Here are my gluten-free restaurant reviews – mostly in London, but anywhere that I find absolutely delicious. Any meals that have been comp’ed have been specified – and I always give my honest opinion – there’s nothing worse than a shoddy meal!

RA Blogger Preview Event | Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album and Le Relais de Venise Entrecote

This week has been one of the busiest and most exciting I’ve had in a while. I attended my first two blogger events, the second of which was a blogger’s viewing event at the Royal Academy of Arts for their new exhibition – Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album. Dennis Hopper is better known for his cinematic work, in Rebel without a Cause (1955), Blue Velvet (1989) and Easy Rider (1969). He was also a keen photographer, and The Lost Album presents photographs he took between 1961 and 1967 in America.

Dennis Hopper Irving Blum and Peggy Moffitt, 1964 Photograph, 16.69 x 24.92 cm The Hopper Art Trust © Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust.

Dennis Hopper
Irving Blum and Peggy Moffitt, 1964
Photograph, 16.69 x 24.92 cm
The Hopper Art Trust
© Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust.

Dennis Hopper Andy Warhol, Henry Geldzahler, David Hockney and Jeff Goodman, 1963 Photograph, 17.25 x 24.74 cm The Hopper Art Trust © Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust.

Dennis Hopper
Andy Warhol, Henry Geldzahler, David Hockney and Jeff Goodman, 1963
Photograph, 17.25 x 24.74 cm
The Hopper Art Trust
© Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust.

As a child of the 90s, this event and the exhibition really made clear to me what a confusing, frightening and exciting times the 60s were. Through the lens of Dennis Hopper, all the different aspects of the 60’s we are all familiar with came together for me. In the Lost Album you see the decade in all its glamour, with portraits of models, artists and actors like Paul Newman, Andy Warhol and Jane Fonda, as well as struggle, which you can see in the photographs he took at the height of the American Civil Rights Movement. It took all the events that I had only understood previously as these discrete events or moments of history and visually presented them to us within the context of the time. As a former anthropology student I was far more fascinated in these images, of people during the civil rights movement and of the artists then I was at some of the photographs later on in the exhibit.

Dennis Hopper Jane Fonda and Roger Vadim at Their Wedding in Las Vegas, 1965 Photograph, 17.02 x 24.87 cm The Hopper Art Trust © Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust.

Dennis Hopper
Jane Fonda and Roger Vadim at Their Wedding in Las Vegas, 1965
Photograph, 17.02 x 24.87 cm
The Hopper Art Trust
© Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust.

Dennis Hopper Untitled (Blue Chip Stamps), 1961-67 Photograph, 24.97 x 17.12 cm The Hopper Art Trust © Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust.

Dennis Hopper
Untitled (Blue Chip Stamps), 1961-67
Photograph, 24.97 x 17.12 cm
The Hopper Art Trust
© Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust.

Aside from the dramatic and moving photos of these events the photograph that really drove it home for me was a picture of Roy Lichtenstein in front of one of his pieces. When I was in high school in New York, I lived in a group of apartment buildings connected to a plaza by the river, which had a couple of diners and cafes attached to it. We used to hang around there and eat onion bagels coated with butter on our lunchbreaks at the diner, which was decorated with large scale Lichtenstein imitations on the walls – the whole place was yellow and red and it just seemed so tacky, loud and almost pedestrian. I hated it. But in the Lost Album, seeing Lichtenstein sitting in front of his work, and in the context of the whole exhibition it was so incredible to see how fresh and new his work was in its time.

Dennis Hopper Double Standard, 1961 Photograph, 17.45 x 24.87 cm The Hopper Art Trust © Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust.

Dennis Hopper
Double Standard, 1961
Photograph, 17.45 x 24.87 cm
The Hopper Art Trust
© Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust.

The exhibition took place in the Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington Gardens in Piccadilly. We arrived a little early so we got a glass of wine before we went in to the bloggers preview area. The cocktails for the event (a deliciously summery fruit mojito) were provided by the Atelier cafe, in the lobby of the Royal Academy. The cafe is gorgeous, and looks like how I’d like my kitchen to look – I’ll definitely be back for a spot of lunch!

Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album Royal Academy Dennis Hopper Royal Academy Wine Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album 2014-06-27 13.49.14 Atelier Royal Academy Royal Academy Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album

Wine Atelier mojito

After the event, I took Mr A to somewhere I’d wanted to take him for a long time – Le Relais de Venise Entrecote. I almost don’t even want to write about this place as I don’t want more people to go! Le Relais de Venise have several branches internationally, in New York, Manchester and France. We arrived around 8.30 on a Friday night, and waited 45 minutes to get in – they don’t take reservations, but boy is it worth it.

Le Relais de Venise

Le Relais de Venise only has one item on the menu – so if you are a vegetarian or not a fan of steak then this place isn’t for you. The first item that arrives is a gorgeous walnut salad with a lemon-y dressing with some french bread. It is absolutely divine, and a lot more exciting than it might sound!

Walnut salad le relais de venise

The main is a gorgeous steak cooked to your liking – blue, red right up to well done. A fan of all things raw I took mine blue, and it just melts in your mouth. It comes with a side of fries and coated in the most incredible sauce. The first time I went to Le Relais de Venise a colleague of mine claimed he wanted to bathe in it, it’s that good. It’s almost a curry like flavour to it, but it’s creamy and delicious and a well-guarded secret. A few years ago a French newspaper claimed they had cracked the sauce, which they claim contains chicken livers so I’ll have to try it out for myself soon!

le relais de venise

We washed it down with a bottle of their house red, and the waitress came by again with seconds after we had cleared our plates. It was absolutely divine – I only wish they’d open up a branch in Muswell Hill! At this point I was so full and an incredibly happy girl, but Mr. A wanted to got a tarte au citron after all that queuing which was also delicious.

tarte au citron It was also lovely to see the lovely lady behind the Wonderlusting blog at the RA bloggers event, who I had met at the BGO blogger meetup event the night before, which I’ll be covering in my next post!

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Atariya sushi bar, Swiss Cottage

On Friday, Mr. A and I went out for dinner to celebrate. With a massive craving for toro we decided to go to Atariya, in Swiss Cottage. I’ve been familiar with Atariya in the past, as they have several Japanese supermarkets dotted around London, which I frequent to stock up on all my Japanese condiments and supplies. The Atariya group also supplies restaurants with their sashimi so I knew that at the very least, their sushi bar would have the freshest produce.Atariya swiss cottage

I had really worked myself up all day on Friday, getting overly excited for all the uni (sea urchin) and toro I was going to eat that night. Toro is the fatty part of the tuna, and it’s buttery texture and flavour makes it highly sought after (and rather pricey). Toro, in my opinion, is even better than the juiciest, rarest steak – and there is little else I like more than a good steak.

So I was absolutely gutted when the waitress told me that they had run out of toro and uni for the day. Luckily, Atariya sushi bar impressed me enough to give it a good review – I was able to (somehow) overcome my devastation.

All the fish was amazingly fresh, and perfectly prepared – the sushi rice still slightly warm, at the perfect temperature, and everything was absolutely divine. Of course, I already knew that – the second I walked in, I could see that the restaurant was full of Japanese people, which is always a good sign, and surprisingly quite a rare sight to see in London.

atariya swiss cottage

Japanese businessmen, always a sign of a good sushi bar.

seaweed salad

Seaweed saladeel Eel

black cod rolls

Black cod rolls

salmon nigiri

Salmon nigiri

atariya sushi

Clockwise: natto (fermented soybean) rolls, spicy tuna rolls, salmon avocado rolls.

takoyakiThey did amazing takoyaki – fried and battered octopus, covered in sauce and mayonnaise resting on a bed of cabbage.

