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Today I'm Eating...

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Friday 27 April - Today I'm Eating...

A fish finger sandwich, chips and an apple Tango from the London Sandwich Company, londonsandwichcompany.com

I started this blog saying I was going to write about fish finger sandwiches and I have failed. I have not written about them. Unless you count saying you’re going to write about them, as writing about them. Which I don’t. So for my last post I had no choice. Really, my hands were tied. I headed straight to my fish finger sandwich shop of choice – the London Sandwich Company – and put in my rather specific order:

Granary bread, ketchup on one side, mayo on the other (I would have tartar sauce but I always find shop-bought ones too sweet) with fish fingers and a bit of rocket thrown in at the end.

Fish finger sandwiches hold a special place in my heart. They are the ultimate nostalgia food and remind me of sick-days and being mothered on the sofa. They remind me of doing two hours of dance after school (yes, I used to exercise) and being so hungry I’d eat my fish finger sandwich in 3 seconds flat. And then when I was a student making the cardinal mistake of buying the ‘value’ fish fingers and almost crying when my sandwich tasted like wet cardboard with ketchup on it. As a kid I was never allowed to order off children’s menus so now, as an adult, I take great pleasure in eating what my mum used to call ‘nursery dinners’ once in a while. Fish fingers chips and beans, sausage and peas, potato waffle sandwiches (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it)…but fish finger sandwiches are my favourite. On a rainy and stressful Friday afternoon, I can simply think of no better lunch.

And the London Sandwich Company? It’s a local institution! Run by a crazy Australian woman whose name is actually Liz, but who all of us at Stylist know simply as ‘bubs’, because that’s what she calls us (and everyone else) when we go in. ‘Bubs’ is our hero. She remembers your order and speaks a language entirely of her own making. Phrases like ‘here’s your sandwich treacle knickers’ and ‘phooooarrrrrr look at that beauty, baby jesus!’ are her catchphrases. She routinely charges you ‘three hundred and twenty million squid for that one bubs’ (translation: £3.20) and despite having a few staff, pretty much runs the place single handed. Oh, and they do a mean fish finger sandwich. Have I already said that?

Hope you’ve enjoyed this blog and Food Month at stylist.co.uk. We’ll be back soon with an all new food channel but for one last time. I’ve showed you my lunch: you show me yours?

Tell us what you've been feasting on this lunchtime Tweet us @StylistMagazine #showusyourlunch or let us know in the comments section below

Thursday 26 April - Today I'm Eating...

Vegetarian Empanada, Ropa Vieja (Cuban beef stew), rice and Collard Greens from Housebites (www.housebites.com)

Today I spun the lunchtime roulette wheel and came out on top. A company called Housebites who I’ve written about before delivered a couple of bits to the Stylist office and, because I’m a generous sort, I shared it out.

The idea of Housebites is that they deliver restaurant quality food in takeaway style so you have a menu to order off and can choose from a different chef or restaurant depending on the day or where you happen to be. It’s all done by postcode so you just pick the chef that’s nearest to your office and voila – food turns up.

It was accountant turned chef Will Sullivan who happened to cook our lunch today, serving up his take on Hispanic cuisine for hungry Londoner’s. The sweet potato, feta and goat cheese empanadas were delicious, light, fluffy and with a herby salsa dipping sauce. The main courses were a bit more of a mixed bag. The Ropa Veja was truly yummy. Pulled beef which must have been braised for hours cooked with peppers, chilli and tomatoes served with fluffy white rice.

It was rich and warming and exactly what we needed on a day like today. The collard greens were not great though. Far, far too spicy and slightly bitter tasting. It didn’t taste like the greens, or the chilli they were cooked in, had been cooked for long enough.

They also threw in a few added extras, Humita Macaroni made with red peppers and sweet corn which was comforting if a little stodgy. The baked chicken, stuffed with a herbaceous green salsa was lovely.

All in all I was impressed. It’s a good concept and the prices are reasonable (ish) considering the quality of the food, with mains around £9 and side dishes around £5. Next time you can’t be bothered to leave your desk or want a takeaway with a difference, it would be worth giving Housebites a try. I’d be really interested to hear what you think about it.

Tomorrow is a sad day. My last post for Food Month at Stylist.co.uk. Shall I go out with a foodie bang? Wait and see…

Tell us what you've been feasting on this lunchtime Tweet us @StylistMagazine #showusyourlunch or let us know in the comments section below

Wednesday 25 April - Today I'm Eating...

Smoked salmon on rye bread with cream cheese and chives, chicken salad with marinated artichokes and mustard mayonnaise and custard tart from Poilâne (www.poilane.com)

A few years ago I wrote that Poilâne, the rather lovely French bakery specialising in sourdough loaves and Viennoiserie made the best pain au chocolat in London. Not only do I stand by that statement but thanks to an early lunch time trip to Chelsea I now find that their first restaurant, Cuisine de Bar, has a delightful lunchtime takeaway menu as well.

Still detoxing from my steak feast, I had the smoked salmon rye bread sandwich but was equally as tempted by the roasted chicken on sourdough bread with chopped celery and a creamy mint, chili and lemon dressing.

