Pure Taste

According to Wikipedia, the ‘Paleo’ or ‘Paleolithic diet’ is a fad diet based on the foods our ancient ancestors might have eaten, such as lean meat, nuts and berries. Also known as the ‘caveman diet’, the diet is divisive and not without controversy, generally splitting people into one of two camps – the devout, almost evangelical paleos, and those staunchly against the diet. Before last week, I really didn’t have an opinion on the matter. I considered the diet the same way I considered the gluten free diet, before it became part of my daily reality – just one of those things that some people did.

Pure Taste, Westbourne GrovePure Taste, Westbourne Grove

So when I was invited down to Pure Taste, the first paleo restaurant in the UK, I was incredibly curious and excited, although not without some reservations – the strict paleo diet excludes wine and coffee, which I’m quite partial to. We met the nutritionist and head chef behind the restaurant, Holly Redman, in the elegant, intimate and understated private dining room to find out more.

Orchid, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

Pure Taste started as a pop-up, and after raising over £30,000 through a successful Kickstarter campaign opened up shop in December 2014. Redman is a coeliac, as well as being a nutritional therapist, chef and chemistry graduate. She came up with the concept behind Pure Taste after seeing a gap in the market for a delicious dining experience for those needing special dining requirements, but without having to compromise.

Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

Pure Taste is entirely free of refined sugars, as well as gluten and dairy, meaning that I wouldn’t be suffering from food envy at dinner, as well as being able to eat without fear of accidental cross contamination. The restaurant also caters for those on legume free, egg free and low FODMAP diets, as well as vegetarians and vegans, making it the perfect place to take a motley crew of diners (if they have dietary restrictions of any kind).

The best part? As the concept behind Pure Taste is largely inspired by the paleo diet, they serve a range of biodynamic, organic wines from a vineyard in La Mancha, exclusively produced for the restaurant – and gluten free, organic beers and ciders too. Alcohol and meat? Always, always, count me in!

Organic Red Wine, Pure Shiraz, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

The menu I sampled was from the newly launched Spring menu, created with seasonal ingredients for a truly Paleolithic dining experience.

Green Soup with Chicken Heart and Prosecco, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

A key part of the paleo diet is to use fresh, seasonal ingredients as well as the whole of the animal, meaning that the use of offal is encouraged, as it’s largely unprocessed and provides essential nutrients. Our first course at Pure Taste was the green soup with chicken hearts, a brightly verdant concoction of parsley and wild garlic. The dish is labelled vaguely, as it’s subject to change – Pure Taste’s green soup can be made with nettles, given the right season, but is always includes the use of wild garlic. For a dish that had the potential to be so bland, the parsley and wild garlic soup was delicious, made rich and indulgent with the addition of the chicken hearts, which were perfectly seasoned. The dish has inspired me to use chicken hearts more in my cooking, as when it comes to offal I too often stick to what I know.

Green Soup with Chicken Heart, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

The second starter I sampled was the squid, seasoned with lemon and Japanese sansho pepper, delicately placed on a bed of shredded pak choy.

Squid, pak choy, lemon and sansho, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

This starter was one of the main highlights for me. The squid was expertly cooked, with none of the rubbery texture that squid is so prone to, and the combination of seasonings was really full of umami, with a delicate balance of flavours and textures.

Squid, pak choy, lemon and sansho, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

The third and final starter I sampled was the salmon fishcake with celery and radish, served with an avocado paste and a tapenade.

DSC02812

I enjoyed the combination of flavours and textures in this dish, though it didn’t impress me as much as the other starters. The salmon fishcake was light, yet moist, and combined with the black olive tapenade was really delicious. The avocado and radish was not at all memorable, and rather bland – I prefer my avocado dishes to have a bit of a kick, and be more firm, instead of blended down into mush (which to me always impacts the taste, too).

