Tea French-style at Le Restaurant de Paul

Today we’re heading to Covent Garden for an English afternoon tea with a twist – a French one – at Le Restaurant de PAUL. The restaurant is set in the heart of Covent Garden, a short stroll from the buzzing piazza. It’s a family company dating back to 1889 with five generations of baking expertise behind it. So you can expect some seriously good delights here – both savoury and sweet.

All of which arrive beautifully laid out on their attractive tower. Accompanied by free-flowing sparkling wine – vin mousseux from Ky Procco by Alain Gayrel.

PAUL: whole tea

Our tower of tasty tea goodies

Sandwiches made from the freshest of French bread – it’s baked on-site every day using specially imported French flour – with three tasty fillings. Oozing camembert, tender chicken and a salmon and cream cheese mix. Dainty and flavoursome, the perfect start to tea. I love a good sandwich and always wish for more. Perhaps that’s just greedy.

PAUL: sandwiches

The beautifully fresh sandwiches up close

Next we tucked into the brioche which was served with jam and cream – instead of the English tradition of scones. Simply wonderful, the fluffy brioche had a golden finish, a perfect sweetness and was mouth-watering spread with cream and strawberry jam. I would never eat another scone again if this was the option on offer. Seriously.

PAUL: brioche

Brioche with cream and jam: a wonderful combo

PAUL: Brioche

Golden brown and beautifully soft

The top of the tower was home to the stunning sweet treats. The croquant slice offers chocolate deliciousness that has to be tasted to be believed. A dark chocolate sponge cake layered with chocolate mousse, crisp praline and topped with a dark chocolate glaze. Wow!

The Fraisier slice was made from fluffy layers of Genoese sponge, filled with mousseline cream and fresh strawberries and finished with pale green marzipan and more strawberries. And then there were the famous PAUL macarons – we had their vibrant pistachio and raspberry delights.

I’m loving this French take on tea!

PAUL: cakes

A colourful plate of sweet treats

Le Restaurant de PAUL is a hard place to walk past – its window is brimful of irresistible goodies! My advice – don’t walk past, go in and treat yourself.

The tempting window full of delights. © Giles Christopher – Media Wisdom Photography Ltd

Today’s price point

Bottomless afternoon tea comes at £24.95 per person. For that you get your complete tower of goodies – sandwiches, brioche, cakes and macarons and free-flowing sparkling wine.

Le Restaurant de PAUL is at 29 Bedford Street.

P.F. Chang’s Asian Table in bustling Covent Garden

So today we’re heading in to the Leicester Square bit of Covent Garden to try some delicious Pan-Asian dishes. They’re from the wok at P.F. Chang’s Asian Table – inspired by co-founder Philip Chiang’s dining table – these establishments are extremely famous in America. There are over 300 restaurants globally and this is the very first one to hit London Town. Good news.

It’s a lovely haven to step into after the hectic mass of people exploring London’s streets outside! Gotta love that London vibe! The restaurant has a great buzz, too, with its loft-style decor, open kitchen and friendly waiters. There’s a good selection of starters, soup and noodles, sushi and salad, mains and vegetables and sides to choose from.

The Original Dynamite Shrimp sounded simply too good to resist. Crispy tempura shrimp coated in spicy Sriracha aioli. Sriracha is a hot chilli sauce made from a paste of chilli peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. It’s named after the coastal city of Sri Racha in eastern Thailand. Here it’s mixed with mayo for a delightfully spicy aioli that perfectly coats the crunch of the tempura and the juiciness of the prawns. A large portion that is soon demolished – this is a starter I need frequently in my dining life.

P.F. Changs: shrimp tempura

The vibrant Sriracha aioli makes the perfect coating for tempura prawns

Feeling on a bit of a seafood roll – well spring roll to be accurate – we opted for the handmade lobster and shrimp spring rolls. Hand rolled and filled with the sweetest lobster claw and knuckle meat, poached shrimp, lemon and chives. A perfect combination of sweet shellfish in a kind of half spring roll batter which made them look and taste beautiful. The rolls were served with a Thai curry aioli which was delicious but possibly a little overpowering for the delicacy of the flavours. The rolls tasted seriously good on their own with no need to dip.

