L’Eto Caffé

L’Eto Caffé is a beautiful little café situated next door to Hummingbird Bakery on Wardour Street in Soho with the most fabulous window display of cakes and desserts that you can feast yours eyes on.  I discovered it during my months as an intern at a busy PR office in Soho where I indulged in their Honey Cake on a regular basis when cake felt like the only option for survival!  However, I had a meeting with my personal tutor from university, having recently finished, to discuss the future, and I decided that one of L’Eto Caffé’s fabulous-looking cakes would be the perfect present to say thank you for all the help I had received throughout my time at university.  Therefore, I chose a decadent Chocolate Cinnamon Cake that stood tall in the café window.  After all, who doesn’t love a good chocolate cake, and one with a cinnamon twist at that?!

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Unfortunately, it did turn into the leaning tower of cake after fighting my way through the bustling crowds of Oxford Street, but it most certainly did not affect the taste.  The sponge was rich and moist, and the chocolate was deliciously decadent.  Each mouthful was a chocolate, heavenly dream.  This was made even better by the chocolate and cinnamon cream that sandwiched the chocolate layers together.  I would honestly class this as the best chocolate cake I have ever had the pleasure of putting in my very welcoming mouth!  It looks the part and tastes the part, and you can not ask for much more than that!

If you happen to be in the area, or fancy a coffee date with a special twist, I would thoroughly recommend L’Eto Caffé to fulfil your sweet cake cravings any day.  Their cakes are wonderful and the service is warm and friendly.  A visit to L’Eto Caffé could never leave you disappointed.

Bake-a-Boo

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 21st birthday party of one of my best friends, Emma, at Bake-a-Boo in West Hampstead.  I was really excited about visiting this small ‘bake shop, tea room & party parlour’, as it comes highly recommended in a lot of reviews, but somehow it had managed to escape my cupcake radar!

From the second we stepped through the door, it was obvious why Bake-a-Boo has received constant praise from everyone who has set foot in this beautiful, homely tea room.  They truly go above and beyond with their afternoon tea bookings.  Not only did they dedicate the whole back room to this wonderful celebration so that it was like our own private tea party, they truly went to such an amazing effort to make it the cutest and most beautiful surprise a girl could wish for; Emma was absolutely delighted when she saw her beautifully decorated birthday room.  There was multi-coloured bunting, happy birthday banners, and party hats galore.  And don’t even get me started on the dressing up box and all its glamorous feather bowers that were waiting to be draped round our necks!

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The cuteness didn’t just end there.  Every aspect of the afternoon tea was dedicated to personal touches.  There was a little box for all the guests to place birthday wishes in, party bags full of sweets with little ‘E’ for Emma stickers holding them together, and the most adorable pink vanilla cupcakes with personalised ’21’ and ‘Emma’ flags poking out of the top!

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There was an absolute abundance of food too!  There were loads of little finger sandwiches packed with lots of different fillings, beautiful warm scones with mounds of jam and clotted cream served in heart shape dishes, thick slices of home made shortbread that were covered in icing sugar, indulgent mini brownie squares, sweet strawberries dipped in chocolate, multi coloured flying saucers, and, of course, cakes with candles for the birthday girl to blow out!

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I definitely filled up on all the goodies!  The scones were absolutely beautiful and could simply be pulled apart to be piled high with jam and clotted cream; the shortbread was sweet and crumbly; the dark chocolate brownies were heavenly indulgent; and the strawberries were wonderfully fresh and juicy, with a thick coating of chocolate that left us all picking at them even when we were full!

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I also adored the vintage mismatched crockery, and their tea selection was commendable.  I went for a fruity strawberry and kiwi tea to match the hot summer weather!  It was absolutely delightful and I’m pretty sure I drank nearly a whole teapot’s worth to myself!

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Overall, this was a fabulous tea party, which was thoroughly thought out and is completely worth the trip out of central London to West Hampstead!  Not a single complaint can be made about this afternoon tea, as it was carried out to absolute perfection.  We had a wonderful time and I would not hesitate to recommend this place to anyone who was looking for something special for an upcoming celebration.

Happy Birthday Emma!  I hope you had a lovely day!

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Le Déjeuner á Balthazar Boulangerie

Clearly, when it comes to writing about authentic French cafés in the heart of London, my GCSE French comes in rather handy (for once)!  Not that I can say much more than ‘Lunch at Balthazar Boulangerie’… But no one needs to know that!

