Views and food to dream about at SushiSamba

When summer hits London in all its glory, it’s time to enjoy alfresco drinking and dining opportunities, which means I’m on the hunt for terraces and courtyards across town. And have I got a terrace for you today. We’re in the City of London on the 38th floor of the Heron Tower. A glass lift on the side of the building whisks you up to SushiSamba, a bit too rapidly for my liking, but I manned up and actually enjoyed it on the way down.

SushiSamba is the highest restaurant terrace in Europe with fabulous views across London Town. You’re looking straight at the Gherkin (or the Pickle as my nephew Zak calls it) and the Cheesegrater. Love the food themes in London’s skyline. You can also see beautiful Tower Bridge and the Tower of London down below.

The interior is modern and shiny with fabulous lighting and  floor to ceiling glass to help make the most of the views.

And then there’s the food – a combination of Japanese, Brazilian (hence the Sushi and the Samba) and Peruvian food. Sound exotic enough? The menu is pretty mind boggling with a combo of small and large plates and sushi rolls to choose from. We went for it and ordered a variety of dishes which our waiter managed to serve up in an order that worked. All dishes got put in the middle of the table for sharing.

These crispy taquitos were up first, stuffed with plenty of yellowtail, avocado and roasted corn miso. Light, crunchy and fresh, I could eat a whole plateful of these. Good start!

tacos

Delicious fishy morsels with crunch

Substantial shrimp tempura was served with snap pea julienne, spicy mayo and black truffle vinaigrette. Plump, juicy shrimps smothered in spicy mayo…perfect.

tempura shrimp

Deliciously mayo-smothered shrimp tempura

My delight in pork belly continues with this kuromitsu glazed pork belly, palmito, orange and pickled onion. Such a wonderful combo of flavours and textures, beautifully presented and melt-in-the-mouth.

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A beautiful plate of pork belly

Salt and pepper squid was created with dry miso, shichmi, sea salt, crispy garlic and smoked soya. Light and tender with just the right crispiness.

Crispy, flavoursome squid

Chicken doesn’t get much more exotic than this. The poussin teriyaki came with Japanese-style yogurt and yuzu kosho. Packed with flavour and melt-in-the mouth with the creaminess of the mayo to dip into.

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One of the best chicken dishes of the summer

As a somewhat carniverous family we had to tuck into one of the meat platters. We chose the Churrasco Rio Grande, a combination of rib-eye, chorizo and aged picanha, served with a selection of sauces. It was delicious. If you really feel like pushing the boat out you could go for the Kobe beef Ishiyaka, 1kg of steak with a hot stone and dipping sauces – I mean really pushing the boat out, it costs £1,000.

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A meaty choice that’s a carnivore’s delight

There’s also a range of Samba rolls for sushi lovers. We ordered a platter with two varieties: Tokyo Sky Tree spicy big eye tuna tempura crunch, lotus root, aji panca and spicy mayo and the Tiger Maki takawan wasabi tobiko, crab meat, tempura prawn, tiger prawn, wasabi mayo and beetroot yogurt. Sounds like a lot of ingredients – just believe that they work perfectly together and look and taste wonderful.

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A lovely platter of sushi

Here’s a view of the beautifully modern, light-filled interior.

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The floor-to-ceiling glass at SushiSamba really shows the views off

And here’s the view past the Gherkin down towards the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

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A stunning London view

There’s also a fabulous outside bar which gets extremely packed with glamorous Londoners on balmy summer nights. Just perfect!

SushiSamba is at 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2 in the heart of the City of London.

 

Loving the taste of Peru at Coya in Piccadilly

One of a crop of Peruvian restaurants in London, Coya sits in a stylishly grand building set right on Piccadilly near Hyde Park Corner.

The light-filled room with its high ceilings has a real feel of elegance, even decadence, to it. And it feels instantly comfortable – the sort of place where you’d like to settle in for a long time.

It serves traditional Peruvian food with a contemporary twist prepared in three open kitchens – the ceviche bar, open charcoal grill and central kitchen. There’s a lot going on at Coya – even an initial glance at the menu tells you this.