PF Changs: Lobster and shrimp spring roll

The sweetness of open lobster and shrimp spring rolls

PF Changs: lobster and prawn spring roll

So good I had to show you a close-up

There’s a good range of meaty mains and we went for the Asian take on pepper steak. Flank steak was marinated in black pepper and garlic and served with onions and bell peppers. A rich and silky sauce, tender meat and vegetables with crunch made for a satisfying plate of food.

P.F. Changs: Pepper beef

Tender pepper beef with crunchy veg

We love Singapore noodles and have tried them in many restaurants. Today’s offering certainly wasn’t made to a traditional recipe but was still a delicious offering. Don’t they look fabulous?

P.F.Changs: Singapore noodles

The bright beauty of Singapore noodles

To complete our balanced set we went for the an old favourite – can’t beat a bit of Kung Pao chicken. Thinly sliced chicken breast was wok-fried with Sichuan chilli sauce, toasted peanuts and red chilli pods. A familiar and comforting dish that was so well executed.

P.F. Changs: Kung Pao chicken

Gotta love a tasty Kung Pao chicken

And then there’s desert – not something I often indulge in. For some reason my eye was caught by the offer of a deconstructed lemon meringue. And thank goodness it was, this could be one of the loveliest deserts I’ve ever had. The lemon ice-cream was stupendous and then there was the shortbread, lemon curd, burnt meringue and meringue shards bringing a fabulous range of textures. But best of all were the little lemony white chocolate truffles that popped in your mouth with a burst of citrus. Yummy lemon desert that’s one of my favourite dishes of the year so far – never thought I’d ever say that about pudding!

P.F. Changs: lemon meringue

Desert doesn’t get tastier…and it looks pretty amazing too

I love an open kitchen and this was a particularly busy one with plenty of hands making light work of the constant stream of orders. By its nature Asian food is pretty quick to prepare and dishes do come up pretty smartly. I’d advise ordering your starters and eating them before you order your mains – unless you want to be in and out in a flash. The staff are perfectly accommodating about how you order and didn’t blink an eye at any of our requests.

P.F. Changs: open kitchen

The perfectly organised open kitchen runs like clockwork

P.F. Chang’s prides itself on its pastry lab which produces an amazing array of cakes, tarts and puddings. Obviously I didn’t taste them all but did love the look of the lab tempting you down the stairs.

P.F.Chang's: pastry parlour

Come into my pastry parlour…

It’s also big on cocktails (and mocktails). Now that would be a good way to celebrate the end of a working day – an exotic cocktail and some of those spicy Original Dynamite Shrimp. I’ll show you the way!

Today’s price point

The total price for the dishes above was £61.70. Portion sizes are generous and this was more than enough for two hearty meals.

Wine starts from £23 a bottle.

P.F. Chang’s Asian Table is at 10 Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JA, a one-minute walk from Leicester Square tube station.

The tastiest lunchtime treat at the fabulous Frog

Frog by Adam Handling

Today I’m taking you to Covent Garden – it seems like it’s been a while. And we’re eating at a fantastic new opening – Frog by Adam Handling. Adam is a young British chef who started his culinary career at 16 in Scotland and worked all over the UK before opening the first Frog in London’s Spitalfields in 2016. And now he’s opened his flagship restaurant in Covent Garden’s Southampton Street. It’s a bright and stylish contemporary space with an open kitchen so you can check out all the chefs in action.

Adam has a distinctive cooking style and the menu takes a bit of explaining. Some of the dishes sound a bit on the strange side and you’re not sure quite what you’re going to be getting. Turns out to be a great surprise – I loved his food, eating here is a real flavour adventure.

