WORDS RACHEL EDWARDS
Looking for cosy restaurants to escape the cold weather? Check out our February food recommendations:
Having heard that guinea pig is a delicacy in Peru, the idea of eating my childhood pets Sugar and Spice flashed through my mind as we arrived at dimly lit restaurant Chicama, nestled on the corner of Kings Road. Luckily, this Peruvian restaurant spared me the decision on whether to eat my furry friends, instead offering up the less scary (and more scaly) fresh fish and ceviche, transported daily from Cornwall. In fact, this place is a Pescatarian’s dream as there’s no meat on the menu.
We sat in the restaurant where we could see the chefs at work, but the bar looks like something from Sex and the City and the terrace is the perfect spot to enjoy a cocktail (make sure you try the mezcal). Whenever I’ve worked in a restaurant I’ve been convinced that the way to become a chef is to be as loud and red-faced as possible but in Chicama there was no high blood pressure in sight and if anything the chefs seemed to be... dare I say… enjoying themselves?! This seems like a good moment to give a shout out to our waiter Ryan who held our hands (not literally, that would be a bit strange) as we dissected the menu and gave helpful, genuine advice without being at all overbearing.
Waking up the next day I realised I was craving ‘popcorn monkfish cheek’, something that I soon discovered sounds ridiculous when said out loud but hey, if you know you know. Other menu highlights were the black rice and of course the tuna crudo which was not only beautifully presented but was melt in the mouth delicious. The whole monkfish (we doubled up on monkfish) tasted fresh and healthy and left us with plenty of room for dessert. We tried the piura porcelana and the banana and yuzu icecream and realised that they actually work well as a pair, so make sure you go with someone who doesn’t mind splitting two desserts (no Joey's allowed).
Chicama is a great spot to get dressed up and try something new. The only downside is the music which felt a bit too ‘clubby’ and didn’t quite match the sweet decor and delicate food. However, the menu, atmosphere and incredible staff will have you forgetting about this in a second. Next time you're in Chelsea, make sure you plan a visit - you never know, you might wake up craving popcorn monkfish...
There's always that one friend who's organised enough to arrange their escape from cold dreary London at the rear end of winter. For the rest of us, we're stuck staring longingly at their holiday posts and telling ourselves we'll be that friend next year, whilst looking for ways to pretend that we are in actual fact sitting sipping wine on the Amalfi Coast. Enter Officina 00.
Officina 00 is the Old Street restaurant and brainchild of founders and friends Elia Sebregondi and Enzo Mirto who grew up sharing their love for food in their hometown of Naples. On arrival, we were ushered to a candlelit table where we ordered the organic chianti wine to start. It went down well - perhaps a little too well as we were well onto our second glasses by the time our panko lasagne and the buffalo burrata starters arrived. Both were exceptionally good, but the burrato paired with roasted pumpkin was the winner.
As someone who is currently sitting with a jar of pistachio cream beside my bed, ready to enter into a pistachio hole every morning as I smear it onto croissant after croissant, I couldn't pass up the chance to try the pistachio pesto caserecce. It was simple in flavour and the actual pasta some of the best I've tried in terms of texture and taste. The other main we tried was the corzetti which is great if you're a fan of a rich, creamy pasta. For me it was slightly too rich but if followed by the refreshing lemon delizia dessert and mint tea, you are able to leave feeling satisfied rather than sluggish.
Officina 00 is the kind of restaurant that is as good for a special occasion as it is for a quick bite to eat after work. The relaxed atmosphere is enhanced by the fact that you can watch the chefs at work and truly revel in the fantasy that you've managed to escape London for the evening. Next time we go we're going to take this fantasy one step further by embarking on one of their pasta making workshops.
If you're looking for an authentic taste of Naples in East London or if you want to brush up your pasta making skills to wow our friends at a dinner party, be sure to check out Officina 00.
Rake's Cafe Bar is serving up what could be described as gourmet comfort food. A five minute walk from Liverpool Street Station, the Andaz Hotel's restaurant and bar, complete with plush seating and grand staircases is instantly inviting and will have you ordering champagne to start (and middle...and end) before you take your coat off. We did the annoying customer thing of moving not only seats but rooms (yes, there are two dining areas) before settling in but the waiters took it in their stride and were happy for us to hop around.
The smoked salmon starter was particularly memorable and the croquettes arrived with a delicious sauce (an integral part of any croquette experience if you ask me). My aubergine main dish tasted great with a generous portion of pomegranates and the beef was cooked to perfection.
Rake's is a great place to go if you're with a group who can't decide on what to eat as there is really something for everyone. Whether you're looking for a healthy salad, a burger or lots of nibbles, Rake's has you covered. It has a homely feel and attentive staff, and we made a promise to try their well-renowned Scandal brunch, famous for it's with bottomless drinks and perfect for a birthday or celebration!