A Day of Jamie

I need to backtrack a bit to share an amazing day I had while I was in London for the holidays. As I have mentioned before, my husband is not the greatest “gifter.” In the past I have either bought my own Christmas present, which was completely fine since I got exactly what was on my list. Or we exchanged no gifts at all, which is fine as well, since I usually have to shop for about 20 people.

Well, I am now eating my words because he got me the most amazing Christmas present … a reservation at Jamie’s Italian on Threadneedle Street.  But that is not all, he pre-arranged for his brother and sister-in-law to babysit our son all day!  We spend every Christmas in the UK visiting Clive’s family on the outskirts of London and for some reason our son has now turned into a demon child every time we try to take him up into the city.  The worst was trying to pick out gifts at Fortnum and Mason’s this past year and having to carry him out kicking and screaming over my shoulder.

My angel – pre tantrum and post tantrum

The prospect of spending the day in London, just the two of us, like we used to when we lived here right after we first got married, was heaven.  Especially since the day would end with what I knew would be a delicious meal.

With Ollie on the way to a farm/petting zoo with Uncle Paul and Auntie Di, we decided to take full advantage of the day and go up to Notting Hill, which is a must visit when we are in town.  The fact that Jamie’s Recipease sits at the entrance into Notting Hill was just a wonderful coincidence.  Certainly I didn’t plan to drag my husband around for an entire day of Jamie Oliver!

Recipease is Jamie’s new food and kitchen shop where you can also take cooking lessons.  I was only planning on browsing, maybe pick up a few of his magazines that I can’t get back in the States, but we had to eat lunch somewhere so it might as well be here.  We sat upstairs at the high table along the window, drinking cappuccinos and watching the double decker buses and black cabs go by.


Clive ordered the mulligatawny soup. I had a blue cheese, thyme and caramelized onion flat bread to start and then the Vietnamese spring rolls. Everything was fresh, delicious and exceptional.  Even my non-foodie husband (“food is fuel”) was blown away by the complex flavors of the soup.  And I have to say, it was all so reasonably priced.

Spring Rolls & Flatbread

After lunch we wandered up Portobello Road and bought an antique toy tractor for Ollie at my favorite shop, Chloe Alberry, went to my favorite spice shop which unfortunately was closed and stopped for a pint at one of the local pubs.

Portobello Road

Then it was off to the city to Jamie’s Italian!  We had an early reservation and the restaurant was fairly empty but by the time we left it had filled up.  The service was great – nice, friendly and attentive.  But the food, oh the food, it really was out of this world.  I knew it would be good but there are about 30 Jamie’s Italian outposts around the UK so you never know (even though I have complete faith in Jamie).  There is nothing better than having your high expectations exceeded.  Blown out of the water, really.

Threadneedle Street

Jamie's Italian Menu

We started with the Crostini Selection, which was presented on a long thin wooden plank.  The first one we tried was the shaved raw zucchini with just a hint of mint and lemon.  Delicious.  The rest were equally amazing – beetroot puree, squash and ricotta, smoked salmon – but our favorite was a very simple roasted Mediterranean veggie.  I have no idea how he packed so much flavor onto each of those crostinis.

Crostini Selection

For our mains, we decided to split the Truffle Tagliolini and the Mushroom Cilindretti.  We were very glad we did this because eating a whole dish of the Truffle Tagliolini would have been too rich for us.  But the flavors, all that butter and shaved truffles was a really special treat.  Both of us agreed that the mushroom dish was our favorite.  It was wild mushroom stuffed “parcels” with a tomato & porcini sauce.  The parcels were long rectangular fresh pasta filled with a mushroom mixture, and the sauce was simple but divine.  For our sides, I ordered a rocket and parmesan salad (always a favorite for me) and Clive ordered the roast pumpkin, beets and squash.  Again the flavors were so intense.

Our dinner

We finished with a simple mango sorbet. On our way out, we stopped to talk with the manager and give him our compliments.  He was warm and enthusiastic.  It is so nice to dine at a place where you can see that the staff genuinely enjoy working there.

We then took a stroll through the city, across the Millennium Bridge and along the South Bank.  I love this walk which we did so many times before while living here.  The night wasn’t too cold, just crisp enough, and there were people strolling and buskers playing music.  We slowly made our way back to Waterloo to take the train back to Surbiton.

It was the perfect ending to a perfect day and two perfect meals.  Thanks honey!

Cooks County

My yet-to-be-named restaurant club dined at Cook’s County recently.  Circle of Trust is the unofficial name that seems to have stuck since we eat freely, drink freely and talk freely at our dinners, but only the food and wine talk is shared beyond the table.

Cooks County is another restaurant that serves small plates.  I know Evan Kleiman and Jonathan Gold often discuss on “Good Food” how every restaurant these days seem to specialize in this.  I am not sure if they think it is a good thing or a bad thing.  But I think it is a very good thing indeed.  If I could spend my life just eating appetizers, that would make me happy.

Cooks County Menu

We wanted to order a nice wine but couldn’t decide on the bottle.  Our waitress brought over several tasters to help us and we chose the 2007 Muga Rioja. I think this is an incredible thing that restaurants will do.  My husband’s best friend was visiting from the UK and we went to a restaurant that has an enormous, eclectic beer selection.  He was shocked when the waiter brought over several small tasters to help him make up his mind.  “That would never happen in the UK, mate.”