Adam also prides himself on sustainability and many of the seasonal ingredients you’re going to eat are grown at the restaurant’s farm in West Sussex.

Frog is a great name for a restaurant – and of course there had to be frogs legs on the menu. Frogs legs popcorn to be exact, served with garlic and sour cream in beautiful  heavy stone bowls. A wonderfully delicate dish with the addition of a colourful dip. The bowls kind of made me feel like I was eating with The Flintstones! In a good way of course.

Frog: frogs legs

The daintiest of frogs legs

Cheese and truffle doughnuts were served under a blanket of finely grated parmesan. How I love that cheese and truffle mix, and these were the king of doughnuts that delightfully melted in the mouth.

Frog: cheese and truffle doughnuts

The sublime combination of truffle and cheese

And this was the dish of the day for me. Simply listed on the menu as seaweed, beef and anchovy it was sort of like a steak tartare on crispy seaweed with amazing hints of the saltiness of the anchovies. Sublime.

Frog: Seaweed, beef and anchovy

An amazingly exotic concoction

After our three courses we were presented with a surprise from the chef: his chicken butter. Oh my goodness who’d have thought chicken butter could be such a delight. It was served topped with bits of crunchy chicken skin and with a basket of fresh bread for spreading on. You can buy this taste sensation to take away but I had to resist or I think I’d be eating chicken butter for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Frog: Chicken butter

The most unexpectedly delicious thing I’ve tasted this year

The mackerel was served with BBQ potato and yogurt- and a splash of herbs, flowers and sauces for a truly beautiful-looking dish.

Frog: Mackerel

A beautiful plate of mackerel

The Iberico pork was served with cauliflower and kimchi. I love a piece of Iberico pork and this was the absolute best of it, with the perfect balance of flavours and textures.

Frog: Iberico pork

Iberico pork bursting with flavour

And here’s a shot of the stylish interior looking towards the open kitchen.

Frog: interior

The stylish restaurant looks into the open kitchen

I loved Frog and think I should make it my quest to return and try everything on the inventively delicious menu.

Today’s price point

Our five dishes cost £53.

There’s a comprehensive wine list and white starts at £21, red at £24 and rose at £42.

There’s also a selection of sake (from £9 for 175ml) and cocktails (from £12).

Frog is at 34-35 Southampton Street, Covent Garden WC2

Contemporary British food at Native in Neals Yard

Today I’m heading to Native in picturesque Neal’s Yard in my favourite part of London – yes it’s time for lunch in Covent Garden.

Neal’s Yard owes its name to Thomas Neale who created the Seven Dials area of Covent Garden where it’s located. It wasn’t always the beautiful oasis it is today – in fact it had been a dark, rat infested, derelict yard behind the Covent Garden fruit and veg market. It didn’t even appear in the London A-Z until the mid-70s! This was after Nicholas Saunders started the Whole Food Warehouse there and the Yard became transformed into the secret Covent Garden space it is today.

In the courtyard you’ll find a collection of bars, restaurants and cafes set in a cute and colourful surrounds. Native is tucked away in the corner, a mini, stylish establishment with an open kitchen and small bar upstairs. We went down to the little dining area with its whitewashed walls and rustic tables. It’s a calm and relaxing sort of space.

Native’s dishes are all made from ingredients that are native (well, obviously!) to the UK. They focus on game, foraged and wild food which leads to a menu of delicious and somewhat exciting choices.

On Native’s Menu

There’s a choice of three dishes for each course. My Dorset crab was the prettiest plate I’ve seen for a while and came with thinly sliced Wye Valley asparagus. It’s asparagus season in England – so any excuse to eat as much of it as I can! The bitter herb veloute was poured over my dish at the table adding vibrancy and zest.

