Thursday, 31 March 2011

Pastries & Cakes, Greedy Diva Happy Snaps #3

Check out these beautiful French and Danish pastries from Melbourne baker, Aviv Cakes & Bagels.
Their cappuccino roll and Ferguson Plarre Bakehouse's orange roughy cake are also delicious for a gorgeous afternoon tea at home. How very civilised. See, we don't just do barbies Down Under! Thanks Mama Diva.

Aviv Cakes & Bagels on Urbanspoon

Ferguson Plarre Bakehouse on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Spuntino, Soho

I've been waiting patiently for Spuntino to open in Soho for months. I watched the blue Indian restaurant move on, I watched the boards go up, and I watched the workmen move in. Then I leave London for 2 and a bit weeks, and it opens.

The bloggers have been at it already, so you don't need all the details. But just in case you haven't heard, Spuntino is the 3rd restaurant in the line of gems brought to us by Russell Norman, the man behind Polpo and Polpetto.

They all have a related look and feel - brickwork, exposed lighting, industrial type fittings. But Spuntino is more rock n roll. It has a totally cool view over the neon signs and street scenes of Soho's red light district, features a New Yorkish/American inspired menu and is now the closest one to my front door which means its become my new stop out for a negroni before beef sliders and shoe string fries.

Sliders and beet salad

It's tiny, with seats largely limited to those around the bar meaning its best to go in 2's or 3's only (although there is a table in a small enclave at the back of the room for a larger group). We arrived at 7pm to find the seats already full, but half way through the first negroni we were seated (perhaps be optimistic if they tell you there's a one hour wait) and were ordering up from a wide selection of reasonably priced small plates.

Oooh baby - the mac 'n cheese

DO NOT miss the beef and marrow sliders, juicy and rich little balls of fun presented like tiny hamburgers. Fabulous. The lamb and pickle cucumber sliders are also good, as is a decent sized (even if a tad too salty) beet and ricotta salad. The mac and cheese is a cheesy powerhouse, and while it might clog up your arteries, if you're up for some serious comfort food, I've never liked a mac and cheese more. It's crispy on top and oozing with leeks, mozzarella, fontina and parmesan. Yeehaah.


The zucchini pizzetta is simple but pretty much perfect - thin and crispy with chili, mint and a lovely mild cheese.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich

The peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dessert is also fun - a lovely jam is sandwiched between 2 wedges of peanut butter ice-cream, sprinkled with crushed sugary peanuts. I wasn't sure about it at first, but it grew on me.

We paid £65 for 2 including service, martinis (don't be fooled by the size people - they're potent), negronis and a glass of delicious Nero D'Avola (yes, they do the wine in tumbers thing which some of you don't like, but I think it works here).

Spuntino is not gourmet and it's not perfect. But both food and atmosphere are bloody good fun - I love Spuntino already.

Spuntino, 61 Rupert St, Soho, W1D 7PN (No reservations)

You can see my earlier reviews of Polpo and Polpetto here - both made my Top 10 London Restaurants 2010 list for Toptable.

PS. If you ever read this Spuntino, can we please have hooks for handbags under the bar? Ta.

Spuntino on Urbanspoon

Friday, 25 March 2011

Proud Mary, Collingwood - Australia (Greedy Diva's Gluttonous Travels)

Avocado on toast - oh yeah

I've been completely out of the online loop. Beaching rather than blogging, Twisties over Tweets. More specifically, I've been on holiday in Australia, soaking up the warm weather and an endless supply of flat whites good enough to bring a tear to the eye.

It is, apparently, impossible to have a bad coffee in Melbourne now. I can't believe how easy it is, even in the most random, untrendy, tucked away neighbourhood place, to order a coffee and be blown away by the fact that they actually know how to make one good enough to make you weep. The cafe culture is thriving. People are smiling. The waitresses are friendly. Melbourne is a coffee mecca.