For those not avoiding red meat, there’s also a Parisian take on the New York pastrami deli sandwich. For days when it’s a bit warmer, their salads are also incredibly good, with a simple menu of roast chicken, smoked salmon, chargrilled vegetables and humous or crayfish and avocado.

Even though I am trying, for a few hours at least, to be good, I couldn’t resist a slice of their custard tart. It’s not as good as their pain au chocolat and lacks some of the gooeyness of the Portuguese custard tarts (Pastel-de-nata) that I’m gradually developing an addiction to, but it was delicious nonetheless.

As good as their food is though, and it is good, being part of something so Parisian makes you want to go the whole hog. I wanted to ditch my salad in a box and just grab one of their wonderful crusty sourdough loaves, a hunk of brie and some charcuterie or even better on a day like today, a cassoulet, and hide away from the London rain. Maybe I’ve been watching a bit too much of Rachel Khoo’s Little Paris Kitchen. Maybe.

But enough about me. What are you eating?

Tell us what you've been feasting on this lunchtime Tweet us @StylistMagazine #showusyourlunch or let us know in the comments section below

Tuesday 24 April - Today I'm Eating...

Crab cakes, prime rib steak, triple-cooked chips and sticky toffee pudding at Gillray’s Steakhouse at the London Marriott County Hall, gillrays.com

Tucked away behind the London Eye, just across the bridge from the Houses of Parliament and with the Thames running alongside it sits the Marriott County Hall Hotel. A hotel which, despite 26 years of living in London, I did not know existed until last night.

I think I’ve discovered it at exactly the right time; just days after they re-opened their historic restaurant Gillray’s – formally a fine dining room, now an upmarket steakhouse – and possibly one of the best places to get meat with a view in the city.

Named after the 18th Century caricaturist James Gillray, the building the restaurant sits in even housed the British Government at one point. Nowadays you are more likely to see a group of American businessmen daring each other to order Gillray’s famous ‘bull’s head’ (a ridiculously big 1kg steak) than Cameron and Clegg fighting over the last triple-cooked chip but that doesn’t make it any less exciting.

I went on launch night and the wood panelled bar (boasting more than 27 gins) was buzzing. Even if steak isn’t your thing, next time you’re on the Southbank you should drop past for a cocktail. The drinks menu goes in chronological order from the Georgian era to the present day with an impressive range of ‘molecular’ cocktails which must be seen to be believed. I had the Rhubarb Examiner to start, which fuses Hayman’s gin with rhubarb topped with passion fruit foam and an edible flower. It was lethal. My boyfriend had the Red Snapper – a Bloody Mary made with gin instead of vodka – that had quite a kick and was the perfect way to whet our appetites for dinner.

And what a dinner it was. I knew we were on to a winner when instead of a bread basket, they brought out three warm Yorkshire puddings, filled with melted cheese. Heaven on a plate. After that I went for the crab cake. Meaty, fresh and with a hearty dollop of mustard and dill mayonnaise on the side, you could actually taste the sea. Probably because it hadn’t been padded out by mashed potato the way bad crab cakes often are.

The real star of the show is the steak though. Tender, well-seasoned and juicy, my Prime Rib was perfect and I could not get enough of the side dishes; honey-glazed carrots, cauliflower cheese, spring peas and broad beans with bacon and triple-cooked chips. My boyfriend suggested I try the baked bone marrow. When eaten with the meat and a drizzle of the red wine gravy, it was divine and almost velvety in the mouth.

The one thing I wasn’t ok with was the ‘lady fillet’ listed on the menu. At first I was alarmed. “They serve ladies here?” I whispered to Chris. “We need to get out of here – or they’ll have me on a plate!” Another glance at the menu though and I realised it was not cannibalism, but mild sexism I was dealing with here. A Lady Fillet is a smaller fillet steak. 150g to be precise. The amount they suppose a lady might want to eat, should she not want to devour a 400g rib eye like I did. Funny, I didn’t see the words ‘greedy man steak’ in brackets next to the aforementioned Bull’s Head offering.

Thankfully I came down off my high horse for dessert. Sticky toffee pudding and custard. It was perfect in every way, but I wish I’d had the Sherry Trifle. Served in a huge jam jar with muslin cloth over the top and a glass of Sherry on the side, they’ll even give you a lid so you can take home what you don’t eat. Oh, and they have a cheese counter so if what you’re craving after 500g of cow is more protein, you can go and pick your own cheese board, chutney and crackers.

We ended our night as we started it. Sat in a corner booth of the bar looking at the Houses of Parliament shrouded in rain and sipping yet another cocktail. I went for an espresso martini which gave me the kick I needed to actually get on a train home but I had a bit of drink envy for the molecular Pina Colada, made using an open flame at the bar giving it a wonderful smoky caramel taste.

Overall I was impressed, but Gillray’s is a re-launch of a hotel restaurant and they rarely go without a hiccup. The service lacks confidence, the music is too loud and is out of context with a strange 80s looking speaker sat awkwardly in the corner of this supposedly old English dining room. It’s not cheap either but then good steak in that location never will be. I’d go back. But I will never order a lady steak. Never.

