Dinner at ENEKO Basque Kitchen & Bar

I consider myself something of a foodie. I have fairly high standards, and though I have some dietary stipulations with regards to what my body can and can’t tolerate, when I eat I want to eat great quality and interesting food.

I watch Masterchef every year. As a kid I would watch the Lloyd Grossman format of Masterchef and my whole family was convinced I would apply for the children’s version but never actually did. They still always thought I’d be a chef when I grew up.

Clearly that never happened. I think the kitchens are too hot and stressful, and I don’t enjoy being told what to do. Nevertheless, I still cook and I love to watch cooking shows to pick up tips and inspiration. And I LOVE to eat.

This year one of the first professional kitchen challenges was at ENEKO in Covent Garden. A Basque kitchen and grill that brought the flavours of traditional Spanish cooking to London and in a unique and original way. Bringing in the elements of fine dining, but still offering an accessible menu, I was totally impressed when I visited their website.

Down to some freakish fluke, our Sky box recorded that episode of Masterchef from BBC Wales HD an hour earlier than it was being shown to the rest of the country and so when we tuned in 10 minutes after the start and saw the restaurant, we were able to view the site and book a table before the site was bombarded with hits from the rest of the country. It must have been fate since an hour later we couldn’t get onto the site any more!

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We arrived at the location, positioned just opposite the Lyceum Theatre which is currently showing the Lion King. The weather that day had been glorious so people were on the streets outside the pubs and bars soaking in the last of the day’s sunshine before heading into the theatre.

We entered the restaurant and were greeted by the lovely maître d’ who took us to our table. Down the stairs and into a small but not too small dining area, with some cosy booths and floor tables all with candles. The lighting was dim but not too dark and it created a cosy but airy atmosphere. It was light enough to see your food and menu but dark enough to feel intimate.

From our table you could see into the kitchen and view the pass, which Gary and I both find fascinating.

Our waiter was really friendly, and explained the new menu, which had a ‘tapas’ feel based on small and larger plates. The idea is to order little bits to share, and go for differing sizes plates dependent on how hungry you are.

He took our drinks order. Having noticed only wines on the menu, and since I don’t really drink, I asked him what non-alcoholic beverages they had. I was told they could make any cocktail I wished to a non-alcoholic recipe and he asked what I wanted. I asked for something with an elderflower base and was told he would ask the bar to make me something up. The resulting drink was elderflower with soda and I think a hint of lemon. So refreshing and just what I wanted.

To eat, Gary decided he wanted two of the smaller plates and a side, and I went for one larger plate and a side.

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In the picture above you can see left at the back is Gary’s beetroot tartare, with soufflé potato and barbecue sauce. And on the right is his Traditional Talo. This was crispy corn talo (like tortilla chips), heritage tomatoes and basil emulsion. This also had other sauces and caviar type beads on with edible greens and flowers. I wish I knew exactly what was on it but the overall flavour was incredible. At the front is my tempura hake with red pepper sauce and a parsley emulsion.

We also ordered mashed potato which came with an apple compote, and grilled tenderstem broccoli which was topped with toasted hazelnuts.

So, what did we think of our mains?

The beetroot tartare was so unique. I only tasted a little and a little of the sauce. Being tartare it was cold, and the beetroot was finely chopped. The flavour was fresh and not overpowering. The sauce was powerful and also fresh – not too sweet but packed a punch.

The Talo was incredible. The fresh flavours of the tomato was brought out by the various sauces and vinegars.

My hake was incredible. The fish was light but meaty and so flavourful and the tempura was light and crisp. The pepper sauce was almost like a gravy underneath and I wish I knew how they made it! I detest parsley but actually liked it on this!

Gary was in love with the mash – it was so smooth and buttery, and though I would never usually consider paring apple compote with mash, when you did, it really cut through the creaminess and added another dimension.

My broccoli was lovely, but didn’t need the nuts on top. Still the whole thing was well-rounded, and I think we chose our menu rather well!

Then onto dessert.

We both decided to go for Apple Cake which came with cider sorbet.

