Tag Archives: Restaurants

At home with chef Michael Caines

Double Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines has been the executive chef at Gidleigh Park in Devon for 21 years this year and also founded the Abode boutique hotel group. He has written books and regularly appears on TV. He lives in Devon with his wife Zoe and has three children, Joseph, 12, Hope, 9, and India, 3

Describe your kitchen…

It’s an amazing kitchen and it’s designed around the idea of integrated cooking and dining so it’s perfect for entertaining: it’s open-plan with a central island to cook on. I didn’t want it to feel like an industrial kitchen but it’s got clean lines and Miele stoves in both induction and gas and a wok burner. I’ve got a steamer and coffee machine built-in and two ovens so that I can cook things at different temperatures. It’s a great space for entertaining but also for relaxing and watching TV – I put a lot of thought into the design and I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out.


What’s your most used kitchen gadget?

I couldn’t do without my KitchenAid and blender, but I also rely on more low-tech gadgets like my pestle and mortar so that I can make my own spice mixes. My garlic press is probably one of the most-used gadgets in my kitchen – it’s just so easy.


What do you eat at home?

I cook lots of curries, stir-fries, roasts and pasta – things that the kids will eat too. And I bake a lot, it’s a great way to involve children in cooking. If they get involved with cooking it then they’re more inclined to eat it.


What’s your favourite cookbook?

I don’t buy cookbooks but I do get given a lot – I use them for ideas and inspiration. But the one that I do use at home is a really old book from the Seventies that used to be my mum’s called How to be a Good Housewife – it’s full of really patronising things like how to lay a table, but it’s got some really great cake recipes in it, including a Christmas pudding recipe that I love.

I use Asian cookbooks as I don’t cook Asian food in my work so I’ve learnt a lot from them


What are your store-cupboard staples?

Salt, garlic, Chinese five spices, olive oil and fresh herbs from the garden.


Do you have a favourite fast and easy meal that you could share with us?

I make a really easy seafood pasta dish – although I do also like to make my own pasta as I have a pasta maker at home. But I finish my pasta slightly differently, when it’s almost cooked I put some olive oil in a pan, sweat some garlic, and add some chilli, parsley and a little bit of the pasta cooking water and then I toss the pasta in the pan and finish the pasta in the pan to seal in the flavours. And then I serve the seafood separately, rather than mixing it all together.


What three things would you save from your kitchen in a fire?

Mum’s cookbook, my set of Robert Welch knives and my pestle & mortar.


Your favourite restaurant?

The Ledbury in London.


Last supper?

It would be seafood platter followed by roast chicken with all the trimmings, and then cheese and wonderful fruit to finish.


Your food hero?

I’m all about looking forward not back, so I don’t really spend time thinking about heroes or mentors. I’ve worked with some amazing chefs including Raymond Blanc and Joel Robuchon but my focus is on the future. 

Guilty food pleasure?
It’s go to be takeaways – I love a good Indian or Thai takeaway.

How did you get into cooking?
It started at home – I’d help mum baking cakes to start with and then we had a large kitchen garden so I’d help Dad grow things to cook and it just became a hobby and then a passion that turned into a career. There were no celebrity chefs back then so I never thought about it as a job, it was something I did for fun.

Is that why you focus on seasonal and local produce?
I focussed on regional food because 20-odd years ago you couldn’t get more exotic or unusual ingredients in rural Devon, so it made sense to concentrate on what was around me and available – especially as the natural larder in the south west is incredible. There was just one delivery a week coming from London at that time. And at the time, local and seasonal food wasn’t a big thing so it was something quite different to be doing. My food has evolved and I’ve grown more confident in my own style as I’ve progressed.


You overcame a personal tragedy when you joined Gidleigh Park and went on to win two Michelin stars there – how did losing your arm change your outlook?

It had a massive impact on me physically and psychologically but I was determined to overcome it as I had too much to lose. The first year was the hardest but when I got past it I could see how much I had achieved.

And what advice would you give to others in a similar situation or with obstacles to overcome?
My advice would be to take it one step at a time. The best way to persevere is to surround yourself with friends and family and create an atmosphere that gives you a positive mindset.

You’ve been at Gidleigh for 21 years this year – how has cooking and the food scene changed in that time?
So much has changed, fine dining has become less formal but there is still as huge place for it. I’m all about championing local and seasonal food and people are much more aware of that today. Food has become much more of a lifestyle choice – people are much more discerning about what and where they eat. I’m pleased that some of the gimmickry that has been around in recent years has passed – I don’t believe in de-constructing anything, ever.

Is fine-dining dead?
No. It’s still the highest form of cuisine and people want to go out and feel special and dress up. But people don’t want the pomp any more or to be made to feel uncomfortable. The premise is the same but the application is different, and that’s a good thing – fine dining is more accessible than ever. Food isn’t an elite sport, everyone deserves to eat good food.

And where do you get the best Devon scones?
I make them!

Michael Caines will be cooking in the On5 restaurant at Royal Ascot this June (0844 346 0346, www.ascot.co.uk).


Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 15.01.25

This article first appeared in Metro on 14 April 2015.

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Restaurant review: The Ethicurean

We were driving down to Wiltshire on Friday, minus the children, with an hour or three to spare. We were hungry. “Is there anywhere that we could stop about an hour from here,” asked my husband optimistically somewhere between Worcester and Gloucester trundling down the M5.

