Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Dairy

Rarely do I venture south of the river. It's partly due to lazy reasons and partly due to snobby reasons. (I know, don't judge).  However last week I did a miracle and crossed the river to Clapham to go try out a new restaurant that is all the craze in that neighbourhood right now called The Dairy. Funny how I'm willing to travel further if there is the prospect of food at the end of my destination.

The owner and head chef Robin Gill is a very close friend of Conor. Conor knowing how much I love food invited me along to go and sample this new place and it looks like I will be crossing the river a lot more regularly now! I would not be surprised if they receive a Michelin Star in the next year or so. If like me, you don't like to travel outside your neighbourhood, then at least make this one of your exceptions. I promise you will not regret it.

I didn't know much about the restaurant, I didn't read much about it as I wanted to build my own view. All I knew was that it was given a 5 star rating on the Metro. Robin used to be a head chef at The Sauterelle in the City and has worked under Marco Pierre White as well as volunteering at Noma. Every time I've met Robin all we talk about is food and I can tell that cooking is something he is very passionate about.

The restaurant itself has a very relaxed and casual atmosphere almost like a bistro, you would think they served steaks and burgers here but you couldn't be more wrong. The food is in it's own league, I would say it was a mix between modern English cuisine meets Noma meets Pollen Street Social. The dishes are very fresh and creative, everything we ate that night was something different from anything I've had before. The service and staff is young and friendly but not stiff which is a deal breaker for me. Stiff and uptight fancy restaurants can be such a bore if you are on a date or trying to have fun with friends.

The best part of it all? The price. We all took a 7 courses tasting menu which was only £40 per person! The price really does not reflect the quality of ingredients or the taste. I would have expected anything from between £60-£80 for what we got. They have just opened two months ago, so I can only suggest that you get your ass down there before they get really popular and prices may go up. I know already that now you need to book at least a week in advanced.

Anyway, enough talking. I know you want to see the photos now.

Warm homemade bread, spreadable chorizo (genius), bone marrow infused butter (genius again)

Crispy pork belly

I think this may become their signature dessert. Salted caramel and chocolate

After dinner we went over for a quick chat with Robin to congratulate him on his success. I asked him what kind of marketing he did because since opening on day one he has sold out every single night.

Robyn :)
"We did absolutely no marketing. The space was empty here for a while (I think it used to be a crappy bar) and I think the local people were just curious to try us out when we opened. They came in with no expectation and we have a very simple dining room so they are not expecting anything fancy. We started sending sample dishes to each table and we would give them some new dishes to try for free so we can get some feed back and we got a very positive response. They started tell their friends about the place and it just happened over word of mouth"

Well, as they say that word of mouth is the best marketing tool so pick up the phone people and start dialling to get your reservations in!

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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

One Night in Portofino

We drove from Como to Portofino and as we were entering this beautiful seaside town a queue of traffic started to form. We were a few cars behind the first.  An Italian policewomen walked up to each car and questioned every one of us of our destination.

"Where are you heading to?" she asked.
"Portofino" Saad replied
"Parking in Portofino is full, no one is allowed to enter the town at this time. It's a very busy weekend" she informed us.
"But we have a hotel reservation, we are sleeping there tonight"
"Ok, in that case wait a minute"

Queue to get into Portofino

She walked back to her colleagues and after a few finger pointing to our car someone beckoned us to skip the queue and drive pass the traffic right into town. Bouncers at town doors? It's like trying to get in a club in London. As we entered the town we noticed there were more and more expensive cars and limousines. We started to wonder if Portofino is always like this or was it just this particular weekend?

We finally found our hotel that was nestled on the side of a hill over looking the sea. Portofino is so tiny and have very limited hotels. Of course the most famous hotel in Portofino is the Splendido but who the hell wants to spend 800euros a night? Luckily I managed to find a great hotel that was just a 5 mins walk from the Splendido at just 250euros a night. (I highly recommend this hotel if you are ever planing a trip here). If you have difficulty booking somewhere in Portofino, a lot of people end up staying in the neighbouring town St Margarita (10 mins drive away) that has more hotel options.

The hotel's sun lounge area

Our bedroom and balcony in the hotel

Our hotel in the centre of the photo, and up higher in the hills is the Splendido where we had dinner

For dinner we had reservations in the Terrace restaurant at Splendido Hotel. This restaurant is renowned for its breath taking views and true to its name, it took my breath away. It is possibly one of the most romantic places I've had dinner. The staff are friendly and the atmosphere is great too. We sat outside on the terrace under candlelight, feeling a light summer breeze, listening to live piano and jazz, and watching the moon light reflecting in the dark sea in front of us. And before you think it sounds too romantic or boring, it really is not. The crowd is buzzing and loud, everyone is just having a great old time. I felt like I was at Gatsby's dinner party. It turns out Bulgari were hosting a party that weekend in this hotel, so I needn't say that a lot of women were sparkling that night.

The Terrace Restauant @ Hotel Splendido

Our view at dinner

Dinner for two
Moonlight reflecting in the water

Full moon
We had been craving pasta for a week. The week before we started doing the no carbs diet, so by the time we got to Portofino we desperately wanted pasta. After spending 15 minutes looking at the menu we decided that we didn't care about the meat course and was just going to order 3 different types of pasta dishes between us. So here they are....

our only starter
Spaghettie with tuna roe and fish flakes
Pesto: The speciality of the region
Cappucino mouse dessert

The next morning we woke up with a rounded belly. So we went for a long walk around town.

My feet started to feel un comfortable in the heat in my ballerinas so I went and bought these new sandals from Emanuela Caruso. Do you like them? I've never heard of the brand before but they have super adorable sandals that look glam and elegant. I got the white one but they come in so many different shapes and colours. You can find a similar one here.

Unfortunately we only had time for 1 day in Portofino, but I fell in love with the scenery so much that I am sure I will return again and next time explore surrounding towns and coast lines. It is only a 2 hour drive from Milan so it really isn't that difficult to get to from London.

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