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Less of a cake, and more what I’d describe as the fruit from a tarte tatin but without the pastry, this ‘cake’ was really delicious. Fine layers of apple were topped with a creme brulee type layer of sugar that had been torched to a cracking, sticky, burnt sugar lid. Topped with an incredible cider sorbet and then some very very thin caramel apple crisps. Along side was a cream inside fine green apple twists and around the edge was an INCREDIBLE green apple sauce. I could have eaten a whole bowl of that green apple goo.

Such an amazing end to the meal. This dish wasn’t too heavy, or sweet. It was very balanced and wonderful to eat!

Throughout the meal, the staff were aware of everything going on, attentive but not overbearing. Checking everyone had water, being aware of when people had finished eating, holding the door open for the bathroom when people enquired where it was (the bathrooms had the most incredible waterfall taps in the sinks!)

We were both beyond impressed. It was clear these people know how to invent dishes, cook them and host an amazing restaurant. I’m going to be keeping an eye on their menu as they tweak and add things, because I’m very interested in returning and tasting more.

If you want to see whether their food is something you’ll enjoy, visit their website and take a look at their menu. I found Eneko to be accessible both for food and atmosphere, and had a truly lovely evening there. We’ll be back!

Day Trippin’

Last week’s plans for bike riding around London were thwarted due to a nasty stomach bug which lasted from Monday evening until Wednesday afternoon. The heat didn’t help things.

Thursday Gary worked from home and I went on an ill-fated bike ride (more on that later in the week!)That evening one of my friends had a birthday meal and I really wanted to be better for that – and I was! The meal was lovely – a carvery dinner in a little pub with friends and good chats. I love my little group of friends. So nice to sit and chat with like-minded couples.

On Wednesday afternoon, Gary had suggested that I come and meet him in London from work and we could have a bit of an evening out, since we’d had to cancel our original plans. I really wanted to visit a Lorna Jane pop up shop in Covent Garden which is only there for two weeks, so I grabbed the chance. I also contacted one of my best friends who lives in London to see if she was free to meet up at all. She said she was so we arranged to meet up before she started work.

Friday morning I hopped on the train and met my friend, Sarah, at Euston. We took the tube to Trafalgar Square and Sarah introduced me to one of her favourite little coffee shops, Notes. The place was adorable and the food was so fresh and amazing. I’ll definitely go back.

Asparagus, pea and tomato salad with balsamic dressing. Strawberry infused Green iced tea.
Asparagus, pea and tomato salad with balsamic dressing. Strawberry infused Green iced tea.

notes

We then headed towards Spitalfields Market where Sarah was due to start work. It was great to catch up and have a proper, relaxed, catch up. I had a little mooch in her shop and bought a tee I’d seen a while back, but it was now hugely discounted – a must have! As I was paying I saw a gorgeous dress but didn’t want to try it on because I knew I’d love it – and it was rather expensive! From there I headed to Covent Garden for a look around and to find that pop up shop.

Lorna Jane is an Australian active wear brand for women, a bit like Sweaty Betty. Their stuff is really cute and feminine but also practical. I bought myself a headband. Finally I can stop running with the cotton ones I got at Claire’s Accessories – it’s way too hard to find headbands to work out in! I loved the things they had in the shop and will probably buy some of their stuff online at some point. The sales woman was lovely and invited me to their 5k runs whilst they are in the shop – alas London is a bit far for me to go for a 5k but it was nice to be asked!

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From Covent Garden I headed to Canary Wharf to meet Gary from work. I love meeting him here and seeing him walking out of the big important buildings! It makes me so proud! I mentioned the dress I’d seen in Spitalfields (I hadn’t stopped thinking about it!) and he suggested we go back so I could try it on. So we did. Which meant I got to see Sarah again! I tried it on and it was a perfect fit – so we bought it! (with a little help from Sarah’s friend discount!)

Next it was back to Covent Garden for dinner. Shake Shack have just opened a London location (the first in the UK!) in Covent Garden and we couldn’t wait to try it. I got myself a Shack Burger, Fries, Fifty Fifty (half lemonade half iced tea – it was AMAZING!) and a sticky toffee concrete (frozen custard dessert). I have to say the best part of the burger was the bun. I couldn’t taste their special sauce and the beef didn’t taste beefy enough for me. The chips were tasty but too many of them and the concrete was too melted even as soon as we got it. The Fifty Fifty was awesome. I think I would come back once the lines outside have disappeared and get a drink from there, but not much else. We need to try Five Guys next!

