More Bake Off love Sunday, Oct 5 2014 

After a long hiatus, I’m back, drooling over the latest series of The Great British Bake Off. Specifically this latest episode, which saw contestants making baklava:

rose baklavaI’m loving the idea of Luis’ rose and barberry baklava (pictured above). Not to mention Chetna’s masala chai versions, which fit in perfectly with the arrival of autumn, the season of spices (just don’t get me started on the deliciousness of Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte):

masala chai baklavaComing soon will be more autumn adventures, including lunch at the Fat Duck before its temporary move to Australia, macaroons at Ladurée in Paris, and afternoon tea at the Connaught, so stay tuned 🙂


Review: The Real Food Store Monday, Aug 29 2011 

It’s not quite a shop. It’s not quite a cafĂ© or restaurant. It’s not quite a bakery or meeting space. It’s all of these things, and a community initiative as well.

The Real Food Store in Exeter is a co-operative food store which opened in March 2011. It is a community-owned shop, bakery, cafĂ© and community space which was started up in order to provide a “positive shopping alternative” in this south-west cathedral city. It has 292 shareholding members, and from my experience at the cafĂ© last month, they’ve made a good investment.

We went rummaging through the shop straight away and were pleased to find not only lots of local vegetables and bread made on the premises, but also lots of other foodstuffs that made us go ‘ooh’, such as homemade biscuits and ales from the area. A great alternative within the city centre to trekking out into Topsham to get the same stuff from Dart’s Farm (DF does have more to offer than that in a way that’s different to The Real Food Store – but more of that another time).

We then went upstairs to the cafĂ©, which takes advantage of natural light and has loads of brightly-coloured country-side related art on the walls, mostly of cows (the art, by local artists, is for sale too). We just wanted a light lunch, so I plumped for a root vegetable soup, which was full of earthiness, colour and spice, while Jean-Marc chose a venison sausage sandwich (made with bread baked in store, of course). We also ordered drinks (a lemonade concoction for him, I believe, and a ginger ale for me)…and this was the only glitch. The drinks we’d ordered (and paid for!) didn’t come and we had to ask for them again. When they were finally delivered, the girl bringing them was incredibly apologetic and tried to offer us a free cake each by way of apology. Even though the cakes looked incredible, a) we only wanted a light lunch, so didn’t really need cake; b) it was only a small mistake – hardly worth free cake by way of compensation; and c) we knew it was only a small community-owned business and didn’t want to take advantage. So we politely declined – but you definitely could not fault their customer service.

The drinks they serve are local, too, from south-west firm Luscombe Farm; these are always guaranteed to be full of natural flavour and fizz, and the ginger ale definitely had some bite to it (natural ginger all the way, peeps). Our food, too, was faultless, and had we not been going for a three-course meal that evening we definitely would have stayed for cake.  We were thoroughly impressed not only by the food and service but also by the bill – at a mere ÂŁ15 for the two of us, it tops McDonalds any day of the week. Full marks.

11-13 Paris Street, Exeter EX1 2JB

01392 681234

CafĂ© Review: The Hummingbird Bakery, London W1 Sunday, May 9 2010 

After my sister bought me the Hummingbird Bakery cook book for my birthday this year, it seemed silly not to go to one of the London outlets when I had the chance just over a week ago. The cakes in the cook book looked divine, and I wanted to see how it was really done.

Visually, I was not disappointed: the window display was edgy and colourful, and when you reach the counter inside, your eyes are assaulted by a veritable rainbow of colour and glitter. The branch that I visited – the Wardour Street branch – was a little on the small side (there was not really enough seating – or perhaps the problem was that there was too much for such a small space – and people were liable to trample on your bags or push past you on their way in or out), but there was at least plenty of room to see the cupcakes in all their glory.

However, you could also see the price tags in all their glory as well. The eat-in prices for two Tropicana orange juices, one cupcake (purple with butterflies on it; vanilla icing and cake) and one frosted chocolate brownie came to what seemed a slightly staggering ÂŁ11.50. This seemed a bit much for what we got, perhaps exacerbated by our trip to Windsor two days before, where we’d seen cupcakes for the same price with equally luridly-coloured icing that were about the same size as your average five-year-old’s face. While the brownie that my fiancĂ© chose at the Hummingbird Bakery was of a goodly size, my cupcake was on the small size (and yet I felt duty-bound to have one regardless of the price just because that’s what they’re famous for. Silly eh?).

The staff were certainly friendly there, and I liked the innovation involved in the Bakery’s election cupcakes, wheeled out a week ahead of Britain’s general election (red sparkly cupcakes for Labour, blue sparkly cupcakes for Conservative, yellow sparkly cupcakes for Liberal, and white for undecided). We spent a good few minutes debating whether or not the number of cupcakes that had been sold for each party really reflected the views of the electorate…

I’d therefore say to go once to the Hummingbird Bakery just for the experience; however, you are ultimately better off buying the cook book yourself and doing this at home for maximum value for money, and taking yourself off to one of the higher quality tea rooms that London has to offer instead. All in all, a bit of a let down.

47 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3JP (tel: 02075 840055)

133 Portobello Road, London W11 2TY (tel: 02072 296446)

155a Wardour Street, London W1F 8WG (tel: 02074 343003)