The CAKE app for easy eating out in London

Today I’m trying out the new CAKE app which really is an app meant for me. It’s an app which makes it easier to find, book and pay at London restaurants. And there’s a wide range of establishments already on its books.

I loved the fact that when you turn it on shows you nearby eateries and how far away they are – and you can book instantly. Or of course you can select any of their restaurants in advance and make your booking at any time.

On arrival at your chosen restaurant, simply open up a tab on your phone using the app and inform your waiter. Then when you’re done it’s quick and easy to pay. You can even set it up to instantly split the bill between your party.

You can also earn credit back when you eat out with special offers, just select somewhere with credit on and you’ll get a percentage of the cost of your dinner back (usually 15-20%). The more you eat the more you save! And of course as your credits build up you’ve got a great excuse to be going out and about again.

£5 for free

If you download the CAKE app to your phone you’ll get a £5 gift from me to get you going on your exploration of London’s restaurantland. Just use the referral code EATINGCG when you download the app. Happy dining.

Find out more and download your app at thecakeapp.com

The restaurants

My first outing using CAKE I visited Talli Joe in Shaftesbury Avenue. A buzzing little Indian tapas-style restaurant with great food. Full review coming soon, here’s a taster, the spicy venison mince served with an organic egg yolk atop.

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The delectable Parsee Venison Keema Ghotala

Among the myriad restaurants you can use CAKE at here are three of my London favourites.

Ember Yard in Soho serves up a great range of dishes cooked over fire. Like what’s possibly the best cauliflower dish I’ve ever eaten.

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Delightful spicy, grilled cauliflower

Lima Floral in Covent Garden transports you to Peru with an amazing array of truly different dishes. Peruvian ingredients are like no other and make for an exciting eating experience.

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Tender beef Peruvian-style

And then there’s the grandeur of Brasserie Zedel. Sitting right by Piccadilly Circus, it’s a glamorous Parisian-style brasserie of marble and glitz serving great-value French food.

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Style and sophistication at Zedel

And that’s just four lovely restaurants to tempt you – London is teaming with them after all. And eating there with CAKE makes life easier.

 

Fabulous flavours from the grill at Ember Yard

Ember Yard is the fourth restaurant in the Salt Yard group. Everything on the menu is cooked on a custom-built, bespoke Basque-style grill (hence the embers) and dishes have both Spanish and Italian influences, particularly from the Basque Country and Tuscany.

I discovered afterwards that the head chef, Jacques Fourie, is South African which kind of makes sense with the SA passion for braaing (barbecuing). But these are no basic barbecue dishes, they really are something special. And as well as grilled delights you’ll find great charcuterie and cheeses from both countries.

The thinly sliced carpaccio-style tuna was beautifully tender and topped with a zesty oniony marinade.

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The freshest of flavoursome tuna

And then for a real vegetable revelation. Cauliflower coated with harissa, honey and oregano and wood-roasted. Never has cauliflower tasted so good or looked so beautiful.

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Cauliflower in shades of red topped with fresh oregano

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Another view of the delectable cauliflower

And here’s another masterpiece – chargrilled Iberia Presa with whipped jamon butter. Presa is a special flavourful, melt-in-the-mouth cut of pork that comes from the free range acorn-fed Iberia pigs indigenous to Spain. It’s pork like no other pork and the butter is something incredible.

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A simple pork dish to marvel at

The crisp, Iberico pork fat chips are served with chorizo ketchup.

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Chunky chips that are fluffy inside

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Chorizo ketchup is so good

If we could all cook like this over fire, all ovens should be abandoned at once. Seriously.

Today’s price point

Our four dishes cost £31.50.

Our bottle of Rose cost £30.

Ember Yard is at 60 Berwick Street, Soho

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My 2014 favourites from London’s restaurant-land

I can’t believe we’re already halfway through January 2015 – I wish I had a slow motion button I could push, it all goes past way too fast.

