Aviary – Finsbury Square, London

For my birthday (earlier this year), Jack took me to Aviary in Finsbury Square (right by Moorgate Station. I had never heard about it before and it was a surprise – so I was very intrigued.

My first thoughts were that it was a very lively roof top bar! The music was blaring, everyone had cocktails in hand and there was a massive roof top terrace that overlooked Finbury Square and you could see some of the City of London in the distance.

The hostess took our coats and took us to our table which was a little quieter and left us with the menus.

The waiter then came to take our order and once we had let him know what we were having to eat, he helped us to pick a wine to go with our dinner.

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Gorgeous Oysters – two of each kind

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We started with a platter of half a dozen oysters – which came as two from native, two rock and two prestige. The waiter explained them and pointed them out for us so we knew which ones were which.

They were fresh and sweet and absolutely gorgeous! I am a massive oyster fan and they were the perfect start to the meal.

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With help from the waiter, we had both chosen the Dairy Cow Sirloin on the Bone as our main courses with fries and a salad to share. The steak was nice and tender and had a smokey flavour to it. I was very impressed as I was not expecting it to taste as nice as it did.

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Coconut Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit, Mango and White Chocolate
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We ended the meal with a Coconut and Fruit Panna Cotta which was light and refreshing and the perfect end to the meal.

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Surprising excellent food, fabulous service. It is a little pricey but definitely worth it. I would recommend going out on the roof terrace for a drink before dinner – we didn’t get the chance to do this as we didn’t know that we would not be able to take our drinks outside by the time we had finished dinner.

 

http://www.aviarylondon.com/

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Restaurant Benimar – Alcossebre, Spain

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Alcossebra, which is a little seaside town in Spain, is a gorgeous place to get away from the hustle and bustle of London. We spent five nights there and we really felt relaxed afterwards. It is more of a slower pace of life and it is great for the soul.

We went for dinner at Restaurant Benimar which is known for their good steaks so we had to try them. Jack and I ordered a Chateaubriand and potato rosti between us.

It arrived on a grand silver plate with roasted vegetables on the side.

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We asked for a it medium rare because Jack likes it this way, but it came rare which I was happy about because I like it this way. It is how good steak should be eaten. It was soft and had a nice natural smokey taste from the grill.

The rosti was lovely as well and came with pieces of ham in it which gave a nice flavour to it.

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We sat outside and it was a chilled out vibe. There was live music playing from the restaurant next door and there was a breeze from the sea as the restaurant is on the seafront.

 

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g662644-d2296544-Reviews-Benimar-Alcossebre_Province_of_Castellon_Valencian_Country.html

 

L’illa – Alcossebra, Spain

Jack and I recently went to Alcossenbra to stay at his Aunt and Uncle’s house for a long weekend away. On our first night we went with his Auntie Karen for dinner at L’illa which is right on the port and has such a chilled out, laid back vibe.

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We ordered the house white which was perfect! Crisp, clean cut and light.

As we were deciding on food they brought out hot, fresh, lightly toast bread, fresh tomatoes, fresh garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper and we made our own pan con tomat. You rub the garlic on the bread, rub the tomato on the bread, a sprinkle of olive oil and salt and pepper and it was absolutely gorgeously fresh! I absolutely love this idea of the make your own pan con tomat and definitely using this for a dinner party!

We ordered the mejillones a la marinera to share for a starter and for mains I got the cod, Jack the lamb and Karen the steak and we shared a mixed house salad as well.

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Mussels in marinera sauce
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Mixed house salad
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The cod with roasted vegetables
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The lamb chops with baked aubergine and chips

http://www.lillarestaurant.com/?lang=en

The Hill – Haverstock Hill, London

Jack and I had a Saturday day out at the London Zoo recently which was so lovely. We fed a Giraffe, had Monkeys and Lemurs jumping around us and over our heads, and we were faced up close with a Pygmy Hippo and a big Silverback Gorilla. It was really interactive compared to how I remembered the zoo to be.

After the zoo we took a stroll to the top of Primrose Hill and took in the gorgeous view, before we headed off for dinner at The Hill in Haverstock Hill.

It is a gorgeously traditional British pub with old vintage furniture and fireplaces, but as it was a nice day, we sat at a table outside for drinks and dinner.
IMG-20150718-WA0025We both got the Hanger Steak with came with fries (£17 each) and shared a side of Caesar Salad (£3.5). The steak was beautifully cooked and very tender and the fries were still hot and crunchy and the salad crisp. The food was really good and I really liked the location, the service, and the vintage interior.

A must try if you are in the area.

http://www.thehilllondon.com/

HIX – Soho, London

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For Jack’s birthday I got him tickets to see Book of Mormon (which I absolutely 100% recommend if you haven’t been – but that is another story for another time) and we went to HIX Soho for dinner before the show. HIX, owned by Mark Hix British Chef and Restauranteur, has a fabulously British menu where you can see all the regions that all the food has come from.

