Lima Floral

I wasn’t sure what to write up from the weekend, because I was fortunate enough to go a variety of excellent places over the weekend: Dandelyan and the Rumpus Room at Sea Containers, Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, Plum + Spilt Milk…but I opted to jot down a few notes on Lima, where I went for brunch on Sunday. I am still without proper DSLR, so please forgive the phone pics…

Lima is a Peruvian restaurant tucked away on Floral Street, just away from the surging crowds of Covent Garden. Known for delicate and well-balanced dishes, they’ve just launched a new brunch menu, for which I was a very willing guinea pig. The restaurant itself is light and airy, and the staff kindly accommodated our request to be seated upstairs in the sunshine, as opposed to our original spot downstairs in the Pisco Bar. The decor is inviting and fairly eclectic, full of blue hues and tapestries, and some envy-inducing china plates. My companion opted for a latte, and I decided to try one of the plum and rosemary ’emolientes’, a refreshing drink that is served warm. It was delicately flavoured, sweet without being saccharine, and entirely delightful. There are two different categories for brunch: a lighter Andean breakfast, and a long lunch. We were busy agonising over what to choose from the Andean menu, when our waitress told us we got EVERYTHING on that menu. I’m pretty sure I heard the Hallelujah chorus from some distant place.

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The menu seems fairly unassuming, descriptions are simply put and don’t try to hard. This is often my favourite kind of food experience. I’d much rather be delighted and surprised, than work through a load of tortured descriptions including the words ‘foam’, ‘scorched’, ‘dusted’, and other examples of gastrolinguistic engineering. For our first course, we had sharing bowls of warm, creamy quinoa porridge with apricot; yogurt with eucalyptus and mint, and a bowl of fruit with maca root, honey and bee pollen. This was possibly some of the finest yogurt I’ve ever tasted, like eating a creamy cloud. I usually avoid ordering fruit in a restaurant as it seems like a waste, but this was fresh and full of flavour, and the quinoa porridge had all the comfort of your mum’s most reassuring rice pudding.

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For the ‘main’ course, we were served potato pancakes with a perfectly savoury sauce, and an egg frittata with delicately cooked carrots and spring onions. As a vegetarian, I got an extra serving of pancakes, and my friend had a suckling pig brioche bun, an arrangement that we were both very happy with. I was initially skeptical about the small portion sizes, wondering if we should have chosen a ‘pile ’em high’ brunch venue, but we were so stuffed after this course that we nearly didn’t have room for pudding.

Yes, pudding. Every good brunch deserves fine puddings, and this was quite something. An quenelle of coffee ice cream with cacao crumble, two tiny bright meringues, raisins in a sugar syrup, and alfajores with dulce de leche. I want you to remember the word ‘alfajores’, because they are truly the most glorious biscuits in the entire world. Imagine a flattened down Viennese whirl: melt in the mouth, clouds of icing sugar, but with a caramel filling instead of jam and cream. I cannot impress upon you enough how pleasing they are.

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The whole thing was £18 a head, which I think is very reasonable for a three course meal. You can also tack on unlimited Prosecco for £10 each, but after a Saturday morning of bottomless Bloody Marys at the Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings (try saying THAT while drunk), I gave it a miss. We went for 11am, but I would recommend kicking off a little later as the pudding course makes it feel a lot more like a proper lunch. That would be my one bit of feedback: the pudding was quite astonishingly sweet, and I left with something of a sugar headache – but it was worth it for the alfajores.

Thank you to Lima for a uniquely delicious brunch, and in particular to the charming staff for making it such an enjoyable experience.

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Hotbox & Columbia Road

I apologise for the amount of ‘lifestyle blog’ cliches about to be unleashed on you, but I’m afraid I’m going to do it anyway.

Last Sunday we headed out to Shoreditch for brunch at Hotbox on Commercial Street. Renowned for top notch barbecue food, the venue opened in late 2014, and has just expanded the menu to include an absolutely stonking brunch. This also involves a bottomless option: all the Bloody Marys, Prosecco and Mimosas you can hack for 25 quid.

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We got there on time to avoid longer queues – I even missed The Archers to haul myself out East, but I regret nothing. From the second we arrived, the staff were a delight, calmly and politely handling the jostling queues. The waiter we had was an absolute peach; chatty and attentive without being disruptive. The venue itself is dark and cosy, with long tables and benches, high stools and ledges. Everything has been designed with precision: tiny glasses are topped up from an industrial steel jug, lightbulbs are bare, black frames abound. The music is excellent: from Sly & the Family Stone to Roxy Music within a track, ideal for a Sunday.