We had our meal with a bottle of red, and sampled some of their desserts. I had matcha and vanilla flavoured mochi ice cream (sticky rice cakes filled with ice cream), while Mr. A tried the red bean (azuki) ice cream.Mochi ice cream

I was particularly fond of the black cod rolls and the spicy tuna. We also had several plates of karage (Japanese fried chicken) and several dishes that we were absolutely stuffed by the end of it. Atariya was quite reasonable when you consider the quality of the ingredients, and I couldn’t find fault with any of the dishes. It’s quite an informal atmosphere, so while I was quite dressed up there’s really no need to be! For a delicious, simple and traditional Japanese dining experience in London you can’t get much better than Atariya. I’ll definitely be back – to sample their toro and uni, this time!

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Fatal Attraction to Shoryu Ramen

It was one of those unbelievably beautiful London days that it seemed almost a shame to be going inside last Saturday. But my sister and I, both nursing hangovers were pretty happy to be doing so, especially as we had managed to snag an unbelievably good deal. For a tenner each we’d managed to get some amazing seats to the West End production of Fatal Attraction at Theatre Royal Haymarket. As children of the 90s we were both really excited to see Kristin Davis (Charlotte York from Sex and the City) play Beth Gallagher in Fatal Attraction, based on the film of the same name. Londontheatre royal haymarket

But first, we had to eat – and as we were pressed for time (we went to the 2:30 show) we wanted something quick and delicious. Luckily, Shoryu ramen which we have been multiple times was just around the corner, so we popped in for a Shoryu Ganso tonkotsu ramen.Shoryutonkotsu ganso ramenshoryu tonkotsu ramen

If you are up for authentic, quick and tasty ramen then Shoryu is definitely worth popping into. The broth and noodles are delicious, and the pork and egg perfectly done, with a little runny in the middle. I washed mine down with oolong tea, and we were in and out within half an hour. Back in Japan, the best ramen places are always the dingy ones that truck drivers frequent – and is meant to be eaten fairly quickly as the noodles can get ‘long’, or soggy. If you are up for a long, leisurely feast of Japanese cuisine then I wouldn’t recommend the fast-paced and bustling Shoryu for you. As a pre-theatre lunch it was perfect, and we managed to get back in our seats with plenty of time.shoryushoryu

The show itself was really great – Natascha McElhone was hard to keep your eyes off of, she had great presence and is one of those people who looks even more stunning in real life than in films or photos. Kristin Davis and Natascha McElhone both stole the show, and the ending was different to the hollywood version, something the screenwriter had originally wanted to explore before the movie execs got involved. It was darker, which I liked and was such a good day out.Fatal Attraction

We decided to keep chatting about the play over bubble tea at Boba Jam. Bubble tea is quite an acquired taste – sweet milky tea with giant balls of tapioca floating at the bottom isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (haha!) but it was a great way to end a lovely afternoon.bubble tea


Dim Sum at the Dorchester

A few weeks ago I got a severe craving for soup dumplings, or xiaolongbao. I was a woman possessed – those broth filled dumplings dominated my every thought and for a few days, I could talk about little else. Back in New York I used to go to New Green Bo, (now named Nice Green Bo) for a plate of those delicious, succulent parcels of heaven, but I had yet to find anywhere in London to get my fix. Mr A finally succumbed to my incessant whining his curiosity and decided he had to try them for himself. And so we ended up going for dim sum at the Dorchester (lucky me).photo 5photo 2Afternoon tea at the Dorchester might be the most quintessentially English thing you could ever do. Until Mr. A sent over the website I had no idea that they also offer Dim Sum at their restaurant, China Tang. Always one for dumplings over scones, I was giddy with excitement.

photo photo 5 copyOnce you pass through the rather grand lobby, you go downstairs to a gorgeous bar where the atmosphere is quite different altogether.

photo 4photo 4 copyphoto 2 copyphoto 1 copy 3photo 1 copyphoto 1 copy 2 photo 2 copy 2We settled in, ordered a bottle of South African red and asked for the Dim Sum menu. The room was beautiful, and the atmosphere lovely – perfect for a date. I can’t say I behaved particularly well though, as I interrupted mid-conversation to ask if we could order. I think with all the dim sum flying around I was a bit overly excited…

photo 1 copy 4We ordered our dishes in waves, starting with, of course, soup dumplings (or Shanghai pork dumplings on the menu). We really enjoyed most of the dishes – the Shanghai fried dumplings, Siu Mai, beef dumplings and roast pork buns perfectly made. One dish we didn’t enjoy was the BBQ Pork Cannelloni (not pictured) – it looked as grim as it tasted, and in hindsight it sounded horrible so what were we thinking!?

