Well Dressed Plates | Tony Rodd | Review

November 20, 2016

When Tony Rodd invited me to sample his food at his new pop-up I was pretty flattered.

Tony was a finalist in the 2015 series of BBC's MasterChef and is currently the moustached man behind the Well Dressed Plates pop up at Strongroom (in residence until the end of the year).
tony rodd

The venue has long been synonymous with music given its 30 year old recording studio and music producing community based in the neighbouring buildings.

With an extensive beer and cider menu featuring both local and international microbreweries, my dinner companion (an old university friend) was pretty impressed.  
london blogger

Upon arrival Tony greeted us with a giant smile, eager to talk us through the menu. He is clearly passionate about the produce he uses and explained in a friendly East End accent that he was busy in the kitchen over the next few days experimenting with new flavours to refresh the lunch time specials for regulars.

The first thing we noticed about the menu was the price - surprisingly very reasonable! The second was that there are loads of vegetarian and gluten free options, something pop-ups in particular don't seem to offer much of. 
Well Dressed PlatesWell Dressed Plates

As a massive brunch fan I ordered the poached eggs, asparagus, ham and hollandaise to start whilst my friend opted for the smoked Trout on Fennel, Beetroot and Pickled Apple Salad.
Both dishes were delicious, and although the flavour combinations were traditional each featured a beautiful presentation and slight flavour twist that elevated it. Next time I would switch my order to the trout as the combination of fresh dill, sharp apple, earthy beetroot and liquorice fennel was addictive.
Well Dressed Plates 

Following Tony's suggestion we ordered the Pork belly and chicken roulade for our main courses. The pork was served with roast fennel, the creamiest mash ever made, apple puree and port sauce - I honestly could have eaten again, and again, and taken some more away to eat again later. 
 Well Dressed Plates

The chicken and mushroom roulade with mash and asparagus is known as the signature main course dish. The smooth texture was unexpected and the salty addition of prosciutto ham seasoned the plate beautifully. Again, the super creamy mash was the star of the show - I don't how he made mash so tasty?! - whilst the asparagus offered a crunchy and clean cut through. 

After all that food we couldn't handle a heavy dessert so decided to share a British cheese board complete with grapes and gherkins.

If you're looking for a relaxed evening give the pop-up a visit; it's atmosphere, food menu and beer selection aren't to be missed. I can't wait to go back for date night with Russell. 


Ascot’s Festival of Food and Wine Race Weekend with Lavazza Coffee

October 30, 2016

ascot men
Last month Russell and I were invited to Ascot’s Festival of Food and Wine Race Weekend by Lavazza Coffee.

With more than 40 market stalls offering racegoers a unique day we spent our Saturday indulging in fabulous food alongside the final days of Ascot’s Flat season. 
ascot lavazza
ascot outfit ascot mens suit

Ascot is just a 50 minuet train ride from Waterloo station, with the race track just a 5 minuet walk from the train station.
We picked up our tickets at the entrance and headed straight to the The Furlong Club located in the King Edward VII enclosure for a coffee and cake overlooking the green.
Because the enclosure is upstairs it offers unsurpassed views of the action before, during and after each race. With seated balconies facing both the Parade Ring and Course offering shelter from the unpredictable British Weather the private bars, seating and atmosphere in the enclosure made the experience extra special. Being able to sit down to enjoy a leisurely drink and watch the horses ensured the long day in heels was comfortable, a God send I'm sure any lady who suffered at the mercy of her heels will appreciate.
King Edward VII ascot mens outfit

As it is the premium enclosure at Ascot men are required to wear a jacket, a collared shirt and a tie. Russell decided to go all out, wearing a dusky purple suit which gained a lot of attention and compliments.
Women are encouraged to wear fascinators or hats - though it isn’t mandatory. I decided to make the most of the occasion and wear a small fascinator, as aside from weddings and Christenings there isn't much chance to wear one now-a-days.  
ascot red dress
charlotte and russell dovey ascot cocktail

After meeting Yasmin and Matt, our companion adventure couple, we started to pick horses for the six races. We all really got into it and things got a little competitive - especially because Russell and I picked a winner for 5/6 races (pot luck, we promise!). 

Half way through the day we recharged our batteries with a very strong Lavazza Espresso Martini at the Bit and Bridle bar and made our way around the many food stalls downstairs.
charlotte russell dovey
King Edward VII ascot red dress

Although the weather wasn't on our side the day was the most fun we've had in a long long time, and we can't wait to book tickets next year!