What delights have your lunchtimes held? Tweet us @StylistMagazine #showusyourlunch or let us know in the comments section below

Monday 23 April - Today I'm (Still Not) Eating...

My cupcake of Stevie Wonder from Buttercupcakes (www.buttercupcakeshop.co.uk) courtesy of Bestival (www.bestival.net)

Is it? Could it possibly be? Could it maybe be what you think it is?

Yes. It is.

That picture is of a cupcake of Stevie Wonder, made of icing.

Before you think that I have completely lost the plot, eaten one too many e-numbers and descended full on to food madness, let me explain.

A few weeks ago on an otherwise uneventful Thursday afternoon I was sent a box of cupcakes. There is nothing unusual about this. In fact it is an almost daily occurrence, but these ones were different. To celebrate the fact that Stevie Wonder is headlining this summer’s Bestival on the Isle of Wight, the very clever people behind it had sent out cupcakes to certain journalists with an icing replica of Stevie himself centre stage.

As I might have mentioned, I see a lot of cupcakes. I would like to say I treat them all equally but this made me smile in a way no other cake has done before or since. In fact I reacted so strongly (parading it all over the building, taking pictures of it, making sure no one touched lest they damage it in some way) that my colleague thought it would be funny to enshrine it in a plastic display box and leave it on my desk for me to find the next morning.

And I have kept it ever since.

I didn’t set out to keep it, balanced precariously on my desk amongst magazines and notepads. But as the time wore on I felt less inclined to get rid of it. It became a topic of conversation, looking at how the icing has slumped gradually over time, how the silver glitter has started to fall off his knees. We have started to speculate how long he will last. I’ve even had the ‘how much could I pay you to eat that?’ conversation. That’s one step away from shoving marbles up your nose.

As I am spending my time writing about all the wonderful and weird things I’m eating as part of Food Month on Stylist.co.uk, I felt duty bound to confess this; my strange little food secret. My name is Amy. And I have kept a cupcake replica of Stevie Wonder in a plastic case for three weeks.

Thing is… aren’t you just a little bit curious about how long it will last?

What delights have your lunchtimes held? Tweet us @StylistMagazine #showusyourlunch or let us know in the comments section below

Friday 20 April - Today I'm Eating...

Jap Chae, Pa Jeon and and Yuk Hwae from Kimchee (kimchee.uk.com) in Holborn

Do you have a restaurant that, despite walking past it every day, you’ve never actually been to? Well that is what Kimchee is for me. For over a year I’ve walked past their glass fronted corner restaurant and not-so-secretly admired the plates of food being devoured at the window seats: huge bowls of soup noodles, dumplings, Korean style grills and colourful plates of vegetables all served on beautiful deep brown crockery. But I never went in. Not until today, that is, when a couple of circumstances – the fact that it’s Friday, for one, and the fact that it is p*****g down with rain another – conspired to make me and my colleague Tash feel like it was worth treating ourselves.

And treat ourselves we did, ordering enough food for a family of four. Starting with Jap Chae (above) – delicious sticky noodles with beef, mushrooms and greens which are so good I wish we could have had it as a main course – we went on to chargrilled broccoli with soybean sauce and the lovely Pa Jeon (below), a Korean pancake made with squid, octopus, muscles and prawns and green vegetables.

We also had chicken dumplings and Yuk Hwae (below), a Korean version of steak tartar made with raw beef and sliced pear and served with a raw egg yolk on the side. It’s delicious. Palette cleansing and surprisingly light.

The main courses were a bit disappointing, but that could just be my ignorance of Korean cuisine. The pork belly, cooked over a charcoal grill was a bit dry and neither of the dipping sauces really seemed to match it. The Kimchee Jjigae (below), a spicy thick soup made with lots of chilli, tomato, beef, tofu and spring onion was certainly hearty but was actually overpowering in many ways. There were people either side of us (in fact, the entire restaurant was packed) with people enjoying the exact same thing with gusto though…maybe it was just us!

We restrained ourselves from attacking the cocktail list but, if their fresh exotic juices are anything to go on then I’m sure they are spectacular. The Almond Ice cream and black sesame ice cream are the perfect way to round off a slightly indulgent ‘working’ lunch.

Thursday 19 April - Today I’m Eating…

Tagliatelle with Crème Fraiche, Parmesan and Asparagus

Having written the food page at Stylist for over two years, I know the ‘tear out and take home’ power that recipes in magazines can have. I thought I was immune to it, until I stumbled across a tiny picture of this dish in one of the weekend supplements and got irrationally excited about making it.

I guess sometimes all the stars align to create recipe heaven. I had just bought some new season asparagus from my local grocer and a few days before, I had been sent an organic cheese box from Farmison (farmison.com), a gourmet food delivery service which included some British made Parmesan which I was quite curious about. So last night, after a swim at my local pool I picked up some crème fraiche and some garlic and set to work.

