Halal Gems Street Eat Food Festival

My sisters and all recently went (although all of us at different times!) to the Halal Gems Street Eat Food Festival at Spitalsfield Market in London, which was an a pretty iconic event in that it brought more attention to diverse halal food, for Muslims and non-Muslims.

I’ve been to food festivals before, and even halal food festivals, but this one was an interesting one to go to because of how much publicity it got, and the different vendors who would be at the event. One of the things we liked was that there was a lot of fusion cuisines, and a chance to try food from places I’d been meaning to visit but hadn’t got around to (either because the restuarants were a little far away or I jsut never got the time!)

I managed to try a slow-pulled smoked brisket burger from Meat & Shake, haloumi fries from Oli Baba’s and a mango soda from Square Root London and finished off with my friend’s tumeric-and-brownies ice cream sandwich from Blu Top – all of which I really liked. The food was a little pricey for a food festival for me, and the queues were huge (although luckily I came early so didn’t have to wait as long), not to mention some foods selling out so not everyone got a chance to try it! I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to make the most of the different dishes because I got full pretty quickly, and the fact that I couldn’t spend too much, as some of the food was a little expensive.

I think this was aimed at a lot of younger families and working professionals, and certainly we saw a lot of these at the event – people who had come for lunch, after work or even just with their families.

I think it’s a really nice way to bring halal food to the fore and raise awareness, and we saw a lot of non-Muslims enjoying the festival as well. We also managed to make the most of the games available – although I will admit, we managed to get distracted from these by the shops and markets nearby and ended up shopping instead!

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Dominique Ansel Bakery – Home of the Novelty Baked Treats

I recently visited the famous Dominique Ansel bakery in London with a friend, which is famous for the Cronut, as well as a lot of other baked delicacies.  We got a little over-excited and ordered a bunch of treats, all of which we had fun tasting – the cookie shot (a cup made of cookie filled with milk), the peanut-butter creamy cake, the Frozen S’more (a marshmallow-ice cream combination), mini Madeleines fresh and hot from the oven and a yummy hot chocolate with a marshmallow flower which opened up from the heat of the drink.

As I’m sure you can imagine, we were stuffed after all of this, and had to walk around the streets to burn it off a little, but it was worth it! If you’re around the area, I’d recommend this place to sit and try (although it can get very busy so there may be some waiting time!), and it’s not super-cheap (although not overly-expensive either) – sometime to try at least once!

Floral Vibes at Bourne & Hollingsworth

I recently met up with a very old friend for brunch, after a very long time (ten years!) and celebrated at the beautiful restaurant Bourne & Hollingsworth. They don’t have a halal menu unfortunately, but there’s plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, and I really enjoyed my order at this restaurant.

One of the things I loved about this B&H was the floral vibe it had going on – it really reminded me of Rudyard Kiplings stories which I used to read when I was younger, which gave a really lovely atmosphere. I also loved the fact that the company’s business cards are basically a sketch of the restaurant, such a cute idea!

There’s also outdoor seating too, it was a little chilly for us so we opted for the indoors, but it’s opposite a park and feels very peaceful and quiet to sit outside too.

So let’s get to the food, I ordered a poached eggs hollandaise, while my friend ordered the savoury courgette pancake. I LOVED my meal, it was light, fluffy and the sauce was amazing, while my friend’s pancakes were pretty tasty and full of flavour.

And of course, we couldn’t leave without dessert – we both opted for chocolatey brownies in hot sauce, which finished off the meal nicely.

The restaurant gets pretty busy (which we found when we had to book to reserve a table!) but the atmosphere is quite chilled out, and I love that there’s small details everywhere in the decor to create the look of the restaurant – a piano for the front desk, a vintage bathtub in the bathrooms, tiles walls in the private dining area – there’s something appealing for your eyes most places you look.

I really enjoyed having brunch at this restaurant, and would love to come back again. I can imagine that it’s perfect for a light meal, and somewhere to sit and feel like you’ve been transported to another era.

