Love local with fresh food boxes

Liz Nicholls

restaurant

Love local! Fresh food delivery boxes so you can make restaurant-quality meals

Our hospitality industry has, of course, been brutally battered over the last 12 months. This is part of the reason we’re celebrating our food & drink heroes in our R&A Good Cheer Awards.

Crop To Kitchen is one of the many valiant businesses which has had to evolve to survive – and keep us well fed. Ordinarily, the team supply restaurants in London and the home counties – including Michelin-starred eateries and five-star hotels – from its Maidenhead base. These include iconic settings such as Cliveden House, the Hind’s Head and The Groucho Club.

MD Peter Codling says: “Like many, we have had to think on our feet. What was also important was that we helped the local farms and growers whose top produce was no longer needed by the trade. We wanted to avoid food waste and serve the community so they can enjoy great food at home.”

Their home delivery boxes, containing the finest ingredients, have won rave reviews. Customers can build their own order or choose a pre-selected box. As well as the best fruit, vegetables, meat and eggs, the Crop To Kitchen team also rose to the challenge in the first lockdown, sourcing items in short supply including fresh pasta. Foodies should also keep an eye on the website for new lines of produce, normally only supplied to the best restaurants, so that you can replicate the same level of excellence in your own meals.

The social media feed is filled with delicious recipe ideas. They offer free next-day delivery within a 10-mile radius, including Cookham, Bourne End, Burnham, Ascot, Slough, Windsor, Bray, Cookham Dean, Taplow, Bisham, Marlow, Henley and all the villages in between.

All orders are delivered in reusable and fully sanitised crates and plastic packaging is avoided when sourcing and delivering to fit the green ethos. The drivers pride themselves on meticulous presentation and comply with social distancing guidelines, using full PPE.

Crop To Kitchen also dreams big, with plans on the horizon including offering specific areas of land or poly tunnels for restaurants, once back on their feet, to grow their own bespoke produce. Peter is also going to rustle up some live-streaming nights featuring chef cook-alongs.

Get your box for Valentine’s Day – or to find out more, visit croptokitchen.co.uk.

We’ve teamed up to offer a box bundle to one lucky winner – watch this space for the competition which will go live at the start of March!

For some of our own recipe ideas, click here

A golden example of dining

Liz Nicholls

restaurant

Liz Nicholls reviews the newly opened Ivy Oxford Brasserie.

In these strange, straitened times, luxury feels like it’s in short supply. In fact, “luxury” has become so rare a concept that it feels a retro, almost naughty. Luckily, the energetic team behind The Ivy Oxford Brasserie haven’t received this particular memo.

From the moment we were ushered inside, off the bleak wintry high street into the velvet-coccoon of the cloakroom we were (to quote Beyoncé) living lavish.

The Ivy Oxford Brasserie’s arrival in this often austere city of broken dreams has caused a big fat buzz for good reason. Because we’re all hungry for some luxury, and a place to celebrate rather than commiserate.

As with its celebrity honeypot mother branch in London, and the successful brasserie outposts in Winchester and Marlow, the Ivy brand is all about the best of the best. That’s most thrilling, on first entry, with the service. The staff offer the level of old-fashioned courtesy and enthusiasm that makes you feel like you’re winning at life. I go weak at the knees for a good banquette (especially a curvy orange one) and the effervescent Karim’s recommendation – truffle arancini – were balls of richly flavoured sexy joy; the perfect accompaniment for Magdalen Manhattan.

You can’t visit this Ivy branch without being wowed by its interior. Instagram has helped to gild the Ivy Oxford’s golden age because it really is a maximalist wonderland that feels designed to be snapped. For Pinterest fans like myself, the general vibe could be defined as “1920s Flapper Luxe”, with huge botanical motifs (toucans, butterflies, rainbow trout) and shiny surfaces at every turn. The old bank’s stately dimensions make it the perfect stomping ground for anyone in need of a bit of glam – even strutting up the copper-hued illuminated staircase to the ladies makes you feel special. The toilets themselves (which you might have seen on Insta) are worth special mention: rose quartz sinks, brass taps, gothic-gold floral wallpaper and jewel-hued pouffes… No wonder, then, that the smallest rooms have apparently been papped even more than the chocolate bombe (which comes a close second). And the enamel-ceilinged private hire party room is a golden example of how to create a setting where you can and should celebrate in debauched yet elegant style, a la the Ivy alma mater.

Hype can really detract from a good meal, and I had thought this Ivy outpost might be more style over substance but happily I was proved wrong. Tempura prawns and salt & pepper squid, in their conical silver salver, were crisp and gorgeous dunked in their wasabi and miso dressing and – a greedy choice – the lobster risotto was a divine creation of sweet meaty flesh doused in a seafoamy bisque dressing with a perfect partner of tender samphire.