I have to admit that Paris is one of my favourite European cities, and the one that I have visited the most considering it’s a short train ride away from London.  Somehow it manages to keep so much charm and French amour, despite the hoards of tourists that are constantly flocking to this beautiful, romantic city.  For me, part of the beauty and romance of the French capital are its small, cramped, simplistic wooden cafés and restaurants that are crammed into the backstreets, with menus that even Google Translate can barely help me with.  However, I jump for joy when I spot one with fresh sandwiches and cakes piled high on display, assembled to highlight an array of colourful meats, salads, and pastries, so I couldn’t be happier to find that Balthazar Boulangerie has captured my favourite part of Paris right on my doorstep!

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The choice was phenomenal, as every sandwich was bursting with a rainbow of fresh ingredients and the salads stood out vibrantly.  Eventually, my mum and I decided to share a sandwich and two salads.  And at the end of it all, we decided that we couldn’t resist a cheeky dessert to finish off the whole experience!  Truth be told, we’d been oohing and ahhing over the sugar-filled treats long before choosing our savoury ‘main’!

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We started our Parisian taste trip with a lovely salami, mozzarella and salad-filled sandwich on paysan (potato and onion) bread.  The flavours were a beautiful combination, and the bread was so light and fluffy, with a bit of a chewy crunch on the outside.  It was quite possibly the best sandwich I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying in London.

The service was absolutely impeccable too.  Having told them that we were going to share the sandwich, they served it cut in half for us both to enjoy without having to battle with the cutting it in half ourselves.  You would be shocked at how many cafés and restaurants have served us things to share without extra cutlery, plates, or splitting it prior to serving.  Balthazar is one of those places that you instantly feel relaxed as the staff are so friendly and helpful and are actually good at their job!

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Usually I can give or take a salad, but these salads were to die for and I will definitely be returning for these time and time again!  The salad on the left consisted of gorgeous maple-roasted tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, pine nuts, lentils and caramelised onions.  Despite watching the mass of tourists, huddling under umbrellas and hoarding into Covent Garden on a typical London day in the season of April showers, the European and Mediterranean feel of the flavours and ingredients allowed your thoughts to wander to those days of summer, lounging by the swimming pool, basking in the hot, hot rays of the sun and enjoying the freshest and most delicious salads on your sun bed.  However, my favourite was the salad on the right: chickpea and cucumber salad with currants, mint, mixed spices, and Greek yoghurt.  It was the coronation chicken of salads, but with chickpeas instead of chicken!  The dressing was absolutely wonderful with the slight curry flavour sweetened dramatically with the tiny currants that made their way into every mouthful.  I literally could have eaten this all day!

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I then washed the whole thing down with a powerfully refreshing home made ginger ice tea.  It was fantastically fiery and sweet all at the same time.  I would definitely recommend one of these, especially if you’re feeling a bit bunged up; it most certainly ‘blows away the cobwebs’ as my dad would say!

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And to finish it all off we chose to indulge in a wonderful strawberries and cream choux pastry.  I have actually attempted to make choux pastry swans in the rather recent past, and I think my attempt (if it can even be called that) really allowed me to appreciate every little bite of this marvellous treat!  The pastry was crisp and light, and the gloriously sweet cream, combined with the freshest of strawberries really allowed the flavours of this beautiful treat to prevail.  I doubt I’ll be able to walk past Balthazar in the future without popping in to see what lovely French treats are on display for me to enjoy!

Brilliant Bill’s

Everybody I know has been raving about Bill’s, a small chain that has grown over recent years to become a foodie favourite.  I first heard about it from my best friend, who enjoyed her first experience at the new Bristol branch about 6 months ago.  Then one of my friends in London mentioned that she really wanted to try their afternoon tea, as she’d been told about their delectable homemade jam.  Having heard great reviews, I was hardly going to turn her down!

Unfortunately, my first experience at Bill’s did not quite meet my expectations, as the staff at the Covent Garden (St Martin’s Courtyard) restaurant were rather rude and abrupt when dealing with our complaint that our afternoon teas had been apportioned unequally across the two stands that six of us were told to share from.  Aside from the unpleasant service, the food was rather good, with an excellent variety of sandwiches; warm scones, clotted cream, and fresh jam; chocolate cake, strawberry and cream tarts, lemon meringue pies, and flapjacks, especially when you consider the bargain price of £9.95.  If there is one thing that Bill’s cannot be praised enough for, it is their dedication to providing good food at excellent prices.

Luckily, Bill’s in Bristol saved the day with their impeccable and friendly customer service, whilst still managing to serve great food, exactly as expected from all the wonderful things I had heard about this restaurant.  Whilst my best friend tucked into her burger, I started on dish one of five: hot cross buns with a whipped cinnamon butter.