Salmon fishcake, celery, radish, avocado and tapenade, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

The main courses included a beautifully seared smoked mackerel, beetroot, horseradish and hazelnut dish, which was let down somewhat by the addition of the side of cucumber which had a gummy and unappealing texture. I particularly enjoyed my little copper pot of the braised ox cheek, which was served with orange, spring greens and a wonderful celeriac puree.

Ox cheek braise, orange, celeriac and spring greens, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

The final main was a succulent and flavourful piece of lamb, served with burnt shallot, baby gem and carrot. This was incredible, and beautifully seasoned, although not necessarily what I would order if I went again as the smoked mackerel and braised ox cheek dishes (with the exception of the cucumber) were vastly superior, as well as being slightly more complicated to recreate at home, which, face it, is half the reason we dine out. Isn’t it?

lamb, baby gem, burnt shallot and carrot, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

Already stuffed to the gills at this point on delicious food and a rather lovely shiraz, I didn’t think I could fit dessert in – but I’m not one to shy from a challenge (particularly if it’s food related).

I couldn’t say I enjoyed the tonka bean chocolate and coffee cheesecake, which was deserved with a delicate sliver of dark chocolate and a dollop of espresso gel. I did enjoy the creamy texture of the tonka bean, and couldn’t believe it was vegan, but the combination of chocolate and coffee was too much like tiramisu for me to enjoy it. There are few dishes I detest, but tiramisu is one of them, and I honestly have no idea why – surely a dish a coffee and chocolate should make me incredibly happy, but I’ll just have to put it down as being one of those things.

Tonka bean cheesecake, chocolate and espresso gel, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

It was, however, beautifully presented, and the base of the cheesecake was delicious.

After being somewhat let down by the tiramisu masquerading as a “cheese”cake, I was so, so impressed with the chocolate lava cake. It was incredibly rich, and tasted the same as a chocolate fondant, and came with a side of stem ginger ice cream. What’s more incredible is that they have managed to recreate it with no refined sugars, gluten or dairy. The stem ginger ice cream was made with coconut milk and honey, and tasted absolutely divine – creamy and cold, but with the pleasant warmth of candied ginger coming through. The chocolate fondant lava cake was incredible, and I’m definitely going to need to have the recipe as I can’t believe they’ve managed to recreate a classic dessert so well.

Paleo Chocolate Lava cake, ginger paleo ice cream. Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

The inside was molten too, and was served with a dark chocolate shard.

Paleo Chocolate Lava cake, ginger paleo ice cream. Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

The great thing about Pure Taste is how accessible it’s made dining out, but without compromising on quality, flavour or being unimaginative in their menu. It will definitely be a place I’ll be recommending to gluten free visitors to London, and it definitely won’t be my last time there – I’ve got my eye on the gin pannacotta and the rabbit next.

In the long run, I think I’m a bit too keen on dairy to take the leap into living and eating the ‘paleo’ way. Pure Taste has inspired me think outside of the box when it comes to ingredients and recipes, and was a great dining experience regardless of dietary restrictions.

Have you ever tried the paleo diet? What are some of your favourite recipes?

4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

Pure Taste is located at 115 Westbourne Grove, W2 4UP – for reservations, call 0207 727 5000.

My meal was complimentary, but all opinions are fully my own.

Gaylord London: A Taste of North India in Fitzrovia

We have a lot to thank the ’60s for: great music, great hair, great fashion – and, for those of us living in London, great food. Great North Indian food, to be precise, as 1966 was the year Gaylord opened their doors on Mortimer Street.

Gaylord London, Fitzrovia

Last Tuesday, twenty-one food bloggers descended on Fitzrovia to sample the award-winning fare and the famous butter chicken at Gaylord, courtesy of Zomato. Zomato is my go-to app for restaurant reviews, suggestions for local restaurants when I’m out and about (I’m constantly bookmarking places I plan on going to next) and is great for booking tables too.