EVALUATION:
HALAL : NO
VEGETARIAN & VEGAN OPTIONS AVAILABLE: YES
PRICE : £7 UPWARDS FOR BRUNCH, £15-18 FOR LUNCH
RATING OUT OF 10: 7
LOCATION: 42 Northampton Rd, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 0HU

Chilli Burgers at Habaneros

I’ve seen a huge rise of the gourmet burger restaurant in the past couple of years, and I’m sure that the fact that there are a lot of halal restaurants make them even popular. I’ve been to quite a few halal (and vegetarian!) gourmet burger places, and am starting to get the hang of what makes a decent ‘gourmet’ burger, as well as what separates them from the standard ones you get in a normal chicken-and-chips shop down the road.

Hubby and I recently went to Habaneros, a gourmet burger chain in West London, which was a little out of our way, but having heard it was one to go to, we decided to give it a shot.

One of the things which makes a restaurant memorable for me is not just the food, but the atmosphere and the care taken in in the decor – it makes the place something more attractive for me to come back to. The decor in the place was pretty funky, lots of wall art, subtle lighting spaces for sit. Although the diner isn’t huge, there’s space to sit and eat and it gets pretty busy at lunch-times and after work!

This is what I ordered, a classic Habanero burger with cheesy fries, while my husband went for a spicy Samurai burger and fries. I liked that both burgers were big enough to be filling, but not too massive. As much as I like getting my money’s worth when it comes to food, I prefer quality and not overloading – I have been to some gourmet burger joints in the past where I’ve had to cut up my burger to eat it in portions!

The Habanero burger isn’t particularly spicy but is very juicy, the meat is tender enough to taste great but has a nice grilled taste to it, and blends well with the sauces and salad. I was slightly disappointed with the cheesy fries as I thought the cheese would be melted cheese on top of the chips, and this was more of a cheesy sauce, but they tasted okay and we did eat them all!

Hubby’s Samurai burger was surprisingly more chilli than mine – I think this was mainly due ot the sauce in the burger, but it was a lovely sweet-and-chilli taste which I liked.

I liked that this is a very reasonably priced place to go – burgers cost about £5.95 each and they are made pretty quickly – perfect for any rush-hours too. I’ve already been back to this place to get another burger, although I will admit, as an east-Londoner it is a little far!

Evaluation:
Halal : yes
Vegetarian options available: Yes
Price : £5.95 upwards, depending on whether it’s just a burger or a meal
Rating out of 10: 6.5
Location: 3A Walm Lane Willesden Green London NW2 5SJ

Bright Lights at Dalloway’s Terrace

My friends and I managed to get a table at the constantly-booked Dalloway’s Terrace restaurant, which took us about a month to get, but was worth it for the visual experience and the ambience. The restaurant is known for it’s pretty decor and looks lovely at night – which was the first thing my friends and I noticed as soon as we got to the restaurant.

The decor which was up was mainly lights and lanterns, painted pine-cones and white trees and rushes, which made for a very intimate feel to the restaurant. The seating is centred around the trees and the lights and it feels pretty surreal to sit in the middle of it because it feels a little like being in a fairy-like enchanted woods (without the cold, there were heaters everywhere!)

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The food itself is a little limited in terms of halal, but we were re-assured that the chicken in this restaurant is halal. There is a mix of cuisine, with mainly English and a dash of Meditarranean and Asian. We all opted for some fondues and also chose a meal each as well – I picked a miso cod on a bed of quinoa, with spinach leaves in cream (and we also got chips for everyone to share, becuase why not!)

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My friends also picked a mix of food – one went for a mixed sea-grill, another went for bruschetta, while my other friend was in the mood for dessert and went for fruit-tarts and a hot chocolate! The food was presented quite nicely, and I personally liked the dish I picked – it was tender, juicy and had a good mix of sweet and savoury. I think our favourite thing was the fondues though – we ordered a cheese one with fruit, and another white chocolate fondue with strawberry which really completed the night (not to mention fighting over and stealing each other’s fruit from the fondue pot!)