I scoured the map. We didn’t really want to drive in to Bristol as we were heading south-east of there, to explore the Somerset/Wiltshire borders. And then I remembered I’d been wanting to try The Ethicurean for a while. But where was it? Not quite in Bristol.

A Google search and phone call later we were booked in to this ethical, hyper-local, sustainable restaurant that sits in a walled garden south of Bristol. I say restaurant, but  The Ethicurean is really a ramshackle greenhouse and shed, stuck to one corner of the Barley Wood Walled Garden. If that makes it sound scruffy, then you shouldn’t go. But if you love the romantic notion of sitting in the orangery of the very garden that the produce on your plate was grown in, and to hell with a bit of damp on the walls, or the wonky mis-matched tables and chairs, then this is the place for you.

The Ethicurean (photo by Jason Ingram)
The Ethicurean (photo by Jason Ingram)

As a gardener, an interiors addict and a greedy appetite for food, I was in heaven! Looking out, sipping cider from apples grown in the orchard, you could imagine Peter Rabbit might pop up at any moment and steal an organic carrot.

But, romance aside, the aims of this place are in credible. Virtually all of the food comes from the garden or is foraged locally, so menus are created each day according to what’s on offer. I was worried that we were visiting at possibly the worst time of the year – the winter season over, nothing would be growing for spring yet, apart from the earliest wild garlic and maybe some nettles and rhubarb.

The Ethicurean (photo by Jason Ingram)
The Ethicurean (photo by Jason Ingram)

I needn’t have been. They pickle and preserve what they can, so the beetroot starter with strained goats cheese was divine. They also make their own cider from the apples and even their own vermouth to go in the Negronis. Our other starter – cider and cheddar Welsh rarebit – did not disappoint. The cider and cheese had been cooked and turned in to a thick fondue, then spread on the doorstep slab of home-baked bread and grilled into submission. A sharp salad of winter leaves and pickled carrot in place of tomatoes, cut through the rich rarebit to clean the palette.

Our mains were even better – considering the chefs were cooking in a shed the size of, well, a shed, this was a miracle. My pork belly was pressed to squeeze out some of the fat and served with chipotle crackling, more beetroot, pickled apple slices and deep, forest green kale. The husband’s bavette was succulent and stylishly presented. We may have been in a garden but there was no heavy-handed presentation, the finesse of the food and it’s delectable flavours were matched by the delicate presentation.

The Ethicurean
The Ethicurean

Pudding? Sticky toffee apple pudding! It could have had more sauce – as the husband pointed out, it isn’t hard to whip up – but it was moist and treacly without being stodgy or heavy. All in all, we were bowled over.

The only thing we couldn’t understand on this sunny, blustery spring Friday lunchtime, was why it wasn’t packed out? People of Bristol, what are you doing?! Perhaps you’re already too spoiled for choice by great, ethical, locally-sourced eateries…

The Ethicurean cookbook
The Ethicurean cookbook


Britain’s best Eat Streets

Want to know the best foodie hubs across the UK? Here they are…

The news that Berkeley Street has become London’s hottest gastronomic real estate may not come as a surprise to foodies, but where are the most delicious streets in other cities?

The view from GB1 in Brighton
The view from GB1 in Brighton

Brighton: Kings Road

Situated on the seafront, this is the go-to destination for any food fan, especially seafood lovers.

Salt Room
Salt Room

The hottest new opening, right on the seafront, is The Salt Room, sister to the Brighton’s famous Coal Shed steak restaurant, who’s menu focuses on sustainable British fish, including cuttlefish, bouillabaisse and lobster – but the huge cocktail list is worth the trip alone.

The stylish GB1
The stylish GB1

Or try GB1, a glam culinary hotspot that is renowned for its exceptional seafood. Grab a seat at the central champagne and oyster bar and share a seafood platter, all sourced from the south coast – with 75 per cent caught within an eight-mile radius of the hotel.

Other King’s Road favourites include Smokeys, for a flavour of America (great for a Californian brunch), Steki, a Greek taverna with live music, and the Regency restaurant for traditional seaside fish and chips.

The seafood afternoon tea at the Victoria Lounge
The seafood afternoon tea at the Victoria Lounge

Head to the Victoria Lounge Bar and Terrace at the Grand Hotel for afternoon tea with a seaside twist – think salted scones served with crème fraiche, chives and Keta caviar, and treacle-cured salmon. Or make for the Hilton’s Waterhouse bar and terrace to sip on Sussex Mules and chow down on a local Hailsham lamb burger.



Bakers and Co
Bakers and Co

Bristol: Gloucester Road

The longest independent shopping street in the UK, Gloucester Road – also known as Stokes Croft – boasts pubs, foodie shops and restaurants nestled between Banksys and artists studios, with a laidback, alternative vibe, that’s uniquely Bristolian.

Poco Bristol
Poco Bristol

Start at the original Pieminster shop for a steak and ale pie washed down with a local craft beer, stop at Poco – voted Best Ethical Restaurant by The Guardian – for global tapas plates including roasted belly of pork with fennel crackling, homemade Moroccan harissa and chorizo and merguez sausages, then there’s an incredible co-operative called The Canteen, where free live music sets the backdrop for affordable “slow food” that’s all super sustainable and ethical.


