Homeward Bound: Osteria Due Fratelli, Hornchurch, Essex

I’d been meaning to visit Osteria Due Fratelli for quite a while before I finally got around to booking a table. It always looked so welcoming, the family-run restaurant painted an alluringly inviting shade of post box red. As an independent Italian restaurant amidst the sea of nearby chain eateries such as Ask, Wildwood and Prezzo, I was also interested to see what Osteria Due Fratelli could possibly bring to the plate that could successfully hold up against these big, pizza-swinging rivals.

Inside, Osteria Due Fratelli continues the family-run vibe, with the décor reminding me of a country style kitchen. The bold splashes of iconic red were still present and correct, paired with a bright white, and finished with photographs in both black and white as well as colour, the frames eclectic and in different shapes and sizes.  The chairs had a worn and rustic look with a muted whitewash, paired against a hodgepodge of different sized tables in a variety of shapes and wood shades. My friends from my badminton club and I visited on a Saturday evening, so the atmosphere was bustling with the majority of the tables taken, however there wasn’t a rushed feel at all. It had the ambience of enjoyment, of friends relaxing together and revelling in each other’s company, of stretching a meal out because conversation is flowing.

We sat down at a rectangular table for four and ordered a bottle of house red to share. Despite just being the house beverage, it was a lovely red wine with a smooth consistency and a medium body that was fruity and not too heavy to drink. While we were musing the menu, a basket of rustic ciabatta style bread was brought to the table, the loaf cut into medium thick slices. With olive oil and balsamic vinegar already sitting on our table with the other condiments, I saw it as very necessary to pool first the oil and then the vinegar on top on my bread plate, before dunking my slice decadently in the slick on my side plate. This is one of my favourite things to do so having the bread brought to the table without prompting or asking was a nice added extra. The bread itself was very Italian, with a dark, chewy crust and a spongey, hole-filled centre – perfect for absorbing all the lovely oil.

Having loaded up on bread, I decided to skip starter, and focus my attention instead on main courses. Feeling in a pasta mood, I opted for the rigatoni amatriciana, which featured wide, cylindrical white pasta in a tomato, Napoli based sauce, finished off with pancetta, onions, red wine, basil, parmesan and pecorino cheeses.

Firstly I was pleased by the portion size; sometimes pasta plates come up minutely small for a main meal and it can be very frustrating to fish around for your pieces of pasta while your companions are spearing a gutsy steak. So tick there for portion size. Next up, I liked the fact that the pancetta was cut into chunky cube-like strips. Pancetta can be served in niggly little cubes that aren’t worth the chasing in pasta sauces, however the pancetta in this meal was really something you could get your teeth stuck in to and enjoy. It was also nice and lean with a real gammon flavour, so that’s a thumbs up for me. The tomato sauce was pretty standard to be honest with you, and I wouldn’t say it had anything majorly different to traditional tomato sauces from other Italian restaurants. Combined, it was a really lovely pasta dish and I it certainly hit my pasta craving nicely.

Dessert couldn’t be anything else other than tiramisu to be honest with you. As we ordered more red wine, I got stuck in to my large, rectangular portion. Tiramisu is one of those desserts that will be completely different in every, single restaurant that you eat it in, and Osteria Due Fratelli’s version was very cakey, with the creamy mascarpone being quite dense. Sprinkled with cocoa powder and drizzled with a sticky, dark chocolate sauce, this coffee dessert is always a nice conclusion to a meal, especially when you get a generous portion like this one.

Now, since I was out for a birthday meal with friends from my badminton club, we may have been a bit looser with the alcohol than normal. We completely indulged, ordering expresso martinis that arrived in unusually shaped cocktail glasses, the hard-hitting coffee flavoured cocktail delivering on expectations there. Furthermore, we also ordered liquor coffees, the rich black coffee underneath steeped in our alcohol of choice before being topped with a silky, flat layer of cold cream. I continued my coffee theme and opted for Tia Maria in mine. After another round of wine, the restaurant brought us over limoncello shots, this feisty, firepowered lemon flavoured liquor succeeding once more to blow my socks off!