The bright lights have been taken down from Dalloway’s Terrace now (which will be back at the end of the year at Christmas time) but it’s still worth a visit when the restaurant re-opens in May with their springy green decor. I really enjoyed myself at this restaurant and would love to try afternoon tea in the summer at this place – I’m sure it will be just as fun an experience!

Have you been to this restaurant? What dish did you like best?

Foodie Review: Sweet, Mile End

I was recently invited to a Blogger’s Meet at Sweet, Mile End, a trendy dessert place in Mile End who wanted us try their desserts to review whether we would enjoy the food. I was pretty please to be invited, as I would be going with with some bloggers I know (either in real life or online!) and it was a great opportunity to hang out, gossip, eat great food and relax.

You can see the other blogger’s reviews here: Hijabi in London; Yasmins Intro; The London Haloodie – be sure to check their blogs out!

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Sweet is mainly a dessert restaurant, which provides a wide range of milkshakes, mocktails, cakes, waffles, crepes and cookie doughs – as well as their signature ‘Alto-Shakes’, which are crazily-extravagant milkshakes topped with icing, cakes, syrup, more toppings and chocolate!

 

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We were lucky enough to try a range of desserts and drinks and we each decided to try a few different things so we can mix-and-match and share our treats. Funnily enough we all had very different tastes – I’m a huge cheesecake and chocolate fan, while the others loved the idea of a waffle, milk shake or the salty desserts. You can see below some of the things we ordered – don’t they look amazing? They actually tasted yummy, the desserts were presented amazingly on each dish and tasted great, balancing salty flavours with sweet, rich flavours with sharp and tangy.

Having tried a lot of options, I loved a lot of these desserts, but my favourite was the Ferrero Rocher chocolate cheesecake (I’m a sucker for cheesecakes!) and the fruity mocktails, although I did like the sound of the ‘gulab jamun’ and ‘gajar ka halwa’ ice cream! I also really liked the mocktails – perfectly fruity and not too icy cold.

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I also liked the decor in this restaurant, which was very London-centric with the pencil-drawing art on the walls, mixed with muted colourful lights and a soft atmosphere – a great place to sit and unwind after work.

I had fun at this restaurant and it was great to meet like-minded bloggers (sharing blogger problems like the art of taking ten thousand photos of food pictures to get the right angle!)
Dessert places in London are becoming pretty popular and it’s not surprising, they’re the ideal places for hangouts and who can resist a good dessert? The other thing I loved about this place was that it’s fully halal, so there’s no worries for Muslims in east London looking for a sweet treat after dinner in this area. I’m sure I’ll be dropping by in Sweet again – let me know if you’ve been and what you think of it!

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KitKat Chocolatory, London

I’ve heard about this a few days ago – KitKat is opening a chocolatory (very much like the popular ones in Japanese) in London – specifically, east London at Westfield Stratford! So when the store opened today, I popped down at the first chance (i.e. lunch time) to take a look for myself – and loved what I saw!

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The store is located at The Street, Westfield Stratford and is a lovely, bright pop-up shop where you can customise your own bespoke KitKat – from flavours, colours and toppings and even box design – on a computerized screen which is brought to life by a group of chocolatiers, all while you watch.

I really like the idea of a bespoke KitKat (you get to design an eight-fingered bar, so at least it’s big enough!) which I think really appeals to Londoners who like something a little creative. And of course, seeing lots of melted, sumptuous chocolate always makes me feel happy too.

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You can watch a mini clip of how the KitKats are made below – sorry for the grainy quality!

If the bespoke KitKat is too pricey (or takes too long!) for you, there are also various ‘Special Edition’ flavours – new flavours are introduced every week, I’m told.

Here are some of this week’s flavours, don’t they look beautiful – almost too pretty to eat!

I think that this a really interesting concept brought over from Japan – I’ve always been fascinated with the quirky flavours from Japan like matcha, lavender, cheesecake and there’s even a potato flavour! (not sure I’d try that one though). I’ve already posted a few of these pictures on my social media and the viewers are loving the idea – although be warned the KitKats are slightly pricey for £7 to design your own bar.