If you've never been to the races before give it a go! Trains run regularly from Waterloo and it's a great excuse to get dressed up - you never know, you might win a few races and get hooked like us. 

Vertigo Adventures High Ropes Review

October 22, 2016

A few weeks ago the family and I were invited to try out the new Vertigo Adventures in Welwyn Garden City, and what a thrill it was!
Offering both high- and low-ropes courses alongside zip-wire action, breath taking plunges and daring challenges the new course is set test even the bravest of thrill seekers. 
 Vertigo Adventures Welwyn Garden City
Vertigo Adventures Welwyn Garden CityVertigo Adventures Welwyn Garden City

We started on the Monkey Trail which is 10ft tall. This can be used by anyone aged five and above, so doesn't sound too tricky, but with nine elements to tackle, from Sky Islands to Twin Tube Tunnels, there’s a variety of challenges for little monkeys to conquer.
I have to admit this course was probably the trickiest of them all as it takes some time to get used to the height - 10ft doesn't sound like much, but when you're up there and the wind picks up it can be pretty nerve racking!

Vertigo Adventures Welwyn Garden City Vertigo Adventures Welwyn Garden City
 Vertigo Adventures Welwyn Garden City Vertigo Adventures Welwyn Garden City

We then headed to the Hawks View which stands over 40ft high giving you a bird’s-eye view of 126 acres of parkland the course is situated in.
The course includes a Trapeze Walk and even zip line - I have to say after the first two obstacles I lost my nerve and shuffled back to the main platform (I didn't realise the course so much upper body strength!), but the rest of my family continued and said it was a real adrenaline rush).
A video posted by Charlotte Clarke | London Blog (@charaimeeclarke) on

Next we got to Plummit from the Summit by taking  a leap of faith on the powerfan, which was ridiculously fun and turned my legs to jelly. We had to step off the platform just like a bungee jump, which really tested our nerve. This was (in my opinion) the best activity of the day, and looking back I wish I had done it again as the first time it flashed.
Next was Flying Fox, a 50m-long zip from the top of the tower, which was fun but slightly overshadowed by the thrill of the Plummit we had experienced just before. 
 Vertigo Adventures Welwyn Garden City
We ended the day with a very competitive Crazy Climb to see how far we could ascend to the tower before abseiling back down to earth.

Vertigo Adventures is open from 9am to 5pm peak season and during school holidays, and 10am to 3pmin winter. Packages will be available for either one element of the course, or mix-and-match to include all five. As it's only a 20 min train from Kings Cross and set in such a lovely setting, I'd thoroughly recommend the activity course as a fun family day out.

Seasonal Dinner Parties | Autumnal Mushroom Supper Club Review

October 01, 2016


Is there any food more autumnal than mushrooms?

Instantly transporting you to a woodland full of burnt leaves and crisp mornings, their rich savoury flavour is one you either love or hate.

Seasonal Dinner Parties
Seasonal Dinner Parties Seasonal Dinner Parties

Luckily mushrooms are one of my favourite foods, so when chef and food writer Liz O’Keefe invited me to her pop-up supper club at Café from Crisis London, Aldgate, I was super excited.

The seven-course mushroom tasting menu promised to highlight the joys of seasonal eating, so who else better than my fellow mushroom loving cousin Rachael to accompany me?

apple and blackcurrant

The evening started with a tango apple and blackcurrant aperitif. The apples are a new variety being trailed on Loddington Farm in Kent and were freshly picked that morning. Their sweetness paired well with the sharp blackcurrants and it was a refreshing sip filled with British hedgerow flavours.  

mushroom spaghetti mushroom spaghetti

We were seated on a table with a fellow food blogger and her husband-to-be. We spent the evening exchanging family stories, laughing and drinking a few bottles of wine in the relaxed atmosphere. The amuse bouche of mushroom spaghetti was sprinkled with garlic flowers and pine nuts, making it a tasty single bite with a difference.

mushroom platter
mushroom platter Seasonal Dinner Parties

Our first course sparked conversation throughout the venue as it was an interactive tasting platter of wild mushrooms from The Mushroom Man (real name Michael Hyams).
Featuring a variety including porcini, girolle, saffron milk cap and king oyster my cousin and I both tried one each, comparing opinions with each other and the rest of the table. The mushrooms were served with nutmeg, pink peppercorns, black truffle, confit egg yolk and bread, and it was really interesting to decide which accompaniment was best for each mushroom.
I don't think I've ever though about mushrooms this much, but it was a lot of fun! In hindsight I wish an illustrated guide to each mushroom was provided as we couldn't name our most/least favourites once the dish had been cleared - it would have been nice to have taken away some mushroom knowledge from the dish.

autumn stew

I thoroughly enjoyed the next course of Chanterelle stew, which was a mixture of blue moon pumpkin, smoked garlic and sour cream garnished with bright purple butterfly sorrel from Westlands Wow which gave the dish a fresh lemon uplift. 