We started with the “Snacks” portion of the menu:  Cast Iron Bread & Farmhouse Butter, Fried Cardoons with Parmesan, Sage & Spicy Aioli, Market Radishes & Lemon Meyer Butter and Braised Local Squid with Red Wine & Cannellini Beans.  I know some people balk at paying for bread & butter but when it’s this good, it’s worth it.  So worth it we got a second order!  Cardoons, for those of you who don’t know – including us because we had to ask our waitress – are artichoke thistles. Butter on anything makes it better but, butter on radishes is divine.  The squid was perfectly cooked, tender and flavorful.

Then we ordered off the “Appetizers” and “Sides” menu.  We never even got to the “Mains”.  See, my kind of meal.  The Cauliflower & Romanesco Salad with Fingerling Potatoes, Hard Cooked Eggs & Mustard was as flavorful as it was beautiful.  Same could be said for the Grilled Eggplant, Fire Roasted Nardello peppers, Sheep’s Milk Ricotta & Pomegranate Vinaigrette.  Cooks County supports local farms and ranches, and we could taste this freshness in their dishes.  To see these purveyors listed at the bottom of their daily menu is really impressive.

The last small plate to arrive was the Pan-Roasted Clams, Shaved Fennel, Pickled Chili & Garlic Rubbed Toast.  This was one of those dishes where you wanted to spoon up the incredible broth as soup.  This dish is why we ordered that second round of Cast Iron Bread.  We had to have something to soak it all up.

Pan Roasted Clams with Garlic Rubbed Toast

We had a big debate over the dessert but since it was close to Jenny’s birthday, she got to choose – Pumpkin Cheesecake with Brown Butter Sugar Cream & Pumpkin Seed Brittle.  I had my doubts but this dessert was delicious.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

However, looking back over the dessert menu now, I am sad we didn’t throw caution to the wind and also order the Sugar & Spice Donuts with Sour Plum Jam & Muscovado Sugar Ice Cream as well as the Apple Turnover with Huckleberry Compote & Brown Butter Ice Cream.

Another incredible evening dining out in LA.

Our Table

Son of a Gun

So I love food and I love eating out. Unfortunately my British husband is more of a “food is fuel” type of man. He would happily eat a batch of what he calls his “10 Day Curry” … for literally 10 days in a row. In desperation to save my gastronomical senses, I enlisted the girlfriends who appreciate food as much as I do to hit the city’s best restaurants.

It wasn’t too hard to convince my sister Kim and my friend Jenny once I told them the basic outline of a monthly splurge on amazing food and amazing wines at fabulous eateries. We haven’t come up with an official name yet for our unofficial dining out club, but on our first, and slightly booze-soaked, venture we tossed around “Marmalade and Moonshine,” which I love but don’t really think it has anything to do with our club. “Circle of Trust,” only because we used the meal as a bit of a therapy session. And “Twirly Birds Special,” a play on the fact that we will probably always end up dining around 6:30 pm since it is right after I get off work and we should be able to get a table, even at the most popular places since no one in LA dines that early. We thought “Early Birds Special” made us sound old, hence the “twirly.” Anyway, it is obviously a work in progress, but regardless, our first meal was a smashing success.

Jenny started with the Buggy Whip Punch and I went with a Moscow Mule

Jenny started with the Buggy Whip Punch and I went with a Moscow Mule

I picked the first restaurant and so we went to Son of a Gun on Third Street in Los Angeles.  I have been wanting to go there for awhile and was not disappointed. The place is small and welcoming. The staff was incredibly friendly, especially our waitress who offered great suggestions, let us try out wines to see if we liked them, and didn’t rush us off, even as the restaurant started to fill up. And how was the food? Divine. It is a fairly small menu of small plates with a variety of culinary origins. 

We started off with the Smoked Mahi Fish Dip with Celery, Radish and Crackers. It was amazing, especially since smoked fish rillettes and dips are my favorite right now. 

IMG_2121 Edit copy

Smoked Mahi

After that, the plates just kept rolling out: Gem Lettuce with Pickled Beets, Creme Fraiche & Bread Crumbs (the crunch of the tiny breadcrumbs made the dish); Dungeness Crab with Daikon, Melon & Yuzu.

Dungeness crab

Dungeness Crab

Blackened Rock Fish with Tomatillo Salsa and Crema:

Blackened Rock Fish

Blackened Rock Fish

Fried Chicken sandwich with Spicy B&B Pickle Slaw & Rooster Aioli (the chicken was so tender and the sandwich was so tall, we almost didn’t know how to eat it); Uni with Burrata, Button Mushrooms & Yuzu. Yes – I tried Uni which I now know is sea urchin. It was interesting, especially with the Burrata since it has the same texture. Not sure if I will have it again, but I am glad I tried it once and the flavors were very good.

Normally I am not a dessert orderer, but since these nights are going to be about trying something new and fully experiencing the menu, we figured that we would have to indulge in dessert. Especially since they had something on the menu called an Italian Hamburger, which is a scoop of hazelnut ice cream covered in caramel on a sweet brioche with a dusting of Maldon sea salt and powdered sugar.  


Italian Hamburger

Needless to say, we practically licked the plate clean. (and I am sure this dish would have even lured my husband out of the house).

 It was a fantastic night, the start of many wonderful meals. Thanks to my dining companions for helping me indulge in my foodie side.


Originally posted on serveitforth.blogspot.com