One of my favourite coffee and brunch places from this most recent trip is housed in what looks like a converted factory in the back streets of Collingwood - Proud Mary.

Avocado and corn chilli salsa on toast had me at hello. A whole avocado is mushed and piled onto a thick wedge of toast with grilled chunks of corn fresh from the cob, sweet roasted tomatoes and a spicy chilli salsa with a splash of lime. It's huge, it's fabulous.

Ricotta hotcakes

Ricotta hotcakes with poached pear and vanilla ice cream are good enough to snuggle up to. TPG informs me that the potato hash will make me want to move in.

And then there's the coffee. Aaah, the coffee. It's rich, it's smooth, it's comforting, it's joyous. Perfect. They do a range of whizz bang coffee stuff like siphoned coffee and have both a Synesso and Clover coffee machines and high end teas. But give me my flat white and avo on toast in a seat by the window, and let me sit back and worship Melbourne in all its glory. I can feel a surge of proud patriotism pumping through my blood with every sip. We may not have won the cricket, but we know how to make a coffee.

Proud Mary, 170 Oxford Street, Collingwood, Australia, Phone: (613) 9417 5930

Proud Mary on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Greedy Diva: Out of Office

The flat white at Proud Mary, GD's new spiritual home

Greedy Diva is out of the office.

She is currently gorging in a mad-capped, flat white drinking frenzy in Melbourne. You may reach her in one of the 15 million amazingly good cafes which seem to have sprung up over Melbourne in the past 2 years, possibly drowning under the weight of the avocado and corn chilli salsa toast at Proud Mary. Or the ricotta hotcakes. Alternatively, try anywhere selling large bowls of seafood pasta by the beach or fabulous, fresh and zingy Thai food. The blog will have to wait - it's sunny outside.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Trullo, Islington

Penne with pork, tomato and chilli ragu

In Puglia, in southern Italy, you can drive though fields of little white smurf-like huts with conical roofs, called trulli (singular: trullo). These traditional stone huts are specific to the Valle D'Itria in Puglia, and they're an amazing sight, in a fantastic part of the world. Even if you are constantly on the look out for Papa Smurf.

Pappardelle with beef shin ragu

I used to think of them every time I heard rave reports about a new(ish) neighborhood Italian restaurant in Islington, called Trullo. Now, however, whenever I hear about Puglia's trulli, I am more likely to think about the dense and delicately sweet pork penne at Trullo. Or the rich, silky beef ragout with ravishing ribbons of toothsomely al dente pappardelle. Or the big, flavour packed lamb chop straight from the charcoal grill with cannellini beans and Turkish pepper. Or even the good o'l juicy pork chop with a mustardy potato salad. The creamy caramel pannacotta was the best I've eaten anywhere (and I think TPG's in love).

Pork chop with ratte potato salad and Dijon mustard dressing

Barnsley lamb chop with cannellini beans and Turkish pepper

Trullo has instantly become a challenger for my favourite restaurant in London. It's everything a good restaurant should be - stylish but simple, uncluttered decor that makes you unafraid to spill a bit of ragout, good, efficient, knowledgable service, fun atmosphere and absolutely terrific, flavourful, simple Italian food.

Caramel pannacotta

You should not have to re-mortgage your house to get all this, and at Trullo you don't. The prices are some of the most reasonable I've seen lately, certainly for this quality (about £7.50 for an entree of pasta, £17.50 for the lamb chop). The pasta dishes are divine - I would consider having one for entree and one for my main course next time (the man at the next table had 2 bowls at once, and I like his thinking).

The Italian wine list is also excellent, and very fairly priced - you can even buy by the carafe.

The menu offers about 5 options per course and changes daily. If I lived in Islington, I'd be trying it every day. Book ahead.

Trullo, 300-302 St Paul's Road, Islington, London, N1 2LH (Tel:  020 7226 2733)

Trullo on Urbanspoon

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