There are two Caribbean restaurants – Rice and Tings and Plantation which turns into a salsa club after hours. For more musical inspiration, stop at the pub where George Ezra was discovered, the Gallimaufry, a curious bar combining local art, music, home cooking and good drinks, all under one roof.

Huevos rancheros at Bakers and Co
Huevos rancheros at Bakers and Co

Another late-night institution, Biblos is the place for wraps and snacks, while the morning after you’ll find everyone brunching at Baker’s and Co, a San Francisco-inspired café and deli where everything is baked from scratch.



Edinburgh's Grassmarket
Edinburgh’s Grassmarket

Edinburgh: Grassmarket 

The historic cobbled streets of the Grassmarket in Edinburgh’s Old Town are packed with amazing culinary independent shops and restaurants.

Melli's Cheese
Melli’s Cheese

Tempt your taste buds with some foodie shopping: Demijohn was the world’s first liquid deli when it opened in 2004 selling bespoke vinegars, oils and liqueurs; Melli’s Cheese is an Edinburgh institution that stocks the city’s best restaurants and is a delight for the senses; get a flavour of Scotland at the Saturday Market, which has an abundance of locally grown and produced organic vegetables, artisan breads, fresh meat and fish as well as street food and the most amazing gin macaroons.

Hula Juice bar
Hula Juice bar

Make a pit stop at the Hula Juice Bar – the Betty Ford Detox Smoothie is virtue in a glass; for something less saintly try Mary’s Milk Bar for a cosy gelato, hot chocolate or freshly-made chocolate truffles – you can even join the monthly truffle-making masterclass. If you like your tipples a little stronger there’s a clutch of traditional pubs including the White Hart Inn, Beehive Inn and the Last Drop Tavern.

OInk hog roast
OInk hog roast

As for dining out, new arrival Oink specialises in delicious hog roasts from the owners’ Scottish Borders farm, while Maison Bleue offers an eclectic mix of French, North African and Scottish cuisine all sourced from local suppliers and producers. Mamma’s Pizzeria serves some of Edinburgh’s best, fresh stone-baked pizza alongside delicious steak on the stone, pasta and a great range of starters, sides and desserts.

Grain Store
Grain Store

But for a truly Scottish treat seek out the Grain Store, above the market and beneath stone vaulted ceilings and archways of the original storerooms used by the warren of shops below, serving the very best of Scottish produce.



Circo Lounge
Circo Lounge 

Bournemouth: Poole Road

The Westbourne neighbourhood, centring around Poole Road is brimming with independent delis, cool cafes and artisan food shops, just a 15-minute stroll from the beach.

Le Petit Prince bakery
Le Petit Prince bakery

Le Petit Prince on Poole Road sells delicious, award-winning bread made on the premises as well as cakes and coffees; a little further up the road is Chocol8, a luxury chocolate shop and coffee lounge.


Something savoury? Badger and Bumble is a fab deli offering British cheeses and pies; Circo Lounge is a laidback brunch and tapas bar with a cool, casual vibe, while Geneve, an American-style diner and burger joint is one of the best places to eat in Bournemouth.

Circo Lounge
Circo Lounge

Best of all, you can bag up your farmers market (on the first Saturday of every month) and deli feast and wander through a wooded pathway from here to Alum Chine beach for a picnic al fresco.



Trinity Kitchen
Trinity Kitchen

Leeds: Trinity Leeds, Boar Lane

The city’s glossy, glass-covered shopping area, is also home to some of the best restaurants and to Trinity Kitchen – each month five different street food trucks are lifted into this industrial-chic space to create an ever-changing, vibrant grab-and-go eatery, that’s as cool as it is affordable.

Noisette bakery
Noisette bakery

For cocktails, try the garden-inspired Botanist and share a watering can (yes, really) with friends – the Raspberry and Sage (sage, black grapes, raspberry vodka, elderflower liqueur, grenadine, white wine and lemonade) is our favourite pick. The Alchemist is a stylish spot for a lazy brunch or lunch.

Kerb Edge at Trinity Kitchen
Kerb Edge at Trinity Kitchen

For something more substantial, Crafthouse, five storeys above Boar Lane with glittering views, headed up by Lee Bennett pays homage to the areas amazing local producers and serves up the best of British and Yorkshire. Angelica, on Trinity’s top floor, has become the city’s latest go-to destination for drinks and dinner – the Raw Bar and the rooftop terrace are the must-book seats.

Trinity Kitchen
Trinity Kitchen

Meanwhile, Meatliquor will satisfy and burger cravings, and those with a sweet tooth should head down Boar Lane to Roast and Conch, the flagship café and restaurant from the team behind Hotel Chocolat.



Manchester House
Manchester House

Manchester: Spinningfields

One of the city’s most vibrant, newest destinations, Spinningfields is fast-becoming Manchester’s gastro capital.

Manchester House in Bridge Street serves Michelin-worthy modern British food (from Michelin chef Aiden Byrne) in a warehouse setting, while it’s lounge bar up on the 12th floor and roof of the building is a real draw too, with 360 degree views of the city.

Manchester House
Manchester House

The Left Bank Café in the People’s History Museum is a lovely place to catch up over lunch or a glass of wine, make sure to bag a seat on the waterside balcony. Pick up sweet treats at Hey Little Cupcake, or move straight onto the stronger stuff at Oast House or Neighbourhood – a Manhattan-inspired bar.

The Lawn Club reopens next month with a members-club feel and a retractable roof so that you can savour drinks and British small plates (very now) al fresco.


