30 April 2014

Brigade, gourmet grazing with a conscience.

The back stories of restaurants are almost never as interesting as their delicious offerings.
Brigade in London Bridge's Tooley Street is a fantastic exception to the rule.
Take one dilapidated London Bridge Fire Station, a passionate chef wanting more of his career than just serving up food, a fair bit of financial backing and one heck of a social enterprise. What do you get? A restaurant ethos as transparent as their kitchens where the apprentices work alongside teaching chefs, and a community orientated mission statement as clearly defined as the flavours in the hearty British menu.
In their own words;
Together with their charity Beyond Food Foundation, Brigade offers vulnerable people of all ages catering apprenticeships, giving them tools for a brighter future and has seen huge success since launching. Brigade and the Beyond Food Foundation have inspired over 400 homeless people and employed over 50 apprentices, most of which are still in full time employment.
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Brigade, but my (many) opinions are only ever my own, and I would never recommend anywhere that I wouldn't happily visit. And revisit.

On to the menu.
Gluten-intolerant diners are often faced with the worst kind of torture known to restaurant-going-kind. Warm, buttered bread envy. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to rip the glorious smelling bread out of the hand of my dinner date. As it goes, the evening at Brigade boded exponentially well with five words little words to make my little gluten-free heart happy: We. Have. Gluten-Free. Bread.
Served warm from the oven, it was bliss to lather the salty, lascivious butter over the oaty offerings. They were accompanied by speared glistening olives nearby. Salt junkie bliss.
Immediate greedy pangs sated, we faced a puzzling conundrum of choosing exactly what to try. The safe option? The risky option? The healthy option? The treat option? P in great great ingredients saturates the menu, and picking just one option is a tough, tough job. Except maybe when you go with the gorgeous Selena, and get to steal share tastes of everything. I need to spend more time with this lovely lady.
After much soul-deep bargaining a decision was reached and, my starter was presented with flourish in an on-trend mason jar (thingee, I'm clearly not one of the hipster kids) - the South Coast Seafood Cocktail. This wasn't an iceberg lettuce and thousand island dressing taste of yesteryear, but a mouthwatering infusion of crustacean floating on a cloud of 'chase vodka sauce' in perfect proportions.
As good as my starter was however, the belle of the pumpkin ball had to be Selena's 'Vitality Salad'. The individual ingredients made for a sumptuous salad, but the chefs somehow managed to infuse the essence of several squash into a dressing that dances sunshine into your mouth.

It was that good that I've already been back. For a salad, people.
Our mains were hearty, good fair - my pick was the apprentice's special of pork saltim Bocca, grilled polenta and cooked nectarine. I found the pork was a little dry for my taste, and could have done with more of a texture or flavour contrast on the plate, though I loved the pairing of fleshy nectarine. These specials dishes change everyday, and contribute towards the apprentices' NVQs. Not only are they balancing a (at times) turbulent life, but learning many news skill and studying for exams.

Selena's fish and chips were a hearty, beautifully cooked classic served with rustic tartare sauce, but all thunder was subsequently stolen by the appearance of a gluten-laden delight. The brigade burger.  I know everyone chef and their dog has a burger on their menu in this burger mad city, but just look.

French dipped and accompanied by cheesy chips, doesn't it make your mouth water and your hips tremble?
The almost unilateral crown was a cappuccino crème brulee. Presented once we had rested our groaning bellies, the surprising top layer of foam was a beautifully crafted antithesis to the luxurious crème brulee hidden in the depths of the sweet cup. And just the right size after such a feast.

The interior of the restaurant consists of a ground level bistro, multi-function dining rooms and a bar for the local suits to prop up. On the first floor (next to the teaspoon 'borrowed' from David Cameron opening the restaurant) are teaching kitchens and private function rooms, and charity offices over the top floors.

The internal décor is cheeky, funky and perfect for post-work prandials.