I say work. It’s almost embarrassingly simple but there lies the beauty. As you would expect from a Ruth Rogers recipe (one of the co-founders of the River Café in London), the flavour of the dish lies entirely with the integrity of the ingredients. Use the best quality egg yolks, garlic, crème fraiche and parmesan in the sauce and fresh, thick, juicy asparagus which you cook in with the pasta for a matter of minutes.

The sauce is made over an indirect heat – cooking in a small pan over a bigger pan filled with hot water so it doesn’t curdle. It’s a lower fat, lower cholesterol version of a Fonduta – an Italian dish made of melted cheese, milk and seasoning. Only ever use fresh pasta and make sure you add generous quantities of salt, freshly ground pepper and extra parmesan (of course) to serve.

It took me 20 minutes from start to finish and my boyfriend and I ate it with a green salad in front of The Apprentice. I had made enough to take as leftovers the next day but, well, we ate the lot.

What delights have your lunchtimes held? Tweet us @StylistMagazine #showusyourlunch or let us know in the comments section below

Wednesday 18 April - Today I’m Eating…

Old Delhi Chicken, vegetable kebabs and coriander chutney from the Cinnamon Kitchen (cinnamon-kitchen.com/)

Curry, fish pie, asparagus, broccoli and stilton soup… these are the things one should not eat in an office scenario. Even a mere whiff of them from the office microwave is enough to bring a tirade of abuse down on the culprit. But on this occasion I had good reason to stink out Stylist HQ. Cinnamon Kitchen – the modern Indian restaurant and bar in the heart of the city – had sent me an express lunch and there was no way food this good was going to waste. With two masters of Indian cuisine are behind each dish – Vivek Singh and head chef Abdul Yaseen – it’s about as gourmet as lunch al desko gets!

I had the Old Delhi Chicken – a spicy red curry packed with lemongrass, coconut milk, lime and undertones of the tandoor grill, with some vegetable kebabs to start. The kebabs were like little bhajis spiced with cumin and cloves and served with the most delicious bright green coriander chutney. Everything was cooked to perfection and was no worse for having travelled – a rare thing whatever cuisine you're eating. The chicken had a kick but was not overpowering. I just wish I had a nice cold Cobra or a mango lassi to wash it all down with.

Tonight I’m going to try a recipe from River Café Chef Ruth Rodgers – new season asparagus with crème fraiche and tagliatelle – will report back tomorrow.

In the meantime – what delights have your lunchtimes held? Tweet us @StylistMagazine #showusyourlunch or let us know in the comments section below

Tuesday 17 April - Today I'm Eating...

Mushroom soup from Pret a Manger (pret.com)

Is it just me, or is your hunger gage weather sensitive? This morning when I woke up and it was pouring down with rain I knew that I wanted soup for lunch. On sunny days I wake up wanting salads or fresh fish, granola and yoghurt, poached eggs with new season asparagus. But today all I wanted was soup. Mushroom soup at that. Preferably my mums.

Glossing over the fact that yes, I really do wake up each morning and decide what I’m going to eat six hours later, I got my wish. A quick scan of the Pret online soup menu (they even have an App for it, in case you were wondering) revealed that mushroom soup was their soup of the week. ‘Hoorah!’ The lunch gods were smiling on me! Soup for everyone! Soup every day if I wanted it!

Apart the fact that I served it in a bowl with me name on it (sent to me, not made by me…I’m not that precious), this is probably one of the most subdued lunches I’ve put on this blog. And I loved every minute of it. It was hearty and ‘hit the spot’ in the same way that homemade macaroni cheese or roast chicken makes you feel happy and full before you’ve even eaten it. It also lead to an incredibly interesting conversation about the bowls of soup that have changed our lives (mine was cauliflower and cheddar soup from the Ship in Wandsworth, my colleagues was mushroom soup from the Priory in Bath) and didn’t leave me feeling like I wanted to nap under my desk.

Thing is, my weather sensitive hunger gage feels a bit cheated. It’s summer outside now and so I want ice cream. And a BBQ. And maybe some gin punch. Bring on dessert!

Friday 13 April - Today I’m Eating…

Spicy Seabass soup, chilli squid and ‘bang bang’ chicken at the Empress of Sichuan in Chinatown (restaurantprivilege.com/empress-of-sichuan/menus.html)

Finding the right place to go to in China town can be a bit of a gamble which is why, if possible, it’s always best to go on a recommendation. Consider this as my recommendation. If what you want is a slightly exotic, spicy and truly traditional take on Sichuan cooking, you can do no better than the Empress of Sichuan.

Be warned, this is not a ‘typical’ Chinese restaurant. You will find no shredded chilli beef or sweet and sour chicken on the menu. Instead there are a list of cold starters punctuated with a couple of warm dishes and an extended main course list bulging with incredible seafood and fish dishes (a feature of Sichuan cooking) and unusual meat offerings as well as their signature ‘hot pots’ – soups which you cook at the table after picking your base, meat and spices.

