Tuesday, 16 May 2017


It feels like weeks since I had a proper weekend brunch, although I should probably confirm this by referring to my Instagram feed ...
This was thankfully rectified last weekend, when I had the pleasure of trying out the new weekend brunch menu at Obica South Kensington that showcases their signature Mozzarella di Bufala DOP with a food to share menu that celebrates their passion for authentic Italian cuisine.

 Designed to encompass the Italian spirit of conviviality with a selection of traditional Italian dishes for sharing amongst friends, their a la carte menu also offers guests the option of two set brunch menus: Classic (£22) and Premium (£29).
We ordered the Premium brunch which includes a choice of main dish, 'Insalata Piccola' (small salad), 'Fritelle' Italian doughnuts, unlimited filter coffee or tea, and a choice of signature Italian-inspired cocktails and fruit-based mocktails. 

We started off with some Bellinis, one of my brunch cocktail favourites - other options included the classic Bloody Mary, Prosecco Argeo, and a couple of fruity mocktails. 
My main was a hearty portion of the Prosciutto Cotto Arrosto: a crunchy crostini topped with generous portions of roasted ham, stracciatella di burrata and roasted marinated artichokes - I also added on some black truffle for extra measure ...
 The smoked salmon was equally as indulgent, served with mozzarella di bufala, avocado, and herb ricotta. 
Poached eggs were en pointe with their oozy runny centres, that would be worthy of the #yolkporn hashtag ...

The salads included Cavolo Riccio (curly kale, ricotta di bufala, pomegranate, toasted pine nuts, baked datterini tomatoes and crostini) and Quinoa (with lambs lettuce, mozzarella di bufala, avocado, baked datterini tomatoes and blueberries). Both of them were really light and refreshing - perfect for those warm summer days. You can order them either as a side or as a larger main portion.

If you're looking for something more indulgent, there is the Mozzarella in Carrozza which is a fried mozzarella sandwich with lambs lettuce and datterini tomatoes - the perfect fix if you've had a rough night before, apparently!

We finished off with the Degustazione which was a taster portion of the three varieties of fritelle (sweet homemade Italian doughnuts): creamy ricotta di bufala with mixed berries, chocolate and honey. I liked that they were sweet yet not too heavy, especially after all that food.

The venue is spacious and airy with a lovely casual ambience, and an outdoor terrace that would be ideal for the summer months (which should hopefully arrive soon!)

The new brunch menu is served every Saturday and Sunday from 11am until 3pm at Obica South Kensington, Charlotte Street, St Paul's and Poland Street.

The Cheekster, signing out x

The meal was complimentary, but views remain my own.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017


Having been to Belgo several times in the past, all of which were enjoyable, I was looking forward to checking out their latest dual concept venture with the Bloomsbury Group in Kings Cross.
The two venues have been designed by London agency Superfutures and are located within the newly refurbished Crowne Plaza Hotel (formally Holiday Inn).

Inspired by a love of gin and passion for food, Bloom Kitchen and Bar pays homage to the locality, and the famous artistic set, The Bloomsbury Group, a collective of bohemian writers, poets and intellectuals, including Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, that were renowned for their influential, private and exclusive rendezvous. 

We were welcomed by the manager, Joel, smartly dressed in a cravat and neck scarf featuring Bloomsbury prints, the type of clothing that reflect the members of the original Group.
The place looked chic and refined, yet exuded a warm and welcoming ambience, and we happened to pick the right day when there was live jazz playing the evening.
We started off at the bar with some drinks from their gin-inspired cocktail menu, already eyeing the relaxed lounge area at the other end for after-dinner drinks. 

We were then shown to our table for the evening within the swanky-looking Belgo Restaurant, famed for its fresh mussels which are rope grown, grit free and fully sustainable from the Shetland Islands. The 140-cover restaurant was adorned with quirky feature lighting, big banquette seating, reclaimed wood booths and eclectic artwork, with floor to ceiling stained glass screens that break up the restaurant into smaller intimate dining areas.

