Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Leave the Herd Behind - Coffee Masterclass - Black Sheep Coffee

I was so excited when Jane offered an opportunity for a Coffee Masterclass at Black Sheep Coffee at Regents Place.

I hadn't heard of the particular brand before, but this weather is perfect for fueling my caffeine addiction and I quickly said yes.

The evening began on a perfect note. As we signed in, we were handed freshly made espresso martinis and cups of popcorn. Very practical for participants like me, that had survived the whole day on just coffee, snicker bar, a piece of fruit (all true stories).

I caught up with some of my friends, Joanne from Love PopUps London, Joice and Jason while sipping our cocktails and waiting for the others to arrive.

While Black Sheep Coffee functions as a coffee shop during the day, they also have a couple of bar tenders and depending on the day of the week, they start filling in cocktail orders whenever their mainly office going customers request them for it. They have a huge space that's quite comfortable for business meetings, so they said that they have people who come in for meetings requesting coffee and as they get don with work, they segue to the alcoholic drinks. What an amazing concept!

Black Sheep Coffee has quite a few branches around town, mostly concentrated in the business districts. I can't wait for them to come to Paddington.

Once everyone was assembled, we were addressed by Tony and Monia. They showed us how to smell and taste coffee and gave us a few tips on what to look for when buying coffee grounds. We did the slurp test to try out a couple of different varieties.

We were then split into 2 groups. Our group headed to the heavy machinery first. Matt here was extremely patient with us as we tried our hands at some latte art.

Hint : Its not as easy as your Barista makes it look! Both your hands have to constantly move, but in completely different motions. Tougher than playing the piano I tell you.

We then returned to our table with our lattes. We now learned how to use a simple filter at home and a few tips to make better coffee at home.
1. Brew coffee at 93C. Anything higher burns out the sugars in it.
2. Let all the bubbles dissipate from your kettle before you pour hot water on your coffee.
3. 7 gms of coffee per 100 ml
4. Use really good quality coffee beans.
5. Coffee should be light caramel colour
6. Coffee loses taste and aroma within 15 minutes of grinding. So best to grind freshly when you want to make some coffee.
7. Brew for 3.5-4 minutes.
8. The longer you brew your coffee, the higher the caffeine content.

Through this whole process, we kept sipping on coffee and cocktails. The velvet martini was outstanding.

I have to say that the coffee was amazing. We sampled the Love Berries, Robusta Revival, Blue Volcano and Swiss Decaf. While I loved the smell of the Decaf, taste wise the Robusta Revival was my favourite.

They have a coffee that is combined with coconut oil for a whole day slow release of caffeine that sounded very intriguing. The peanut butter hot chocolate also piqued my interest. I will have to return soon, to try these out.

I'd definitely recommend the coffee here and if you have the chance to attend a masterclass, I'd say 'jump at it' and 'leave the herd behind'

Monday, January 15, 2018

Blue Lotus Inspirations - Thai Supper Club - London

Blue Lotus Inspirations is a venture by Urmi Shah that offers Thai & Indian Food supper clubs.

I found her online and after clarifying that my shrimp/prawn allergy wouldn't be a hindrance, we promptly booked 2 places for her Spice Away the Blues - Thai Supperclub, last Friday.

I often find myself at a disadvantage in Thai restaurants because while I love the cuisine and the spice, their use of shrimp paste in the basic spice pastes, precludes most food from the menu. So I was very excited, when she promised me that I would be able to eat everything on that nights menu.

We arrived at their home in time and were warmly welcomed into their beautiful home by Urmi and the Delectable Mr G

We sat down to a table with an eclectic mix of people and Urmi explained her background of living in Thailand and which regions our menu for the night stemmed from.

Thai food needs to be eaten as soon as it is cooked. Its not meant to be reheated. So there was a bowl of shrimp crackers on the table while she quickly fried up our starters. I had to wait patiently, but that obviously gave me an advantage over the others. I could focus on all the home cooked goodies and eat more of them.

The fried tofu was so light, I've never eaten such a lovely version before. Often tofu gets tough and rubbery (not that I order it often), but this version was light, delicate and spongy on the inside of a crisp exterior.

The meat eating me reveled in the umpteen platters of fried chicken (Kai Thod Krob) that were brought to the table. So moreish. They were my second favourite dish of the evening.