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As it is coming up to Easter, I decided to treat myself to a traditional holiday indulgence.  I was automatically drawn to this dish on Bill’s menu, as I have always loved hot cross buns, but have never seen them served with a cinnamon butter.  I have to admit the flavours in this butter were a great addition to these warm, toasted, fruity hot cross buns; it was almost like a sweet, melted peanut butter.  These would make the perfect Easter treat in between shopping for Easter eggs!  (Plus, Bill’s have some extremely colourful chicken shaped ‘eggs’ for you to pick up on your way out if you’re much more interested in the easy life like me!)

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Next up were these beautifully fresh mini cinnamon doughnuts, with sweet strawberries and a pot of hot melted chocolate sauce, all served on a cute, rustic wooden board, with an elegantly designed greaseproof paper.  These were literally bite-size pieces of heaven.  Soft, warm, and sugary, there was no mistaking how fresh and wonderful these mini doughnuts were, and the chocolate sauce just completed the whole package.

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My favourite dish was the pecan pie accompanied by banana ice cream.  I find that pecan pie is one of those desserts that feature so infrequently on restaurant menus that I get insanely excited when they do eventually pop up!  Pecan pie was my favourite dessert growing up, until Marks & Spencer discontinued my one true love and created a pecan pudding shaped hole in my life, and I have spent those long, empty years trying to find the perfect pecan pie to fill that void.  Tonight, I may have finally found a winner! This pecan pie was everything that it should be: soft, sweet, gooey, with so much pecan goodness you could weep with joy.  I literally couldn’t be happier right now!

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I followed up the pecan pie with what I assumed was going to be my favourite pudding of the evening (as normally the pecan pie is a complete disappointment and everyone knows I am a MASSIVE fan of jaffa cakes)!  However, I was shocked that I was quite happy to leave half of this pudding due to the fact that I did not fall head-over-heels in love with it.  It certainly had all of the right components to make a jaffa cake: an indulgent chocolatey coating and a soft cake bottom, which sandwiched an orange jelly elegantly in between them.  However, something just wasn’t quite right, and I believe it was the cake:chocolate:orange ratio.  Essentially, the orange was wonderfully strong in flavour (this is certainly not a criticism; I am never one to complain about too much flavour!), but the chocolate was overwhelmingly thick on the edges and the cake was disappointingly thin in contrast.  It also wasn’t as fun to eat as a traditional jaffa cake, as I’m one of those people who love to tear the cake off from the delicate jaffa centre, leaving the best bit for last.  However, if you have a real craving for something chocolate orange after your main, this is definitely the dessert to go for!

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My last pudding was the crème brûlée with raspberries and shortcake biscuits.  This was truly a beautiful crème brûlée: it was smooth and creamy, with a beautifully crunchy caramelised topping.  Unfortunately, there was only one raspberry in my dessert, but the raspberry certainly added a lovely contrast in flavour to the delicious vanilla custard.  I loved the fact that the vanilla seeds were visible in every spoonful, confirming that the freshest ingredients are used for every dessert.

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All of this was washed down with my favourite drink of all time: a pink lemonade and vanilla ice cream float (a drink that I discovered on my first trip to Bill’s).  Attention to detail is as prominent as ever, with a delicate strawberry propped onto the side of the glass.

This was a truly wonderful evening – great company, great food, and great service.  I am glad that I finally got to experience the side of Bill’s that everyone has been raving about for so long, and I can’t wait for my next visit, where I might try something a little more savoury from the menu (finished off with a large slice of pecan pie, obviously)!

Luscious Ladurée

Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe; it has fashion, it has fascinating architecture, but most of all, it has macaroons.  So when I stumbled across the small Ladurée shop and café in the courtyard of Covent Garden, it took no time at all for me to become a regular customer!

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There is something a little bit special about macaroons, with their beautifully coloured delicate shells, which simply crumble into your mouth with every bite.  They are by far the cutest confectionary treat that you can just pop into your mouth when you’re craving something just a little bit sweet!  (Although, if you do this, you are not getting the full macaroon experience in my opinion; you’re missing out on that slight crunch, followed by a prolonged chewy softness that just oozes pure flavour into your mouth that you only considered possible in fairy tales until now!) The macaroon is an experience to be savoured!

As I was (supposed to be) sharing my macaroons with my boyfriend, I only picked out four flavours.  I thought it would be easier to resist eating them all if I’d already tried that specific macaroon; it wasn’t!  Unfortunately, the little leaflet that the waitress gave me detailing all of the flavours is wrong, so I won’t be able to refer to all of them by their official fancy French names, but after savouring each and every beautiful mouthful I can most definitely tell you what flavours they consisted of!