As we continued the evening drinking in the restaurant rather than moving on to a bar, our bill was obviously more expensive as a result. We ended up paying around £45 per person, which I don’t think was too bad in the grand scheme of things bearing in mind how much we had to drink overall! The food itself was very reasonably priced; one member of our group had a ribeye steak main course which was £16. After arriving at 7pm, we were the last to leave the restaurant at nearly midnight, almost being kicked out by staff as they finished stacking seats and taking off aprons. For a relaxed and uncomplicated evening out, give Osteria Due Fratelli a go. The food wasn’t mind-blowing and the service was patchy due to the restaurant being busy, however the food was nice and the atmosphere is really relaxed.

Eating Around: Banana Tree, Soho, London

Mulling over where to take my mum for her birthday dinner before visiting the theatre in London, my sister and I decided we had to pick somewhere with an Asian cuisine style feel, as this is her favourite type of food. We also wanted to pick somewhere quirky, that none of us had been to before and that wouldn’t take too long as we had to be at the theatre for a set time. When I spotted Indonesian venue Banana Tree near my office in Soho, it pretty much hit the nail on the head. I was really intrigued to see whether we would enjoy the food and whether it would match up to our expectations.

img_0373Firstly, the restaurant had a really great atmosphere to it, although that could have had something to do with happy hour. Selected cocktails were included, so when I arrived at the table, my sister had already generous ordered me two tequila sunrises, straws pointedly waving in my direction. What can I say, I just can’t resist that lovely orange to red gradient of the orange juice combined with the berry flavoured grenadine. Oh and I like the tequila too… The cocktails that were included in the happy hour offer were your standard choices and there wasn’t anything unusual or out there on the cocktail menu. It was all about making diners happy with old, faithful favourites that you can come back to, time and time again.

Thinking I should probably have some food with the lashings of alcohol, I decided to go for something that was hailed the ‘king of curries’ on the menu, the legendary rending, made using beef. This slow cooked dish is an Indonesian speciality and I have to say, it knocked my socks off. The large beef chunks were well cooked and so tender that they flaked easily, almost as if you were preparing pulled beef. The sauce was a sticky and plentiful pile of dark brown that had a much spicier kick than you would imagine, especially considering that the sauce has a coconut base! It was fragrant and nutty with a warm kick, the wonderful aromatic flavours fully infusing the beef for a well-rounded and moreish flavour.

img_0374I decided to ‘combo’ my main course which meant that it came with an array of sides rather than me just picking one side. This included a crunchy house salad, complete with roasted nuts for extra flavour as well as sweet corn cakes, which I absolutely loved. They reminded me a bit of an onion bharji, as they had that same crispy, fried exterior, yet the inside was wonderfully soft and also sweet because of the vegetables used. These were a lot tastier than I imagined, although the large prawn cracker that also came with the dish was really nice too and very helpful for dunking in my curry sauce. The final side included in the combo was aromatic spiced rice, which was basically a plain white rice that didn’t compete too much with the strong flavours of my curry.

Although it doesn’t look like a massive portion, this meal was very filling. The curry was the star of the show with big, bold and powerful flavours, that wiped the floor of my sides. The different components of the side dishes worked really well with the main meat dish and acted as the perfect accompaniments to really bring out and accentuate the flavour combinations. It was a well thought out and creative dish. I have never really dabbled in Indonesian food before, but this has definitely whet my appetite to try some more. I loved the presentation of the dish too – it reminded me of sunshine and beaches with the big palm fronds and mounds of crushed nuts.

The modern interior of the restaurant made an average Wednesday feel like the weekend, and although the décor wasn’t really that memorable, the menu and cocktails certainly were. The staff were lovely and although the prices are a little expensive for my taste, I still really enjoyed the food on offer.