The beautifully delicate crab dish

The veloute adds a vibrant green-ness

The wild boar ragu was served with buttered satisfy, native curds and pickled walnuts. How’s that for an intriguing-sounding combination. Wild boar simply makes the best ragu – it was rich, packed with meatiness and oh-so-satisfying. You eat the root of the salsify plant which is sort of like a parsnip but different! It has a creamy sort of texture and a good bite to it.

The richness and depth of a wild boar ragu

Today we went for the special which was mutton served with sweetbread, garlic and jus. And an order of carrots and mushrooms on the side. It’s very rare to see mutton on menus – or even in shops – these days. I remember eating it all the time as a child on the farm. So I was very keen to have another mutton taster. It didn’t taste anything like I remembered – and I don’t think that’s anything to do with my memory! Certainly the chefs at Native have more skills in the cheffing department than our family cook (though he was very good). This tender, flavoursome mutton was served medium – medium/rare and I savoured every mouthful. Do love an occasional sweetbread, too.

Mutton, sweetbreads and a luscious gravy

A plate of multi-coloured roast carrots made for the perfect companion for the mutton. I love that carrots come in so many hues these days. They certainly brighten up any meal.

A cornucopia of carrot colours

And then there were the deeply earthy English Portobello mushrooms that were roasted with garlic. Portobellos done properly are almost like eating a juicy steak – simply delicious.

Earthy, juicy mushrooms with garlic

Neal’s Yard couldn’t be more removed from its history of dereliction. It’s the sort of place I could imagine living – right in the heart of much loved Covent Garden, surrounded by great eating! What more could anyone want?

The colourful warehouse-style buildings of Neal’s Yard

Today’s price point

It’s £25 for a two-course lunch or £32 for three courses.

White wine starts from £21 a bottle and red from £20. There’s a selection of English wines on offer, too.

Native is at 3 Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, London

The Barbary: It’s simply stupendous

Today I’m back in Covent Garden – in the delightful surrounds of Neal’s Yard. It’s a really cute, characterful area that is home to sister restaurant to The Palomar which I visited recently.

The Barbary takes its inspiration from the Barbary Coast – an area around the Atlas Mountains which includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. The area was infamous for its pirates and until the beginning of the 20th century was home to the Barbary lions which are now sadly extinct.

The menu reflects these countries from the Atlantic Coast and also through to the Mediterranean Sea and Israel. It makes for an amazing mix of ingredients and some of the most stunning and different food I’ve eaten in a while.

Food comes in tapas-size portions so there are plenty of opportunity for tasting. Seating is around the bar looking into the open and buzzing kitchen. You can’t book so there’s always the risk of queuing (one of my pet hates) so I’d recommend you go for a later lunch (after 2pm) or an early dinner (around 6pm) and you shouldn’t have much of a wait.

It’s the sort of menu that needs some explanation before those big decisions are made and the staff are very keen to help and describe the dishes with passion. They make them all sound so good but even once you’ve been guided by their knowledge you’re still not sure what you’re going to get. It’s just food I hadn’t encountered before but the good news is there’s no need to stress – I’m telling you that whatever you order is going to be fabulous.

Make sure to start with the Araya which is in the snack section. Little parcels of mince grilled on the fire and served with a tahini-style dip, these are sausage rolls in a league of their own.

img_4437

Simply heavenly sausage rolls

Masbacha chickpeas are soft and succulent with a wonderfully herby dressing.

img_4438

Zesty, herby chickpeas

And then there’s the Jerusalem bagel, a tasty, elongated delicacy generously coated with sesame seeds and served with a twist of spices on the side for dipping.

img_4440

The beautifully chew Jerusalem bagel

I am partial to a bit of chopped chicken liver and again this is spectacular, I think my favourite dish of the day. It’s chopped with hard boiled eggs and spring onions and served with a creamy, mustardy sauce. Another combination made in heaven.

img_4445

Chopped chicken liver and mustard

The fattoush salad of chopped tomatoes and herbs is topped with the creamiest whipped feta and a lovely limey dressing. A real star of a salad.