Whilst we sipped on our welcome cocktails (a sweet and refreshing strawberry mojito, if I recall correctly ... ), our waitress popped open a couple of bottles of Lindemans Faro from our ice bucket, to be paired with our starters - a dark, ruby-red Belgian beer that had a nice balance of sweetness and tartness. Our starters included deliciously crunchy and oozy Cheesy Croquettes, flavoursome King Prawns in Garlic Butter, and Belgo Potted Pate. 

We progressed on to the sharer mains of Sliced Sirloin, Double Cooked Frites, and of course their Famous Moules, served two ways: classic Moules Marinière ('traditionelle' with cream) and a fragrant Thai-inspired one that I really enjoyed.
This was paired with Delirium Tremens, an inviting golden liquid known for its sweetish palate with lots of warming alcohol, and was elected as the best beer in the world in 2008. It's ABV of 8.5% will surely have you seeing pink elephants if consumed in large quantities ...

And finally, we finished with a sweet dessert of homemade waffles topped with ice cream, paired with one of my favourite beers, Fruli, made from pure strawberries and high-quality Belgian white beer - a much sweeter and zesty beer that would appeal even to the non-beer lovers.
Yet another fine evening of plentiful food and quality Belgian beers - Belgo certainly always makes sure that we're well-fed (and watered!)

With our bellies filled and satisfied, we retired back to the lounge at the Bloom Bar to wind down with some cocktails and jazz. Not a bad way to spend a Thursday evening, or any other evening for that matter - I would definitely be tempted to return and relive the evening, and hopefully try out the artisan food menu from the Bloomsbury Kitchen as well.

Click HERE to download a 2-for-1 voucher, valid on all Blooming Gin Cocktails at Bloom!

The Cheekster, signing out x

The meal was complimentary, but views remain my own.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017


Got those January, post-Christmas, skint cold winter day blues? 
Well Tank & Paddle have just the answer to lift up your spirits at their hideaway bar in the heart of the city.
 To start your Tank & Paddle experience, they have teamed up with local brewery Meantime to bring you their beers on tap; fresh and frothy Meantime ales served directly from their in house tanks. They also have bottles on offer, such as Brewdog Elvis Juice, Sharp's Cornish Pilsner, and even one of my favourites, the Belgian Fruli Strawberry Beer. I'm not usually a beer person, but throw in something fruity and I'm all over it ...
We tried the Neck Oil on tap which was light, citrusy with lovely hints of mango.
 Or if you're not in the mood for beer, there is their house Prosecco, Da Luca and a tempting selection of classic cocktails to choose from - there's bound to be something for everyone.

Their made-to-order pizza has been inspired with a quirky modern twist and a bit of New York City spin. 
The pizzas come in Regular or Sharer sizes, served on paddles (of course) - we had the Meat Your Match (pepperoni, spicy beef, smoked bacon, chicken) and The Chick-Flick (Cajun chicken, Pepperdew peppers, spinich, red onion)
I liked that the crusts were really thin and crunchy just the way I like it, with generous and flavoursome toppings - very satisfied with both our choices.
There are also classics like The Margherita and The Yankee, as well as veggie options (because nobody wants to miss out on pizza) including Veg Your Bets with sun-dried tomatoes, gordal olives, artichoke and mushrooms, and Billy Goat's Stuffed topped with goat's cheese, spinach and red onion chutney. I'm clearly not a vegetarian, but even I would be tempted to order one of those ...

And because you can't have too many carbs, there are not one but FOUR different types of oven-baked Mac 'n' Cheese - we ordered The Mac Attack Mac 'n' Cheese with pulled chicken and BBQ sauce which was tasty.
If you want something gooey with extra cheese, then the Manifest Mac might be the one for you.

Looking for something lighter to lessen the guilt? You're once again in luck as Tank & Paddle also do several fresh salads including the classic Caesar Salad. Nobody is going to judge you, we all have one of those days ...