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The brunch menu is instantly appealing – we opted for Huevos Rancheros, avocado and roasted corn on sourdough, and smoked mac & cheese. To turn down the opportunity for macaroni cheese at what is ultimately a breakfast hour is criminal, and I question anyone’s motives for doing so. We shared all our dishes (particularly difficult on said mac & cheese…there was nearly a fight) which was a strategic move designed to give us as much of the menu to try as possible.

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Dipping a spoon into the Huevos Rancheros was a glorious experience thanks to eggs with exactly the right amount of runniness, a green coriander sauce, and a reassuring dollop of chunky guacamole. The sourdough dish was an excellent balance of sweetness from the roast corn, spice from paprika, and the creaminess of the avocado. I’ve been let down by so many macaroni cheeses in my life, and joyfully this was not so at Hotbox. Oozy and smoky with a crispy topping, I could happily have eaten a whole panful. The Bloody Marys were pleasing but perhaps a little watery, although the spicing, celery AND lemon wedge were spot on. I cannot recommend Hotbox enough – just make sure you get there as close to 11.30 as possible. After all, you can listen to The Archers on iPlayer.

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Barely able to move, we somehow manouevred ourselves down Brick Lane and through the market, on a floral mission. I used to keep flowers in my room as a matter of course, but when I started trying to cut down my expenditure, they were the first to go. I forgot how cheering heading home with armfuls of fresh flowers was, and meandering down the market was a joy. We took our time (we didn’t have much choice, given how stacked the place was), and enjoyed the sunshine and a coffee from one of the little wall cafes that appear all over the area.

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By the time I headed home, I felt like I’d been on holiday. I’m often staunchly anti-East, just because I’m a big fan of South West. But on a Sunday, there was a special atmosphere. There’s not really anything like it on my side of London – the energy, the people, the architecture of the place. I’m determined to explore more of this city, instead of just sticking to my little corner, so stay posted!

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Big Bad Brunch

Some days, I go to sleep thinking wistfully about what I’m going to eat for breakfast the next morning. There’s something so comforting and wonderful about sitting at the breakfast table surrounded by dishes filled to the brim with roasted, fried, sauteed food.

This week has been, in short, heavy on stress and light on sleep. Add a couple of nights out in a row and I was in desperate need of something unhealthy to munch on. I spotted a recipe for cornbread, avocado and crispy bacon in the Waitrose magazine and decided that was one for me – the only slight problem being my vegetarianism. I’ve never eaten bacon, but I wanted something crisp, salty and smoky to offset the pillow-like cornbread and cool avocado.

I remembered hearing that aubergine could be turned into vegetarian ‘bacon’, so set out to create my own recipe. Obviously I’ve got no idea how this compares to real bacon, but give it a try and see how it stands alone. It’s smoky, sweet, savoury and very crisp, so ticked all my boxes! I’ll just add here that up until today, I’ve always hated aubergine, but now I’m finally getting the hype…

Recipe for the aubergine bacon is mine, and the recipe for the cornbread is from Miles Kirby, head chef at Caravan (where incidentally, I’m going tomorrow!)

Cornbread French toast with avocado & aubergine bacon
Serves 2

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Aubergine Bacon

10g smoked sea salt
2 tsp sundried tomato paste
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1 small aubergine, sliced

1. Slice aubergine thinly and set it aside between two sheets of kitchen towel to remove extra moisture
2. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl, and set oven to 200 degrees C
3. Rub them on back and front of aubergine slices and place on parchment paper on a tin, setting aside for 30 minutes to absorb flavours
4. Pop them in the oven and roast for 15 minutes on each side
5. Remove from oven and drain extra oil with kitchen towel, also scraping most of the topping off
6. Return to the oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until crispy

Cornbread French Toast

400ml whole milk
3 eggs
60g unsalted butter, melted
200g sweetcorn
4 spring onions, chopped
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp salt
160g polenta
65g strong flour

French Toast
1 egg
50ml double cream
10g unsalted butter

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C if you haven’t already done so for the bacon & line a 900g loaf tin with baking parchment
2. Mix milk, eggs, butter, sweetcorn and spring onions in a large bowl
3. Sift all the remaining dry ingredients, and combine with the wet without over-mixing, and pour into the tin
4. Bake for at least 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean, and then leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack
5. Combine egg and 50ml double cream, and melt 10g unsalted butter in a frying pan
6. Cut two thick slices of cornbread and dip in the egg and cream mixture
7. Fry in the pan for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until brown

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Assembly

1 avocado , diced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
25g rocket (optional)

1. Combine lemon juice and olive oil in a bowl, then add avocado and leave it to combine for a few minutes
2. Place slice of French toasted cornbread in the middle of a plate, then spoon on the avocado and pile on some rocket
3. Top with the ‘bacon’, then spoon some of the remaining olive oil and lemon mixture around the plate

Et voila! Enjoy! x

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