To start, we tried the bang bang chicken – cold shredded chicken with sesame paste, peanut sauce and sliced crunchy vegetables, and chilli squid. The chicken was exceptional. I could have happily had it as a main course with some cold rice noodles and pickles but as a starter it manages to be both refreshing and rich. When Chinese cooking in this country can sometimes seem so chemical, it’s nice to feel like you can identify every ingredient in the dishes you’re eating. Although we couldn’t possibly (Sichuan cooking is famously complex and sometimes involves dozens of spices per dish), it’s a feeling which continued as meal goes on.

The next course was a soup / stew made of boiled seabass, dried chilli, fresh chillies, Sichuan pepper (which taste a bit like sweetened red pepper corns) and Chinese vegetables. Yes, it is every bit as spicy as it sounds but it is also so well cooked that you can eat the lot and not feel uncomfortable. The dish is one of their house specialities and you can see why, the fish falls apart in your mouth but despite the potent spices, manages to retain some of its light seabass flavour. We ordered some green beans stir fried with garlic which were crunchy, salty and actually really moreish.

We were already full when our last dish – the steamed ribs with rice paste served in a hollowed bamboo tube arrived. It was delicious but fiddly to eat and incredibly sweet. If I went again I would order it as a starter instead, the cumin and cinnamon in the marinade didn’t go that well with the rest of our order.

We went on a Friday night and it was packed, always a good sign, so it’s certainly worth booking. Next time I’m going to book for the ‘hot pot area’ around the corner from the main dining room and gorge on squid, shrimp and spicy soup.

Friday 13 April - Today I'm Eating...

A lamb and mango relish naanwich from Imli (imli.co.uk)

Is it a sandwich? Is it a naan bread? No – it’s a NAANWICH!

Am slightly excitable today as a) It’s Friday and b) I’ve just been introduced to one of my favourite lunches so far: the new naanwiches from Imli (genuinely one of my favourite places for a quick cheap dinner in town) in Soho.

Apparently it’s British Sandwich Week from 12-19 May (who knew?) and to celebrate Imli are trying to tempt us away from our traditional ham and cheese on white bread to something a bit more exotic. Ladies, I give you, the naanwich.

Imli has been innovating Indian cuisine for a while, bringing its unique blend of traditional street food to the heart of Soho and serving up tapas-style dishes, which are perfect for sharing with friends, to busy Londoners for a couple of years. I was told about it by a good girl friend of mine and it’s since become our go-to place for a midweek catch up.

The naanwich is their latest master plan to convert passers-by one whiff of glorious curry at a time. I had the spicy lamb naanwich (sorry, can’t stop saying it) but others include char grilled chilli chicken with avocado and mango chutney and the paneer and baby spinach – which was almost as delicious as the lamb.

The tandoor-baked bread was just as it should be; slightly sweet, light and fluffy but with a slight chewiness; the fillings were spiced perfectly. Not too much but packed with flavour. It honestly was one of the nicest lunches I’ve had in a long time.

My advice? Go with a group of friends and make sure you all get a different filling, then cut them in half and have a taste of each. And if you can, convince them to give you a pot of raita to dip them in. It was the only thing missing from mine.

Thursday 12 April - Today I Ate...

Beef Tataki salad, a junkie box and edamame from Yo! Sushi (yosushi.com)

After my gastronomic splurge last night I wanted something refreshing and not too heavy for lunch (so that I could gorge on cake and biscuits at 4pm) so I popped out to the Brunswick Centre and into Yo! Sushi to see what was on the menu.

I have a confession to make. I’ve never been to Yo! Sushi before. This either makes me really cool or really not cool, I’ll leave that for you to decide.

In many ways I was quite impressed. There were the signature coloured dishes whizzing around a conveyor belt with a trio of chefs in the centre putting adding new ones every few minutes. I remember when the first shop launched, the queues were out the door. Today, with 60 restaurants worldwide it’s a much calmer affair.

I had the Beef Tataki salad which was good. Quite peppery but tasty nonetheless.

Me and my friend also got a junkie box to share (sweet shrimp nigiri, salmon and tuna sashimi, seared tuna with coriander and two salmon and avocado rolls) and some edamame which come sprinkled with salt and spring onions.

I washed it down with a mango juice and a drop of chilled sake (only a drop – in case my editor is reading this). When in Rome…

They’ve got quite an impressive takeaway menu actually, I was pleasantly surprised. At the end of it all I felt good. Healthy, revitalised. But not full. I love sushi but I think that is the problem with it. You have to eat an awful lot of it to be truly satisfied and, unless it’s Nobu or Samusan (one of my favourite places in the city to go for really special sushi), you nearly always end up wishing you’d had a burger instead.

Thursday 12 April - Last Night I Ate…

Smoky baba ganoush, red mullet and organic chickpeas, slow cooked lamb and many other things at the Petersham Nurseries

Not many things would make me go south of the river on a drizzly Wednesday evening but the promise of Greg Malouf – acclaimed Australian / Lebanese chef – debuting his new menu in a candlelit Petersham Nurseries had me on the fast train from Waterloo quicker than you could say baba ganoush.