Seasonal Dinner Parties  victoria blackberry

Next up was a venison and wild mushroom parcel stuffed with a variety of mushrooms and served alongside nettles, Victoria blackberries and horseradish shoots. The contrast of the gamey meat to sweet sharp berries and the delicate heat of the horseradish shoots was a wonderful and unique pairing.

Seasonal Dinner Parties  autumn apple pie

This was followed by big plate of warming apple custard pudding with a rich caramel sauce and edible flowers. I'm not sure if mushrooms were present in this dish (I'm going to assume not), but it was a welcome addition to the meal. The sauce was the star of the dish and it was a hearty portion that screamed 'autumn comfort food'.

goats cheese truffles

Luckily the last two courses were relatively light. A plate of 'truffles' were presented to us, but not as we knew them. Goats cheese was stuffed with porcini mushrooms and blackcurrants, offering a different take on a cheese course. This was followed by sweet fruit jellies using soft fruit from grower Anthony Snell of Windmill Hill Farm (who also provided the beautifully fresh blackberries and blackcurrants).
We enjoy some fabulous food and captivating company and I would thoroughly recommend the experience. The only criticism I have was that a good pinch on salt was needed on each savoury dish, but if you're a salt addict like me you can always solve that issue by bringing your Maldon Pinch Tin.
If you'd like to attend the supper club more information on the next Mushroom in Winter event on the 24th November is available here.

Busaba Ethai | Summer Menu Review

September 05, 2016

Busaba Ethai is one of my safe, go-to restaurants for a satisfying mid-week meal. The service is always friendly and fast, the interiors are sleek, the menu has something to offer even the pickiest of eaters and it's great value for money.
When the restaurant chain asked me to visit their Stratford Westfield branch to review their new Summer Specials menu a few weeks ago I jumped at the chance - I always order the same meal every time I visit so it was a great opportunity to venture outside of my comfort zone.
Busaba Ethai summer menu charlotte and russel dovey
We started our meal with a bottle of white wine and crispy prawn crackers with sweet chilli sauce. The atmosphere of the restaurant is lively yet relaxed, with floor to ceiling glass windows that allow lots of natural light to filter through. Sitting by the window, we enjoyed a spot of people watching before our food arrived.
Busaba Ethai summer menu
Duck and pineapple lettuce bites came up first with cucumber, mint, shallot and a sweet chili lime dressing. At £6.95 it makes a great sharing dish and was a light yet fragrant dish which set the tone for the rest of our meal and a A zingy side of Thai slaw (pictured back left, £4.95) added a much needed crunch with chow-chow, green beans, ginger and lime.

Busaba Ethai summer menu
Pictured on the right at the front is the grilled chicken and mango salad (£11.95) accompanied by baby gem leaves, cherry tomatoes, mint, sweet chili lime dressing and a wonton crisp, and at the back a Thai Summer beef salad (£12.95) featuring slow cooked beef, cherry tomatoes, dressed green vegetables and wonton crisp. Both delivered a mixture of textures and an array of flavours, and I particularly enjoyed the fruity lift of the mango and lime.
Busaba Ethai summer menu

The heaviest dish of the day, the Patpong chicken noodles (£11.95), includes flat rice noodles, shiitake mushrooms and green beans stir-fried in curry base with crunchy chow chow. On the menu it read beautifully, however when served it was WAY too hot for me to handle. Our waiter noticed me struggling and kindly bought me some coconut milk which helped sooth my burning mouth - although it wasn't the perfect dish for me, I know some of my fiery friends would enjoy it.

Busaba Ethai summer menu

The Bang-kick prawns (£7.50) were quickly gobbled up and we could have easily eaten another plate. However, the real 'star of the show' was the Fish curry with starfruit (pictured top, £13.95) - its light and zesty sauce was addictive! Served with sweet coconut rice, this dish delivered the typically aromatic flavours I associate with Thailand and has become my favourite dish on their whole menu.
If you're looking for a restaurant for a mid-week catch up, weekend lunch or relaxed dinner, Busaba Ethai should be top of your list.