITV show Harry Hill’s TV Burp, but after 11 years the award-winning series was cancelled in 2012 to allow “the comic to pursue other projects.” Judging the audience’s reception of last night’s performance, Hill should have kept hold of that contract.

Sausage Time (Hill’s first stand-up show since 2005) is ill-conceived, tatty and most disastrously, not laugh out loud funny. The show doesn’t look prepared; it’s like Hill has decided on a few jokes, jotted them down on a piece of paper and had the cockiness to just wing it. Jokes were repeated, pauses were, at times, too lengthy and interactions with members of the front row were strained. At one point – so desperate for laughs – Hill chucked a bucket of water over his head. This is stand-up, not ChuckleVision.

High points of the show (there weren’t many) included a speedy monologue on the human constitution and a witty metaphor on immigration: “At least Parrots bothered to learn the language.” Sadly these peaks of humour were short-lived and the audience were soon drawn back into Hill’s unfunny fray.

Harry Hill is a household name and Hill knows it. The comedian has used his TV reputation to make a quick bit of cash on tour, without caring if people find him funny or not, after all at £33.50 a ticket he’s had the last laugh. Though on top of some serious platform shoes, Hill is not on top of his game, and Sausage Time is not worth forking out for.

Verdict: *    http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/03/27/comedy-review-harry-hill-sausage-time/

Upstairs in the private party, he wandered around with a flat cap on. We got his attention and I asked him:

“What made you decide to give up Medicine and pursue comedy?”

He replied: “Because I wanted to.”

Charming! So we got a photo each and left.

annie and harry

Annie and Harry

alice and harryAlice and Harry

Theatre Review: Steptoe and Son at the Lyric Hammersmith

British sitcom Steptoe and Son first hit television screens on 4th January 1962. Following the tumultuous relationship between a father and son in the scrap-selling business, the BBC One show ran for eight seasons, produced 57 episodes and didn’t finish until 1974. Spin-offs were made in Sweden, the Netherlands and the US, and two films were released in the UK in ’72 and ’73. In 2004, Steptoe and Son was voted 15th in Britain’s Best Sitcom awards.

Steptoe-and-SonThis year, “dirty old man” Albert and son Harold have returned, but this time to the stage. The Kneehigh and West Yorkshire Playhouse have brought the iconic series back home to the Lyric Hammersmith in West London.

Laughs are rife from the start. Mike Shepherd (Albert) and Dean Nolan (Harold) have chemistry that rings true of a father-son relationship. From small gestures to gait, from physical interaction and hilarious dance moves to voice, the pair is perfectly in tune throughout the performance. Their quick fire exchanges in the stichomythia scenes were performed superbly and it really did seem like they had been together (in the scrap yard) forever.

The scrap yard was depicted by a large cart centre stage, which doubled as their home. The set was crowded: a model horse stage right, a record box stage left, a large orb upstage, bits of scrap downstage, this disorder worked well and conveyed both the chaotic nature of their work and their relationship.

Unfortunately, the plot was very weak. Director Emma Rice had the pair bumble along irritating each other for the majority of the performance, occasionally interspersed with more tender scenes that suggested they cared about each other – a message that wasn’t strong enough to warrant a two-hour performance and felt, by the second half, exceedingly drawn out.

Rice also added a female character (Kirsty Woodward) who, in addition to playing numerous bland roles that never successfully meshed with Albert and Harold, acted as a physical representation of time. Through her dramatic costume changes, including a playboy bunny and a 60s hippy, the audience could gauge the shift of years and eras.

Despite its lack of backbone, Steptoe and Son was entertaining. Shepherd and Nolan both gave worthy performances, recreating the slap-stick comedy of their 60s predecessors. Woodward didn’t have the opportunity to shine, which considering her previous performances was a shame. A wasted opportunity – it was good, but with a stronger script it could have been great.

Verdict: 

Alice Audley

Steptoe and Son is on at the Lyric Hammersmith until 6th April 2013. For further information or to book tickets, click here

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/03/21/theatre-review-steptoe-and-son-at-lyric-hammersmith/

Supper Club Review: The Novel Diner does The Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar was published in 1963; a month later the poet committed suicide. Though half a century has passed, last night, in the newly renovated Bush Theatre, both Plath and her only novel were resurrected. Ted Hughes’ wife and her book were brought to life by supper club sensation, The Novel Diner.

Mina Holland, Co-Founder of The Novel Diner.

Mina Holland, Co-Founder of The Novel Diner.

Set up by Claire Coutinho and Mina Holland, The Novel Diner is a pop-up restaurant which brings works of fiction to life. You are literally nourished by novels. Past menus have featured Turkey Bewitched to a Dark Gold for The Great Gatsby,Whipple Scrumptious Fudge Mallow Delight for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and, very impressively, Sea Urchin Cevichefor American Pyscho.