What a place, what a foundation, what a fantastic addition to the burgeoning London Bridge food scene. If you need an excuse, think of Brigade as a scrumptious donation towards a worthy social enterprise that really cares about the people it is helping to rebuild their lives.

29 April 2014

Why do you read?

Walking the other night, I caught a glimpse through the partially drawn curtains of a beautiful home. Nestled next to the requisite tasselled standard lamp, was a floor-to-ceiling book case, jam packed with tomes of every colour and type.
There was a gap, ever so slightly left of centre, that had my mind racing.
Why was there a book missing. What had they drawn out, and not replaced? Was it being thumbed through out of sight, accompanied by a cup of tea? Was it face planted, spine stretched out (oh the horror) on a bedside table whilst the owner took their teeth out & settled in for the night? Had it been borrowed by a beloved friend? Or, was the book so terrible that it had be given to their least favourite person?
All these questions, never to be answered. But you can.
Tell me, where and what is the book that you're currently reading in the comments below. Help my curtain twitching fascination be realised.
Is it something you're enjoying? Is it something that you feel should be read? Is it something you utterly hate but can't help but turn the next page?

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28 April 2014

Regent's Park, London. The River Rat's Guide.

Ahoy me landlubbers! With one of the greenest cities in the world, when the sun peaks out from behind the rain clouds, Londonders take to the parks and gardens in their pasty thousands. I for one got sunburnt twice over Easter this year, and are fully aware of how ridiculous this is.
Bearing this in mind we trooped off to the gorgeous Regent's Park to soak in a few needed Vitamin D blast, shake off a touch of Donkey on the Edge syndrome and generally blow away the cobwebs.
Normal people explore parks this way;
We (of course) took it to another level, pirate hats tucked under our arms.
In a split second decision (totting up the likely danger of getting a dousing vs. relaxing and getting a shoulder workout) we queued up on the boat lake just as another couple drifted in on one of the rowboats, the alternative being leg-operated plastic pedaloes. We wobble our way on board in a strategic order (ie. the boy at the paddles, me perched in the rear for steering, advice and shouting out random Jaws references)
Known as the 'jewel in the crown', The Regent's Park (including Primrose Hill) covers 197 hectares. Like most of the other Royal Parks, Regent's Park formed part of the vast chase - hunting grounds - appropriated by Henry VIII.
Marylebone Park, as it was known, remained a royal chase until 1646. It was John Nash, architect to the crown and friend of the Prince Regent, who developed Ther Regent's Park as we know it today.
A vast rounded park was designed by John Nash, surrounded by palatial terraces, a lake, a canal, 56 planned villas (only 8 were ever built) and a second home for the Prince - a summer palace, which was never built. The Park became the home of several organisations like the Zoological Society and the Royal Botanic Society.
 It wasn't until 1835, during the reign of King William IV, that the general public were actually allowed into the sections of the Park and this was only for two days of the week.(Credit & more information)
As you move around the circular boating lake island, the view slowly changes. To the left; sunning Londoners, a curtain of Weeping Willow and a bandstand.
To your right, ducks.
Once you've had your fill of nautical adventures - no splashing or running aground now - there are flower studded woodland groves, Cricket pitches and the beautifully tended Queen Mary's Gardens to wander as your recover your sea legs.
Oh, a top tip for the boating lake; the nearest tube/entrance is from Baker Street, and their hire rates are cheaper before 12pm.
We were lucky to visit in the midst of all the spring blooms, but have spent many an hour in all seasons wandering the miles of pathways (and one memorable afternoon speeding along by Boris Bike!)
From the park, you can hot foot it back to concrete civilisation, gently stroll the Canals to Camden, or hang out with some Monkeys. So many choices.
I'm not sure I could ever pick my favourite London park, it would be like choosing your favourite child. You?