Eating Around: Roadhouse, Covent Garden, London

Strawberry Daiquiri and Mojito

Strawberry Daiquiri and Mojito

Covent Garden on a Saturday night is a complete hive of excitable and anticipatory energy; al fresco diners sipping large wine glasses, groups of girls tip toeing in their heels across the uneven cobbled square, the night young and full of the promise of fun. My destination was the versatile bar, club and restaurant Roadhouse, almost snuggled in an unobtrusive corner of the plaza, the gothic grey stone entrance leading downwards into a basement, the neon flashing red ‘Roadhouse’ juxtaposing with the Notre Dame-esque outer structure.

Heading down the stairs, my first thought when I looked up was wow. Firstly, Roadhouse is massive and really nicely laid out. From my vantage point on the bottom stair, I could see across the whole floor plan. A square bar area sat on a platform in the middle of the room, easily accessible for all. Around the raised bar area where typical American diner style seating, plush red stools tucked neatly under high rounded red tables, more of this style of seating clustered around the edge of the gleaming wooden floors. A DJ booth was in the far left, next to the group eating area, where long rectangular tables were decked out in child- like red paper tablecloths, with simple fold up chairs provided.

Potato Skins

Potato Skins

The décor was really striking, bringing a slice of retro America slap bang into the middle of a pulsing London atmosphere. Light up pin ball machines rattled energetically by the bar, whilst iconic American logos hung from the walls and ceiling, for example, a glowing ‘Route 66’ sign and neon slogan signs with rock and roll statements such as ‘Drugs’. The lighting was dim and tinged with red, the constant American references consistent and incredibly stylish. The whole vibe of Roadhouse was completely addictive, every aspect of the venue seemed well thought out and compiled and you couldn’t help but look around with awe, almost like Charlie when first seeing the chocolate factory. Roadhouse oozed fun, so it was very apt that we were attending a friend’s birthday bash there.

Outside Roadhouse

Outside Roadhouse

Our friend had booked a table for about 13 people, so we headed towards the back of the room to find the table and took up seats near the end. The party food offer is actually a complete bargain in my book. You could nab yourself a starter, a main course and a cocktail for a mere £18.95, and with cocktails priced at £7 each, this seemed more than reasonable to me. The food was all classic American fodder, so suitable for every style of taste bud, even with a few healthier options thrown in too for good measure. Although toying with the breadcrumbed and baked camembert, I settled on the loaded potato skins in the end for my starter and I am so glad that I did as it was probably the best potato skins I have ever had. Cut into quirky triangles, the three pieces of potato were heavily loaded with melting and oozing cheddar and formed attractive strings as I attempted to cut into it. Scattered with decent sized cubes of bacon, and dunked in the sour cream provided, it was really delicious. The cheese was wonderful and soft, the potato perfectly cooked and the skins not too crunchy, so just how I like it. I nicked a bite of Jess’s calamari which was also tasty, although I preferred my choice.

The Works Burger

The Works Burger

Main course had me mulling for a bit longer. I couldn’t decide whether to sample salmon for the first time with their Cajun style offering served with mash, or whether to go healthy with the Louisiana style hot grilled chicken breast. However, there was one item on the menu that was simply calling me, so there was nothing for it but to go for The Works Burger, served with chips and a side salad garnish. As the name suggests, this was no ordinary burger. The prime steak burger was stacked with a huge slice of smoked bacon, an accompanying slice of cheddar cheese, sautéed mushrooms as well as caramelised onion. Served in a glazed sesame seed dusted bun my mouth literally watered when I saw this bad boy. The beef of the burger was scrumptious – it was so juicy and natural, you could tell the quality by the first bite as the rich juices ran messily down your fingers. The bacon added an extra hit of meaty flavour to enhance the beef, whilst the mushroom and onion both add depth to the beef. Lettuce and tomato zinged up the heavy burger to refresh it and I will admit that I had to cut it in half so that I could tackle it easily. The chips were also yummy, medium in size with a crunchy, vaguely oily exterior that hinted that they had been freshly fried. Soft on the inside with an attractive golden crunch on the outside – you can’t ask for more when it comes to a decent chip. The side salad was also nice, just simple with some lettuce, tomato and cucumber with a drizzle of some sort of Caesar or French dressing. Cracking open the ketchup, I heartily got stuck in to my main course, and I absolutely loved every mouthful that I devoured greedily. Definitely the right choice by far. Jess opted for the salmon, which did look smaller than my portion, although it was well cooked and she enjoyed her choice.