As we were looking at the menu, the waitress came over and asked us if we had any questions about the menu – and when we did she actually knew the answers and sounded really passionate about the food there. I love a restaurant where all the staff are passionate about their foods and drinks. It really makes the experience of eating at that restaurant even better.

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We decided to start with a couple cocktails and some Moyallon pork crackling with gooseberry sauce £4.25. The crackling was perfectly done – crispy, still hot from the oven, and not too puffy or dried out and they married very well with the gooseberry sauce. 20150422_180839The steak tartare £16.75 that I had for my main was such good tender meat that it just melted in my mouth. It was moulded into a circle with a raw egg yolk comfortably resting right in the middle with a side of three mini bowls of mustard and extra bits that I could add into my steak mixture. One of the best steak tartares I’ve had!

My steak came with fries which we shared. We also shared some broccoli and mixed vegetables for sides (£4.95 per side dish) which were all fresh and still had a bit of a crunch to them (nobody like a soggy over cooked piece of broccoli unless its being blended into a soup).

Jack had the hanger steak with baked bone marrow £19.95 which was also lovely. The marrow had a garlicky crust which complimented the meat very well.
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After dinner we headed down into the basement into Mark’s Bar, which is a quirky little cocktail bar under the restaurant where the Mixologists truly have a passion for what they do. You can tell them whatever tastes that you like and they can create something for you (about £10 – £12 per cocktail). I love this kind of speak easy type vibe in a cocktail bar.

Great service, great fresh British sourced ingredients, great dishes and great cocktails.

http://www.hixsoho.co.uk/

Osteria All’Antico Vinaio – Florence, Italy

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On our first night in Florence, when we were there in April this year, we wondered the streets looking for All’Antico Vinaio (a hole in the wall wine and sandwich bar) on Via De Neri when we stumbled across their sit in restaurant across the street. We walked into the busy, lively restaurant and were seated shortly after we stood at the bar and ordered a bottle of wine.

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The menu was in Italian and they didn’t have an English menu – so when the waiter brought a very large basket of freshly baked bread, we asked him what he would recommend. He pointed at the charcuterie boards on all the tables around us (literally everyone had one) so we gave him a nod and a thumbs up.

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The board was covered in all sorts – two different cheeses, artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, roast pork, all sorts of hams and salamis, and some jam to go with it all. One of the cheeses was a hard, strong flavoured, manchego-type cheese and the other had a lot less flavour and tasted more like a young cow’s milk cheese (basically tasted like milk). All the meats were scrumptious and we ate pretty much everything on the board.

He also brought us a couple of spreads on toasted bread – one was a thin layer of fat (which we actually didn’t eat as it just isn’t to our taste) and the other was a thick layer of home made pate which was lovely and earthy.
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For our main we asked the waiter about a (very) large steak that a man on the table was eating on the table beside us and whether we could get one for 500g – He laughed and said the smallest steak is 1kg. We decided that – even though the man beside us could tackle this large piece of meat on his own – this was one for us to share.

It came out sizzling on a platter. It was thick but very tender and it had a smokey flavour from being on the grill.

Cost about 30 Euros in total for the bill. A great meal and authentic local atmosphere. Definitely recommend for some wine, a charcuterie board and a steak!

http://www.allanticovinaio.com/en/home-osteria-eng/

Goodman – Canary Wharf, London

I am currently working in Canary Wharf and decided to try out Goodman one evening.

The thing that really stood out to me as soon as we got there was that the service was great. As you walk in they take your coats to hang up for you and lead you to your table. The waiter then comes to your table and describes the cuts of meat that they have available and can even bring them out for you to see and choose. We knew we wanted a porterhouse (about £8 per 100g) so he told us about what they had and where they were from and gave us his recommendation. He would have even helped us with our choice of wine if we needed, but we already knew what we wanted.

We chose the Scottish 700g porterhouse, truffle chips (£5.50) and creamed spinach with gruyere cheese (£5).

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The steak in The Goodman Restaurants is quite special. They really put a lot of love into the process. They dry-age their meat onsite with a specific temperature and humidity, which gives the meat a more concentrated flavour. When cooking the steak, they have a charcoal and wood oven that they use, which gives the steak a wonderfully smokey flavour. We ordered the steak medium because it was on the bone and it was cooked to perfection with still some pink in the middle which was so tender it melted in your mouth and the outside was smokey and meaty. Divine!

The truffle chips had an earthy flavour to them and beautifully crisp and crunchy. I ate most of the creamed spinach and to me (with my love for cheese) this was perfect. It had a creamy texture yet still had the stringy cheese.

We went on a Tuesday evening so it was a little quieter than I am sure it is towards the end of the week, but most of the tables were still filled, so I would definitely recommend making a reservation.

Definitely one of the best steak houses in London!

http://www.goodmanrestaurants.com/