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We walked from here to Leicester Square – the Underground was too hot by now, and then I suggested we walk to Buckingham Palace. So we did.

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Then we headed to the London Eye via St James’ Park. We had a little rest on a bench by a lake in the park. It was so relaxing. On our way to the Thames we passed Westminster Abbey and I realised I’d never been to it before. It looks beautiful. I think we’ll visit it when it’s open one day so we can look around inside.

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By this point I was getting rather tired and Gary had already worked a full day in London and then done pretty much a full day’s sightseeing so we decided to call it a day. After a short rest overlooking the Thames we headed back to the Underground and home. It was an amazing day, so it turns out my stomach bug was fortuitous!

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Fun Rides and Roller Coasters

I have to say after the day I had running and walking on Tuesday, that on Wednesday I was a tad achy, but already knew that Wednesday and Thursday would be my rest days because I had a lot planned.

My Sister in Law, Nicky, picked me up and we headed off for our road trip to….. Thorpe Park!! Until last year I was a theme park virgin. I was kind of spoiled because my first theme park was Disneyland Paris. Nicky told me Thorpe Park was nothing like Disney but she hoped it would still be good. Since I got the rollercoaster bug last year I was eager to try out some more. The road trip was great, tunes and chats and we arrived at the park singing I Believe in a Thing Called Love by The Darkness at the top of our lungs.

The day was overcast and we had gone midweek so we knew it wouldn’t be busy. There were few lines for any ride. We headed straight for the newest ride Swarm. It’s based around the idea of some disaster or plane crash and you wait inside what’s built to look like a derelict church with an upside down and crashed major incident unit van in it. They play fake news reports about the disaster and I think it implies some kind of alien invasion. It’s an amazing ride. Your legs hang down and you fly through the wreckage, over a crashed helicopter and through a small hole in a billboard. It’s epic!

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Next we moved onto Stealth which takes you from 0 to 80 mph in 2.3 seconds. It kicks off so fast that it literally takes your breath away and you only breathe again seconds later because you’re screaming! Great ride – we went on it twice in one go because the queues weren’t long.

We got some lunch (a light lunch of noodles – I didn’t want to ride on a full stomach!) and headed for Saw. I’d heard the entrance to the ride was pretty scary and I don’t like the Saw movies at all but I know the premise so I was a little nervous. We put our bags in some lockers and headed on. There were no line so we walked straight around the queue system – a few bangs and flashes to make you jump but nothing scary. On the ride we were at the front of a four seater car. You go through a tunnel and Billy the doll rides out on a scooter to tell you you’re locked in a metal box and it’s your choice to live or die. He then says ‘This is what it’s like when you die’. Then everything goes dark and the ride starts in the pitch black! You fly fast in the dark until some light appears and you see a twist ahead. As you turn upside down there’s a mannequin cut in half screaming – it’s very fake so not too unpleasant. You carry on straight to a stop, where there are two screens. Billy tells you ‘Let the Games Begin’ and in front of you is a totally vertical track. You’re basically lying down as you go up – and you know at the top you have to come down – via another 90 degree drop! It’s insane. As you fly down there are huge circular saws in front of you. Then it’s the regular twists and turns and screams.  It was so awesome we did that one again straight after too!

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From there we sought out Nemesis Inferno, which was another ‘brace yourself’ ride. It was very fun. Next was Colossus. From the map I’d seen that this ride has some twisty bits which seemed to go on forever. I’ve got a little issue with too much repetitive movement – makes me feel über queasy, so I was a little apprehensive. The ride was really fun, but three twists one after the other was enough for me. They did put in a last twist which went the other way to help me ‘unwind’ my brain, but still I didn’t really fancy going on it again – time was running out and we wanted to get another go on the first three rides!

We headed back to Saw, then Swarm and then Stealth for another go. In the end we had 11 coaster rides. It was epic. Also while I was there I got a call about a job I really really want and I have an interview next week. It made the day even better!!