This article appeared in Metro on 17 March 2015

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Restaurant review: Amaru

This week I headed to St Katherine’s Dock in London to new Japanese-Peruvian (aka Nikkei cuisine, which is the same as Nobu serves) eatery Amaru. It’s small and a mix of take-out and eat-in food, but it’s brilliant value (think £4-£6 a dish) and amazing quality.

Toasted sesame-crusted tuna with truffle shavings at Amaru, London
Toasted sesame-crusted tuna with truffle shavings at Amaru, London

The miso soup was rich and dark and silky smooth; spicy edamame had a coating of sticky and delicious hot sauce, and sesame seeds for added crunch; the toasted sesame-crusted tuna with truffle and avocado looked almost too beautiful to eat. My favourite was the Peruvian cured beef, wrapped around shredded sweet potato with yuzu, although the rich chocolate ganache cake with mandarin wasabi was pretty dreamy, too (a bargain at £5). Light and airy, it was completely moreish – so much for the “one spoonful” that I was planning to eat!


This gem of a place seats just 15 and is designed to look like a Japanese izakaya bar inside – it’s the perfect place to try eating healthily without even realising it.


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Restaurant review: DEN udon

One of the biggest trends of the past year has been for restaurants to do less, but do it better, whether it’s chicken, burgers or lobster. Den is set to do the same thing for noodles.

There’s nothing flashy or pretentious about this local, light and airy, Wagamama-style udon diner. But that’s the point. The short menu comprises of freshly made udon noodles in a ramen broth or without broth; donburi rice dishes, and some delicious sides – the prawn and vegetable tempura was light and crispy and tender, sake-steamed clams tasted like the seaside, by way of Japan.

The miso broth, or dashi, and noodles are both made in-house everyday and the menu changes according to what’s seasonal. Pork Belly and cabbage udon in a really umami-flavoured miso broth was both delicate and bold, without feeling too heavy; while the chicken curry donburi felt like a healthier and far more authentic version of a katsu curry.

Best of all, it was brilliantly affordable with excellent, friendly service, making it a great spot for a lunch or quick supper, just a short stroll from Kings Cross.

www.den-udon.uk.com 2 Acton Street, London WC1X 9NA

The skinny on DEN:

Udon won’t break your diet or healthy eating regime – udon is huge in Japan because it has fewer calories than ramen, soba or pasta.

Everything is be made in house – from the noodles to their dashi broth. There are two dashis: white dashi (made with bonito flakes, dried seaweed and soy sauce) and black dashi (white dashi mixed with strong soy sauce to produce a richer, umami taste).

The Head Chef is Emi Machida – she knows her stuff having held Chef de Partie positions at Koya and Bone Daddies.


This review appeared in Metro on 19 January 2015.

Eat out, lose weight!

It’s January, and if like most of us, you’ve got food fatigue after three weeks of non-stop binge eating and drinking on mince pies, mulled wine and all manner of turkey-based foods, you might be thinking about eating more healthily this month, maybe even starting a – whisper it – diet.

And restaurants are finally starting to cater to this growing market of fussy eaters – the carb avoiders, the raw food dieters, and most recently, the super-low calorie 5:2 “fast” dieters, who spend two days a week consuming just 500 calories.

As a food-lover I hate the idea of restricting what I eat, or curbing the social, interactive, fun activity that is dining out with friends. To me, dieting feels like the antithesis of what food should be, a pleasurable experience to be savoured and enjoyed, preferably around a table full of people with great conversation and flowing wine.

So it was with some trepidation that I ventured to Le Balcon in London’s St James’ to try their De-Light menu, which promises a full, and filling, three courses for 500 calories. Yes, that’s right, you can finally eat out in a beautiful dining room in central London, even on one of your “fasting” days.


The calorie content listed next to each dish on the menu was very persuasive and instantly I opted for the least calorific options. No doubt this is intentional on the part of the menu-planners. It certainly works.

In fact the first long-term study into the impact of calorie labelling on body weight, published at the end of last year, showed that labelling calories can reduce weight gain by half. In the study by the University of Glasgow young adults who were consistently exposed to prominent calorie labelling of main meals ordered meals with almost 20 per cent fewer calories than when the meals were not labelled. They reduced their likelihood of gaining any weight over a one-year period by 50 per cent. So don’t be surprised to start seeing calories appearing on a menu near you soon – the government is very keen on increased labelling on food, even in restaurants and cafes. It’s a public health trend that looks set to mushroom.

Beetroot and endive salad
Beetroot and endive salad

I started with a beetroot, pear and endive salad – beautifully presented, it was surprisingly large and even came with a chive vinaigrette dressing. It was also quite delicious. I checked the calorie count on the menu: 45! That made it doubly delicious and left me feeling rather smug. My other half’s tuna-stuffed tomato with cucumber tartare looked incredible, but at 210 calories it was positively belt-busting by comparison, though still astonishingly low when considered alongside a regular restaurant starter.

Me, at Le Balcon, tucking into my chicken
Me, at Le Balcon, tucking into my chicken

You see eating out isn’t the same as eating in. What makes restaurant food so scrumptious is the ridiculous amounts of butter, cream, oil and salt compared to what you might use when cooking at home. It’s what makes restaurant food taste to rich, flavoursome and moreish. According to a study by the University of Toronto, the average restaurant dish contains more than 1100 calories – that’s more than half an adult’s recommended daily intake on just one plate. They also contain 151 per cent of the recommended levels of sodium and 58grams, or 89 per cent, of your recommended daily amount of fat.

