Dining out in: PARIS

Some love it for the shopping, I love it for the food! I finally made the voyage to Paris after I-don't-know-how-many-years. It's only a couple of hours on the Eurostar and if you book it in advance, it can be pretty cheap! How did it take me so long to go?! Anyway, first thing we had to figure out once we were there: where's the good food at? And plan the weekend around that!

We spent our first night having dinner at Philou, a small bistronomique restaurant close to Canal St Martin. The menu is written on huge blackboards on the walls, in French but the waiters are able to translate most of dishes. I opted for the Sea Bass with Chanterelle Mushrooms (right): perfectly cooked with a crispy skin and well seasoned. The dish on the left is delicious tender Lamb with seasonal vegetables and a sauce that'll have you licking the plate clean. The food here is simple but flavoursome, staff are super friendly and we left with our bellies full and smiles on our faces. 

After a long day taking in the beautiful and historic sights of Paris; the Sacré-Coeur, Notre Dame, The Eiffel Tower and The Louvre to name a few, we headed to Les Artizans, on the busy Rue Montorgueil. A bustling street full of restaurants, cafes, bars and shops, but this is the gem you're looking for. These are the starters we had (from left): Deep Fried Ravioli filled with delicious buttery Prawns served with a Zingy Salad; Poached Egg with Bordelaise and melt-in-the-mouth Bone Marrow. This little bistro is known for their homemade French desserts, the waiter brings out a tray to your table with a selection of pastries to choose from. It took us a while as they all looked so delicious, but we chose a variety so we could all try a bit of everything. Definitely the way to go!

It was our last day in Paris but we just had to squeeze in one more lunch! We headed to Uptown, a tiny little trendy restaurant in Montmartre serving up top quality food. As it was a Sunday, (it was super busy, so you'd definitely have to book) they only had a set brunch on the menu for 33€. This included a pastry, juice, tea or coffee to start, Eggs poached in a silky Parmesan sauce followed by a choice of either the Parmesan Risotto (left) or perfectly cooked Beef with Garlic Puree, Artichoke and Potato. For dessert we had a Fruit Mousse, which they served with a sprinkling of black pepper... you either loved it, or hated it. You might also witness some of that famous Parisian hospitality here if you know what I mean.

Paris was everything I imagined it would be. From the charming streets of Montmartre, beautiful sights around the city and wonderful restaurants serving up great food. It was a whirlwind of a weekend getting as much as we can crammed in, but it's definitely worth it. 

 View from the Sacré-Coer

View from the Sacré-Coer

 The Louvre

The Louvre

 Inside The Louvre - the world's largest museum

Inside The Louvre - the world's largest museum

Review: Sunday

My favourite meal of the day is brunch, hands down, always a winner. I just love how much you can eat because it's technically 2 meals in one, right? Ha! Anyway, a good friend of mine recommended I check out Sunday in Barnsbury, so I did, and errhmahhgahhhd I'm in love.

My other half, Fabz and I got up pretty early on a Saturday morning and arrived at 10:30am to find a queue had already started to form. Clearly we didn't get up early enough. 15 minutes later, a table was ready and we shuffled our way to a tiny table at the back being careful not bump anyones head, chair or table. Not an easy feat given the small space, which is simple and neither impressive or disappointing. It was super busy (good sign I suppose) but most importantly, it smelt delicious! 

Deciding what to choose from the menu was pretty difficult, it all seemed so tasty. I loved the sound of everything on the menu. Looking at the tables around us didn't make it any easier either; A tower of sweet, plump buttermilk pancakes swimming in maple syrup, perfectly done french toast slathered in salted caramel sauce, and of course the generous servings of the dishes with poached eggs on top! Do I go for sweet or savoury? The options were too good to pass on on the latter and being a savoury person, I had to stick to my guns. 

I went for the spiced lamb flatbread, yoghurt, harissa and houmous with poached eggs (left, £10.50) and it was a flavour bomb that started a party in my mouth! Crispy but tender pieces of lamb, the flatbread was soft in the middle, perfect amount of heat in the harissa with thick creamy yoghurt to balance out the heat. You know when you just don't want your food to finish? Yeah, I was having one of those moments. Fabz went for the corn fritters with smoked salmon, avocado, tomatoes and yoghurt with poached eggs (£11). It was fresh and so delicious, everything just went together really well. This little gem of a place served me one of the best brunches I've had in a long time.