2014 gave me plenty of chances to sample a wide range of cuisine all around the beautiful city that is London.  This year I tasted Peruvian and Korean food for the first time and totally loved both of them. I also learned more about the flavours of Vietnam as well as discovering new venues to sample some of my favourite cuisines. Here’s a taster of my London food adventures from last year.

Scientific works of art at Restaurant Story

This amazingly beautiful seafood dish was served up at Restaurant Story just south of Tower Bridge (201 Tooley Street) as one of a range of snacks and dishes on their fabulous tasting menu. It was foaming on arrival and the mist cleared to reveal a beautiful garden under the sea with razor clams, scallop ceviche-style, devilled crab and marinated prawns on a bed of stones, seaweed and flowers. Chef Tom Sellers is incredible creative and his menu offers you a fascinating trip around the world of scientifically constructed food that’s beautifully presented and tastes fabulous, too.

This seafood dish is a real spectacle

This seafood dish is a real spectacle

A new South American odyssey

One of the cuisines I learned more about in 2014 was from Peru. I even managed to get hold of some fabulous Peruvian ingredients and cooked a range of exotic dishes at home. This lomo steak Luancaina from Lima in Fitzrovia (31 Rathbone Place) was served with yellow aji sauce and goa cress. Aji are chilli peppers that are widely used in Peruvian cuisine, in this case to make a delicately creamy sauce which was served with rare, tender beef.

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Steak Peruvian-style to savour

Traditional French at its best

From Peru to France. I visited the new Paul Restaurant in Covent Garden (29 Bedford Street). The original bakery opened in 1889 near Lille and since then spread around France and the UK selling mouth-watering cakes, pastries and bread. This is their first venture into a restaurant and serves classic French cuisine done perfectly. After a discussion about whether one should order roast chicken in a restaurant (overall consensus no), I asked for the roasted free range corn fed half chicken marinated in tarragon, lemon and garlic. Best decision of the day – this is roast chicken like no other.

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The best roast chicken ever? Possibly

Spanish and Italian meet over hot coals

Next stop is Ember Yard in Soho (60 Berwick Street W1) which takes its inspiration from the Spanish and Italian method of cooking over charcoal – hence the embers, I guess. These two cuisines combine to offer a lovely choice of tapas-style dishes. The grilled Iberico presa (which is kind of the pork equivalent of Wagyu beef) was served with whipped jamon butter. A total taste sensation – the Spanish really know how to raise, cook and serve a pig or two.

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The King of pork served rare with luscious butter

A great-value local Vietnamese

2014 was also a year to learn more about the fresh flavours of Vietnamese food. Mien Tay in Battersea (180 Lavender Hill) is a casual local eatery with a packed menu of traditional cuisine at really great value. This substantial starter of a crispy pancake stuffed with chicken and beansprouts arrives piping hot at the table. You then need to slice it and wrap the substantial chunks in lettuce leaves with lots of fresh herbs before dipping into the tasty sauce. Vietnamese cuisine demands a lot of hands-on eating.

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Tuck in to this beautiful array of tastes and textures

The simplest of menus cooked to perfection

La Tagliata (11 Sandys Row) is a short walk from Liverpool Street Station on the edge of the City of London. Their totally simple menu offers one starter (pasta) and a main course of tagliata. This traditional sirloin steak cooked, sliced and served on a bed of rocket, parmesan and cherry tomatoes is a classic dish that needs a lot of celebrating. The crispy potato squares were carb perfection…and hooray for a menu that involves only the tiniest bit of decision making!

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A classic dish perfectly prepared

Tagliata was also witness to some unusual restaurant behaviour from me – I ordered, loved and polished off a dessert. I’m not much of a dessert or chocolate lover but for me it doesn’t get better than this wonderful strawberry panna cotta. Bring on more panna cotta in 2015.

My ultimate dessert – strawberry panna cotta

My ultimate dessert – strawberry panna cotta

Modern Indian in stylish Bloomsbury

A new discovery in a part of town I don’t often visit made for a fabulous night out. Salaam Namaste (68 Millman Street) in Bloomsbury offers wonderful modern Indian cuisine with a regularly changing specials menu. I had this Goan-spiced scallop starter with mango salsa, presented with flair.