We finished off with an indulgent portion of Nutella Dough Balls, slathered in maple cinnamon syrup with chocolate dipping sauce on the side - definitely no holding back on the sugar there ... 

And because everyone loves a good bargain, there are offers available throughout the week to give you that Friday feeling all week long.
Mondays: Dough M.G. where any regular pizza is only £5
Tank Tuesdays: First 100 pints are £2 from 5pm
Tap 10 Wednesdays: A pint and a pizza for a tenner
Craft beer Thursdays: All bottled and canned beers for £4

There are also free tastings of draught beer anytime, canned & bottled tastings on Thursdays and their fun tasting paddle of 3 x 1/3 pints for a fiver!
Check out their website for more details.

The Cheekster, signing out x

 The meal was complimentary, but views remain my own.

Friday, 23 December 2016


Open for over 22 years (almost a quarter of a century!), El Pirata is a Spanish tapas bar and restaurant that is known to serve some of the best and most authentic Spanish food in London. It is a bit of a hidden gem, tucked away on Down Street, just off Piccadilly, and offers a laid back and friendly atmosphere in the middle of Mayfair.
The restaurant interior design is inspired by typical Spanish tapas bars, with seated dining spread over two floors, including a bar on the ground floor where you are welcome to pop in for a drink and a light bite, and maybe even catch a glimpse of the action in the kitchen.

As I've never really ventured much into that part of Mayfair, I was quite surprised to see how lively it was inside despite being located on such a quiet street. It was also fun to see that they had embraced the festive spirit by decorating the inside with sparkly Christmas baubles.

The kitchen is led by Head Chef Rosendo Simbana, with a menu that offers more than 60 different tapas dishes and over 140 Spanish wines.  
We were served a few nibbles whilst we settled in and browsed through the menu: marinated mixed olives, my favourite padron peppers, and delicious melt-in-your-mouth Jamón ibérico.  

We had a couple of their signature dishes from the seafood section, including the Langostinos al chef (grilled prawns in a tomato, garlic and white wine sauce) and the Calamares con arroz negro (black rice and squid). The prawns were really fresh and juicy, and that sauce was very flavoursome, that I would definitely recommend ordering extra bread to soak up all that goodness ...
The rice was cooked well and had a nice bite to it, with small pieces of squid mixed into it - also very appetizing.

I do love lamb, and the Chuletitas de cordero (grilled lamb cutlets) were succulent, juicy, and well-marinated, just how it should be. The marinated chicken skewers were tender and the chorizo pieces gave it some extra flavour and a nice hint of spiciness. 
We also had the tortilla, a classic Spanish omelette with potatoes and onions that was simple and wholesome

I would have happily ordered more hot tapas dishes if not for the limited space in my stomach ... I did have my eye on that grilled octopus and baby eels in olive oil.
 By the end of our meal, we just about had enough space to share one dessert, going for the creamy Crema Catalana and coffee to finish off.

Alongside tapas El Pirata also offers larger, traditional dishes including Cochinillo a la traditional (roasted suckling pig with potatoes in a traditional style) and Lubina a la Espalda (whole butterfly sea bass grilled, with garlic and chilli, olive oil, sherry vinegar and served with fresh beans and pobre potatoes). Just reading through the menu again makes me hungry.
There is a wide variety of dishes to choose from and tapas menus are always really flexible, so there will always be something to suit everyone's tastes.
The 'Menu del Dia' which is available from 12pm - 6pm is well-priced at £10.25 per person (two tapas dishes, a basket of bread and aioli, and a glass of wine/beer), and twp equally good value set menus (£18.50 and £23.50 each) that include upto 10 tapas dishes.

We had a lovely experience from start to finish, and service was pretty smooth despite it being quite busy that evening.
This charming venue is within walking distance from Green Park and Hyde Park tube stations, where General Manager Jose Rodrigues and his team will be sure to show you some proper Spanish hospitality and make sure that you leave feeling full and satisfied. 
You can find out more information on their website.

The Cheekster, signing out x

The meal was complimentary, but views remain my own.