Denise Travels to England November 2016

I love what I do, I am so truly blessed to have all these awesome experiences, and it just feels so wrong not to share some of the highlights from this recent trip with you.  Of course some of them will appear in the dishes that we create, but just in case you don’t come and experience these at Ginger & Lime, here we go ….
There is something about arriving in the UK that for me feels like coming home.  My ancestors on both sides of the family are from here, and from the moment I step onto the British soil, I feel that I have come home.  There is a deep connection and a feeling of belonging that I get when I am here. I would not choose to live here permanently, but I do so enjoy visiting.
The energy in the air is palpable at this time of the year,  as everyone rushes around doing their Christmas shopping, with warmly wrapped up children stopping to gaze in wonder at the lights and the window displays that are designed to tempt even the most frugal of shoppers to enter the shops, longing to take a bit of this magic home with them, stirring up memories from their own childhood.
Fairy lights twinkle, mounds of snow fill the display windows and bells jingle…. brightly decorated Christmas trees with carefully wrapped presents adorning them are everywhere, and the shops look absolutely incredible.  Peter Jones with the cascades of lights down the entire 7 story building,  and all the bare trees lit up in Sloane Square looked fabulous!  This is a serious business here, and there is much thought and obviously months of planning that has gone into this!  There is clearly competition between the larger stores as well, as each one tries to outdo the other.  As you step outside the warmth of the stores into the crisp cold air, the aroma of roasting chestnuts fills the air, and your cheeks get that rosy glow, and you are filled with a warm fuzzy feeling inside.  Love it!!!
PIC OF PETER JONES AND SQUARE
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There were a few culinary highlights on this trip that I need to share, and these would be on my MUST VISIT list if you are coming this side:
In London, we stayed in a gorgeous small boutique hotel which we found at a great rate on Price Check:  SAN DOMENICA HOUSE, in Chelsea, just off King’s Road near Sloane Square.  Beautifully classically furnished, gorgeous antiques with touches of gold, and dark rich reds, with thick velvets and soft lighting.  The rooms are large and spacious, and really comfortable. This is a truly Italian experience, with the owner and staff all being from Italy, which makes it even more special!  It is so well located, that you literally walk everywhere, and the staff could not have been nicer.
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 We popped out for a quick lunch at BIBENDUM at the Oyster Bar, where I have to say I had the finest Fish Pie ever (sorry Liam…. yours is going to have to take second place for now, but perhaps you should make me one again just so that I can be sure?!?!).  I would actually fly back  to London just for this dish……… that’s how good it was!  Filled with plump pink poached prawns, flaky cod, succulent salmon and other delicate white fish, a chopped up hard boiled egg, and gently fried buttery leeks making an appearance,  smothered in a light sauce with a hint of fresh dill and some alcohol (could it have been pernod?),  then topped with roughly crushed baby potatoes, skins on, and then finished off with a sprinkle of parmesan and bread crumbs, adding a crunchy texture to the smoothness of the dish.  Piping hot, comfort food at its best. I must make this one for you guys…. with Liam’s recipe of course.
We met friends at a great local Italian restaurant on our first night, just down the road from us, called: COMO LARIO, which I can highly recommend as a reasonably priced place with excellent food.  Despite being just off Sloane Square, this was very much a local place, not on the tourist map. We kept it simple with home made pasta, and side orders of steamed spinach and broccoli, washed down with a good bottle of Chianti, it really hit the spot.
The next day we had breakfast at a local deli, called PARTRIDGES on King’s Road, which has been around forever, and is well established in the area.  Soft runny organic poached eggs, slices of wild Scottish smoked salmon and steamed spinach served on a toasted buttered muffin and topped with a creamy hollandaise sauce.  Breakfast just has to be my best meal of the day!!!   I took loads of pictures of the store, so these will speak volumes.  The displays were groaning with Christmas fare……. I have never seen so many different types of Panettones, Christmas cakes and mince pies, ever!  I roamed around the packed shelves devouring the varieties of sauces, spices, pates, pickles and so on.  Oh if only my suitcase was big enough!  Gavin does draw the line at glass bottles wrapped in socks, inside his shoes…. I have tried this before!  Said products were firmly removed and left behind!
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Gavin was off to business appointments, so I walked to HARRODS to check out their famous food halls, all in the name of research of course: and this can take a while, as you stand mesmerised by what is on display.  Again, I have documented this with loads of pictures, as these speak volumes, so take a look!  The place just oozes Old World Glamour, especially when you see things like Pork Pies, Scotch Eggs (I was happy to see one made with haddock as well, so I think we should try a seafood version as well, perhaps with Tuna) and Gentleman’s Relish.    People were placing orders for their Turkeys, as well as filling hampers with all the Christmas goodies, like mince pies and Christmas Pud, hams and Christmas Crackers, as gifts to be sent around the world.    There is a sense of excitement in the air, a promise of good things to come, which is so lovely to experience.  We just don’t get this same Christmas feeling at home!
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Ah and of course, no trip to London would be complete without the obligatory curry, and we certainly found THE best spot to enjoy Indian Cuisine, being ZAIKA, on Kensington High Street.  It is housed in an old bank, which immediately provides wonderful atmosphere with high ceilings, the carved wood panelling and brass railings.  There is a gorgeous oval bar where we decided to have an aperitif……. and I am SO happy that we did.  We have a new cocktail to try out at Ginger & Lime, which is very exciting.  I won’t say too much,so you will need to come and enjoy one here with us,  but have included a picture.  It does have, amongst the ingredients: Curry leaves, ginger & Lime…. just saying!!!!  It will be a wonderful start to any Asian course, so we will introduce this soon.