Screaming Orgasm and Raspberry Daiquiri

Screaming Orgasm and Raspberry Daiquiri

The cocktails at Roadhouse are quite simply legendary, and I think I sampled the majority before the night was out. Roadhouse uniquely have some form of happy hour every evening between 5.30pm and 7.30pm, so with an eye on the time, we swiftly ordered as many drinks as we could. When we first arrived and before ordering food, Jess and I decided to start the night off with a Porn Storm, a vanilla vodka concoction, with passion fruit liqueur and juice as well as some Cava. Served in a tall glass with a decorative wedge of passion fruit, this definitely set the right tone for the evening. With our food, I chose the Raspberrylicious, which was refreshing raspberry vodka paired with fresh raspberries, Chambord, lemon juice, sugar syrup and lemonade. Nice and light to have over food so I enjoyed that one. Next I went for one decidedly more decadent – the Cookies ‘n’ Cream. I really enjoy a creamy, chocolate cocktail so when I saw the ingredients that compromised this cocktail, my eyes lit up. Luckily for me it didn’t disappoint, being a lovely silky texture full of a subtle punchy back note whilst being soft and easy to drink. This one contained Brugal Blanco and dark cacao with cookie syrup and chocolate sauce. I also managed to sneak in two types of Daiquiri – both the strawberry and raspberry versions, which were both divine and I am almost tempted to say my favourite choices of the night. These frozen cocktails would have given an amateur brain freeze but I handled the Brugal Blanco rum nicely as it was blended with the fresh fruit.

Inside Roadhouse

Inside Roadhouse

Once we moved from the eating table to the dance table, I went for another creamy choice – sniggering as Jess went to order me a Screaming Orgasm, containing vodka, Disaronno amaretto, Kahlua, Baileys and cream. Served in a tall glass with a suggestive swirl of whipped cream topped with a cheeky cherry, this one was another of my favourites as it was so lovely. It had a seductive nutty vibe and an almost dessert, sundae-like feel to it that felt very indulgent. It contained pretty much all of my favourite luxury boozes, so this one was definite winner for me as well.

Raspberrylicious

Raspberrylicious

I have to confess I was very impressed by Roadhouse, and even now Jess and I are stroking our chins contemplatively about whether or not to have our birthday shindig come March here. It is fabulously all inclusive with something for everyone. Guys will be more than happy with the simplistic and high quality all American food, with burgers, hot dogs, chicken and ribs galore. Your girlfriends on the other hand will be super impressed with the high calibre cocktail menu, offering a bedazzling choice of some of the delicious cocktails I have ever sampled in my life. All beautifully presented, and actually tasting of alcohol instead of fruit juice, they seriously were the best cocktails I have had, and at £7 a pop, really reasonable for central London, especially in such a social hive such as Covent Garden. The party deal is a bargain, and the music was awesome too, with some throwback 80’s and 90’s soft rock mixed with modern tunes to provide the perfect sing-a-long soundtrack for a good night out. Come 10.00pm, they even introduce a live band on to the stage to perform cover tracks, keeping the theme of the music so you can’t help but have your toes tapping and your head bopping. Fantastically electric yet comfortable atmosphere, with every aspect ticking my boxes. Probably the best venue I have come across for a group gathering where everyone can enjoy the night out, so that is a massive advantage. I’m looking forward to returning!

Porn Storm

Porn Storm

Cajun Salmon

Cajun Salmon

Hidden Extra: East Coast Social, Southend, Essex

Inside East Coast Social

Inside East Coast Social

When my fiancé and I visited my sister in popular seaside town Southend, I knew that a mere change of location would not dampen her fervour for finding swanky and intriguing venues to indulge in her cocktail cravings – you could take the girl out of London, but she was going to drag her London lifestyle with her. Having discovered a bar come restaurant that oozed casual class she was eager to take us there, so we entered East Coast Social all anticipation, as we went for cocktails before our dinner at Maya’s World Buffet.