Last night’s voyage took us into both the era and the culinary world of Plath’s protagonist Esther Greenwood. Entering the theatre, you forgot that you were an arm’s reach from a bustling pub bar. As soon as you stepped through the threshold and were handed a chicken, caviar and lemon thyme canapé and a Gin & Elderflower Collins, there was no doubt that you were in 1953.

Beautifully dressed women, working 50s glamour to perfection, surrounded delicately laid tables, peppered, alongside candles and flowers, with Esther’s worrisome ripened figs: “I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose.  I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

This was beautifully quoted by The Novel Diner’s very own Esther Greenwood, Bess Roche, after a deliciously cool starter of Fresh Crab and Avocado Pear Salad dressed with Poet’s Leaves.

Soft, self-conscious and questioning, Roche captured the internal angst of Plath’s heroine wonderfully. She absorbed diners with her monologues, effortlessly keeping them in the 1953 time warp.

Roche was not the only guest speaker: after the diners had finished a hearty portion of Grandma’s Meat Loaf with Pancetta, Fondant Potatoes, Sautéed French Beans and Butter Beans in White Wine (served in individual Le Creuset pots), Professor Richard Brown took to the floor and delivered a fascinating mini lecture on Plath, The Bell Jar and – somewhat surprisingly – Bob Dylan. Brown’s enthusiasm was infectious and his pithy dialogue both informative and entertaining.

Pudding was A Ladies’ Day dessert dish of Brandy Ice Cream, Meringue & Fig Molasses. The rich brandy fused delightfully with the sweet meringue and both were topped off fantastically by the fig molasses. It was a punchy pudding, and as with the rest of the evening, The Novel Diner team executed it perfectly.

A supper club where you eat, drink, dress up, read and learn, The Novel Diner has found a niche in an overcrowded market, and it delivers time and time again.

Verdict: •••••



butterbeansSpooning some butter beans

meatloafGrandma’s Meat loaf

salad fingersEating salad with my fingers

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/03/20/restaurant-review-the-novel-diner-does-the-bell-jar/

Alice meets Lenny Henry and the stars of Comic Relief

A smile from Dermot and I go weak at the knees, pictures with Lenny Henry and David Tenant – how have I wrangled these? Michael McIntyre, James Corden and Jonathan Ross walk past, -surely this degree of celeb spotting can’t last? Then appears a newly shaven Jessie J – this is simply the best BBC day.

My day at the BBC, courtesy of my second cousin Jon, was yesterday.

tvc history

After five years of plans, cancellations and more plans, it finally happened – I got to go to the BBC. As fate would have it (we were supposed to meet a month ago but I went to Portland Place rather than White City), this coincided with the last ever broadcasting day at the Television Centre branch (which is closing and moving to Portland Place!) and the 25th Comic Relief.

I met Jon at the TVC reception, was given a visitor’s badge and then led through the revolving doors into the broadcasting labyrinth. Following close behind him, certain that if I lost sight of him, I would be lost forever, we wound our way up flights of stairs, down lifts, up more flights of stairs, along corridor after corridor before arriving in his office – the News room, just in time for the 10 o’ clock meeting.

Here, a list of the day’s main news stories were distributed and debate began on what should lead, what could be ditched and what angles would work. It was fascinating – what was decided in this room, is what the country would see later. It was exhilarating.

After the meeting finished, my tour of the building began. Once hustling and bustling, the place was now practically deserted as everyone was moving or had moved to W1 (Portland Place). Though this meant that I didn’t get a true depiction of what it used to really be like, it also meant that I got to go into studios that I wouldn’t normally have been able to go into – and that I got to live my dream of becoming a news presenter.

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Alice Audley reports for duty

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And on the screen at home

After lunch, Jon returned to constructing a story on the JP Morgan case and I went off to watch the preparations for a Comic Relief package for the 6 o ‘ clock news – headed up by presenter Lizo Mzimba. Clips of One Direction in Ghana, Mel C on the Zambezi and interviews with Richard Curtis (Comic Relief founder) and Matt Smith, were blended together with Lizo’s voice-over. How much work that goes into a two-minute clip – put the art of television into perspective.

After the 6 o ‘ clock news aired, Lizo said that I could, if I wanted to,  join him in the main foyer as he interviewed the Comic Relief stars (who were arriving).

“I would absolutely love to!”

