Years back when pop-up restaurants literally “popped up”, we awarded our fictitious ‘Elldrew Loves’ restaurant crown to Dishoom, who brought the old Irani cafe style and flavours of Bombay to London with their first restaurant opening in 2010. Dishoom came to Elldrew’s attention with their pop-up at The Dishoom Chowpatty Beach Bar on the Southbank during the summer of 2011. That day was imprinted on us as we sat Thames side eating in silence, eyes nearly popping out of our heads, as we experienced the flavours of India in a way never experienced before. Their creative cooking and mastery of ingredients has not only tantilised our taste buds since but, to this day, has remained our favourite Indian restaurant…what these guys achieve, serving up traditional food in a modern era, is pure artistry. So whilst Dishoom holds onto the crown for Indian cuisine, we feel it’s time to branch out and add another restaurant to the ‘Elldrew Loves’ Club, Som Saa Thai.
On a recent trip to Florence we booked our final nights dinner at the 1 Michelin star restaurant, Ora d’Aria. Ora d’Aria (meaning ‘hour of air’) first took its name from when the restaurant opened, at a previous location, opposite a prison. Guests dined whilst the inmates took advantage of their daily exercise hour. New location and new meaning, we are told ’hour of air’ now focuses on their patrons time spent at the restaurant…they want to ensure each guest is exposed to tradition, innovation and elegance created by one of Italy’s leading chefs, Marco Stabile.
What we love about Stabile is that he is from Tuscany, and whilst he has developed his skills in some of Italy’s finest kitchens, he has remained in Tuscany and allowed us, the punters, to experience some of the most amazing Italian cuisine to have passed our lips.
On a recent Tuscan break we discovered on a menu, Spaghetti Ubriachi, literally translated as “drunken spaghetti” but actually being spaghetti cooked in red wine. We came across it in a wonderful family run trattoria high on the hills of Montecatini Alto, where, in broken English, the waiter promised us it was made by mamma in the kitchen in the same way she has been making it for years.
A few nights later we tried it elsewhere, and a few nights after that somewhere else, but none could compare to that original dish which was rich in red wine, perfectly balanced with salt from the pancetta with the sweetness of the caramelised onions. Itching to replicate the dish we scoured the web for the recipe, finding versions of drunken spaghetti and versions of spaghetti with pancetta and red onions, but none that combined the two. Taking the best of all of these we’ve come up with a dish, which we think, is as close as we’re going to get to that Tuscan original:
For those who religiously follow us on Twitter, you will have been bombarded by photos and post updates during our lunch at Vintage Salt; the newest restaurant to take over the rooftop area of Selfridge’s department store in central London.
Designed with a seaside restaurant ‘all things nautical’ theme in mind, and a menu to complement, Elldrew popped in for a late lunch and was totally blown away by the sights and flavours…so much so we’ve paused to give Vintage Salt it’s own blog post.
PART 2: PENNYHILL PARK HOTEL, SURREY
A couple of months after Cowley we took the opportunity of a bank holiday to visit Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa in Surrey, about an hour outside of London. Home to the English Rugby training grounds and regularly commended in the ‘Good Spa Guide’, we thought we’d add it to our list of places we’d visited.
As our readers should know by now Elldrew are great fans of weekend breaks, especially to the English countryside. Planning a leisurely drive away from the city for a few days is the perfect way to recharge one’s batteries; no crowded airports with long check-ins queues, 4 hours of your life lost on a 45 min flight to go only a few hundred miles away. Why not hit the road, setting the pace and schedule on your terms and take in the ever-changing view from the comfort of your own pilot seat! Despite not being half way through 2015 Elldrew have been lucky enough to take advantage of three mini getaways…so here’s what we have been up to.
PART 1: COWLEY MANOR, GLOUCESTERSHIRE
The great British public has a reputation of forming orderly lines with no notice, but sometimes the clue is in the queue. On a recent drive to the Cotswolds we stumbled across The Telegraph’s online ‘insiders guide’ to the best places to eat in the area; from typical pub grub to fine dining restaurants. As we were staying near Cheltenham we searched a 30 min radius drive from our hotel so that we could stop for lunch before the usual 3pm check-in time.
We’d heard Cheltenham was a nice place to visit (we guessed it must have something to offer other than the famous steeplechase horse racing as it has the fourth-highest rate of multi-millionaires in the UK living there) but after looking through the restaurant list we weren’t overwhelmed…the closest venue we liked was Jamie’s Italian…so we decided to continue our search. We decided on the quaint village of Cirencester and deli-café-bistro ‘Made by Bob’.
This guaranteed quick and easy Soy and Honey Chicken recipe, by MasterChef’s Monica Galetti, is delicious and a treat for the entire family. We serve the chicken with rice and bok choi, or simply slice the cooked chicken and add it to a noodle and vegetable stir fry.
For a more caramelised – stick-to-your-teeth – sensation, cook the chicken until it’s well done, it’s the best! The cooking process, inspired by her mother, has never let us down.
450g/1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 tsp clear honey
4 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sweet paprika powder (for a subtle smokey flavour)
- In a bowl, mix together the honey and soy (and paprika). Add the chicken thighs and completely coat in the marinade
- Place the coated chicken thighs into a cold, deep, heavy-based saucepan. Place the plan onto a medium heat on the hob and cook uncovered until the chicken is cooked through and the honey and soy coating has thickened to a glossy glaze (should take about 20-30 mins). We turn the chicken every 10 mins or so until it’s caramelised
NB: It’s important to start cooking the chicken in a cold pan so the chicken stews as it cooks. If the pan is hot, the honey and soy sauce will caramelise before the meat is cooked through.