photo 5 copy 3photo 4 copy 3 photo 3 copyphoto 1 copy 5 photo 2 copy 5 photo 2 copy 3The xiaolongbao arrived, and as I opened the lid on the basket Mr. A seemed disappointed. After all my fuss I think he was expecting something spectacular – and to be honest so was I. In New York you could get an order of 8 massive soup dumplings for $4.25 – these dumplings were about a quarter of the size for twice the price. Although tasty, they had nothing on their New York equivalent!

Dim SumDespite this, I had such a lovely time at China Tang. The room is lovely, and the interesting paintings on the wall gave us so much to talk about. Dim Sum is always perfect for a date as sharing meals family style is always so much more fun! Be prepared to flash the cash though – although I was treated to this lovely meal I know it must have set Mr.A back a pretty penny.  And although the other dishes were delicious, my hunt for the perfect soup dumplings in London continues…

photo 1

China Tang at the Dorchester is located on 53 Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1K 1QA.

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Restaurant Review: Sushi Mania, Golders Green

I’ve found it close to impossible to find affordable, tasty and good quality sushi in London. Having grown up in New York and Tokyo, where it’s so easy to get nice sushi I’ve found that it’s one of the only downsides to living here (that, and the fact that the tube doesn’t run all night). I’m usually pretty open to fusion cuisines, but I can’t stomach the ‘Western’ twists places like Yo! Sushi or itsu do – sushi doesn’t need cream cheese or mayonnaise, and miso soup definitely doesn’t need sugar, in my opinion!

Which is why when a friend told me about Sushi Mania in Golders Green I was sceptical. All you can eat sushi for £15? Considering the only place I’d had nice sushi in London up until this point was Matsuri St. James, which is incredible, but not cheap, my guard was definitely up. But I love being proved wrong, and Sushi Mania definitely exceeded my expectations. It’s definitely worth booking ahead, and going early as this place gets pretty packed! sushi mania

We were one of the first customers at half six, but the place was fully packed by the time our first dishes arrived.

photo 2 Sushi Maniaphoto 3

When you book, you are given a timeframe – around an hour and forty five minutes for your table, so it’s good to arrive promptly. Sushi Mania offers an ‘all you can eat’ menu for £15.80. Usually, all you can eat places are buffet style, which I’m not a fan of. But at Sushi Mania you are given a menu, where you can mark off six dishes at a time. Once you’ve finished six dishes, you can order six more items off of the menu, as many times as you want. There are no restrictions on how many you can order, but some dishes do have supplementary charges. There is one catch though – any wasted or unfinished dishes are charged extra, and you can’t take any leftovers home, so it’s good to pace yourself!

photo 4

Mr. A and I usually make it three rounds before we are ready to explode. It is delicious though – all the fish is fresh, and the selection is great! You can get sushi, katsu curry, and even more traditional items like nasu dengaku, which Mr. A had here for the first time. It’s an aubergine dish roasted with miso sauce and they do it really well at Sushi Mania.Sushi maniaSalmon avocado temaki (handroll)

photo 2 copy 2Nasu dengaku

photo 3 copy 2Agedashi tofu (deep fried tofu)

photo 3 copySalmon and tuna avocado rolls
photo 4 copyGyoza

With service and soft drinks (I had a pot of green tea), the meal set us back £35 for the two of us. Considering the quality and the amount of food we had, I think it’s the best value f or money for sushi in London by far! Another ex-pat New Yorker also mentioned that this place having the best sushi in London – so between the two of us – the fussy New Yorker and the picky Japanese girl this place gets our seal of approval.

Sushi Mania is located at 130 Golders Green Road, London, NW11 8HB.

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