My little secret: Nepitella (1)

Ever had that feeling when you’re totally floored by a flavour you can’t quite place? For me, it was a herb in a pesto in Little Italy, New York. One that gave the dish an almost blue flavour. It was bizarre, it was jolting and it was absolutely lovely. I sent back to the kitchen to find…

Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic Vinegar has gone from being an exotic novelty to a workhorse in the modern British kitchen – but how much do we really know about this sticky, hedonistic culinary stalwart? The word ‘vinegar’ comes from the French vin aigre – literally ‘sour wine.’ ‘Balsamic’ roughly translates as ‘like balsam’ – an aromatic resin, though…

Violet Cookery

  When the railway line at Dawlish washed away back in 2014, the last things on most people’s minds were little purple flowers. A century ago it would have been a different story. The spring ‘violet train’ would have been unable to pick up Dawlish’s sweet-smelling harvest. Eliza Doolittles at Covent Garden would have had…

All Day (Chocolate) Breakfast

A sumptuous, luxurious independent, Rococo is famous for its exquisite packaging (white with blue woodcuts) and even more exquisite chocolate. They weren’t voted Chocolatier of the Year 2012 for nothing. When I heard about their latest venture, All Day Chocolate Breakfast, I was at their Belgravia flagship in Motcomb Street in a trice. The shop’s worth visiting…

Beet Crazy

Beetroot divides the world. You love it or hate it. For those who love it, the sweet, earthy tones are equally complimentary with crunchy salads and sharp pickles. It is the base ingredient of Eastern Europe’s favourite soup, Borscht, obligatory cubed with every French dish of crudites, and the default relish on the Great Australian Burger…

Tart or Pud? The Bakewell Conundrum

There are several mysteries to do with Bakewell, at least two of them down to its most famous sweet treat. Is the world-famous Bakewell Tart the authentic dish or should we be lauding the less well-known Bakewell Pudding? And why does virtually every bakery and tea shop in the town claim to be the first-ever…

The Royal Chocolate Kitchen

Hampton Court Palace. Thomas Tosier is pounding roasted cacao beans to a paste on a hot granite slab. He is wearing full periwig, breeches and a long waistcoat. The slab has taken an hour and a half to heat up but that’s nothing to the 30-odd hours it will take to grind the beans to…

Champagne Mavericks

Every year Eric Lebel has to turn approximately 400 wines into one; a nice trick – if you can do it. As Chef de Caves of legendary champagne house Krug, Lebel uses the label’s unique ‘library’ of wines to build a champagne from scratch that both embraces and circumnavigates the concept of ‘vintage.’ There’s a…

Afternoon Tea at the Fan Museum

I’m not sure I’d recommend the Fan Museum at Greenwich to non-girls. Don’t get me wrong, it’s gorgeous, frilly froth, beautifully presented in a jewel box of a building. I utterly adore it. Men I have taken there, however, have developed a strange, glazed look halfway through Room Two. Perhaps that’s why up to now…

Georgian Dining Academy

If you’re planning a trip to London in the long term, allow me to tempt you with a very quirky evening indeed; one that truly steps back in Old London time… Regular readers will know the delights ofSimpsons Tavern, the oldest chop house in London–established in 1757 and still, hidden in a warren of medieval alleyways, a secret…

Colston Bassett Stilton

The tiny English village of Colston Bassett boasts a ruined Norman church, a market cross, a picturesque country pub – and what some might call the Emperor of the kings of British cheese. Stilton is, perhaps, the most distinguished cheese of all, with its thick yellow crust, sumptuous web of blue veins, crumble-cream texture and rich, piquant…

Maids of Honour

Some say Hampton Court, some say Richmond Palace. You pays your ha’penny and you takes your choice when it comes to legends about Henry VIII’s eating habits, especially when it comes to melt-in-the-mouth pastries dainty enough for a nursery rhyme. The story goes that the king, visiting his queen du jour in her apartments at…