Ever since Skye Gyngell, the award winning chef and food writer quit the restaurant-come-garden centre only months after gaining her first Michelin star, a cloud of uncertainty has hung over Petersham. Whoever they got to replace her would have big shoes to fill. Skye was an institution, her food had a global reputation for home-grown simplicity edged with something magical; much like the surroundings she cooked it in. And despite having a restaurant that had mud on the floor, greenhouse roofing and a toilet outside, she had managed to get a Michelin star.

So when Greg Malouf was announced as the successor (replacement isn’t quite right) of the Petersham line foodies breathed a sigh of relief. He was not an obvious choice but he was certainly a good one. His cookbooks (written with ex wife Lucy) are some of the best in the world and his critically acclaimed restaurant Mo Mo in Melbourne was – I’m told – very special indeed. His food is a mix of his Middle Eastern heritage and his extensive travels around Asia and Europe and based on last night’s dinner, it is very, very good.

We started our meal with young vegetables (grown on site), smoke baba ganoush and a series of hot and cold salads which kept arriving at the table on big sharing plates. The highlights were the red mullet with organic chickpeas which had just the right balance of smoothness and crunch, and the barbecue rabbit with chorizo salad that came with a smooth parsnip puree. Salty, sweet and wonderfully rich.

The main course was slow cooked shoulder of lamb, merguez (lightly spiced sausages) and freekeh – a smoky tasting green wheat. It was served with a bitter leaf salad and edible flowers, braised fennel and walnut crumbs. The Freekeh and merguez were a meal on their own and – as Greg Wallace would say – I would have gladly put my face in it.

The lamb melted in the mouth was so juicy and tender it must have been cooked for hours. And the salads – never have I tasted anything like it. It takes a lot of skill to bring a motley collection of lettuce leaves, chard, endive and flowers to life. You know my feelings about salad by now but this one, this one was special.

The star of the show though was the duck bistayeea – a sweet and savoury Moroccan pie made with braised duck meat, slow cooked onions and sugared pastry. It is one of his signature dishes and not to be missed.

I had been told by one of the other guests who had eaten at Mo Mo before to leave room for pudding and when they started pouring Vin Santo (a potent Italian desert wine), I knew I was in for a treat. French pears frozen into a kind of sorbet granita pot with vanilla, prosecco and cardamom and lemon posset pavlova with roses and wild strawberries. It was heaven on a plate. Desserts are supposed to make you smile and this one had me and my flatmate grinning from ear to ear.

It was like all of my favourite desserts (Pavlova, Eton mess, tarte au citron) rolled into one with a palette cleansing sorbet on the side for when it all got a bit much.

The wines were exceptional (with owners that are half Italian, half Australian they shouldn’t be anything else) and the setting had a touch of the Miss Havisham about it: all creeping plants, glass candelabras and low lighting.

A lot will be made about whether Petersham will keep its star and about the prices (it has never been cheap) but the food, the food is what will ensure people keep going. It’s hearty and elegant, a rare mix, and has real soul.

Greg Malouf’s menu at the Petersham Nurseries rolls out properly next week.

Wednesday 11 April - Today I'm Eating...

Avocado and tomato salad and chocolate cake from 42˚Raw (42raw.co.uk)

I bet I can guess what you’re thinking. Firstly – the photography has got a lot better all of a sudden an second – yes, I am actually eating vegetables.

After my gargantuan Easter binge I made a solemn pledge with myself to eat something that would be good for my body. I was craving green things. I needed nutrients. So I took the dramatic decision to go raw. As you might have noticed when it comes to food, I tend not to do things in half measures.

My lunch stop of choice was 42˚Raw, a vegan organic vegan raw food café and take away in Mayfair. Part of burgeoning Copenhagen food scene for a couple of years already, this is their first outpost in London and it has proved a hit with the trendy model types and fashion set that frequent this part of town. Obviously (as my lunch from yesterday proves) I am neither of these things and normally I would scoff at the idea of raw vegan lasagne but here’s the thing: it actually tastes really good.

As well as salads and cakes, they also do small tapas dishes so you can sample their inventive menu (created by Michelin starred chefs in Denmark) one bite at a time. Thai noodles made of carrot and courgette with chilli and coconut oil, humous made with butternut squash, an avocado sandwich with marinated onions and chilli mayo and a lovely slice of chocolate cake (made with cashews, dates ad cacao butter) for pudding.

My sister ate raw food for two years and for that reason I always associated the movement with being woken up at the crack of dawn by the whir of a blender and strange unnamed pots of green sludge sitting in my fridge, but it seems times have changed. Women like Tanya Alekseeva and Dunja Gulin are changing the way we think about not cooking things whilst more traditional restaurants like Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen and the Wright Brother’s Oyster House have incorporated raw bars within them for those that want a lighter option.

I’m not saying I’m converted, or that I’ll be ditching my carb filled lunches in favour of raw vegan alternatives – it would mean giving up cheese which I absolutely refuse to ever do – but it did make a nice change. The food was tasty and I felt like I was doing myself good with every bite.

Which means I can feed my face guilt free when I go to the Petersham Nurseries tonight for an exclusive reveal of new chef Greg Malouf’s menu. More of that in tomorrow’s post.

