Afternoon Tea – Cake Boy, Battersea, SW18

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When it comes to eating in London, we are lucky to have so many different ways to enjoy good food. Afternoon Tea is just one past time that where we can indulge in some gorgeous cakes, sample lovely pastries and devour fresh sandwiches.

We visited Eric Lanlard’s Wandsworth based cafe,  ‘Cake Boy’ after pre-booking their champagne afternoon tea. For those of you who don’t know, Lanlard is a celebrity chef who has produced cakes for the Beckham’s, Madonna and even the late Queen Mother! We knew we were in for a treat!

Upon arrival at the cafe we were greeted by a friendly waiter who already knew we were hear for tea, which led us to believe this is the main reason why people visit the place. The decor of the ‘tea room’ is far from traditional, with large arm chairs and quirky tables in bold colours of pink and black. Very different to likes of the Ritz or Claridges, but still very comfortable nonetheless.

The waiter took our drinks order (Lattes and teas) and also brought over our glasses of champagne. Then out came the sandwiches and cakes. What a sight! The waiter explained all of the sandwich fillings and described each delectable cake in detail. We were also supplied with a small menu outlining everything too.

The sandwiches, again not your traditional finger on white or brown bread, but large overfilled rolls consisting of mozzarella and roasted veg, parma ham, and houmous and salad. All of the breads were freshly baked and were delicious. We polished off all the sandwiches rather quickly!

Onto the stars of the day. The cakes. Lanlard’s inventive streak was certainly on display through each little beauty. Below is a photo of the menu describing each in detail.

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All of the treats were unique in taste and simply divine. When thought has gone into the creating of  individual cakes like these, you really can appreciate the skill level of the talented chefs behind the scenes! Our favourite was the Dark Chocolate square. The mousse was the lightest we have ever tasted and the cherries were a great addition and complemented the dark earthiness of the chocolate.

We would recommend a visit to Cake Boy if you live south of the river and are around Wandsworth/ Clapham. It is slightly out of the way, but we like that. Means it is a secret between us and Eric, for now any way!

Cake Boy
Unit 2, Kingfisher House, Battersea Reach, Juniper Dr, London SW18 1TX

Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte, Marylebone Lane, W1U

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Steak frites is a European staple but there is one restaurant that outdoes all the others in the city and that’s Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte. Being taken there for the first time in Geneva, it was clear to see that this concept works: 1 dish, no menu and a sauce to die for.

There are now three L’Entrecôte restaurants in London: Canary Wharf, Bank and Marylebone. It is the Marylebone branch we are focussing on, mainly because it was the London original. You’ll find a queue for dinner (due to a no reservation policy) so be prepared to wait! The restaurant itself is distinctly Parisian and even the waitresses are wearing signature French outfits. The service here is some of the best around and once you’re finally sat down you’re promptly asked if you’ve been before. The concept is thus: There is no menu (other than for select wines and dessert) and you’re asked how you like your steak. There’s no in-betweens so it’s either rare, medium or well done. Once you’ve chosen and also picked one of their fantastic wines (go for the house red, it’s really that good) you’re presented with a walnut salad and some sliced baguette. The  classic French mustard on the table is great for this. The salad is fresh lettuce leaves topped with walnuts and a classic mustard vinaigrette and is a welcome start to the meal. The waitresses always have an eye on your table and as soon as the salad is finished, your steak is ready.

If you keep a keen eye on your surroundings you will have noticed that the steak and frites were already waiting on tealight burners to the side of the restaurant. Your plate arrives with slices of Entrecôte steak and their signature sauce. This sauce is one of the greatest we have sampled and it’s a very well-kept secret. It’s green in colour and buttery with a plethora of herbs we couldn’t imagine to even guess. Many have tried and failed to recreate and it’s the reason we’ve been here so many times! The waitress then comes with the frites and she piles them high. Another tip here is to ask for some more sauce, you’ll thank us later. The steak is perfectly cooked and while it might not be the best cut of meat in the world, the sauce changes all of that. The frites are quite special too in that they’re not oily and totally moreish. Once you’ve devoured what’s on your plate, the waitress is by your side ready to give you another serving and this is the main reason we love this restaurant. Don’t be shy in wanting more sauce or chips here either but make sure you leave room for dessert!