Zomato Meetup, Gaylord, LondonIndian Chutneys, Gaylord, London

The decor in Gaylord is elegant and understated, if a little dated – but with a restaurant philosophy of ‘tradition is always in’, it’s more than a little expected. It’s probably a little fancier and a bit more upscale than the usual central London Indian establishment, and in such a great location too.

I hadn’t quite prepared for the colossal tidal wave of food that awaited us at Gaylord – we counted 24 courses in total. We spent the first two hours on canapés, cocktails and starters alone, in the four happiest and most delicious hours I’d spent all week!

The evening started off with a Sharabi Saffron Thandai, a deliciously creamy cocktail that wasn’t unlike a pina colada, but with an Indian twist. Rum and gin give this cardamom, rose petal and saffron infused-milk a delicious kick. I admit, I wasn’t prepared to like this quite as much as I did, but the combination of gin, saffron and cardamom is a winner (who knew?)

Mini Bhel Puri Cone, Gaylord, London

The canapés followed in rapid succession; each more beautiful than the last. The presentation of all the food at Gaylord was simply stunning. First to arrive were the mini bhel puri cones – spiced cones filled with puffed rice, onions and a tamarind sauce. Although I enjoyed the light and crunchy texture, the dish itself was bland and not particularly memorable.

Mini Bhel Puri Cone, Gaylord, London

The bhel puri cones were followed by the aloo tokri chhat, which were described to us as ‘little potato cupcakes’, but more closely resembled spiced hash browns. They were not only beautiful but delicious too, buttery crisp on the outside and fluffy and soft within.

Aloo tokri chat, Gaylord, London

Our potato cupcake was followed by murg malai tikka and zaffrani chicken tikka, succulent pieces of chicken delicately marinated in a light cheese sauce which were perfectly complemented by the spicy chutneys and pickles. We rounded off the canapes with gigantic, juicy chargrilled tiger prawns, that had been marinaded in saffron and tandoori masala.

Tandoori tiger prawns, Gaylord, London

Our first starter arrived in the form of the murg gilafi seekh, a clove smoked minced chicken skewer which was chargrilled and layered with bell pepper. These were spiced beautifully, and were delicious with the addition of lemon juice, the peppers providing depth to the heat in the chicken skewers.

Murgh gilafi seekh, Gaylord, London

I had been really excited about the Andhra scallops, which claimed to be seasoned with crushed black pepper, curry leaves, cherry tomatoes and pink peppercorns. They were nice to look at, but tasted completely bland, even with the addition of the sauce – I wouldn’t personally order these again, especially when the other starter options are so delicious.

Andhra Scallops, Gaylord, London

The arrival of the crab cakes dakshini sparked a cacophony of excited squeals and camera shutter sounds from our table – they were pretty stunning. A combination of curry leaves, southern spices, mustard cress and sesame seeds, these crab cakes came served on the end of a sugar cane stick, and were really unusual. I enjoyed the creamy sauce that accompanied this starter in particular.

Crab cakes dakshini, Gaylord, LondonCrab cakes dakshini, Gaylord, London

The tacos arrived fairly stylishly – in their own car, no less. The lamb seekh kebab and red kidney bean tacos were an unexpected fusion twist, a strange deviation on the menu, particularly from such a traditional restaurant. The Indo-Mexican tacos were incredibly moreish, however, and surprisingly light, too.

Taco car, Gaylord, LondonTaco car, Gaylord, London

After the tacos sped away, we finally moved onto our mains: lamb chops anardana, chargrilled chops with a spicy ginger infusion and pomegranate seeds, prawn coconut curry with kaffir lime and the famous Gaylord butter chicken, made with tandoori chicken strips in a Makhani sauce. The Gaylord butter chicken was my favourite by far, with the chops coming in at a close second.

These were accompanied by sides of chana peshwari (chickpeas in Gaylord’s signature secret spice mix), dal bukhara lentils, baingan hyderabadi (aubergine in spicy masala gravy) and zaafran basmati rice with anar and cucumber raita.