The first macaroon was salted caramel. This sweet little bundle of joy simply oozed its very generous helping of caramel filling into my very ready and welcoming mouth, and as I pulled the macaroon away from my lingering lips I felt the satisfying pull of the ‘gooey’ texture.  I know this sounds like a love story, but that’s because it is! I am officially in love with Ladurée!

Carrying on my sweet little journey, I encountered the rather special strawberry flavoured marshmallow macaroon.  This pink little ball of perfection epitomises exactly how I would imagine food in a Disney princess film to look, taste, and feel! Whilst it did taste a little bit like bubblegum (not that I’m complaining; it only furthered my nostalgic return to my childhood), I thoroughly enjoyed the change in texture with its marshmallow centre creating a slightly thicker and chewier experience than the rest of the macaroons.  Furthermore, the sprinkling of sugar encasing this miniature delight not only made it even sweeter, but also added a nice extra crunch to each bite.

The third macaroon was coffee and chocolate.  This was actually my boyfriend’s favourite.  The chocolate to coffee ratio was absolutely perfect; it had a very distinct, sweet coffee taste, which was followed up by an almost caramel-tasting chocolate flavour, which was reminiscent of the caramel Frappuccinos at Starbucks.  It was certainly a nice pick-me-up in the middle of a busy and stressful afternoon!

Last, but not least, was the chocolate and orange flavoured macaroon.  Far from tasting like normal chocolate orange flavoured confectionaries, which are predominantly chocolatey and simply complemented by a sweet orange flavour, this macaroon created a flavour sensation that was altogether extraordinary in comparison.  The orange macaroon was sharp and tangy, and stood out in contrast to the subtle sweetness of the chocolate filling.  With flavours that were both complimentary and distinctively different, this macaroon was special and confusing all at the same time; a definite unexpected adventure for your taste buds!

However, the pièce de résistance (my love of random French phrases being very appropriate for this post) was the Caramel Apple Macaroon.

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This giant macaroon was an absolute dream.  Even with a fresh, cooked-apple filling, which oozed a creamy surprise in the centre, and a sticky caramel filling sandwiching the whole dessert together, the macaroons retained their beautiful, crumbly crunch without the slightest hint of sogginess (my Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood judging hat came on here)!  And the whole thing was finished off with a ridiculously sweet and crunchy caramel drizzle and tiny apple pieces cooked to perfection to keep with the consistent softness of the whole pudding (apart from when you were ocassionally greeted with the satisfying crunch of the caramel drizzle)!

Whatever you choose as your Ladurée treat, I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed!  Everything is perfected right down to the last little detail on all of their confectionary delights, and I absolutely adore choosing from their massive collection of flavours and desserts every time I find the time and money to visit!  It won’t be a cheap trip, but every mouthful will be worth every penny!

 

American Style Afternoon Tea at BRGR.CO

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Walking past BRGR.CO on Wardour Street in Soho, there is no mistaking that this place will serve a really good, juicy, posh burger.  With its uncomplicated black and white facade, it is evident that simplicity and quality are key features of this restaurant.  Being major fans of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, my boyfriend and I put it on our list of ‘must-try’ burger bars, but when I found out that it did an American themed burger-style afternoon tea, and at only £17 including two drinks, BRGR.CO jumped straight to the top of the list!

I have to say that this is one of the most satisfying afternoon teas on the savoury front.  Burgers are always a winner in my eyes, and these burgers were particularly good!  The buns were fresh and sturdy, holding in and soaking up those beautiful juices that oozed out of the burgers with every bite.  And they were not skimpy on any of the fillings!  From left to right, the first burger is a mini version of the Butcher’s Cut with cheddar cheese.  It was tender, tasty, and tantalising, and my first mouthful convinced me that this was somewhere I would definitely like to return!  Surprisingly, the Chicken Ceasar burger was my favourite.  The chicken was so succulent with a beautiful BBQ grilled flavour to it.  It literally melted in your mouth and unfortunately was gone in seconds!  The third burger was also very special and something that I would not expect from a classic burger joint.  The Lobster Blat Slider was absolutely wonderful: full of flavour, soft, creamy, and adding a completely new and different flavour dimension to the whole meal.  It made it feel rather special!  And having a mini portion of chips was definitely a major benefit for my boyfriend, as he didn’t risk losing half of his portion to me!