Upon entering, I completely agreed with Jess that East Coast Social took the swagger from the city and slapped it centrally in Southend, on the beginning stretch of the high street. Really roomy on the inside, the layout is cleverly done, with long picnic bench style seating suitable for larger groups, whilst trios of art deco bucket chairs clustered decoratively around circular hammered metal bistro tables for smaller parties wishing to sip wine. Alcoves were well used with sofa and table seating accompanied by cow pattern cube seats, whilst tall tables with matching high chairs framed the windows looking out onto the pavement.

The bar

The bar

While presenting an eclectic mismatch of pretty much everything, East Coast Social had the appearance of one of those innately stylish people, who can just throw anything together and still look pretty damn awesome. Bare brickwork was juxtaposed with large old fashioned seaside scenes of ladies in tasteful one pieces, the random splashes of colour popping out of the predominantly black and white art work. A vibrant red telephone box stood proudly by our small table, next to a flight of stairs which led to a quieter dining area. The wood panelled bar took up a large portion of the back wall, red neon scrawled lettering illuminating the venue’s name against more dusky brickwork. East Coast Social was distinctive and stylish; your head constantly switching round trying to take everything in. Suitably impressed by both the cool atmosphere and the city styling, it was time to see if the drinks menu was up to snuff.

Although they offered a delicious mix of foods, including a classic burger, we were strictly there for drinks only. The happy hour offer on cocktails was three for £15, which was quite a good price considering the normal charge was just under the £8 mark. Three is a bit of an awkward number though, so Jess ordered her two choices, whilst I put in my request. Designated driver Dan had to stick with the soft stuff, opting for his favoured coke.

l-r: Mojito, Purple Rain and White Russian

l-r: Mojito, Purple Rain and White Russian

The cocktail selection was nice and varied, with a mix of traditional favourites such as cosmos and mojitos as well as more unusual ones that you don’t always see as often – for example Jess’s first choice Purple Rain, which seemed to be a vodka, lychee and cherry like concoction that came up a suave mauve in colour, served in a tall glass with summer berries balanced delicately against the rim. I also went for something that you don’t always see on the menu, a white Russian – a rather decadent drink featuring coffee liqueur Kahlua, vodka and luxurious lashings of cream. Jess’s second cocktail choice was the minty mojito, a refreshing favourite of hers.

The bartender painstakingly created our cocktails with such tender love and attention to detail it almost seemed a shame to guzzle them. The alcoholic mix of punchy espresso coffee tones paired with the deep smack of vodka sunk straight to the bottom of my glass, ice cubes in the centre acting as a dam to the pure white cream on top of the wide tumbler. Crunchy coffee beans were scattered thoughtfully on top, providing a great colour contrast against the pale white with their rich brown hues. Carefully reminding me to mix it together before sipping, the bartender promptly moved on to his next piece of alcohol laden artwork, the mojito. Stacks of mashed up ice formed the base, the liquid laced with whole mint leaves, although the crowning glory was undoubtedly the ice basket on the top, which held a generous wedge of lime as well as a bunch of the potent mint. More lime was squished inside the packed ice, adding extra zest. The purple rain was probably the most standard appearance wise, doing the usual fruit on the rim of the glass thing, however the loud and unusual colour gave it some extra va va voom.

Jess and Dan by the telephone box

Jess and Dan by the telephone box

I must say, I adored the white Russian. I am quite a fan of coffee or chocolate based cocktails, often favouring creamy flavours, much to the frustration of my waistline. I really loved the way the cream provided a silky and thick base for the expensive and alluring Kahlua, which came across strongly due to the undertone of vodka. I couldn’t help but eat most of my ice cubes too, as I couldn’t stand to see them coated in the white of the leftover cream and to have that tiny bit wasted! It was almost dessert like in it yumminess as well as being filling, acting like an appetiser for my main meal. It was delicious and on the whole, East Coast Social has a fantastic vibe for being one of the best cocktail bars. It may be out in the sticks slightly but it is well worth a visit, although you may want to check your bank balance beforehand, as they have mimicked London prices as well the city’s trademark retro cool.