Trying to replicate the flavours, taste and look of restaurant-standard dishes without the fat, salt, sugar and calories is no mean feat. “It’s not natural for a chef to think this way,” admits Le Balcon’s executive chef Vincent Menager. “But once you get used to finding ways to make dishes without the carbohydrate, fat and sugar, it is actually quite a creative process to create the menu.”

You won’t find much bread, pasta or potato on the De-Light menu, but there are plenty of vegetables and meat. Stevia is used in place of sugar and fromage frais instead of cream.

Braised Turbot Fillet and Langoustines Cream
Braised Turbot Fillet and Langoustines Cream

Menager avoids frying food in oil or butter, opting for poaching, grilling or roasting instead. He use herbs and spices to add excitement and flavour to vegetables or plain meat – chilli-roasted squash is satisfying and tempting to eat. A salad with mint, rocket, peppery watercress or aromatic basil leaves thrown in will be so much more intense than a bog-standard lettuce.


Next I ordered the poached cockerel with steamed vegetables and mustard sauce – 300 calories in total. My husband chose the glazed salmon with ratatouille, which looked stunning for just 320 calories. It was genuinely delicious, light and fragrant, as well as filling. And at the end of it I felt full without the bloated, heavy, slightly uncomfortable feeling that you often experience at the end of a restaurant meal.

The De-Light meal was a success – had I not known about the virtuous lack of calories I would not have felt deprived in any way. Well, not until I glanced at the table next to me, where the diners on the regular menu were tucking into huge juicy burgers oozing with creamy cheese, served with salty, fried chips that they were frivolously dipping into sugar-and-calorie-laden tomato ketchup with hungry abandon.

Mango Soft Cake
Molten mango cake with light coconut ice cream, 130 calories

After that, dessert was – as someone who would looks at the pudding list before I even think about ordering my starter and main courses – a disappointment. There is simply no satisfactory way to get around the combination of sugar, cream, butter, and sometimes chocolate, that is needed to create a really great pud.


The strawberry parfait looked pretty enough and was a gallant attempt at a decadent dessert. But it wasn’t decadent. The “parfait” was actually low-fat yoghurt and reminded me of childhood meals when a French-style yoghurt constituted pudding, and there was a saccharine hint of sweetener (Stevia, perhaps) instead of sugar. While some people would still love a pudding, I’d rather forgo the calories and have a decent milky coffee instead to round off a meal. But for those with a sweet tooth that has to be satiated, the tiny 120 calories were not to be sniffed at. My entire three-course meal came to just 465 calories – that roughly equivalent to a Snickers 2togo bar at 440 calories.


While Le Balcon was possibly the grandest place to eat out on a diet, it is among a growing band of eateries catering for slimmed-down appetites. Pizza Express introduced its low-calorie Leggera menu five years ago, but has recently gone further, creating pizzas with less than 400 calories, the American Hot comes in at 396 calories – admittedly there is a hole in the centre of your pizza that has been replaced with salad, but it’s still pretty impressive that you can eat out at a high street pizza chain even on a strict diet. Your fellow guests need never know that you are watching your weight if you order the new gambaretti picante – this prawn in passata sauce dish contains just 200 calories, while the superfood salad contains 295 calories. What’s more, the lemon sorbet and an espresso come in at a mere 84 calories.

Ping Pong Dim Sum 1_tcm87-23194

At Ping Pong you can also to chow down at minimal calorific expense – dumplings start at 84 calories, while beef and chilli parcels are just 123 calories and even king prawn and scallop sticky rice checks in at a lean 271 calories. Of course, the danger with dim sum, like tapas, is that it’s easy to over-order and max out on calories, but if you want o eat out with friends while watching what you eat, it’s a great choice as it doesn’t feel overtly healthy or worthy.


If the Atkins, South Beach or Dukan diet are more your style head to Sixtyone restaurant in London’s Marble Arch, which is offering a two-course carb-free lunch menu and a detox cocktail – the Detox Julep comprises cucumber, green tea, honey and gin – for £18 in January.


The bar at Canary Wharf’s Plateau also has 100 calorie-cocktails on its menu this month, using Fair quinoa vodka (yes, really!). Try the StratosFairic martini, made with cherry tomatoes, French mustard, celery salt, cayenne pepper, oregano, lemon juice, basil and mint.

Dining out on a diet isn’t easy, but the latest options are a whole lot better than staying in all January doing a juice cleanse.


Eating in? Try these low-calorie brands

Gluten- and dairy-free, and so low in calories that they have even been featured in the 5:2 diet book, Kirsty’s ready meals start from 260 calories and all promise to be less than 500 calories. Try the new Beef Lasagne, the only one on the market that is gluten-free and Thai Chicken Noodle. Available at Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose, Ocado and Budgens. www.kirstys.co.uk 

Soulful Foods
This range of six one-pot meals makes an ideal choice anyone wanting a health-kick – all contain two of your five-a-day and are under 500 calories. The latest recipe, Mexican Bean and Sweet Potato with Quinoa, is 243 calories and gluten-free, while the diry-free British Pulled Pork Stew with Chorizo, Beans and Spelt is just 290 calories. Available at Ocado and Booths. www.soulfulfood.com

Cook OMG Pots
All of Cook’s OMG pots contain less than 400 calories and 14 grams of fat. The Thai-style Chicken Patties in an aromatic broth have 147 calories and 1.6g of fat, while Chicken Pho is a measly 139 calories and 1.5g of fat. Available at Cook stores and for nationwide delivery from www.cookfood.net


 This article appeared in the Independent on 16 January 2015.