Aubergine, Gaylord, London

Gaylord’s butter chicken offering was spicier than your average butter chicken, thanks to the tandoori marinated chicken pieces within the rich, creamy sauce. Combined with the chutneys and the dal bukhara, in my opinion this dish made other butter chickens pale in comparison.

At this point in the evening I was seriously concerned about how I was going to manage to make it home without assistance. The team at Gaylord had no mercy, and yet another wave of courses came our way – thankfully, it was dessert.

I’m pretty particular about desserts, and while the mains were absolutely delicious to say I  wasn’t blown away by any of the dessert offerings at Gaylord would be an understatement. Rasmalai, an Indian soft cheesecake in cardamom-scented sweetened milk sounded divine, but the texture really didn’t agree with me, although I did enjoy the flavour. If you are a fan of trifle, then this ‘wet cake’ trend and texture that seems to be so prevalent in British desserts might be for you; it certainly wasn’t for me.

Gafar halua, Gaylord, London

The gajar halwa certainly exceeded my expectations and left me pleasantly surprised, although this grated carrot and pistachio based dessert was so rich and sweet that I wasn’t able to have more than a teaspoon, particularly after such an epic feast.

The absolute pungency and alcohol level of the gulab jamun can absolutely be attributed to me, as I had left the table and missed the flambee, and more rum was needed to get this shot!

Gulab jamuin, Gaylord, London

My lovely dinner companions (Katy and Tracy, after Nicola’s pre-dessert departure) couldn’t manage more than a few bites of the sponge due to concerns about making it into work the next day – it was eyewateringly strong. But again, as someone who is not at all a fan of wet cake, this didn’t appeal to me whatsoever.

All in all, I had a veritable feast at Gaylord – the starters and mains were delicious, and got 5 out of 5 from me in terms of presentation. The staff are so accommodating and lovely, and though I wasn’t a fan of the desserts the lentils and butter chicken more than made up for it.

Gaylord is located at 79-81 Mortimer Street, London, W1W 7SJ, 02075803615.

4 Stars (4 / 5)

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March Makeup Favourites

I’ve put myself on a spending ban of sorts, but I’ve rediscovered items already in my possession this month, with some late Christmas presents I missed in my previous beauty post! So without further ado, here are a few of my makeup favourites for March so far:

March Beauty Favourites

The Tools

Real Techniques make high quality yet affordable makeup brushes, and this month I’ve been making use of the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, mostly for blending. I’ve discovered the amazing and cheap-as-chips Beauty UK Ultimate Contour Palette, which has been great – it’s got a cream formula, which is quite hard to find in a contouring palette, especially for under a fiver! I’ve been using it with the Real Techniques Bold Metals Contour Brush. I love the bold metals collection – not only the look, but the soft, synthetic fibres are perfect for picking up makeup and blending.

Real Techniques Bold Metals, Eyelash Curlers

The eyeliner brush is perfect for shaping eyebrows, and looks great on my dressing table too!

I’ve upgraded my old Mac eyelash curlers for a new Shu Uemura, and the difference has been astounding. The results have been really dramatic, and this is one cult beauty tool that lives up to its reputation.

The Products

I’m pretty fussy about perfumes – my go-to scents are Chloe, Elie Saab and YSL Cinema. I got a bottle of Trussardi Donna for Christmas, a brand I hadn’t been familiar with in the past. This scent has fast become a favourite – with base notes of vanilla and sandalwood and a citrusy overtone, it’s in a similar vein to my staples and I absolutely adore it.

Trussardi Donna, Mac Paint Pot, Beauty UK Contour Palette, YSL Blush

For my eyes, I’ve been making good use of my Urban Decay NAKED 2 Palette, the shade YDK in particular. I’ve been building it over the cream Mac Paint Pot in Frozen Violet, which is a beautifully pigmented cream shadow in a metallic taupe shade. I’m not usually a fan of colourful eyeshadows, but this is such a gorgeous shade, and the formula is really long-lasting too.