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On that note, we are going to be introducing a new Cocktail & Canape Course, which will include different  cocktails and canapés/snack style food for entertaining, so keep an eye out for this, as we will put it out next year, while our weather is still gorgeous and we can do it outside on the terrace. We have so many beautiful locally crafted Gins and excellent Brandies, and we should be experimenting more with these.

Back to ZAIKA….. I enjoyed a dish of seared scallops on a light curried turmeric sauce and an umami tomato sauce, with a popped rice cake,  herbed green sauce and chopped avo.   See the pic.  So lovely to have scallops, as we don’t get the fresh ones at home at all.  Gavin enjoyed a really good strong lamb curry, while I opted for a starter portion of the Tandoori Prawns.  This was a portion of 4 huge prawns, salty and smoky, deep orange-red in colour and perfectly spicy  with the curry flavours in which they were marinated These really infused into the plump juicy flesh whilst cooking in the tandoor oven.  These were served with various dipping sauces, like a coriander chutney, a cool minty raita and a sticky pineapple relish.  We also enjoyed some side dishes; a spinach with paneer, which was very different to the somewhat watery versions we seem to get in Cape Town.  The spinach was just wilted, and the paneer was firm to the touch, and the dish had delicate spices which complemented the ingredients, not taking away anything from them.  We also had a creamy lentil Dahl Makni, which was a rich warm dish, which I could have had just like that on its own… so flavourful and delicious.  I am salivating as I write this remembering the exquisite flavours.
THE SCALLOP DISH
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The next day it was off to Paris for more business appointments, but of course…. we have to eat in between.
At Terminal 5 if you do happen to go through it, stop off at GORDON RAMSAY’S PLANE FOOD.  We had an excellent light meal there….for Gavin, a beef tataki with crispy fried shallots and an umami dressing, and for myself, the salt/sugar cured salmon with wasabi mayo, and deep fried lotus and seaweed with an Asian dipping sauce. Both were perfectly presented and enjoyed with a glass of bubbles, as a reward for the week’s work that was well done!  Life is all about balance, and for me these little “guilty” pleasures are what makes everything worthwhile. Work hard, which doesn’t scare me at all, but then you must play even harder.  For me, play is eating………..
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