My favourite dish for the day was definitely the  fish ball soup (Kwa Tiew Look Chin Naam) which she assembled in front of us! Customised to individual tastes. I asked for a little extra chilli and lemon in mine. I could live on this soup. Such a light flavourful stock, the fresh herbs, the smooth slithery noodles and the delectable fish balls.

Even if the meal had ended right here, I would have been very happy and contented, but there was even more food to come.

The main course was egg fried rice (Kaw Phad Khai) served with a pork jungle curry (Gaeng Par) and a stir fry of morning glory (Phat Phak Kiew) with lovely caramelised bits of garlic? 

Urmi had made a separate batch of pork curry for me without the shrimp paste which made me feel very special. I was just embarassed that I could barely begin to make a dent in it, as I was already quite stuffed. Others at the table were also waving the surrender flag. 

But I knew to keep a little space for dessert. It was pumpkin stewed in coconut milk (Fucktong Buat). I was so happy that it wasn't a dessert with fruits in it (I'm not allergic, I just don't like the taste or texture of most of them) This was a really delicately flavoured dessert. No added sugar and a lot of slow cooking love.

The food was absolutely amazing. There were a couple of pescatarians  at the table and she had alternative options for them for the pork curry and the fried chicken. 

Michael is a wine connoisseur, so they offer the option to buy wine that goes well with their food at their house and quite a few took them up on their offer. 

We aren't wine drinkers and the weather is too cold for cider, so we stuck to water. Therefore the palate cleanser of rose and lemon was really welcome midway through the meal. Absolutely refreshingly delicious.

At 35£, we were served a phenomenal quantity of food and so much variety, while catering to a myriad dietary restrictions, which is commendable for a home based operation.

Urmi also offers Cooking Classes and Demonstrations and also has an option that fulfills the skills section for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. Her other options include supplying food and cooking in your home.

They are very genial hosts, so I would recommend trying them out if you have a hankering for Thai food. Contact Urmi on bluelotusinspirations@gmail.com or follow her on facebook : https://www.facebook.com/bluelotusinspirations/ to be informed of her next offering.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Mike’s Café, London

Mike’s Café
12 Blenheim Cresent
London W11 1NN
020 7229 3757

A simple straightforward neighbourhood cafe/diner with very reasonable rates just off Portobello Road (near the Notting Hill Bookshop). Wish we had one of these closer to home.

They serve breakfast through the day. But unfortunately the items with poached eggs are served only until noon. So we couldn't try the eggs Benedict or the very interesting combination of poached eggs and truffles.

I had the liver and bacon with mash and gravy which was quite good. He had the 3 omelette egg with mushroom and blue cheese which was also good.

The grilled halloumi skewers were a bit of a disappointment. They were so lightly grilled that the cheese was still cold and halloumi tastes best when its hot.

The coffee was excellent, as was the service. I very happily toasted one of the free marshmallows on the low fire on my way out. Delicious!

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Monday, January 08, 2018

Hankies Cafe, London

Hankies Cafe
67 Shaftesbury Avenue
Piccadilly W1D 6LL
Phone number 020 7871 6021

Amazon Prime added this restaurant to their Home Delivery roster. I've been wanting to visit for awhile and we were in the mood for Indian today, so I placed an order.

The dahi bhalla was very authentic as was the chicken tikka and the chilli lamb chop. Full marks to these.

The black dhal and Haleem were quite good, but I've had better (in London too, not just in India)

The bhindi bhel, I was quite intrigued to taste, but it went missing in our order (I did get a refund)

The mushroom pickle was Fantastic!!!! The chicken pickle was good, but I could buy bottles of the mushroom pickle if they sold it!

The venison shammi was tasty, but I wasn't too happy with the texture, it could be the time until consumption made it hold together much tighter than it should. I'd like to try it in the restaurant to re-evaluate. However, for 5.5£ we got just one kebab and that felt a bit weird.

Which brings me to the main problem, some dishes are large serving size and some are measly and the prices don't reflect that. I guess this issue will be easily dealt with if you are eating at the restaurant, but can't be clarified when ordering online.

The kheema roti wasn't bad, but I could taste any truffle in the truffle naan.

The food in general was very good quality and I'm guessing that when I visit the location I will be able to give them an even higher rating!

Rating : 4 / 5 for Home Delivery


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