There’s a menu for this and we’d highly recommend the selection of cheeses, Le Gateau du Relais and the crème brûlée. the latter being one of the best we’ve ever tasted! You’ll leave this restaurant very full and like us, quite tipsy! The steak frites and salad is only £23 so for price to taste ratio it can’t be beaten. Out of the three London destinations this is our favourite one so come hungry and be ready for a wholly excellent dining experience.

Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte
120 Marylebone Lane, London , W1U 2QG

Pimlico Fresh, Wilton Rd, SW1V

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Breakfast; the most important meal of the day. If you have a good breakfast your day is already set on the right track. We headed to Pimlico Fresh, just behind Victoria station for what we have been told, one of the best brekkies you will have!

The quaint little cafe with a warm inviting feel has a couple of large wooden sharing tables which you can park yourself on once you have ordered what you want from their main counter. A huge blackboard along one wall helps you to decide what what you want. The friendly staff are also on hand to give their recommendations!

For breakfast options, they only do eggs scrambled. Didn’t bother us, but if you are after eggs benedict, this isn’t the place for you. We settled upon their Scrambled Eggs with Smoke Salmon and their Veggie Scrambler (Spinach, Tomatoes, Red Onion and Parmesan) for Herbie.  Teas and coffees were also ordered.

One by one our breakfasts arrived, hot gooey fluffy eggs on fresh sourdough toast. Boy were they good! Pimilco Fresh may only offer one type of egg, but they have got them down to a T. Generous with their toppings we struggled to finish.

If you are ever around Victoria Station and you need a somewhere to escape the crowds, this is the place for you. Their lunch time offerings of fresh salads, lasagne and tarts are also worth sampling. We will be making frequent visits just for their coffee cake alone!

Pimlico Fresh
86-87 Wilton Rd, Victoria, London SW1V 1DN

Balthazar, Russell Street, WC2B

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A few years back whilst on a trip in New York City we got talking to some locals on a tour bus. You read that right, locals on a tour bus! We found out that they use it to get around the city as it’s a cheaper way to do it and that’s just ingenious! They told us about the brunch scene in Manhattan and that we have to go to Balthazar without fail. Given that it was Sunday the next day, we went and boy was it good!

Thankfully Balthazar opened in London last year and it’s a carbon copy of the on in New York, from the entrance to the bar and to the staff uniform. Such a massive space with high ceilings, you can tell that Keith McNally had spent a good deal of money getting the decor perfect. His New York import came with a huge reputation and it didn’t disappoint. The bar with high stools and seafood bar are a sight to behold themselves.

After having a few drinks in Covent Garden we made our way over to see if we could get a walk-in. The Maitre’D was welcoming and unpretentious and within 10 minutes we were sat down (at 9pm on a Friday night!). This isn’t to say it’s easy to get a table at Balthazar, on the contrary it’s best to book and we were quite lucky! Balthazar is an all day brasserie that’s open 7 days a week, which is another plus point as you can go any time of day and get some great food. We ordered some white wine and moved on to the menu.

To start we had French Onion Soup and Salad Nicoise. The Soup was fantastic and you could tell that it had been slow cooked for a long time. French onion soup, when done well, is a great way to start a meal and at Balthazar they’ve created one that is definitely worth going back for. The nicoise salad was perfect. It was fresh, not too filling and the ingredients used were high end. The poached duck egg with the pieces of tuna worked excellently. Along with the various salad leaves and a dressing we’d love to know the recipe for, this dish was fantastic. To follow this their steak frites was ordered. On our trip in New York this was an excellent dish so it made sense to try it here also and again it was on point. The Sirloin steak was a great cut and cooked perfectly (medium rare) and the Maire’D butter was just lovely. Frites can be hit and miss and thankfully they were a hit! To finish we had petits fours (pictured) and ice cream followed by an espresso. The petits fours were a great dessert in the sense that each had their own individual flavour and it wasn’t heavy. The ice cream, a little on the expensive side (£7!) was top notch but that doesn’t excuse the price unfortunately. The espresso was made from excellent coffee beans and finished off the dinner very well!