Tuesday 10 April - Today I'm Eating...

pasta, and lots of it

Before I launch into a monologue about my lunch, I’m just going to quickly put this lunch in context. The context, that is, of all of the other lunches I’ve eaten over the Easter Weekend. Unfortunately in all my feasting I forgot to take any pictures so instead I have made up a song to help you remember them. See if you recognise it…

On the first day of Easter, my true love gave to me: duck eggs on toast granary.

(Translation: my boyfriend made scrambled duck eggs with roasted vine tomatoes – Heston says leave the vine on when you roast or griddle tomatoes and it really does make a difference to the taste- on granary toast and I wolfed the lot, followed by a Cadbury Creme egg. Sorry for the appalling attempt at rhyme.)

On the second day of Easter, my dad bought for me: lunch at Mishkin’s – the Jewish / New York diner deli.

(Translation: a rare family day out in the Grier household meant lunch at one of my favourite places in London. This time I went for the salt beef sandwich – with a little bit of fat left on – and ordered a mac and cheese for the table for good measure.)

On the third day of Easter, I made for me: a roast chicken with all the trimmings for my boyfriend and roomie.

(And her boyfriend too. I roasted the chicken with lemon thyme, shallots and lots of salt and made enough roast potatoes to feed the five thousand. We had Easter eggs for pudding. Obviously).

On the fourth day of Easter, a meal was made for me: roast lamb, new potatoes and gravy.

Whether it was the food come-down or just a double dose of Sunday blues I needed a lunchtime pick me up today. So I went straight for the comfort food. Penne Bolognese.

On Theobalds Road there’s a sweet little family run Italian restaurant called Sfizio (http://sfizio.co.uk). It’s not the best Italian in the area, that crown most definitely goes to Ciao Bella (don’t be fooled by the naff name, it does a mean spaghetti vongole) on Lambs Conduit street but every day Sfizio make two pastas and for £5 you can get a little bit of home cooking to eat at your desk.

Spaghetti Bolognese would be my death row meal and although nothing is ever as good as my own, it always puts a smile on my face.

My colleague Tash went for a prosciutto, mozzarella and rocket toasted flat bread which I thought I would also put up as, quite simply, it has something green in it.

Tomorrow I will definitely eat some vegetables.

Thursday 5 April - Today I'm Eating...

A bespoke picnic box from the Mount Street Deli (themountstreetdeli.co.uk) AND an Indian feast from Dishoom (dishoom.com)

Today is a tale of two lunches, both alike in dignity.

The first arrived just as I was getting REALLY excited about regaling you all with my tale of the best fish finger sandwich in Holborn (from the London Sandwich Company, if you were interested). To be honest, it’s not that great a story. It can wait for a rainier day.

But the waft of curry changed all that. Dishoom, the Bombay Café serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails over two levels in Covent Garden had sent in a feast. It was too good not to share so the Stylist crew and I tucked into Chicken Berry Biryani, their signature Black Daal (which packs a serious punch), succulent Dishoom chicken tikka and a welcome pot of raita.

I had heard of Dishoom but never been, although their colourful pop-up on the Southbank last summer was one of my favourite events of the year. Now I’m hooked, and investigating their breakfast menu (Egg Naan Roll, breakfast lassi – the traditional yoghurt drink made with mango but with oats added for oomph and Brun Maska – a hot buttered bun dipped in Chai), I’m definitely going back.

Thankfully I didn’t eat that much as, as I said, I was still planning a fish finger expedition.

That was until lunch number two turned up. In an inauspicious brown paper bag came all manner of goodies from the Mount Street Deli.

Soy cured salmon salad with cucumber beetroot, feta, shallots and hazelnuts, with quiche, sausage rolls, a fruit tart and cinnamon doughnuts with dipping sauces for pudding.

Mount Street is famous amongst a particular calibre of Londoner (the calibre that probably doesn’t get that excited about hot dogs covered in cheese). It’s a deli that serves signature dishes from the Ivy and Scott’s. They do the most incredible hampers at Christmas and Easter and, nestled in the heart of Mayfair, it’s where the A-list get their sandwiches from. I can see why.

The salmon was perfect, with the texture of being poached and the flavour of being grilled and the sausage roll was almost as good as the one from Lily Vanilli’s Sunday bakery (almost). The doughnuts were the star of the show but then, they usually are in my world.

At £12.95 for the salad it wouldn’t be my choice for a ‘light’ lunch but if you’re in the area and feel like treating yourself, I can think of no better place.

Wednesday 4 April - Today I'm Eating...

Hot Dogs from Giraffe Stop in Kings Cross Station (giraffe.net/stop)

I had every intention of eating something healthy. There’s a great natural food shop called Danny’s Wraps near our office and I was going to get a big salad with some soup and write a smug post about how I was starting my spring detox today.

Then some hotdogs arrived from the very kind people at Giraffe Stop (a takeaway outpost of the Giraffe chain) and all of my intentions went out the window.

I can’t work out if it’s because I simply have no will power, or because I really hate to see things go to waste, but I am powerless in the face of free food. That’s why ‘all you can eat’ buffets are such a problem. I take it as a personal challenge. ‘Is that really all you can eat?' Says the little food gremlin inside my brain. ‘Surely there’s room for just one more spring roll?’