Another greedy winter choice (and Karim’s recommendation), chicken Milanese was peak pleasure, coated in brioche crumb but kept savoury by a shiny tureen of truffle cream sauce that I kept trying to steal and topped with a rudely perfect fried egg. Then, as if to prove more definitely is more, the blackened cod fillet. This has almost become a cliché dish, which footballers plump for at Nobu and other top-tier celeb haunts, but technically the Ivy version is very hard to fault: pearly succulent fish, baked in a banana leaf beautifully fragrant with sesame and helped to sing with its citrus-pickled fennel (genius) broccoli and yuzu mayonnaise. Top marks too for a sublime sweet potato side and creamed spinach with pine nuts. All of it looked beautiful but tasted even better.

That much-Instagrammed chocolate bombe is also worth its 15 minutes: a grenade of golden flavour whose honeycomb centre oozed out to mingle with the vanilla ice cream once the hot sauce was poured on top to make a big sticky mess.

With all this glitz & glam, you’d expect the Ivy to be expensive but it’s reasonable: a la carte starters hover about the £10 mark, mains around £20 and there’s a three-course set menu for £21 which is stunning value, all things considered.

Hats off to the Ivy team. They’ve managed to live up to the not-inconsiderable hype. From my grandmother – who toasted her 94th birthday here earlier this month – to youngsters in athleisure chinking drinks at the bar, being made to feel like royalty is surely the best measure of success.

See their menu and book here

Beeline to bliss

Round & About

restaurant

Petersham Nurseries – Richmond’s visionary garden center and lifestyle mecca – is one of West London’s greatest treasures and creative success stories.

The family behind the business are celebrating their 15th birthday, looking back on their humble beginnings as a dilapidated local plant shop, and how much has changed. Now with a second branch in Covent Garden, the small empire includes a homeware shop, florist, café, two restaurants and a wine cellar, with visitors come from near and far to discover Richmond’s unique lifestyle destination.

For September, they’re celebrating their birthday by paying homage to the gardener’s best friend, the honeybee, with a one-off masterclass in all things bee-related. In keeping with Petersham’s ethos, this will include a tasting session with Bermondsey Street Bees’ honey sommelier, a gardening session in planting bee-friendly flowers, a delicious lunch, and a ‘preserving with honey’ cookery class with Rachel de Thample.

Petersham's 15th Birthday

To sign up for this, on Thursday, 26th September

Vino veritas

Round & About

restaurant

Jessica Elphinstone learns a thing or two about wine at Vagabond,  Fulham’s most underrated date spot

If you detest wine snobbery, and the whole glass-swirling, Merlot-gargling pomp of it all, then I’m totally with you. I spent my entire three years of university drinking £4.99 Gallo rosé, and that sweet, sickly nectar has a special place in my heart. But the wonderful thing about Vagabond is that, despite being a bouji wine bar and boasting over a hundred carefully selected bottles from indie vineyards across the globe, it is somehow also unpretentious.

First of all, the way you order the booze appeals to my inner vending-machine-loving child: Pre-load money onto a credit card, swipe into the recently revamped wine fridges, before clicking on the bottle you’d like and watching with glee as your chosen amount of wine comes pouring out. Taster sizes of 25ml are mostly around a couple of pounds, allowing people to sample a whole range of different wines you wouldn’t normally risk getting a glass of. We taste a tangy Spanish Albarino, a buttery, Meursault-style Reserva Branco from a sustainable smallholding in Alentejano (yes – I stole that from the tasting notes), and a questionable Italian Pecorino from Abruzzo.

Each wine comes with an information slip, onto which you can jot notes like ‘beeswax and tangerine’ or ‘pomegranate and watermelon’ if you so wish. My friend Chloe is a picky soul, and finds GM Henry’s pick, a Condrieu from the Northern Rhône which is one of the most expensive wines, not to her taste. We play games, bringing each other wines with tasting notes of honey, straw and water chestnuts, and try unsuccessfully to guess them. Around us, we see couples (a lot of first dates, apparently) doing the same, laughing and chatting as they pair their Tempranillo with delicious cured meats, artisan cheeses and charred Padron peppers.

Finally, we strike gold, and both fall in love with an Australian Zibibbo from winemaker Brash Higgins. “English Pears and Freesia” writes Chloe dramatically, now slightly less than sober. I imagine that this balance of light-heartedness, mixed with some actual exploration into new realms of wine, is exactly what Vagabond’s founder Stephen Finch imagined when he opened to doors to his first Fulham wine shop in 2010.