The pop-up KitKat bar is open for the next 5 weeks until mid-November – pop down if you’re around! You can also see more pictures here of the opening today – what do you think of this?

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Beautiful Bergen – Part 2

While staying in Bergen we managed to see quite a lot of sites in the few days that we stayed there, and tried to make the most of the long days and various attractions. One of the things which really struck my husband and myself was how well-spoken the Norwegian citizens are, and also how healthy and fit they seem – we spoke to several inhabitants who told us about regular walks up and down the mountain, the beautiful fresh air and various fresh fish they had for meals which was caught by the wharf.

There’s quite a few things which stood out for me in Bergen, so I’ll list some of my favourite below – let me know what you think of these!

Bergenhus Fortress, Rosenkrantz Tower & Haakon’s Hall
One of the things I was looking forward to seeing in Bergen was the historical sites, which were medieval buildings which go back as far as the 13th century. Begenhus Fortress is mainly the hall (Haakon’s Hall) and the Rosenkrant Tower (which is an old keep which used to have dungeons), which ares apparently a throwback to the Viking days, although the Hall was properly used for weddings and feasts from the 13th century. We didn’t get to see inside the Hall because we arrived too late, but we did get to wander around the grounds which we loved (and you can see the inside of the Hall here), where there were plenty of old structures, statues and large walkways to explore.

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Statues
There are several statues around the city of Bergen, which can be found in various spots, some of which are a commentary on society, with a certain message from the artist. The most memorable one was this hidden away, nameless statue of a homeless person below, which is apparently the most photographed statue in the city – it is meant to make the viewer think about why it is there and what it means. There are also several statue tributes to Norwegian historical figures – generals, presidents and well-loved figures whose images are around the city with plaques and scripts. There was one which always made me jump every time I saw it, because I kept thinking it was a real person – it was a statue of a young girl (below) at the corner of a doorway to a McDonalds restaurant – it catches your attention from the corner of your eye and makes you think there is someone standing there waiting for a friend!

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The Bookcafe
If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know how much I love quirky libraries and bookshops – I make it a point to look out for beautiful bookstores while abroad and haven’t been disappointed yet! It took me a while to find a pretty bookstore like this one, as I saw a few scattered in different areas but some were shut, and the others were not very memorable. I found this one the day before we left Bergen, with beautiful decoration, hanging books, scripts on walls and seating inside which showed it was a cafe for people to read and relax.

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Town square
I’ve already written about the town square, which is surrounded by colourful hotels and restaurants, and further along the high street you come to the more modern part of the street, which is a street lined with designer shops, and has a giant water-feature with a sort of stone obelisk in the middle, with carvings and statues on it. I loved the carvings along the stone faces of this landmark, it seems to show the story of settlers and Viking boats travelling to new places, as well as various religious pictures which seem to be a big feature with Norwegian history. Similarly, the statues were all dressed in different eras to reflect the different centuries, which looked great.

Anne Madam
One of the biggest problems my husband and I found was the expense of the food – a lot of the normal restaurants ended up costing around £30-40 per person for a normal meal, and even the usual burger-chains like Burger King and McDonalds were pricier than we expected – more than they cost in the UK! Luckily, we managed to find a new restaurant which had opened a few days after our arrival, and which was offering traditional Norwegian food at a discounted price. The traditional food in Bergen is mainly various types of fish, since it is a fishing town, so naturally we wanted to try some, and managed to get some at Anne Madame, which is in the heart of the city opposite the wharf. This plate is a traditional hake and potato pieces which were given with a light tartar sauce and coleslaw, and which was delicious – we loved it enough to come back here again before we left!

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Things to look out for
We went to Bergen in the first week of May, which is  one of the warmest months to visit, and the start of the tourist season – so there is plenty of things happening for tourists to see. We were lucky enough to see a drummer’s parade going through the town (I love the sound of loud drums, it always makes me want to dance!), and found plenty of quirky shops like a moose shop (below), a troll shop (the trolls are not the cute 90s kind but uglier ones!) and shops with beautiful hand-crafted goods and clothes. We also saw a lot of beautiful buildings, mixed against a backdrop of green mountains and beautiful lakes, which made it a really peaceful place to spend the day.