If you're looking to try out a new brunch spot for yourself, I highly recommend Sunday. It's ALL about the food here. I can't wait to go back again for (a sweet?) brunch or even try out their lunch menu.

Opening Hours:

Tues - Fri: 08:30 - 18:00

Sat - Sun: 09:00 - 18:00

No reservations on weekends

 

Marrakech to Essaouira

MARRAKECH

 NOMAD, Marrakech

NOMAD, Marrakech

Just above the hustle and bustle of the heart of the Medina and it's vibrant souks, you'll find Nomad, a modern Moroccan restaurant with stunning views. You can even see the majestic Atlas Mountains on a clear day. It serves up local and international dishes using fresh local produce and fragrant spices, the Moroccan way. The menu changes regularly but never fails to whet your appetite. 

From left to right; Courgette Fritters with a herb and lemon yoghurt dip; Spiced Lamb Shank Tagine with Prunes and Almonds served with a buttery Barley, and to finish; a deliciously fragrant Saffron Icecream. Prices average out at about £7 - £17.  I definitely recommend paying this place a visit for lunch if you ever find yourself in Marrakech.

 El Fenn (Photo from website)

El Fenn (Photo from website)

After eating what felt like every single type of tagine, I needed a break and craved something else, aka PASTA! So we headed to a place that was recommended to us by many, El Fenn, a restaurant / Riad / Spa / the most beautiful place everrrr! It serves up modern Meditteranean-Moroccan inspired dishes, using seasonal produce. I was instantly seduced by the decor of cascading plants that grace all THREE courtyards so effortlessly. We're led upstairs through what felt like a maze, taking in the beauty of this place with every turn and level until we got to the roof terrace.

My friend had the Braised Lemon Cockerel with a 'millefeuille' of Aubergine and jus de Moutarde, which was good but didn't blow his mind. I went for the simple but tasty Roast Tomato and Garlic Spaghetti. It's exactly what I was after and it didn't disappoint. The prices are similar to what you'd pay in London, averaging at about £12 - £18 for a main.

OK so this place is gorgeous and does great food, but I do have to mention that it's pretty much just tourists here. Saying that, it was nice to celebrate being on holiday here with the new friends we made on the plane over.

I highly recommend booking an excursion to the High Atlas Mountains for one day. I booked our day excursion in advance with Desert Majesty. We stopped off for lunch at a beautiful restaurant in Ait Ben Haddou. There are so many little Berber villages en route and in the area so when it came to ordering, I went straight for the Berber Tagine. A flavour bomb of spices and tender, melt-in-the-mouth lamb with potatoes, vegetables, olives and sweet, soft prune. YUM! It looked so humble when it arrived but the flavours were just amazing. The dish on the right is a vegetable couscous, so fluffy and light, paired with tender vegetables spiced just perfectly. Moroccans are universally acclaimed for making the best couscous and I see why. They steam granules of semolina and use their hands to rub the granules so they fluff up perfectly. Watch out for my recipe for Moroccan couscous.

ESSAOUIRA

 Essaouira pronounced 'essa-weera' is a beautiful port city on the Atlantic Ocean. It's a much cooler and calmer sister of Marrakech. The vibe here is completely different! The people are more relaxed, it feels spacious and the days seem to last forever (in a good way).  We stayed in a charming Riad in the Medina (old town) that was right by the main square with great views over the port and sea. Having breakfast every morning with this view was amazing, something I could definitely get used to.  The Medina of Essaouira is lively with locals as well as tourists. I loved exploring the narrow streets filled with aromas of spices, leather and wood. As soon as you hit the open market, you can smell the fresh local produce. That's the best part of Essaouira for me, the bustling market where locals go to buy everything from herbs and meat to tea glasses and their veils.

Essaouira pronounced 'essa-weera' is a beautiful port city on the Atlantic Ocean. It's a much cooler and calmer sister of Marrakech. The vibe here is completely different! The people are more relaxed, it feels spacious and the days seem to last forever (in a good way).

We stayed in a charming Riad in the Medina (old town) that was right by the main square with great views over the port and sea. Having breakfast every morning with this view was amazing, something I could definitely get used to.