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Tired and achy but really happy we drove home to some more tunes.

Today we headed to London for the day! The weather was drizzly but we managed to see everything we wanted to and get some yummy lunch in Covent Garden and have a good chat. We visited the Moomin shop (of course) and I took Nicky for her first Gelupo ice cream. I tried the Ricotta and Sour Cherry flavour which was amazing! Gary has since reminded me they do Earl Grey flavour which I’ve missed on the menu both times so I will just have to go back! We also got to try some yummy tea in Whittard and I stocked up on my lemon black tea so I can start using my cold brew iced tea jug again! Totally knackered by this point we decided to call it a day and get on the train home.

I was worried that with two rest days together I might lose my mojo but I’m ready for my run tomorrow! By the way, you guys should also check out Ari’s blog at The Pace of it All and give her some support. She’s running a 5k today after a long day at work AND she’s got an awesome giveaway happening at the moment!

Only one day of my holiday left and I intend to make it count. I’m actually looking forward to getting back to work too! Life’s boring when you’re lazy, so fill it with fun stuff! Thank god my job is fun as well as hard work!

(Don’t forget, if you like my blog you can now ‘Like’ it on FB!)

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Fake Valentine’s Day

This weekend I had some holiday to take, so Gary and I planned to celebrate our Valentine’s a couple of days late. We booked at meal at one of our favourite London restaurants, The Big Easy in Kensington and decided to spend the afternoon in London.

Our trip started with a quick post-lunch visit to Cinnabon in the Trocadero to get our sugar on. I’d had a funny turn on the train on the way in and felt the need for a sugar buzz – which is what I got and I sat giggling for a few minutes. It was yummy. Then we popped into the HMV which is closing down 😦 From there we headed to Spitalfields Market, where one of my friends has recently got a job in the NW3 store there. They have some really really lovely things in their shop. I bought a gorgeous oversized cardigan. It’s so cozy I never want to take it off. We had a look around the market and then went for a coffee at Starbucks. I hadn’t tried one of their Vanilla Spice Lattes yet, so took that opportunity – I’d totally forgotten how gross their coffee was since they started to put two shots in. The Pumpkin Spice Latte was so nice I just figured this would be too. I was wrong. I’m sorry Costa, I’ll never stray again…

Next we headed to Kensington to find the Whole Foods Market, which we had heard so much about but wanted to see for ourselves. We didn’t have a lot of time before out seating at the restaurant, but we managed to see the whole place. I definitely want to go back to eat at the food court upstairs, and the produce they had looked amazing. They even stock my favourite yogurt from The Dairy Collective.

From there we headed to the restaurant, and I collected my frequent diners card 🙂 I, of course, ordered one of their famous frozen Margaritas – raspberry flavoured this time. They’re so good. I love the salt around the rim of the glass. Gary ordered a BBQ chicken sandwich with caramelised onions, shoestring fries and coleslaw. I had steak, mashed potato and sautéed green beans. My steak was INCREDIBLE. Cooked perfectly medium rare. In fact it was all amazing and I had to be careful not to just inhale the whole lot.

(clockwise from top left) China Town, reflection, cocktails, ice cream, steak, Piccadilly Circus, Cherry milkshake, Moomins!, Cardigan, Hearts
(clockwise from top left) China Town, reflection, cocktails, ice cream, steak, Piccadilly Circus, Cherry milkshake, Moomins!, Cardigan, Hearts

We had a look at the dessert menu but didn’t fancy anything from it, so we left and walked towards our tube station where we’d seen an ice cream place on the way down. On our walk we passed Christie’s with some interesting furniture in its window and a really pretty looking rare and 1st edition book store. It was closed unfortunately but might deserve a visit another time! The ice cream shop was called Scoop and served proper gelato ice cream. I had white pistachio ice cream and raspberry sorbet and Gary had caramel ice cream and raspberry sorbet. Both delicious. It wasn’t until after this that I remembered another ice cream place I’d wanted to visit in Soho called Gelupo. We decided to head that way anyway, so we could at least find where the place was for next time. We discovered it’s just down from Bubbleology and Snog which I love! Can’t believe I’d missed it before! They have an amazing ricotta, coffee and honey ice cream that I’d tried at the Good Food show and I’d love to try again.