img_4448

Juicy tomatoes and soft clouds of feta

Our waitress enthusiastically recommended we order the pata negra neck which came with golden bulbs of roast garlic. I don’t really have the words to describe this amazing piece of meat. Rare and tender with a lovely charred crust from the fire, it melted on my tongue, the richest of flavours dancing across my taste buds.

img_4450

Melt-in-the-mouth flavourful meat

The Barbary’s bread is also stupendous. This amazing buttery nan was the perfect partner for the fishy taramasalata-like dip in all its pinkness.

img_4486

Naan and a fishy dip

The final wonder today is the goat. The second time I’ve seen goat on a London menu recently, it was roasted, shredded and crisped up on the fire. Served on a bed of garlicky tzatziki and topped with pickled red onion and fresh mint. Wow!

img_4489

Anyone for goat gyro?

I loved the mats which give you a clear picture of the region that’s inspired this marvellous food.

img_4529

I thought I’d also treat you to a picture of the beautiful Barbary lion with its dark mane that goes all the way around its stomach. They needed to keep warm up in those Atlas Mountains.

barbary-lion-photos

And here’s a magnificent Barbary lion

Today’s price point

This array of dishes cost around £70.

Wine starts from £29 a bottle.

The Barbary is at 16 Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden.

The taste of Thailand in Covent Garden

I love Thai food, there’s so much variety  and everything’s bursting with flavour. I visit Thailand whenever I get the chance and my favourite part of the trip is trying different dishes every day. I have established some firm favourites over the years.

So today I’m delighted to be combining some of my favourite food with my favourite part of London. Thai food in Covent Garden – gotta love the international flavours of London Town.

SUDA Thai is tucked away in a beautiful courtyard just steps away from the hustle and bustle of this popular area of the capital. It’s a real haven and you feel even happier with the warm welcome you’re given. Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles and I discovered that the Thais have thirteen terms describing different types of smiles – a bit like the eskimos do for snow. You’ve got to understand there’s plenty of smiling going on in Thailand, and there also certainly is in SUDA Thai.

The menu is impressive, and pretty huge, taking some paging through. We were directed to the section headed E-Sarn Classic – dishes from north-eastern Thailand – which include different versions of green papaya salad (som tum), which I eat large amounts of on Thai holidays. We went for the classic version which comes with cherry tomatoes, roasted peanuts, dried shrimp and chilli.

The green papaya is shredded, mixed with a zingy, spicy dressing and topped with the other ingredients. It’s a crunchy, chilli delight of a dish and even eating on a cool autumn London day, the flavours transported me to the beach – well, one of the many beaches I’ve enjoyed this dish on. Now I know where to get my fix in London

dsc01759

Classic som tum – spicy green papaya salad

We found ourselves drawn to the Grilled and Stir-fried section for our next choices. Fish works so well with Thai ingredients, and the sea bass was amazing. It came in crispy batter, drizzled with sweet and sour chilli sauce and accompanied by a fresh salad.

img_4370

Sweet sea bass fillets in a delightful sauce

Our third choice was the black pepper beef. Beef tenderloin was served with a coating of black pepper sauce, crunchy onions and peppers and little stems of green peppercorns to bite into. Perfect served with a bowl of fluffy, tasty egg fried rice.

dsc01767

Tender beef, crunchy veg and a peppery sauce

SUDA is the perfect place to pop in for a light lunch, as we did, though it was hard narrowing down the choices. Next time I’d like to go with a large group of friends so we can really do the menu justice and try loads of their delicious offerings. The selection of small bites looked particularly enticing, and then of course, there’s all the curries…

Today’s price point

SUDA is really good value. Our food today cost £36.25 and was a satisfying lunch for two.

Wine starts from £18 a bottle.

SUDA Thai is at St Martin’s Courtyard, off Upper St Martins Lane, London WC2. It’s a short walk from Leicester Square tube station.