Join the après party

Thought après ski was just for the mountains? Think again, as a wave of pop-up winter-themed bars, cool cabins and chic chalets open across the UK just in time for the snowy season


Pop-up Patagonian
London’s Latin-inspired Floridita has opened the Soho Ski and Rum Chalet – an Argentinian-style ski lodge serving winter blends of rum, hot cocktails (try the Ski Break: hot chocolate, rum, chocolate liqueur and cinnamon) and winter classics alongside a Latin-American tapas menu. You’ll find it hidden beneath the restaurant’s famous sweeping staircase. Until February 2015, www.floriditalondon.com


The Winter Terrace at The Narrow
Fairy lights twinkle across the water, fire pits crackle and the gentle hum of Christmas movie classics on the big screen… The Narrow’s Winter Terrace may be outdoors but you can cut through the cold with a mulled beer, French Toddy or soul-warming Le Poire Chaud (hot Perry to you and I). Festive food includes Walnut & Gorgonzola Dumplings, Goose Rillettes Crostini, and Pigs in Blankets. Until 28 February, www.gordonramsay.com


Après Skate Bar, Bristol
At Clifton on Ice – a temporary indoor-outdoor ice rink in Bristol’s Clifton Village, local company Beerd Brewery has opened Après Skate, a rustic, Alpine-themed bar serving a selection of posh dogs, Beerd beers, champagne and hot chocolate. Until 4 January, www.cliftononice.com


Le Chalet, London
Shop till you drop… with a drink in your hand at this pop-up winter chalet on the roof of Selfridge’s department store. Alongside mulled wine and choc-tails (hot chocolate cocktails), there’s an Alpine barbecue menu – think spit-roast pork and smoked Highland venison – and a cosy interior of tartan wool blankets, candle-lit tables and trees twinkling with fairy lights. Until 28 February, www.selfridges.com


Curious TeePee at the Oast House, Manchester
This impromptu fairy-lit tent of a bar returns to Manchester’s Oast House for another festive run, with rustic wooden benches, animal fur rugs and woolen blankets – not that you’ll need them, this place gets so busy with Christmas revelers that body heat, and winter spiced cider, are enough to warm the teepee. There’s a hog roast and turkey roast on the menu, too. Until 31 December, Theoasthouse.uk.com

Piste at Archer Street, London
Snowshoes, vintage skis and boots line the wood-clad walls of this basement Alpine pop-up at Archer Street. Grab a seasonal apricot and cinnamon Bellini or a Let it Sloe (sloe gin, lemon, chestnut liqueur, plum liqueur, egg white and grated nutmeg) then raid the themed dressing up box to really get in the après-ski mood. Until March, archerstreet.co.uk

Tio Pepe x Pop, Cardiff, Leeds & Bournemouth
Sherry and popcorn? Sounds weird, right. Wrong. Tio Pepe has teamed up with gourmet popcorn specialists Pop to create a festive fino and popcorn menu. For a fiver you get a glass of smooth, dry sherry and three different savoury corns: pigs in blankets, roast turkey, and stuffing with blue cheese. Until 24 December at Ambiente, Leeds; The Larder House, Bournemouth; Bar 44, Cardiff.


Winter Cinema at The Berkeley, London
Christmas? It’s all about snuggling up and watching a classic festive film. Now you can do so in added style at this pop-up rooftop terrace that has been transformed into a pine-filled forest cinema, complete with fluffy cushions, Moncler blankets, hot chocolate and mince pies (or wine and canapés if you want to make a night of it). Bring on ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. Until 31 December, www.the-berkeley.co.uk


Drambuie Hot Apple Toddy Bar, Edinburgh
Warm up with a hot apple toddy in this not-so-inventively-named bar that sits next to the glittering Princes Street Gardens ice rink. It’s worth going for the design alone – inspired by the surreal art of Salvador Dalí – the Drambuie Hot Apple Toddy Bar serves other festive cocktails, too, and is the buzzing centre of Edinburgh’s Christmas, that includes cabaret, a funfair, market, theatre, comedy and even a Christmas tree maze. Until 4 January, www.edinburghschristmas.com


The Winter Cabin at York & Albany, London
Part sauna-part hunting lodge – think tartan, animal skins and taxidermy – the snug rustic cabin in the York & Albany’s courtyard holds just 12 guests, so it’s worth booking ahead (there’s are two-hour slots so that as many people can try it). Keep cosy with a warm buttered rum hot chocolate with marshmallows and snack on hearty wild boar sausages, black pudding scotch eggs and venison sausage rolls. Until February. www.gordonramsay.com/yorkandalbany


This article appeared in Metro on 23 December. 

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The wild, wild West Country

To the wilds of Wiltshire and Somerset, or SoCo as I’m calling it, short for South of Cotswolds.

The green arc around Bath’s eastern side, where the West Country ends and the Wolds begin has long been neglected by travellers who zip through heading south for Devon, north to the Cotswolds, or straight through to Bath, Bristol and beyond.

