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.
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.
Empty Chairs at Empty tables: Part 1
Alas, not a review of Les Miserables nor the song from the show, instead a review of two recent dining experiences at two rather lovely restaurants, but sadly, both were somewhat deserted hence the title of our latest two-part blog.
Our first review focuses on NW3 Bar & Kitchen.
The new Mondrian London hotel opened earlier this year to much fanfare and Elldrew were particularly excited to take a peep inside (we knew the building from when it was offices of an old client) so what better excuse than a pre-Christmas dinner in it’s main restaurant ‘Sea Containers’.
Sea Containers has been aptly named after the building that houses the hotel (Sea Containers House) and is award-winning New York chef and restaurateur Seamus Mullen’s first European restaurant. To be honest we had no idea who Seamus Mullen was beyond what we’d read in the papers, but we were nevertheless excited to try his “farm to table” dining concept.