26 April 2014

Friday (well, Saturday) Figments and Photos

I firmly believe that life is for living to the full. We may only get one chance at this thing, so it needs to be appreciated properly.
Life lately at chez Adventures of a London Kiwi has been full of Easter mischief, chocolate, rowing, DIY and tulips.

Oh, did I mention the sunshine, random architecture and pub cats pub mission?

Quality time, with quality people. What more could you ask for?

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24 April 2014

Stow-on-the-Wold, The Cotswolds #travelthursday

The two greatest craftsmen of the Second Age, the elf-lord Celebrimbor and the Dwarf Narvi, built the Doors. They were made like a flush door, the jambs invisible to the eye, and matched so perfectly with the mountain rock that, when closed, the Doors could not be seen. The slabs were made by Narvi out of grey material stronger than stone and inlayed by Celebrimbor with Ithildin, which can only be seen in starlight and moonlight; when visible, the fine silver-like inlay showed a hammer and anvil (emblems of Durin), a crown and seven stars, two trees surmounted by crescent moons, and a single star (the emblem of the House of Feanor).

The inscription on the archivlot read:

"Ennyn Durin Aran Moria. Pedo mellon a Minno. Im Narvi hain echant. Celebrimbor o Eregion tethant. I thiw hin"

("The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Speak friend and enter. I Narvi made them. Celebrimbor of Hollin drew these signs.") - J.R.R Tolkien

You can see why so many Lord of the Rings fans are convinced that Tolkien, who passed by St. Edward's Church in Stow-on-the-Wold, may have been inspired to base his description of the doors to fabled Moria on the ancient oak doors guarded by two gnarled Yew trees for a millennia or so.

Every time we pass through this beautiful Cotswold village, I have to stop, dash out of the car and spend a dreamy moment considering these beautiful doors, a passage to another world.

The village itself is a chocolate box example of England - soft, buttery Cotswold Limestone, lending a picturesque visage of how farming England used to be. The town is teeny, based around a village market square where livestock fairs would gather to peddle their sheep, and servants would mill looking to find a better employer, a better life.

Now, it's a sleepy tourist & sun trap, full of twisting lanes, Ivy-covered cottages and at certain times of the year hay bales for locals to gather round, toasting the spring sunshine with freshly pulled pints and tea cups full of the good stuff.

Not a bad life, hey?

In Autumn, the fields are laden with golden rape and hay bales awaiting their wintry duties, all crowned by cotton wool clouds.

It almost makes you want write poetry. Don't worry, I won't make you sit through it...
(Ps. the theme for the travel linkup this month is your most surprising destination. The reveal posts will roll out from the 1st of the month, and we'd love you to join in the fun!)

23 April 2014

St George's Day.

Why not have a day where you can celebrate your nationality? Aussies have Australia Day, Kiwis have Waitangi Day, the Irish (and the rest of the drinking world) have St Patricks Day.

The only trouble with this, is the stiff English upper lip. One doesn't really show oneself to be very excited about ones heritage, as one would look to be showing off about something that is inherent. Innit.

Why am I blathering on about this? Well, today is St George's Day, and we accidentally attended the St George's foodie festival at Trafalgar Square this weekend. It made us proud to see the red & white banners, fake shields, jewelled swords and kids learning about St George and the Dragon. It made use even prouder to see the English foodies arranged around the fountains, sharing their proud food heritage with the gathered masses.

Hearing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot echoing through Twickenham Stadium, accompanied by waving St Georges Crosses tells me that patriotism is something the English are becoming less afraid to shout from the rooftops. 
And it also tells me that they're about to receive a caning from the All Blacks. (Note: I was told to edit that out by my husband - the editing isn't going to happen...)

It's wonderful to see. As are hanky waving Morris men, pork pies and mustard, drinking Earl Grey with a raised Pinky and grown men cheering at the results of the latest FA cup.

Also, who doesn't need another excuse to get your Red trousers out?

Strut those things dude...

Brought to you by one of the best countries in the world - I have statistical proof.

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