Homeward Bound: Giraffe, Lakeside, Essex

Wavebreaker and Pina Colda Deluxe

Wavebreaker and Pina Colda Deluxe

After passing my three month probation period of my new job, I was declared official – which is a good thing too since my manager was jet setting off on his hols. In true fashion, a celebratory meal was on the cards as a treat from my fiancé, so we decided to check out Giraffe in Lakeside. Having only been to a Giraffe restaurant once (at Spitafields), I was long overdue a return visit as I couldn’t remember much about their menu. Specialising in an abundance of global foods to whet the appetite of any taste palette, I was looking forward to seeing if Giraffe was all it was cracked up to be.

The Lakeside branch is situated within the popular shopping centre as part of The Broadwalk stretch of restaurants that line the picturesque riverside, scattered with swan pedal boats. I didn’t even step foot inside the restaurant – it was a such a beautiful summer evening, Dan and I decided to eat outside on their decking area, a waitress who was already serving outside tables directed us neatly to a rectangular table of four with metal hard dining chairs and matching table, situated next to bright bands of orange that framed Giraffe’s turf. Fluorescent orange awning style umbrellas were either flung wide blocking rays of the setting sun, or the fabric folds were slumbering against the white poles, evenly spaced between the tables to provide an even protection.  Gentle buzzes of cheerful Mexican style music permeated the background noise, and paired with the pink and blue streaky sunset, delightfully warm weather and my hubby-to-be, I felt completely relaxed – and very much looking forward to seeing the menu.

Garlic Foccacia Sticks

Garlic Foccacia Sticks

Considering I had no idea what I fancied before I arrived at the glass fronted Giraffe, as soon as I opened the menu, by eyes seemed to hone in on particular items, in almost a tractor beam fashion. Firstly, with my drink. I promptly discarded the normal drinks menu, requesting a cocktail menu instead. After a quick glance the pina colda deluxe seemed to sing from the pages, boasting of its boozy filling. Rum, Malibu and banana liqueur were blitzed with fresh banana and pineapple juice to create this instantly refreshing and creamy tasting concoction. The texture was grainy and icy, almost like a frappuccino, a large segment of firm pineapple grasping on to the edge of triangular glass. It looked and tasted fab, although the banana tones were rather unique for a pina colada, I still enjoyed them. I even chose Dan’s mocktail (designated driver of course) for him, instantly spotting one that was right up his street called a Wavebreaker – pure pineapple and coconut juice that had his favourite tropical flavours rolled into one, served in a cool jar with a handle and decorated with mint. He was impressed with it and the slurp I stole confirmed that it too was very refreshing and light to drink.

Orange duck tostada

Orange duck tostada

Originally I was going to skip starters, but then I saw the Orange BBQ Duck Tostada. Granted, my notion of what a tostada was slightly skewed, but I adore duck and it’s a meat I don’t really indulge in at home, so there was nothing for it but to order it. The crisp yellow corn tortilla formed a lazy open V on the plate, a generous scattering of sticky BBQ duck pieces hidden beneath a mound of shredded lettuce, peppered with intriguingly unusual salad components, such as radishes and slices of red chilli which had me spluttering and Dan cracking up in amusement. It was quite tricky to eat the tortilla with the other parts of the meal, since it crunchy like crisps but it provided a really nice mix of textures, since the duck was gooey, in small cubes and very tender, the salad was a fresh bite of raw, whilst the tortilla provided a salty crunch. On the whole a delicious starter which I really enjoyed. Dan opted for the carb overload with the decadent focaccia garlic sticks, which I must say did look rather impressive. The cuboid sticks of garlicky bread were moist and oily and totally wonderful, with a grilled crisp crunch on the outside and springy doughy inside. It was served with a marinara dipping sauce in a small green dipping dish which appeared to be a grainy tomato relish of some sort. The vibrant red and sweetness of the tomato really cut through the slight garlic stodge so as a combination, that worked really well together.