But not anymore. This lush green, properly rural corner of the country has had a noticeable influx of not-so-muddy boots hot-footing it out of the city and into this bucolic, arty no-mans-land.

The tiny towns of Bruton, Frome (which boasts swanky private members club and hotel Babington House on its doorstep) and Bradford on Avon, all have a historic grandness about them, while also remaining just the right side of quaint to be thriving, interesting towns to live in and not just visit.

A wave of galleries, hotels, foodie producers, restaurants and cultural outposts have been putting this hot spot on the map.

Most recent, and notable, is contemporary art space Hauser and Wirth, on the edge of Bruton in Somerset. Drive out of the town (do stop for food, wine and a night at At The Chapel on the high street) and you’ll easily miss this farmhouse and its barns that have been converted into a world-class gallery. Outside, Subodh Gupta’s giant gleaming milking pail bucket, a Louise Bourgeois spider and the gently swaying Piet Oudolf-designed gardens (he of New York’s Highline fame) give away the fact that something altogether new is happening here.

It’s a cultural version of Daylesford in Gloucestershire, a daring and brave mix that includes an art shop, four galleries, landscaped sculpture gardens for outdoor walks; and a truly fantastic restaurant and bar – the Roth Bar and Grill. A farm shop will open in spring 2015. We turned up on a wet Saturday in November, knowing they were fully booked, with two toddlers in tow, and they still smiled cheerily and managed to find us a table. The simple, unpretentious food is a sort of Ottolenghi meets gastropub hybrid. What they do is simple but amazing (so much better than complicated and failing!). The pulled pork and coleslaw ciabatta was great; chicken with rosemary roast new potatoes kept the four-year-old very happy; and the salad of butternut squash, kale and roasted tomato with spelt and goats cheese that was meant to be the side dish, stole the show.

And the bar… if only we hadn’t driven! It’s an ‘oasis for cocktails’, with a dizzying installation built out of local reclaimed materials by Dieter Roth’s son and grandson, Björn and Odder Roth. The children loved trying to spot some of the more obscure items amongst the junk: a rolling pin, a violin, a shoe!

You can even sleep here – Durslade farmhouse, which is emblazoned with Martin Creed’s neon words “Everything is going to be alright” – can be rented by the week and sleeps 12.

Up the road in Frome, was the best little shopping street I’ve seen in a long time – St Catherine’s Hill. Packed with indy boutiques, arty spaces and a bit of new age dream catcher thrown in for good measure (well we are a stone’s throw from Stonehenge and Glastonbury after all), it’s a fantastic town to potter and purchase Christmas presents in. The Archangel makes a great pit-stop, and if you want to swoon about in luxury, nowhere (really nowhere, except perhaps Limewood) does it better than Babington House.

In Bradford on Avon, there’s a great mixture of shops, galleries and places to run about. The kids will love the country park; we played pooh sticks on the footbridge over the rive, and the wandered up to Fat Fowl – a great all-day bistro with jazz on a Sunday and an upstairs play area to occupy the kids.

Stay at Woolley Grange, just outside of Bradford, where children are the stars of the show. It feels more like a friend’s rambling house party than a hotel, with higgledy rooms that accommodate almost any arrangement of family set-up, and two restaurants so that you can go posh and grown up, or gastro and family. The pool and spa are perfect for rainy days – and everyone has kids so there are no glaring looks – while the Woolley Bears’ Den is a free (yes free!) Ofsted-registered crèche run by Joan who has been with the hotel for 20 years. My two came running out with pictures and freshly made, if delightfully wonky, jam tarts and the older one asked if she could go back again the next day. High praise indeed.

Who says a cultural break and kids can’t mix?

My secret address book









Chic chic chicken

Here’s a piece I wrote for Metro this week about the explosion of new chicken joints that are hip, ethical and healthy…

Chicken METRO

In the paper there wasn’t room to mention the myriad of new places, so I have added a few more here:

First it was gourmet burgers, then posh pulled pork, now it’s the turn of chicken to get the chic treatment. From the ironically-hip Chicken Shop and ChickenLiquor in London’s gritty-but-cool neighbourhoods to Fire and Feathers – an upmarket Nandos for the foodie crowd – the latest breed of chicken restaurants promise free-range birds and top-of-the-range rotisseries.

Chicken Shop
From the brains behind the celebrity-strewn private members’ club Soho House, Chicken Shop may rub shoulders with the likes of Chicken Cottage, thanks to its edgy locations such as Kentish Town, Tooting and Whitechapel, but the similarities end there.

“I think chicken would be my last meal,” explains owner Nick Jones, “so I wanted to get it exactly right. The best chicken is the one you cook at home, so we’ve tried to recreate that, but affordably.”

Months went into researching and developing the concept, including sourcing the best chickens (free-range from Banham’s farm in Norfolk, in case you were wondering) and creating a secret marinade recipe and inventing a unique rotisserie grilling system.

The industrial, exposed brick walls, pipes and high ceilings are the backdrop for make-shift furniture, a counter, and a vinyl record player so that diners can choose requests (and even bring their own records with them to play) while chowing don on chicken served from 1950s-style white-and-blue enamel plates and bowls.