Inevitably, the burger half of the afternoon tea was going to be better than the sweets, given the name and specialities of the restaurant.  However, it was only the doughnut that was slightly disappointing.  Unfortunately, the doughnut was so chewy that it pretty much gave me jaw ache by the time I had chewed through its thick, doughy centre; it was a far cry from the soft, fluffy, but slightly stodgy doughnuts that I am used to from the farmer’s market and I was disappointed that I didn’t taste the salted caramel that the menu had promised.  However, the other three desserts were complete winners!  The vanilla milkshake was hands down the best milkshake I have ever had.  I am SO excited about returning, simply for the milkshake (and I don’t even like milk)!  The mini chocolate brownie was also beautifully rich and chocolatey.  I fell in love.  It was perfect!  The mini white chocolate and strawberry cheesecake was also perfectly delectable, with its smooth strawberry topping, light creamy filling, and crumbly biscuit base.

All in all, it was an extremely satisfying and filling meal that I would happily order again and again, especially for the price and the quality of the burgers, milkshake and brownie.  It also comes with two drinks: one is a beautiful homemade pomegranate and mint infused ice tea; the other was a glass of San Marco Prosecco (a raspberry and cranberry concoction).  Again, this made the meal feel a little bit more special than your average meal at a good burger restaurant, and for the same sort of price you would normally pay for a two-course meal and a couple of drinks.  I’m super greedy and can’t say no to something I normally love, so I also ordered a homemade lemonade, which was sweet and tangy at the same time and completely and utterly delicious.

The quality of the burgers, chips, drinks, and the brownie thoroughly impressed me at this small independent burger bar and I genuinely cannot wait for my next hangover, where I will enjoy tucking into a large succulent burger, a bag of chips (full-sized portions of chips come in a cute little brown paper bag!), a large vanilla milkshake, and a large slice of chocolate heaven in the shape of a brownie!  This is an excellent restaurant, whether you want something a bit more special, or a general catch-up over a burger with friends.  I can assure you that vowels are the ONLY thing that BRGR.CO is lacking when it comes to good food, good service and honest burgers!

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Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream Cupcakes!

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Yesterday, one of my best friends and I finished our day at university and the library with a well-deserved trip to the Häagen-Dazs café in Leicester Square.  Whilst I found the concept of an ice cream café quite odd when I first moved to London, especially due to the lack of sea in the capital, I have happily accepted its offering of ice cream-themed desserts with open arms, no matter what the season!  From ice cream sundaes, to pancakes, waffles, and chocolate fondue (all involving ice cream, of course!) the menu has an incredible collection of puddings to choose from.  I know this is a very common theme of my blog posts, but I really couldn’t decide what to have!  However, my decision was made slightly easier by the presence of a particular pudding that seemed pretty unique to me: the ice cream cupcakes.

I have to admit that these cupcakes were an absolute frozen dream and were completely unlike anything else I have ever experienced.  Each one consisted of a freshly baked muffin base, with a layer of indulgent Häagen-Dazs ice cream to complete the cupcake shape, topped with a generous helping of lightly whipped cream, and finished off with a decorative and tasty topping.  Oh, and did I mention that each cupcake had its own saucy little surprise in the centre?!  Quite frankly, they were completely and utterly delicious!

Having spent the whole time going on about how amazing each and every one of these cupcakes were, Carrie asked me to rank them in order of preference.  I simply couldn’t!  They were just all amazing!

I started my ice cream cupcake adventure with the ‘Chocolate Indulgence’, and indulgent it most certainly was!  With a chocolate muffin base, Belgian Chocolate ice cream, and a beautiful chocolate fudge sauce centre, this cupcake was every chocolate lover’s dream.  The combination of the crunchy chocolate balls, on top of the light, fluffy whipped cream, leading to the soft chocolate ice cream and hard muffin base created a beautiful textured adventure.

My adventure continued with the ‘Summer Berry Dream’.  With a delicious blueberry muffin base, sweet Strawberries & Cream ice cream, and a contrasting sharp raspberry coulis centre, each mouthful was an explosion of flavour.  I’ll definitely be craving one of these during the Wimbledon final this year!

The ‘Caramel Delight’ was a bit subtler in flavour than the other two, but, as promised, it was a complete and utter delight.  This time, the chocolate sponge was topped with Salted Caramel ice cream, and there was a butterscotch sauce surprise in the centre.  The nuts were a beautiful addition and really completed the overall taste and quality of this cupcake, as each soft mouthful was completed with a crunch.

After such a wonderful experience, I am already excited for my next visit and can’t wait to try the chocolate fondue!  Let’s face it, if there’s anything that Häagen-Dazs know how to do well, it’s definitely flavoursome puddings!

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