Balthazar is perfect for any occasion and they have a menu to suit all. This makes it great for dates, brunch meetings, breakfasts or a family dinner. We love a place that can tick all boxes!

Balthazar
4-6 Russell Street, London, WC2B 5HZ

Earlham Street Clubhouse, Earlham Street, WC2H

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Looking for great drinks and pizzas like you would if you were at an American student frat party? Then this is certainly the place for you. The decor of this underground bar consists of the walls being covered in vintage American beer adverts and road signs, and there’s a classic Wurlitzer jukebox in one corner to choose songs for the night.

We reserved a booth (Always a good idea if you plan on sharing the mammoth pizzas) and have to say the customer service was excellent. The witty email replies made us feel like one of the gang and gave us an insight to how our night was going to be.

Upon arrival we were greeted by a friendly waiter who pointed us in the direction of our booth. Sunken seats with dim lighting with no chance of being disturbed by the other patrons. ESC have made great layout choices with the venue; we like!

Onto the drinks. With names such as ‘Rolling with the Homies’ and ‘Cruel Intentions’ its clear they love American movies (so do we!). This theme ran through the pizza menu too with names such as ‘American Beauty’ and ‘The Ross and Rachel’. We loved this concept and it’s great to see that everything is thought about, not just the decor.

The cocktails were great. We sampled quite a few and its clear the bartenders know what flavours work. They even made up a few for us which weren’t on the menu. An added bonus!

For pizza you can go for an individual 10inch or a sharing 20inch. We also threw in a 20inch Calzone into the mix. Toppings included Plain Jane (Mozzarella, basil and tomato), American Beauty (Red onion, grilled courgette, peppers and mozzarella) and Vincent Vega (Spicy sausage, tomato and mozzarella). And they’re tasty; not Napoli-authentic like we have sampled at Franco Manca, but crisp, generously proportioned and loaded, just the thing to go with the good-time drinks.

What struck us about ESC is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s laid back, fun vibe made us want to sit there for hours sampling their drinks and sharing jokes with their staff. It’s refreshing to see a more fun side of American culture in London. Well done guys. Top night overall!

Earlham Street Clubhouse
35 Earlham St, London WC2H 9LD

Paesan, Exmouth Market, EC1R

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After a long wait we finally made it to Paesan to sample some Italian small plate delights! This ‘tapas’ variant of eating is our favourite way to have dinner of late and Paesan got a lot of things right.

We went in a larger group than normal and had a reservation for 7:30pm that didn’t seem to be on their system, the only negative we could find if we are honest. Everyone was arriving at different points in the evening so we made use of the Bitters & Rye cocktail bar located downstairs. This is a late night bar (3am on Friday/Saturday) and have a selection of £5 cocktails until 8pm. After an Aperol Spritz or three, we made our way upstairs. We were greeted by friendly staff and sat down on a large table that held 10.

Chianti Colli Senesi Docg, Toscana 2012 was the wine of choice (an excellent choice might we add) while we made our way through the one page menu (if only everywhere did this!). Some freshly baked focaccia with oilve oil & aged balsamic arrived while we perused the menu and we found that there are quite a few antipasti options. Due to this we went with the mixed platter that had a little of everything. This included: wild boar mortadella, prosciutto di parma, pecorino toscano, sicilian olives and chargrilled artichokes. The two meats were excellent and I think we would lean to the wild boar just for the succulent nature of it, and it’s rarely seen on a menu. The pecorino was fantastically smokey, the artichokes cooked perfectly and the olives were very fresh. So fresh they were quite sharp but ultimately moreish.

Our small plate options were varied and included: arancini – lemon & courgette, bruschetta – pancetta, zucchini, mint & stracchino, polpo – octopus, new potatoes & spring onions, panzanella – heirloom tomato, red onion & bread salad and burrata with chargrilled aubergines & pane carasau. The arancini were cooked perfectly and maybe required a little more seasoning (personal taste), however the flavour combination was on point. The panzanella was a great summer dish. Different coloured tomatoes with red onions and bread all put together on a plate with an amazing dressing. This was light, fresh and finished far too quickly. The stars, however, were the bruschetta (pictured) and the burrata. It’s not often you see a combination of pancetta, zucchini, mint and stracchino (a soft cheese for those who don’t know) with bruschetta. They worked perfectly and if only there was more! The burrata was soft and totally indulgent. Coupled with the chargrilled aubergines and sweet pomegranate and Paesan are onto a clear winner.