To start off we tucked into a bowl of creamy, savoury and luscious guacamole served with tortillas and large, yummy prawn crackers. I love guacamole and this was perfectly made. Well, avos are grown in large quantities in Peru so they should know what they’re doing.

guacamole

The vibrancy of a fresh guacamole

The menu is huge and the variety so wide it’s really hard to choose. I think it’s the sort of place you need to return to regularly to get a reasonable sampling. And each plate looks so beautiful, too, eating at Coya is a joy for all the senses. Portions come tapas size so perfect for sharing. This is their take on beef tataki.

tataki

Beautiful reds and greens, and the tenderest of tataki

This is Calameres Fritos Con Ocopa – baby squid with Peruvian marigold quinoa. How exotic does that sound? The best squid dish I’ve had for a very long time, with amazing flavours and textures.

calamari

You can’t beat squid that’s this perfectly cooked

Ceviches are the most well-known of Peruvian cuisine, so I can never go into a Peruvian restaurant without trying one. The freshest of salmon and a lovely zesty dressing.

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Ceviche tastes like health in a bowl

Here are some pictures of the wonderful interior – I truly felt like I had been transported to another country. Somewhere exotic!

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Here’s the stylish eating area at the front

This is the beautiful bar. Coya sells over 40 different tequilas – now there’s a dangerous proposition.

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The welcomingly elegant bar

Coya is at 118 Piccadilly, Mayfair.

 

Square Meal

Discovering Peruvian food at Lima, London

It seems like I’ve been hearing a lot about Peru recently. First, amazing Peruvian avocados from giant orchards at the foot of Peruvian mountains. Then a box of exciting Peruvian ingredients was delivered to my door (recipes coming soon). And now a wonderful Peruvian restaurant in London. In one of my favourite parts of London, too, just off the restaurantland that is Charlotte Street.

Much as I’d love to, I can’t see myself making it to Peru any time soon, which is why London is so fabulous – at least I can sample some of its flavours without even leaving home.

Lima is the creation of world-renowned Peruvian chef Virgilio Martinez. He’s the chef patron of Central in Lima, Peru which is ranked No. 15 in the San Pellegrino list of the best restaurants in the world. Lima in London is the first Peruvian restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star. It’s a light, contemporary space with friendly, welcoming staff.

The menu is, well, totally different to anything I’ve encountered. Peruvian food has got to be the ultimate and most complex form of fusion food…as well as being influenced by the Incas, this multi-cultural country’s cuisine also has strong influences from Spain, China, Italy, Germany, and Japan. What an adventure, you’re travelling the world on a plate!

This fantastic asparagus dish, Asparagus Peru, was described as coming with tree tomato emulsion, Andean sweet potato, red Shiso. Wow, what a stunner! On my first mouthful I did think, where’s the asparagus?, but very quickly worked out that it has been very thinly sliced into long shreds which works amazingly. A totally innovative dish, I’ve never seen asparagus served like this – and I love asparagus so have eaten more than my fair share of it in restaurants!

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Light and fresh with delightfully different textures

The tuna Nikkei is yellow fin tuna served in a luscious sauce with samphire and sweet onion. A beautifully vibrant dish with the freshest of tuna.

tuna

A beautiful tuna dish in shades of pink and green

The lomo steak Luancaina is a spectacle to behold. I gasped with delight when this arrived at our table. Beef loin is served with yellow aji sauce and goa cress. Aji are chilli peppers and are a huge part of Peruvian cuisine, as I’m discovering in my research before attempting to create some delicious dishes myself. They come in many different shapes, sizes and degrees of hotness. This dish was nothing short of spectacular, the tender rare beef, the creamy sauce, heaven on a plate.

beef

A wonderful plate of beef with a traditional Peruvian sauce

The Octopus Olivo is a beautifully delicate and dainty dish of braised octopus, organic white quinoa and botija olive. Botija olives are indigenous to Peru and are said to be one of the oldest olives in the world.