Mexican Chicken Burger and sweet potato fries

Mexican Chicken Burger and sweet potato fries

With the old appetite nicely whetted, it was time for our main course. We had both opted for burgers (does Dan order anything else?!?) although we had gone for completely different options. Continuing the continental theme from my starters, I went for the Mexican Chicken Burger, with a thick grilled chipotle chicken breast balancing large rounds of spicy chorizo slices on top, a decadent oozing of manchego cheese encasing the concoction. It wouldn’t be Mexican without a slathering of vibrant green guacamole, with a slight slimy paste texture, a handful of fresh lettuce and a really yummy sweetcorn and tomato relish that had a hint of musky heat to it which I liked. All held together precariously by a large white bap, gently floured. Wowsers. It was delicious. I loved the flavour combinations, the grilled chicken taking on a smoky, BBQ flavour which really enhanced the depth of the chorizo which I love. The relish added some extra sauce as did the guacamole and I thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful. Paired with my burger, I chose the sweet potato fries since I adore sweet potato but don’t get it very much at home. They came up like skinny fries, so not my ideal chip size, but they were fantastic nonetheless. Really crispy on the outside and light as a feather on the inside they had a distinctive moreish quality which was dangerous. Since I was super hungry, I also ordered some herby boiled rice which I really liked too. Not usually a herb fan, I loved the fact that the rice was a pale green colour from the herbs, and the flavour was more a gentle undercurrent and hum of greenery rather than overpowering, so it worked really well as a side, especially with the punchy flavours paired with my chicken. On the whole, I was very happy with my main course.

Giraffe burger, skin on fries and herby rice

Giraffe burger, skin on fries and herby rice

Dan went for a more traditional burger – the classic Giraffe Burger that used Irish reared beef, smoky bacon, mature cheddar, lettuce, tomato, dill pickle, mayo and a smoky tomato relish. Also wrapped up in a white bun, Dan went for the skin on fries so we could try both kinds of chips. Despite being labelled as fries, his came up much chunkier than mine, with the attractive speckled skin framing one of the cut edges on the rustic rectangular chips.

No meal is complete without dessert and I must confess to being torn between the options available. In the mood for ice cream, yet I never opt for just the boring old scoops, I settled on the Tiramisu Sundae and oh my goodness this was much better than even I was expecting. Served in a small sundae glass with a frilly top edge, two small scoops of intense double chocolate ice cream sat on top of a layer of espresso drenched biscuit sponge like pieces, scoops of vanilla flavoured mascarpone also snuggled in next to the dark chocolate scoops. Speared with a chocolate flake and dusted all over with cocoa powder, it was simply divine. The ice cream was chilled with such an intense, dark chocolate taste, which was the perfect accompaniment next to the whipped and light mascarpone, beautifully creamy and thick in consistency, yet not too heavy to eat. The espresso hits were also ideal, punchy and flavourful without being overwhelming, the liquid coffee soaked nicely into the biscuit pieces which added an extra crunch to some of the gooey components. And who doesn’t love a flake?

Banana Waffle Split

Banana Waffle Split

Not usually a dessert man, Dan decided to have the Banana Waffle Split, which was a large, thick Belgian style waffle, topped with a whole roasted banana, a slightly honeyed appearance making it look even tastier. Next to the banana was perched a single scoop of vanilla ice cream, the plate decoratively criss crossed with both butterscotch and chocolate sauces. A sample spoonful revealed this was also a very yummy dessert – I do have a penchant for bananas.

On the whole, I had a lovely evening at Giraffe. I really enjoyed being able to sit outside and watch the sun set, and the service was also really good – we never had to wait long for our food and both the waitresses we had were polite and chatty, so no problems there. Three courses for two people, including my cocktail and Dan’s mocktail came to about £50 so not too unreasonable. They have a deal on with their burgers on a Tuesday, and since we happened to visit on a Tuesday, we were able to make the most of this too. The menu isn’t that extensive, so some people may be more restricted in what they actually want to eat, as Dan was. All together though, it was a delicious meal, well prepared and executed with some really interesting and thriving flavours.