Mains for the night were: orecchiette – nduja, pancetta & cime di rapa, hand cut pappardelle – braised rabbit & chanterelle, risotto – prawn & zucchini flower, tortelloni – spinach, ricotta with burnt butter & sage and roast pork belly – lentils, sofritto & salsa verde. Starting with the orecchiette, this was a great dish as we love us some nduja. It may have been on the creamy side but it didn’t stop us from eating the entire bowl clean. The rabbit pappardelle may have been slightly better than the orecchiette. Perfectly cooked rabbit with chanterelle mushrooms was delight on a plate. The prawn & zucchini risotto was the top main dish in our eyes. We don’t often go for risotto but the waitress spoke highly of it and we love us some zucchini flowers. The seasoning was perfect and the dish was balanced just right. Spinach & riccota tortelloni can be a boring affair however when it is coupled with burnt butter and sage, this dish was great. The hand-made tortelloni was very tasty too. On to the pork belly, again cooked perfectly and was teamed with lentils and an amazing salsa verde. Everyone was very happy!

To finish we opted for the tiramisu, some panna cotta and a few espressos. All of the desserts are made in-house and the tiramisu was the clear winner. Light and effortless, this was gone within a minute or so. Teamed with some fantastic coffee, we would happily come here for those two alone. The panna cotta was a tad runny but the flavours were awesome, no complaints at all! Once all was done and paid, we were offered some limoncello on the house. When we were in the cocktail bar we did see the bartender making the limoncello while he wasn’t serving anyone and it was lovely. All palette cleansers should be just like this.

There were next to no complaints with Paesan. Come with a group or come on a date, it caters for both perfectly. The staff are fantastic, the food brilliant and it’s not too hard on the wallet either.

Paesan
2 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4PX

Copita, D’Arblay St, W1F

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Do you know what we love about London? That after making an impromptu decision to go for dinner, you can always find somewhere delicious to go to.

We stumbled upon Copita, a tapas bar, by chance whilst walking through Soho and we are glad we made the decision to go in.

The small but inviting dining room consists of tall benches and stools rather than tables, dim lighting and a bustling atmosphere. We were offered the sought after street-facing window seats, which we happily accepted. After glancing at the drinks menu we opted for a carafe of a Tempranillo (our go to red wine to pair with Spanish food).

Food here is of the small plate tapas style variety, a concept that we very much welcome. Our friendly waiter explained that 4 or 5 dishes is plenty for 2 people, especially if we are hoping to save room for dessert (which we of course were).

No tapas meal is complete without croquettes. Two options on the menu: Mushroom and Ham. We went for both. The fillings in both were hot, gooey and intense. The outer coating was crisp to bite and strong enough to encapsulate the warm interior. Herb loved the mushrooms ones, so much so another had to be ordered.

This was followed by plates of Courgettes with Potato Mayonnaise and Boiled egg, Caramelized Onion, Duck egg and Paprika chips and Deep Fried Cauliflower with Piquillo. We did not know what to expect from any of the dishes and we were certainly pleasantly surprised by all of them! When a place knows what to do with vegetables, they are always stars in our books. Our favourite was the courgette and potato mayonnaise. A first for such a combination but one that worked ever so well. The paprika chips were in fact crisps, which was a slight disappointment as we had half expected some sort of Patatas Bravas variety but it was still tasty nonetheless. The duck yolk held its own and when cracked, did not dribble all over the crisps that it sat on.

Dessert consisted of warm, soft churros with a heavenly dark bitter chocolate dip. Boy were these good! The chocolate comes in a little shot glass which you can tip back once you have finished dipping away.

We loved the service here at Copita too, with all the staff friendly and approachable. Something that definitely adds to the overall recipe of Copita.

Thanks for some truly inventive food, we shall be back to sample more dishes off of their ever changing menu.

Copita
26 D’Arblay St, London W1F 8EL