From here we had a walk through China Town, all decorated for the Chinese New Year and then we walked to Covent Garden. We wanted to visit the Cyber Candy store and have a look around. We managed to buy quite a few cans of American soda – the Vanilla Coke from America tastes so much better than the stuff they used to sell here. And I found a load of Moomin themed Finnish sweets! Best of all they’re free from artificial colours and flavours, of which I’m allergic to. Thank God for European food laws. (No horse jokes now please!)

After here we walked through Covent Garden where they had some huge L.O.V.E. letters where people had written messages on metal hearts and padlocked them to the letters. It was so cool! There were also a load of massive decorated eggs as part of a Save The Children auction initiative (a bit like the phone boxes they had last year) Some of the eggs were amazing!

We headed back to Euston from here, and got the 10pm train home. It was such an amazing day. The weather was crisp but not cold and there was no wind. The sun even shone! Such a good day.

Yesterday we stayed in bed late and then went food shopping (rock and roll!) and had a message from Gary’s Mum asking if we wanted to go out for lunch. So we ventured out to an American Diner near Northampton called Buddies. I had some amazing macaroni cheese with garlic bread followed by pancakes. (I still haven’t made pancakes at home for Shrove Tuesday yet!) Later in the evening we decided to make a recipe we’d found on Pinterest for a cherry-vanilla milkshake. It was okay but not as sweet as we thought it would be and didn’t taste of vanilla or cherries. But it was morish and surely must count towards one of my 5 a day!

Today I have been mostly doing chores and watching The House on Haunted Hill, which I’d never seen before. It’s not bad but not good if you know what I mean?! It’s back to work tomorrow, but since I love my job it isn’t a bummer 🙂
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London, Baby!

Hello! First of all I’d like to say thank you and Hello to all my new followers and those who have liked my posts. It’s really reassuring to see that people not only read what I write, but also enjoy it. So thank you!

Yesterday G Man and I went on a trip to London. It was about -5 degrees C so it wasn’t an ideal day to go wandering but we’re hardy fools so we did it anyway! It meant I was able to get my camera out and give it a go around town, which I love to do.

We started off by heading to Covent Garden to have a mosey around and also visit the Moomin Shop. For those who don’t know who or what the Moomins are, I would recommend educating yourself. In time I will probably write a blog about that world, but for now give it a Google!
Moomins and Me

We then headed for the Orla Kiely store in Covent Garden which is very close to Neal’s Yard. Had a little look around and then wandered off towards Forbidden Planet – which was basically my teenage home. I’m a bit of a geek. We even had a Forbidden Planet in Milton Keynes for a while but that disappeared way before I was old enough to appreciate all that is geekdom.

In the Trocadero, Leicester Square, I tried my first Cinnabon. I think there’s only a couple of stores in the country. It was amazing! Gooey and warm and the coffee was great too! Hamley’s was our next stop. We needed to get out of the cold and couldn’t think of a better way to do it! We met some Royals while we were there!
Lego Royals

These models were amazing! So tall and such great detail to them.

We still had a little while before dinner so we went into Liberty for a nose around. The building is so pretty. I couldn’t resist taking a shot of the staircase on my phone.

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So so pretty.

Then it was time for dinner. We headed to The Diner, Soho where we had been wanting to go for quite some time. They serve something called Loco Moco which I had seen on a Hawaii episode of Man V Food and wanted to try. I had thought I would have to go to Hawaii to sample this but when I saw this place sold it I know I wanted to go! I asked for no jalapeno and for pineapple on the side. It was really good despite its appearance!

locomoco
Dirty rice, burger patty, american cheese slice, fried eggs, gravy and pineapple

I really wanted a dessert but didn’t fancy anything on their menu, so we walked to Soho and I had a frozen Green Tea yogurt with mango and kiwi from Snog. Yum!

We were totally knackered by this point so headed back. It was so foggy by the time we got back to Bletchley, not to mention cold! A fantastic day all in all. You can see more photos in my Flickr set too.

I love London, even if it is bloody freezing 😀

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