 

Outside Giraffe

Outside Giraffe

Tiramisu Sundae

Tiramisu Sundae

Hidden Extra: Trunk Bar, Warren Street, London

Inside Trunk

Inside Trunk

Since I had bagged myself a new job, I wanted my leaving drinks to be something snazzy, stylish and emphatic of the atmospheric buzz that sums up our cheekily loveable capital. My soon to be ex-manager recommended just the place – a classic little cocktail bar snuggled away opposite Warren Street tube station, decked out in decadently dark black from the outside, I was intrigued as to what the inside could offer.

Portmanteau

Portmanteau

All eclectic and upper class, Trunk has some serious swank factor and it oozes glamour yet comfort in its bar come restaurant. Trunk was totally textured, with wave like wall art in modern shades of mocha, caramel and leather brown, with warm ceiling lights spooling light in puddles. We had reserved an area, which turned out to be a tidy corner spot by the front window, one brown fabric covered sofa with its back to the window, the other beside it to form an ‘L’ shape. A low glossy coffee table continued the right angles, although small cylindrical stools peppered the other side of the coffee table. There was plenty of space for a crowd and where we tucked to one side, it felt rather intimate and private, as well as being a simple stride’s length away from the all-important bar.

The bar was bejewelled with an impressive array of glasses in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit any cocktail that happened to cross the bartender’s path, the bottles of luscious liqueurs lined up against a gleaming mirrored backdrop. Perusing the cocktail menu was completely delectable, with all of the options offering a dazzling array of fresh flavours – I struggled to make any choices as they all sounded so wonderful and opulent. This simply meant that I ended up working my way through the menu…

Rhubarb-tini

Rhubarb-tini

I kicked things off with a Rhubarb-tini, a sickly sweet punch with vanilla vodka mixed with rhubarb syrup and grenadine. The syrup was more like a puree, so it had a really natural fruity flavour and quite a thick consistency, with a tangy bitterness distinctive of rhubarb. Gorgeous! Since my first martini style beverage was such a hit, I moved on to the Pomegranate and Elderflower Martini which was a fresh and slightly bubbly cocktail that had a classic floralish twist on the traditional.

Pomegrante and Elderflower Martini

Pomegrante and Elderflower Martini

Despite having difficulties saying it, I also ordered myself a Portmanteau that looked so divine with knobbles of blackberries balancing along the top of the globule shaped glass. With a layer of raspberry liqueur adorning the bottom of the glass, this one also contained rum, Malibu, coconut cream and pineapple juice, giving it a uniquely fruity yet smoothly strong taste. I couldn’t overly taste the raspberry though so it didn’t completely tick all of my boxes. Looked wonderful though.

Since my partner is Jack Daniels man, he couldn’t resist sampling the Maple Jack, with the traditional whiskey muddled with maple syrup and orange bitter for a citrus cut to the sweetness. He loved the combo of punchy spirit and zesty fruit, so that one hit the nail on the head.

Maple Jack

Maple Jack

On the whole, I think Trunk is a bit of a hidden gem. Ok, laying the cards on the table – it’s not a cheap night out if you want to enjoy the cocktails. We stuck to the classic cocktail selection and ended up paying around £8 per drink, which is a tad eye-watering, despite being what you would expect in central London. The décor definitely creates a glamorous ambience – I felt trendy just by perching myself on the edge of the sofa let alone treating myself to a drink. The cocktail menu was fabulous, with a creative and imaginative selection that used some really different and interesting combinations that I hadn’t seen before. They didn’t just stick to the same old options, but they didn’t go too ‘out there’ either, so menu wise, it was ideal and certainly tempting enough for me. The bar staff were a tad slow, but then creating cocktails does take more time than just plonking some wine in a glass. I had a lovely evening and I would definitely like to return to Trunk – it would be perfect for a girls night out, or a small birthday bash with close pals. Thumbs up from me.

Bar area

Bar area