octopus

Gorgeous little morsels all in a row

I love ceviche and have even made my own (rather delicious) version of it. But I’ve never come across a hot ceviche, until now! This salmon hot ceviche was described as coming with plantain megado aji limo pepper and ginger. Sounds exotic and tasted totally amazing with lovely chunks of fish and a zest, flavoursome sauce.

ceviche

Delightful chunks of salmon and a light, summery sauce

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Three plates of stunning food in a row

I probably should have done my Peruvian cooking first and then headed for Lima, fully educated in the intricacies of Peruvian ingredients. Because they are quite different and there are some unusual additions and ways of cooking. How I love discovering a whole new world of ideas and inspiration out there. I can’t wait to start experimenting.

And then, of course what I will have to do is head back to Lima for some more tastings…I can see my exploration and sampling of Peruvian food is going to go on for some time.

Oh and the exciting news is that another Lima – Lima Floral – is opening in Covent Garden next week. Book me in!

Watch this space for my first attempt at cooking Peruvian food. Coming soon.

Lima is at 5 Rathbone Place W1

Square Meal

Recipes: Delish dishes using avocados

It’s time for more of my regular avo recipes. They’re delicious, good for you and so easy to prepare. Hass avos from Peru have been used in these recipes. Here’s why you should eat more avocados.

Avos contain 11 of the 13 known vitamins and minerals.

Half an avo counts as one of your 5-a-day.

Avos contain “good oils” (the same oil found in nuts and olive oil). These oils help you feel full longer.

Half a medium avocado (72 grams) has just 137 calories, 50% fewer than a plain bagel.

They are good for your eyes. An ounce of avo contains 81 micrograms of leutein; leutein can help protect against macular degeneration.

They’re really versatile, let your imagination go wild and come up with your own unique dish.

They’re easy to prepare.

What more can I say?

They are simply delicious!

 Avocado, chicken and rocket bruschetta

Bruschetta

Makes 4

2 Peruvian Hass avocados, halved, pitted and peeled

Squeeze of lemon juice

4 large slices of bread

2-3 handfuls rocket or salad leaves

120g roast chicken, sliced

50g sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped

A few drops of olive oil

A few drops of balsamic vinegar

Parmesan cheese shavings

Mash the avocados with a fork, adding a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent them from browning.

Toast the bread slices, and spread thickly with the mashed avocado.

Top with rocket or salad leaves, sliced chicken and sun-dried tomatoes. Sprinkle each one with a few drops of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then finish off with Parmesan cheese shavings.

 Eggs Benedict with a difference

Eggs benedict

Serves 4

2 Peruvian Hass avocados, halved, pitted and peeled

4 bacon medallions

4 eggs

2 English muffins, split in two

Mash the avocados with a fork and set to one side.

Grill or fry the bacon medallions.

At the same time, gently poach the eggs in simmering water.

Toast the muffins and spread thickly with mashed avocado. Place a bacon medallion on each one, then top with the poached eggs. Serve immediately.

Avocado and spinach dip

Dip

1 Peruvian Hass avocado, halved, pitted and peeled

1 shallot, very finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

50g fresh young spinach

200g extra light garlic and herbs soft cheese

Vegetable crudités, such as cucumber, celery, cherry tomatoes, carrots and peppers

Cook the spinach in boiling water for 1 minute to wilt the leaves, then drain well and rinse with cold water. Squeeze the spinach to remove excess liquid, then chop finely.

Beat the soft cheese in a bowl until smooth, then stir in the spinach.

Mash the avocado with a fork and stir into the spinach mixture with the shallot. Season with salt and pepper, then serve with vegetable crudités.

For more avo ideas visit http://www.deliciousavocados.co.uk

Oh and I took some time to read up a bit about Peru and was astounded at its beauty. Yet another destination for the wishlist. In the meantime, how’s this for an avocado orchard?? Breathtaking.

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A lively night out at the legend that’s Nobu

So I’m continuing my journey around London seeking out exciting eating experiences. This week I’m in swish Mayfair at the legendary Nobu.