March Beauty Favourites

This peach YSL blush is one I’ve had for quite a while, and I’ve only just rediscovered my fondness for it – I find myself reaching for the peachy shade the further we get into spring.

Have you tried any of these products? What are your March favourites?

 

How to Make the Perfect Steak

For the second of my courses at Leiths, I learned an invaluable life skill – how to make the perfect steak.

Beef

I’ve always loved steak – ever since I was a little girl. When I would go back to Japan in the summers, my grandfather would always prepare a steak to which I would compare all other steaks to for the rest of my life – Kobe beef with the most delicious sauce. I used to get homesick for that sauce, but he always kept the recipe close, and when he passed away I thought that the recipe was lost forever.

Steak slicesSteak

I’ve been cooking steaks more since my course, where I picked up some great tips and knife skills – I can now confidently say that I can whip up a pretty damn good steak. I now know the perfect amount of time to fry my steaks for (a minute and a half each side for medium rare), the right oil (one with a high smoke point, like sunflower, never olive oil) and how to cut an onion like an absolute pro.

Steak

The men outnumbered the women in the class – mostly those who’d been given the class as a gift for Christmas. The class was a lot of fun – we practiced our new techniques on a few steaks, and tried our hand at making a few different sauces, including peppercorn, bearnaise and chimichurri. For a dish with relatively few ingredients, there are quite a few moving parts (like how to know when the oil is hot enough!) and my steak cooking skills have most definitely improved as a result. We also got to try different types of steak – fillet, rump, sirloin (my personal favourite!), rib eye, bavette, kangaroo, venison and buffalo. It was a serious contender for the happiest afternoon I’ve ever had.

Steak Plate

With all my experimenting, I think I’ve cracked the family sauce, too – so here’s my recipe for the perfect Japanese wafu steak.

The Perfect Wafu-Style Steak
 
This is the sauce my grandfather used to make me when I would return to Japan in the summers. With all my experimenting, I think I’ve cracked the family sauce– so here’s my recipe for the perfect Japanese wafu steak.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Japanese
Serves: 2 Steaks
Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons of soy or tamari sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of sake
  • 2 tablespoons of mirin
Instructions
  1. Drain off the excess fat from the frying pan used for the steaks, and discard.
  2. Heat the sesame oil in the pan on a medium heat, gently scraping the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add the slivers of sliced garlic to the pan, and once browned, take them off of the heat.
  4. Place the garlic pieces on some kitchen paper, and add the sake and mirin.
  5. Stir constantly until the alcohol in the sake has been cooked off, before adding the soy sauce.
  6. Once the soy sauce has been added, turn off the heat but keep the pan on the hob and stir.
  7. Sprinkle the garlic pieces over the meat, and ladle the sauce over.
  8. Serve the steak cubed, with a side of sesame seed coated spinach, plain rice and miso soup.
I loved my courses at Leiths, and will definitely be looking into doing some more in the future!

5 Stars (5 / 5)

Have you done any courses at Leiths? What was your experience? Be sure to comment below, and be sure to follow me onTwitter, Facebook and Instagram!

Kurobuta, Marble Arch

I’d wanted to go to Kurobuta for a while – it’s been one of those places I constantly get as a recommendation, as in “oh, you’re Japanese? Have you been to Kurobuta?”

I booked a table for two ahead of time on the Zomato app. They were fully booked from 7pm, but we managed to get a 6.45 table at the Marble Arch branch. Curiously, it didn’t really fill up until about 7.30, so not sure what that was all about, but by the time we left the place was pretty packed so it’d be best to book to avoid disappointment.

Kurobuta, Marble Arch

I ordered what is now my new favourite cocktail on the recommendation of my enthusiastic waiter, the Green Bastard. (The cocktail, that is, not the server). It had all of my favourite things in a glass – Hendrick’s gin, midori, cucumber and lime – tart, refreshing and perfectly amazuppai – the Japanese word to describe something that’s both sweet and sour (but in the best way possible).