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All in all, my husband and I loved the beauty of Bergen – it is one of those places where you feel like there is every natural beautiful landscape to be found. A friend of mine visited Oslo recently, and complained that it was less beautiful than Bergen – there are most commercial buildings, more lights and less colour, and I certainly agree – there is a lot of beautiful colour and nature to be found in this city.

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Nostalgic Decor at Proper Burgers

My friends know by know, that when you take me to dinner, I’ll always love a diner with quirky decor, good food and even something to remind us of the 90s and our childhood. So when my best friend took me to Proper Burgers in East London, and she told me I’d love it, I was happy to find she was right – the food was great, decor was fab and the restaurant was something I did love!

The most striking thing about this restaurant is the statement wall – an entire wall of cassette tapes stuck to the wall that I loved. My friend also took her little children on a previous occasion to the restaurant and told me they didn’t know what the cassettes were, which I thought just shows how times move so quickly!

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This wasn’t the only decor which I loved, there were dramatic prints, art-deco style lamps, light-up pineapples and quirky pieces like typewriters and vases of flowers, which all brought together a very friendly atmosphere. I also liked the fact that the restaurant wasn’t cluttered – there were mostly simple seating and clear spaces which is great for families (especially big ones!)

This is what we ordered, I ordered hte Proper Burger (classic quarter pounder meat) while my friend ordered a veggie burger with mushrooms, both with a side of chips (my friend ordered cheesey fries) as well as a lemon and vanilla milkshake.

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Because these were gourmet burgers, they were a pretty decent size, and the meat patty used was a decent quality. My friend’s veggie burger was well cooked and each burger came with plenty of filling, salad and cheese with a generous dollop of sauce. The lemon milkshake was also lovely, although a little subtle in taste, which went well with the burger and fries.

This is a great place for a casual meal with friends (or family!) and the service was great too – we got served quickly and the staff were very friendly. I particularly liked the fact that they stopped to tell us about our food, as well as about the restaurant, which is nice to know about, and they also encouraged me to take more pictures of the restaurant!

I’m sure I’ll be coming back here again, I loved the decor and it’s always nice to find something like this in the heart of east London. I’ve been keeping an eye out for more places like this, so let me know about any suggestions:

OVERALL:
Food: 7 / 10
Decor: 8 / 10
Atmosphere: 8 /10
Cost: Around £20 for 2 people
Halal status confirmed

Pretty Treats at Primrose Bakery

Primrose Bakery is a little tea-and-cake shop I found hidden away near Covent Garden yesterday while wandering around the cobbled streets after lunch (and making my husband step into makeup shops with me to buy new lipsticks). I love luxurious, sumptuious afternoon teas but every now and then I prefer something quirky, sweet and prettily put together with odds and ends for a boho, funky look.

I’ve been trying to moderate how much chocolate I eat these days, so we stuck to a single (very chocolatey) cupcake with some coke (for me) and a latter (for him). I loved all the little touches, like the fresh flowers on the table.

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I love finding places like this because you can see from a glance how much character it has, and also how much work has gone into it to make it memorable and beautiful. It’s also great to see everything is freshly-made and that there are books, posters, aprons and cupcakes everywhere to create a great atmosphere.

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There was a little corner hidden away in the room for those who wanted some privacy (to stuff down their cupcakes) which I thought was really cute too, not to mention the random clothes-line!

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A quick mention of the treats too – there were plenty of different flavours of cupcakes and brownies, including a ‘Flavour of the Month’ (this month is lemon meringue, last month was cheesecake!), all waiting to be lusted over by customers.

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Its worth stepping in if you’re walking past this place, it’s slightly hidden away but it’s in a great location, just a stroll down from the busy shops in Coven Garden – worth sitting in to relax after tiring yourself out shopping!

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