And the menu? Chicken is the only main course on offer, served with triple-cooked chips, coleslaw, corn on the cob or salad. No wonder they’ve just opened in the new hipster hotel, The Hoxton Holborn. www.chickenshop.com

Chicken Shop
Chicken Shop


Tramshed, Shoreditch
Mark Hix has stripped back the menu with his latest string of Tramshed and Hixter restaurants. Diners can choose from simply ‘cock’ or ‘bull’ to share (and kids eat free) – the Indian Rock chicken is sourced from Swainson House Farm in Lancashire while the Glenarm Estate steak is aged in a Himalayan salt chamber.
Damien Hirst’s enormous formaldehyde sculpture of a cow and a cock loom overhead to remind diners of exactly what they are ordering. Try the signature roast barn-reared chicken with stuffing and chips, which arrives doing a headstand, feet in the air, if only to instagram it! London, www.chickenandsteak.co.uk 



Crafty Chooks
There’s a buzzy and chilled-out atmosphere at this all-day eatery, just metres from Hove beach, that starts with the stylish industrial style interior and mid-century modern furniture. As the name hints, Crafty Chookc combines craft beers and free-range rotisserie chicken supplied by local butchers. Hove, 01273 722846, www.craftychooks.co.uk


Crafty Chooks in Hove
Crafty Chooks in Hove


Crafty Chooks chicken
Crafty Chooks chicken


Fire and Feathers
Love piri piri chicken but can’t bare the idea of Nandos? Then this hot new joint is for you – Fire and Feathers brings the best of Portuguese piri piri to the Made in Chelsea set. After starting life as a pop-up last summer, Fire and Feathers has a tight menu of just four choices for starter, main and dessert. They select smaller, Gressingham corn-fed birds for optimum flavour, that are spatchcocked, grilled, then cut up on the bone – try the large chicken platter that comes with a choice three sauces, garlic, piri piri or dynamite. Fulham, www.fireandfeathers.co.uk

Simple food, well done, is the promise made by this hip restaurant that serves chicken spit-roasted over a flame pit. Think smokey and charred on the outside and melt-in-the-mouth tender inside. There are a dizzying array of sauces, from mild to fire-in-the-mouth hot (try the Scotch Bonnet sauce at your peril!) and a comforting selection of classic favourites on the dessert menu that make this restaurant a winner for families and hipsters, alike. Newcastle upon Tyne, www.coopchicken.co.uk

Coop Chicken in Newcastle
Coop Chicken in Newcastle


Guilt-free fried chicken? Sounds too good to be true, but this new restaurant sources all of its rare-breed poultry from a small free-range farm in Wiltshire, then fried using the finest grade groundnut oil that is free from cholesterol and trans fats – but will that mater when you’re tipsy and starving on a Friday night in Hackney?
Happily, the menu lives up to the ethical benchmark that Clutch has set itself: expect buckets of sweet soy and garlic or peppery buttermilk chicken, parmesan and lemon chicken tenders, or honey and sesame wings, served with whipped feta or red pepper chilli chutney. De-lish. London, www.clutchchicken.com 



Chicken Shack
In Bournemouth’s buzzing Boscombe, and now with an outpost in Winton, Chicken Shack is devoted to premium quality, locally-sourced chicken, cooked on a bespoke rotisserie grill. There’s a US-Southern spin to the menu, with sides including New Orleans greens, homemade slaw and corn on the cob. Bournemouth, www.chickenshackuk.com

Chicken Liquor
From the team behind MeatLiquor, comes this ironic fried chicken shop serving wings and boneless bites (which sound suspiciously like nuggets) in a range of coatings, with a stripped-back décor, pounding hip-hop, and a cool Brixton venue – did someone say coals to Newcastle? And if further proof were needed of chicken’s new renaissance, MeatLiquor has now added a chicken section to its menus in Leeds, Brighton and London.
London (and Leeds and Brighton for MeatLiquor), www.chickenliquor.co.uk


Famed for its Norfolk chicken, cooked on a charcoal grill and rotisserie, with a smattering of different sauces – from smoky tomato to hot ‘n’ spicy – this stylish, hunting lodge of a restaurant (think leather banquettes, reclaimed oak cladding on the walls, and salvaged floor tiles) also serves up wings and a range of chicken salads, as well as the now-ubiquitous burgers and ribs. This new chain comes from the team behind Prezzo so expect to see more popping up across the country in the near-future. Cobham, Wokingham, Leatherhead, Billericay, Oxford, www.cleaverrestaurants.co.uk

Le Coq
The thinking behind this neighbourhood north London restaurant couldn’t be more simple. The set menu of spit-roast, free-range Sutton Hoo chicken is adapted slightly each week – different sides and sauces pimp up the basic bird – and the ethos is to serve the best-quality, most deliciously succulent chicken. Bold, unfussy and brave in it’s single-minded approach, at £22 for three courses, it’s also a pretty good deal. London, www.lecoq.co.uk

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Clockjack Oven
The chicken at this Soho rotisserie joint (plans are afoot to open 15 of them over the next five years) is free range and ethically-reared on co-operative farms in Brittany. The menu comprises just one dish, chicken, that is marinated in herbs and cooked over an intense heat to brown the skin while keeping the meat succulent and flavourful. London, www.clockjackoven.com

You’ve read about the trend, now make it yourself:

Out on 1 October, Chicken by This Morning chef Marcus Bean (£20, Nourish Books) is an imaginative collection of inexpensive, healthy recipes for wowing friends – smoked chicken and wild garlic risotto – creating speedy meals, or updating classics with a chicken-y twist, from scotch eggs to lasagne.