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Vagabond

Visit Vagabond Fulham, 18-22 Vanston Place, SW6 1AX
Contact on 0207 381 1717 or visit

Fox & Pheasant review

Round & About

restaurant

I’m a country bumpkin at heart, and when I moved to Fulham nearly three years ago all my edgy East London pals rolled their eyes and said it was highly predictable, the obvious choice for a Gloucestershire gal like me.

It’s true, there’s something about the leafy streets, parks and plentiful dog owners in SW6 that felt like home. But what I always missed was a cozy country pub, with roaring fires and stuffed foxes, the sort you’d turn up to in wellies after a long walk. That is until my little brother moved up to London a couple of months ago, and sniffed out the Fox and Pheasant. Hidden in a charming little mews called The Billings, a short walk from Fulham Broadway and Stamford Bridge, I’m embarrassed to say I’d walked past the faded Victorian exterior, with its green tiles and hanging baskets, a hundred times without a second glance.

This is probably exactly what James Blunt and wife Sofia Wellesley wanted, when they decided to buy their local boozer and save it from being turned into apartments back. It’s understated, and no expense has been spared in retaining the original charm of the 17th century pub. When I walked in, I was transported with a jolt to my favourite Cotswold pubs, and half expected to recognise the faces at the bar.

We plonk ourselves at the bar for a pint of the Fox and Fez, their house lager, and chat to charming manager Toby. The decor is so quintessentially British it feels a bit like a film set, with vintage wallpaper and original 1930’s oak panels and locals playing darts. The walled garden is divine, with ivy and jasmine and pot-plants galore, and a Wimbledon-style glass roof ready to pull over in case of rain. We sit here for supper, which blows us away with its quality and freshness and attention to detail. You can have your usual pub classics – scotch eggs; burger and chips; honey & mustard chipolatas; a killer roast with all the trimmings on Sundays.

Alternatively you can go off-piste and order soft shell crab tacos with sriracha mayo, or an Ottolenghi-esque roast cauliflower with rocket and dates, sprinkled with dukka grains and toasted almonds. For pudding, don’t miss the sticky toffee pudding soufflé, served with ice cream of the same flavour, which was mind-bogglingly delicious. The Fox and Pheasant is the perfect country escape, while barely having to leave SW6.

Find them

The Fox and Pheasant, 1 Billing Road, Chelsea, SW10 9UJ.

Call 0207 352 2943 or email

Thames Valley Hospitality Awards

Round & About

restaurant

Picture credit: Dijana Capan, DVision Images
Picture caption: Organisers Marc Allridge and Hilary Scott

 

Nominate your favourites for 2019 Thames Valley Hospitality Awards.

The 2019 Thames Valley Hospitality Awards are open for nominations celebrating excellence and outstanding staff in the sector. From hotels to B&Bs, bars to restaurants, it’s time to share who you think deserves to be honoured. 

In addition to last year’s categories, there are three new ones – Achiever of the Year, Wedding Venue of the Year and Outside Caterer of the Year. This is the second year of the awards and the organisers are delighted to be building on the success of last year. 

Co-organiser Marc Allridge of Cherubs Floral Design said they were very excited about the new categories. He added: “We would love people from managers to brides to nominate in the Wedding Venue of the Year category. And we want to hear form all those caterers who work away behind the scenes and often don’t get recognised for their efforts – winning Outside Caterer of the Year would fix that. 

“We also want to see lots of entries in Achiever of the Year – this is for a youngster who has overcome physical or mental issues to shine in the trade.” 

The gala awards dinner this year is being held at the De Vere Wokefield Estate on Sunday, 28th April and hosted by leading chef Daniel Galmiche. Fellow organiser Hilary Scott encouraged entries for this year, saying: “We had so many entries in our first year it was amazing. I hope that we can get more this year now we are a bit better known. And remember if you missed out last year you can enter again.” 

This year’s categories are: 

Hotel of the Year sponsored by TVHA 

Independent Hotel of Year sponsored by Newsquest Berkshire 

Bar of the Year  sponsor Matthew Clark 

​Restaurant of the Year 

Hotel Manager of the Year sponsored by Cream Design 

​Front of house star sponsored by H&D Food Solutions 

Back of house star sponsored by Cherubs Floral Design 

Warm welcome  

Best breakfast 

Apprentice of the Year 

Three new categories for 2019: 

Achiever of the Year – a youngster who has overcome physical or mental issues to shine 

​Wedding Venue of the Year – in a competitive market who stands out for their venue, service and professionalism 

Outside Caterer of the Year – in a growing market, we want to find the best 

  For full details and to nominate visit www.tvhawards.co.uk and don’t forget to share with us who you are nominating and why!