And so it began…

IMG_1592 Lizo interviewing John Bishop (who last year raised£3,412,261 for Sport Relief)

IMG_1593Matt Smith (Dr Who)

IMG_1597Claudia Winkleman

IMG_1599Jessie J walks past with her entourage and freshly shaven head

interview lennyLenny Henry

Then Lizo had to make a phone call to BBC Breakfast, so I took up the reins:

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And what with my new-found authority, I couldn’t resist asking for a few presenter/celebrity snaps:

david 1With David Tennant

And the main man himself, Lenny Henry:

lenny 1Lenny Henry

There aren’t many jobs in which you willingly want to stay working at until 10 p.m on a Friday night – but a presenter at the BBC is an exception. I had the most incredible time yesterday – thank you very much Jon, and watch out Lizo, I’m after your job!

La Sophia – The best food of 2013 (so far)

Pulling up onto the nondescript Golborne road, my expectations plummeted and I wished we’d asked the taxi driver to stop five minutes earlier – in Notting Hill. As it was, we hadn’t; we had carried on North-West and we were in Westbourne Park.  A few could-be-anywhere shops were peppered around us and the droning sound of engines from the nearby Westway A40 were still audible. We should have gone to the Gilgamesh after all.

“What’s this place called again?” I asked my elder sister as my younger sister walked off in, what turned out to be, completely the wrong direction.

“La Sophia,” she replied.

“Ah there it is!” I said and pointed across the road.

IMG_1249With its black and gold tipped exterior combined with a February evening’s natural light, La Sophia didn’t jump out at us. This isn’t a restaurant that you would wander into from the street, rather like the Harry Potter Room of Requirement, you have to be seeking it out to find it.

When taking this photo, I still wasn’t convinced, but on entering my spirits lifted. The interior of La Sophia, with its antique mirrors, smooth dark beams and mood lighting, provided the perfect dining aesthetic.

A warm, friendly and slightly nervous (it was only his third week) waiter approached and handed us the menus.

“Oh my god,” my elder sister gasped, her face contorted with angst.

“What? What?” I asked.

“They only serve non-alcoholic wine.”

This news really was concerning. But looking left towards the kitchen there was shelf upon shelf of spirits; why would they display it and then not serve it? What type of sick joke was this? I took the menu from my sister, who was sinking further and further into the midst of an anxiety episode, and leafed through as she called the waiter back over and started quizzing him on where the nearest off-license was.

“Laura!”

“Yes.”

“You were on the non-alcoholic page. There’s loads of wine.”

Awash with relief, but nervous that this news wasn’t going to last, she quickly ordered a bottle of Argentinian Malbec and slowly regained a normal breathing pattern. The wine arrived and was fantastically rich, full and spicy. With it safely on the table, we allowed ourselves to look at the food options – after I had taken this artistic shot.

mirrorThe only French restaurant in London to have a completely Halal menu, we were torn between having starters and mains, or mains and puddings. We were heading onward to SupperClub to watch our brother box and after a few minutes of deliberation we decided that for this we really needed to line our stomachs – so we went for all three. And each of these three courses were absolutely – I had completely and utterly the wrong first impression about this place – fantastic.

Starter: (Laura, Bex and Claudia)

hal

Oven-roasted aubergine with fried halloumi, chilli, lemon garlic & mixed baby leaf salad(£6.95)

Starter: (Me)

cal

Fried calamari with lemon & chilli tartar sauce (£6.95)

Main: (Laura, Bex and Claudia)

chipFlame-grilled ribeye steak with Cafe de Paris butter & hand cut chips (£21.95)

Main: (Me)

chickenStuffed free range chicken breast with mushroom duxelles, creamy mash potato & truffle veloute (£14.95)

Pudding: (Laura)

apple

Apple tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream (£7)

Pudding: (Bex)

bexMarinated pineapple with sweet spice, coconut sorbet & passion fruit (£5.50)

Pudding: (Claudia and I)

choc

Warm chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream (£5.50)

And one more snap that would make fondant maker extraordinaire Raymond Blanc proud:

choc 2

Absolutely out of this world good

Undoubtedly the best meal I have had so far this year, La Sophia may be slightly off the beaten track, but it is a track that is well worth getting to. In London affordable fine-dining is a rare commodity, so get down to La Sophia while it lasts, because once the crowds hear about this, prices will rocket.

Food: ***** Service **** Wine **** Price ££

46 Golborne Road, London W10 5PR (off Portobello Rd)
Telephone 020 8968 2200

http://La Sophia on Urbanspoon

http://Square Meal

Fight Night

“How’s the head?”

“Alright actually, nothing a few painkillers haven’t sorted.”

I was pleasantly surprised when I received this text, just over 20 minutes ago. It’s from my brother and means, that despite the repeated right hooks that were planted on his face last night, he isn’t brain-damaged. Last night? You may recall the blog ‘My brother has been beaten up…’ that I posted last week about The Lily Foundation and the boxing fundraiser, well this was last night. Last night was fight night.