“You know how kids dream of being soccer players or actors? Well, my dream was to be a sushi chef.” From the minute he walked into his first sushi restaurant, aged 11, Nobu knew what he wanted to do with his life, this story has to be an inspiration to all of us.

Nobu Matsuhisa started as a dishwasher in a restaurant in Toyko. For three years he cleared and washed dishes, cleaned the restaurant and went to the fish market every morning with his boss. He carried the basketload of fish back to the restaurant and cleaned them – every day.

At 24 he was offered a job as a sushi chef in Lima, Peru, spent time in Buenos Aires and Alaska before settling in LA in the late 1970s. In 1987 he opened Matsuhisa in Beverley Hills which very quickly became an LA hotspot frequented by celebs. Here he met Robert De Niro who became a partner in his business and convinced him to open in Tribeca, NYC (De Niro’s neighbourhood) in 1994.

I met celebrity chef Ken Hom once who told me about eating at Nobu in New York (and he knows Nobu personally) and feeling a bit put out that everyone was staring at him. Until his dining companion pointed out that he was sitting next to Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake and no one had the least bit of interest in him! Let’s just say that Nobus around the world are  something of a celebrity magnet. Brad Pitt, Kate Moss and Tom Cruise are regular visitors to the London one and, famously, Boris Becker’s daughter was conceived on Nobu’s stairs one year after he was knocked out of Wimbledon (now that’s another great story!).

So there’s the history – now here’s my Nobu story. When Nobu  opened in London in February 1997 it was the most talked about event in London restaurantland for a long time. It was so far off my food radar and outside of my budget it was, in a different way to Nobu obviously, a dream to ever go there. My friend Christa honeymooned in London and went there shortly after it opened. Her memorable night there stayed with her and when she visited  recently she suggested we  go. Of course I jumped at the chance.

Mayfair on a Saturday night is not a phenomenon I experience frequently. Girls in £1,500 Herve Leger dresses (thanks to Candy the fashion expert among us) with Chanel bags and four-inch heels that they can’t walk in…we witnessed a dramatic trip down the step (yes, one step) with said dress (strapless) heading south. We didn’t spot any celebs but it was certainly buzzing with beautiful people ready for a big night out.

The menu takes some perusing, there’s so much to choose from. You can see the Peruvian influence with dishes like tacos and ceviche, there’s an enormous selection of sashimi and well, just a massive choice of everything. Our waitress told us that food came as it came (we couldn’t specify having the dishes in a particular order)  and everything would be put in the middle of the table to share. Felt a bit like we were being given orders by the Food Police and sorry for you if you didn’t want to share your dish! Anyway, it is a lovely way to eat and taste lots of dishes.

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Fresh salmon tacos with a spicy salsa

You could have pretty much tempura anything – we tried the shrimps, snow crab and zucchini (or courgettes as we call them in England).

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Snow crab tempura

The beef “toban” yaki was delightful. Beautifully tender with a silken, flavoursome sauce.

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Seriously superior beef skewers

This is shitake Kushiyaki, fabulous fresh wild mushrooms with amazing earthy flavours.

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Now this is a plate of fried mushrooms

Possibly my favourite dish of the night – amazing scallops. Love the plate, too.

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Scallops with pepper sauce

This is a version of Nobu’s signature black cod.

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The pork belly was beautiful. Crispy on the top, melt in the mouth underneath with a succulent, sweet sauce.

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Crisp pork belly with spicy miso

A night out at Nobu is certainly an invigorating experience. The packed, buzzy restaurant with its amazing cornucopia of dishes and plenty of great tastes to savour, the streets teeming with revellers, girls dressed in skimpy designer frocks (no matter what the weather) and a great energy and spirit in the air. Gotta love London town, it’s all happening here!

Nobu is at 19 Old Park Lane on the first floor of the Metropolitan Hotel.

Nobu has one Michelin star. In May of this year there were 26 Nobus worldwide. Nobu is certainly living his dream!