So you can imagine my excitement when four hot dogs, chips, salads and milkshakes arrived at the office just in time for lunch.

I’ve become a bit of a hot dog connoisseur of late. I’ve gorged on the chilli cheese dogs at the bar in Hawksmoor, revelled (and been defeated) by the all-pork hot dog at Mishkin’s and delighted in the classic offering at the Delaunay. And now thanks to Giraffe Stop I can eat them on my lunch break as well!

I had the Rancho Beef Chilli hot dog which comes smothered in cheese. I was full half way through but still couldn’t stop eating. Other ‘dogs’ included the Blackjack Dirty Dog, with spicy pulled pork, onions and salsa verde and the ‘classic’ with sweet mustard and onion. The rocky road milk shake is to die for.

I’d like to go back and try their ‘brunch’ – the waffles with banana, strawberries, honey and Greek yoghurt sounds like a pretty good alternative to Special K. Free food aside, it is also really nice to know that there’s an alternative to stale baguettes or junk food next time I find myself ravenous at Kings Cross station.

I’m definitely going to have soup for dinner though. Definitely.

Tuesday 3 April - Today I'm Eating...

A grilled chicken burrito from Adobo (adobomexican.com)

Day two and the pressure of writing about what I eat each day is starting to hit. It’s normally such a carefree decision. I slim down the options for lunch around 11ish - do I want a jacket potato? An Itsu noodle pot? Maybe I want a salad? Who am I kidding. I never want a salad – and then head straight out the door at 1pm. But today I felt a weight on my shoulders. It must be the way indecisive people feel around menus. Suddenly I was worried about what my food choice might say about me. Would people think I was a glutton if I went for yet another carb heavy meal? Should I play the game and nip down to Pearl at the Chancery Court Hotel– the poshest restaurant within a few minutes’ walk of my office – for a quick bite just to up my game a bit?

No.

I will not cave. This is supposed to be about what I eat. Not what I would eat if I was rich, had the metabolism of a 13-year-old and had succumbed to my eventual destiny and become a lady what lunches, like my mother.

So I got a burrito.

I’ve always been of the assumption that more things should be served with guacamole and/or sour cream so the Mexican take-over of the London food scene in the last few years has only been good news for me. That said, if you get the wrong place things can go downhill badly. The salsa might be too watery, the chicken too salty, the rice a glutinous mush. My pet hate is when they are stingy with the cheese, but again that’s a universal rule.

Adobo, my burrito spot of choice, is good. Quick service, good ingredients and if you go for a small, you don’t feel like keeling over and napping straight afterwards. The queues aren’t as crazy as Chilango, just down the road in Chancery Lane. And obviously the food isn’t even comparable to the likes of La Bodega Negra, an upmarket Mexican restaurant just opened up in Soho or even Wahaca on Wardour Street which I’ve never had a bad meal at. But it tastes fresh and fills me up. And for a cloudy Tuesday lunchtime, that’s good enough for me.

Monday 2 April - Today I'm Eating...

A satay chicken rice box from Bánh Mì Bay (4-6 Theobald's Road WC1X 8PN)

Ok, it doesn’t look pretty but I promise my photography skills will get better.

This is one of my favourite lunchtime indulgences. Just a five minute walk from the Stylist office is a brilliant little Vietnamese restaurant and takeaway and, once you fight your way through the queue, you’ll find a chalk board menu brimming with Bánh mì – Vietnamese baguettes packed with marinated beef, chicken or pork, pickles and salad, as well as the usual Pho and spring roll options.

The baguettes are lovely but I usually go for a rice box: marinated chicken which tastes ever so slightly of lemon grass and sweet chili char grilled and served with jasmine rice, pickled carrots and cucumber. Their rice noodle stir fry's are also excellent, if a bit greasy, but I’m a creature of habit and go for the same thing. It’s only a matter of time before I walk in there and the slightly harassed looking man behind the counter nods a friendly salute to me and says “the usual, Miss Grier?” before sliding my order down the kiosk in a Clint Eastwood Western kinda way.

I admit I would love it if this happened. Maybe after a few weeks of blogging, it might.

Sunday 1 April - Introduction

‘What’s for lunch?’ The question I ask myself, if I’m honest, the minute I sit down at my desk first thing in the morning. I can’t help it. My brain seems to automatically hone in on whatever the next meal is, even if it’s only been minutes, let alone hours since my last feed.

So after years of talking, tweeting and writing about food, stylist.co.uk have finally given me a platform to indulge what is at best a hobby and at worst a growing obsession: what I eat.

As part of food month for Stylist online, I’m going to be giving you a daily update on the most exciting meal I happen to scoff that day. It could be anything, from a particularly newsworthy fish finger sandwich to a seven course tasting menu or an all-you-can-eat brunch. I might even cook a few times. Might.

After a couple of weeks of opening the doors on my foodie life I’m going to pass over the reins to you for our ‘show us your lunch’ campaign, so stay tuned. In the meantime, on to the important business of the day…Today I’m eating…

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