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Luscious Goan-spiced scallops, pretty as a picture

 Feasting on Korean delights at Koba

Korean’s another cuisine I discovered in 2014 – and tucked into at Koba again in Fitzrovia (11 Rathbone Place W1). This amazing assortment of meats, prawns and vegetables, including marinated beef sirloin, sweet and spicy chicken and sweet and sour sauce comes on a platter for you to cook yourself at the table. Delicious aromas engulf you and once everything’s ready you wrap it up in lettuce leaves with condiments like soya bean paste and diced spring onions with chilli vinegar. Great food with a lot of ceremony involved in eating it.

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A different way to cook…an indoor barbecue

 

Gordon Ramsey’s new kid on the block

I’m a bit of a Gordon Ramsey fan, having found him perfectly charming when I met him and particularly loving his Union Street Kitchen in Southwark. So when a new place opened in his stable, I had to try it out. Of course, Gordon isn’t in the kitchen himself, at Heddon Street Kitchen just off Regent Street (3-9 Heddon Street), Maria Tampakis, who hails from Brooklyn, NYC, is in charge. She describes her food as “seasonal, modern European food spiked with Asian influences. A stylish restaurant in one of my favourite hidden streets in London where I enjoyed a delightful starter of roasted veal carpaccio, dill pickles and quails eggs with a tuna dressing. Amazing fresh flavours reminscent of one of my all-time favourite starters, vitello tonnato.

An amazingly creative version of vitello tonnato

An amazingly creative version of vitello tonnato

What are your favourite restaurants in London? Where should I be visiting in 2015? Do get in touch with your suggestions, I’d love to hear from you.

Tasty tapas at Ember Yard in Soho

So tonight I’m in Soho. Even on a rainy night (yes, it’s been raining a lot!), the streets are teeming with happy, excited people heading to the theatre, their favourite  bar or to try one of the myriad of restaurants that make up the wonderful world that is life in Soho. And I’m one of them.

There’s a new member in the Salt Yard family. Ember Yard (their fourth restaurant) is in the heart of Soho and opened in December last year. I’m happy to say I’ve been to the other three, and loved them all. So bring on Ember Yard.

Described as taking inspiration from the Spanish and Italian method of cooking over charcoal (hence the embers I guess!), there’s a menu packed with tempting morsels. And it’s quite different, with new flavour combinations to ponder. I always find a bowl of olives helps with the pondering…so that’s what we started with while we made some serious menu decisions.

Huge juicy olives to start off

Huge juicy olives to start off

The chargrilled squid came on a beautifully sweet and silken bed of puree and was served with crispy pancetta and a tingling taste of chilli. A fabulous dish that’s worth a return visit on its own with its sweetness and saltiness and lovely textures.

This delectable combination of

This delectable combination of

These perfect croquettes were made of broad bean, smoked ricotta and min and served with garlic pesto. Crispy, soft and melt-in-the-mouth.

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Crunchy croquettes with an Italian twist

The Spanish know what to do with their pigs – how to breed them, cook them, serve them. And today I was in for a special treat. The presa is considered to be the finest cut of the Iberian pig – kind of the pork equivalent to Wagyu beef and this grilled Iberico presa, served with whipped jamon butter (I know, amazing) was in a different league. Tender, packed with flavour and so moreish, I could eat plates of it!

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The chargrilled Wye Valley asparagus was served with earthy girolles, beurre blanc and truffles. Earthy flavours and asparagus with bite.

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Chargrilled asparagus with a touch of luxury

The air is filled with the aroma of flavours emanating from the grill – it did cross my mind that this is a seriously superior way of barbecuing. The service is friendly and unrushed and everyone makes you feel very welcome. Our waitress, who was from Tenerife, had a proper Penelope Cruz accent going on, I love Penelope Cruz’s voice…so that added to the enjoyment in my latest Soho discovery. Welcome to the family, Ember Yard.

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Ember Yard is at 60 Berwick Street, Soho W1.
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