The Medina of Essaouira is lively with locals as well as tourists. I loved exploring the narrow streets filled with aromas of spices, leather and wood. As soon as you hit the open market, you can smell the fresh local produce. That's the best part of Essaouira for me, the bustling market where locals go to buy everything from herbs and meat to tea glasses and their veils.

 So many different varieties of olives

So many different varieties of olives

 Olives and preserved lemons

Olives and preserved lemons

 One of many herb carts throughout the Medina 

One of many herb carts throughout the Medina 

 A cart full of traditional Moroccan Bread called 'Khobz', which you can find anywhere and everywhere in Morocco. Bread is a Moroccan staple eaten with almost every meal.

A cart full of traditional Moroccan Bread called 'Khobz', which you can find anywhere and everywhere in Morocco. Bread is a Moroccan staple eaten with almost every meal.

 Local butchers

Local butchers

 Hidden away in one of the narrow alleys just off the main market is a little restaurant that serves up grilled sardines fresh from the port. A must try if you ever find yourself in Essaouira.

Hidden away in one of the narrow alleys just off the main market is a little restaurant that serves up grilled sardines fresh from the port. A must try if you ever find yourself in Essaouira.

 Fragrant spices

Fragrant spices

I fell in love with Morocco, from Marrakech to Essaouira and can't recommend it enough to anyone who's ever thought of going. I'm looking forward to going back there and exploring the other cities this beautiful country has to offer.

Kenya: Hakuna Matata!

Last year I was lucky enough to go back to my home town, Mombasa in Kenya after a whopping 20 years! Yeah, long time right? So you can imagine how excited I was about visiting my old town, eating kenyan food and most importantly, seeing my family who I hadn't seen since '95! 

After so many years away, I still found it to be a beautiful country with extremely friendly locals (who are super laid-back, "hakuna matata" you'd hear often). They would always greet you with "Jumbo!" as you walked past and strike up a conversation with you. 

Fabz and I got the chance to go around a few markets in the main town. We got to see a variety of fruits and vegetables, some that are native to Kenya, lots of colourful spices, aromatic teas and coffees (also famous aroound the world)... It was crazy in there with all the market traders showing your their produce, hoping you'd buy some.

There were plenty of street food vendors everywhere you went! My cousin was telling us that anyone can just pitch up a stall and sell food because there's no one actually checking for permits or licences.

The grilled maize (below left), is similar to the yellow corn on the cob we're more use to seeing. This African maize is picked when it's mature so it can really stand the heat of the grill. It's delicious and so full of flavour because it's cooked straight on the open grill so you get that smokey, charred flavour. They can finish it off by rubbng salt, chilli powder and lime on, which I obviously asked for, always.

My stand out street food which I couldn't get enough of was Mogo, pronounced mo-ho-go. I vividly remembered it from when I was young. It's deep fried cassava strips sliced down the middle and filled with salt, chilli powder and lime. It's crispy of the outside and soft in the middle and you have to eat it whilst it's still hot! You can see a picture of it over on my instagram. They also had these hand held mandalins which they used to shave off the ends of cassava really quickly and straight into the fryer to make cassava crisps. You could eat them with just a bit of salt or yes, you guessed it, salt, chilli powder and lime. Don't think you could get any fresher than that. Oh how I would love a bag of those right now!

We left the hectic city of Mombasa and headed down the south coast (after a long, hot wait for the ferry), Tiwi Beach to be precise, and it was just paradise! So peaceful, quiet and surprisingly not very touristy considering it was high season, not that I'm complaining, that's how I like it. We made friends with some lovely beach boys who put on a little lunch spread for us with lobster, mangoes, oranges, madafus and cassava chips. 

The machungwas (oranges) in Kenya are actually green but the taste is pretty similar. The coconut water is just on another level and the best thing about drinking it straight from the coconut is that you get to scrape out all that delicious coconut flesh to eat up after! 

All the dishes that I tried during my time in Mombasa were delicious! Too many to mention in just one post. There's a huge variety of spices and cooking tehniques that are used both at home and out. The reason why there's so much diversity in Mombasa dates back to it's history when the city was a major harbour for all sorts of trades. These included spices given the proximity to India and the middle east. The eventful history of Mombasa mirrors its diverse community made of native Africans, Arabs, Indians and Europeans.

We had such a great time in Kenya and we'll definitely be going back, hopefully it won't take us 20 years this time!