Kurobuta attempts a Western twist on the classic Japanese izakaya, and the theme is consistent throughout – from the atmosphere and decor to the dishes and menu itself.

In traditional izakaya style, Kurobuta offers a wide selection of small, tapas style plates, ideal to eat family-style – my favourite way of eating anything. Ordering at Kurobuta presented more of a challenge than usual, as everything is so appetising – and the combinations so unusual.

After much debate (the waiter had to come and go a few times) we settled on six dishes between the two of us, as well as a few bottles of Asahi black for the mister. Couldn’t get much more out of him on the subject beyond “it’s beer”, but the Asahi black is a dark lager beer – if you’re a fan of Guinness then this is worth tasting.

Kurobuta Pork Scratchings

The first dishes to arrive where the porky scratchings with yuzu kosho dip. Pork scratchings isn’t something I’d ever end up buying in a shop, or attempt at home, but every time it’s on the menu I inevitably end up ordering it (with no regrets). Duck and Waffle do great ones in my opinion (okay, okay, they’re pigs ears if you’re being picky about it), but the Kurobuta ones are in a league of their own. The light crispness is reminiscent of tempura batter, but the way it melts pleasingly on the tongue, along with the distinctively porky aftertaste confirms that it is not. If I come back as a pig in my next life, then this is the fate I would hope for – to end up as these porky scratchings. Served with a yuzu kosho dip, these aren’t overly sickly either, and felt relatively guilt-free – though make no mistake, these most definitely are not!

Kurobuta Jersualem Artichoke Chopsticks

The porky scratchings were shortly followed by Jerusalem artichoke chopsticks, served with a truffle ponzu dip. I don’t know how they managed to squeeze so many of my favourite things into one dish, and once it arrived I was even more delighted to find that the artichokes had been shaped into attractive chopstick shapes and deep-fried. These were beautiful, although I must admit I much preferred the yuzu kosho dip from the porky scratchings, and found myself dipping these into that sauce instead.

Kurobuta Miso-glazed hot wings

The next dishes followed in quick succession: yellowtail sashimi with kizami wasabi salsa and yuzu soy, miso grilled hot wings, wagyu beef sliders and a spicy tuna maki rolled in tempura crunchies. The yellowtail was seasoned nicely, although the slivers of sashimi weren’t particularly generous, nor was it the best quality yellowtail I’ve ever had, but was artfully presented and pleasantly piquant.

Spicy Tuna Maki Kurobuta

The flavours and texture of the spicy tuna maki was really pleasing, although I couldn’t help but wish the spicy sauce (sriracha, I’m assuming) was integrated within the roll instead of spread liberally on top. That being said, I really enjoy this fusion trend of coating the outside of the maki in tempura batter – I love the flavour and texture combination of the buttery batter next to the cool flesh.

Kurobuta Miso-glazed hot wings

The wagyu beef sliders and the miso grilled hot wings were clearly the more masculine choices, and while tasty I couldn’t say I’d order them again. The wings were the perfect balance of smoky and spicy, while the miso glaze gave the dish a bit more depth – but it wasn’t anything particularly spectacular.

Kurobuta Wagyu Beef Sliders

The Wagyu beef sliders had been the source of much excitement all week. The mister was unbelievably excited about what the menu promised as a steamed bun, served with crunchy onion, pickled cucumber and umami mayo. What arrived fell far short of spectacular, and if we go again we’d spend the £20 on some of the more Japanese offerings instead.

For dessert, we both went for the yuzu and coconut mochi ice cream, which is always a winner.

Kurobuta Mochi Ice Cream

Kurobuta was a fun dining experience. In my opinion, the Western twist on Japanese dishes outdid the Japanese twists on Western classics, but I would definitely go again with close friends and family.

Including a side of rice and drinks, Kurobuta set us back £120 including service.

Kurobuta is located at 17-20 Kendal Street, Marble Arch, London W2 2AW, with another branch in Chelsea.

3.75 Stars (3.75 / 5)

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