I’d never been to a boxing match before and – aside from an Olympic curiosity crush on Nicola Adams – the sport hasn’t ever appealed to me. Beating people up, hurting people and trying to knock people out seems rather unsporting. Where are the goals? Where’s the team spirit? Boxing struck me as a human version of cock-fighting – and wasn’t that banned?

However, as my previous blog touched on – if there is any cause that reasons being beaten up, then The Lily Foundation is it. So I locked my prejudices and preconceptions away in the back of my mind and set off with my sisters and friends to the event’s venue – Notting Hill’s Supperclub.

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Brother wasn’t on until 11 p.m, we arrived at 9 p.m just in time for the first fight. I hadn’t thought that three 3-minute rounds sounded like much – I was wrong. Within 30 seconds blood was pouring out of one of the fighter’s nostrils and after two minutes I was convinced that the paramedics sitting in the ambulance outside were going to have to be called in. And that was just in the first round. But even though I found the punches, the blood and the thumping sound of limbs colliding distressing, I couldn’t look away. It was riveting, exciting, addictive and highly entertaining.

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That was when I didn’t know the fighters though; it was a very different story as the clock struck 11.01 p.m and my own flesh and blood entered the ring.

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(Brother Charles in the black)

At this point, despite the ample amount of vodka diet cokes coursing through my veins, I felt sick with nerves…and as the bell went, this just got worse.

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And worse…

IMG_1352It just seemed to go on and on and on and on, but as my heart raced and as I screamed and screamed, I realised that I wasn’t shouting ‘stop’, I was shouting for my brother to: “hit him, hit him, hit him.” I was completely absorbed.

It wasn’t to be though, and after the 9 minutes had run its course, it was the opposition that was declared victor.

IMG_1373In a true display of sportsmanship, the pair embraced and reminded the audience why we were there – to support a great cause, not just to beat the crap out of fellow-men. The boxers raised over £10,000 for The Lily Foundation – a truly fantastic achievement.

Next time Charles wants to raise money for charity though, I wish he would run a marathon…I don’t think I could cope with another round of this.

IMG_1310!

Made in Italy

Sometimes you just have to surrender to the clutches of the King’s Road. Prejudices and stereotypes aside, the mile and a half stretch of tarmac does have an undeniable amount to offer. I speak of shops, galleries and – of course – restaurants. Last week I combined the latter two of this trio; art and food, or rather food and then art.

I was Parallax Art Fair bound with my aunt, cousin and mother, but rather than go there straight, we decided to make a night of it (we rarely all get together) and have a little dinner party beforehand.

Though I normally have my finger on the dining pulse (top-table emails), it was my cousin Alexandra who picked our foodie destination. After a phone call and a reservation, she led us to her choice and at approximately 5.59 p.m we found ourselves outside number 257 King’s road, SW3 5EL – at Made in Italy.

Welcomed gaily into the rustic establishment, we were then taken to our table on the first floor. This was actually rather disappointing as the hustle and bustle (atmosphere) of the place seemed to be more rife downstairs. We weren’t perturbed enough to warrant a move and settled into our seats. It had, like Bubbledogs and Bodo Schloss, that chalet feel. Indeed after sharing a bottle of red with my aunt, I felt that I was in the midst of a rather successful apres ski session.

That was at the end of the meal, let me take you back to the beginning. The exhibition started at 7.30 p.m, so we opted for just the one course each. I went for the goat’s cheese and asparagus salad, the others for pizzas. Just as the waiter moved off from the table, we suffered a severe bout of food envy as an antepasti beautiful enough to make vegetarians jealous swerved past us. Bugger.

“Next time,” piped my aunt. “Next time we’ll get one of those.”

I was glad she said this, not only because of the appetising look of the sliced meats, but also because we were having an absolute ball. It was the sisters and cousins catch up of dreams; conversation,  jokes, anecdotes and a magnificent amount of laughter.

Half-way through a particularly entertaining tale about a pompous woman who accidentally used her £500 white shirt as a napkin, our food arrived. Perfectly oozing, the goat’s cheese on top of my salad caused mutual delight (my mother shotgunned some of it). Then arrived the pizza, yes singular – the three pizzas had been merged together to create the most enormous pizza I have ever seen in my life – the ultimate cheesy extravaganza.

Need I say more:

pizza

I couldn’t even zoom out enough to capture it all!

And before I fall into a lactose-induced coma (just at the thought of it), here is a snap of the salad:

goatI will most certainly be heading back to Made in Italy to sample the rest of the menu and will, for the time being, keep any King’s Road prejudices to myself.

Food:*** Company: *****