The other week I realised that after writing my 2016 wishlist I had completely abandoned it in favour of the winter hibernation associated with January and February. The realisation gave me a sudden dose of determination that I would not let this fall by the way side, which is so easy once the optimistic new year fades with the comfort of day to day life. So I reminded myself later that day what was on the list and quickly decided Yolkin’s Macaron Ice Cream was the first box I was going to tick.

I love macarons, I love ice cream and from what I’d seen and read the combination was guaranteed to be deliciously pretty.

You might think that I should have saved anything with ice cream involved for the summer. Well…, I spotted Sammi and her Yolkin treats had been featured in the Evening Standard, which surely means longer queues now (not to mention in the summer). Ice cream is also an all-year round treat to me and my intake usually just doubles up over the summer so the below 10 degree temperatures weren’t much of a deterrent.

You can only get your hands on these beauties every Saturday and Sunday from 12pm and when they’re gone they’re gone, which of course makes them more desirable too.

Sammi posts the four flavours she’ll be selling on her Instagram account every Tuesday. When this post went up last week I was sold.

Flavours for 27th & 28th Feb! #yolkinflavours

A photo posted by Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches (@yolkinmacice) on

 

I’ve since realised that I’d be sold on at least one flavour every week and when I saw that my favourite ice cream flavour (mint choc chip) went up this week I was a little sad that I was out of town this weekend. Search the hashtag #yolkinflavours on Instagram and you’ll see what I mean.

The picture of the goods just sealed the deal really.

Sunday was the chosen day as I had plans on Saturday, and truth be told I needed to take James along so I could try two flavours. Thanks to both of us forgetting to buy any proper breakfast, ice cream it was! There’s nothing like the thrill of a bit of 30 something ‘adulting’.

We joined a modest queue at Sammi’s current outpost.

Yolkin-40-Great-Windmill-Street

Whaam Banh Mi at 40 Great Windmill Street (a few metres from Piccadilly tube).

A few minutes later I was running out of the shop to get stuck in. Photos first…

Yolkin---Red-Velvet

I had the Red Velvet, which was cream cheese frosting flavoured ice cream, sandwiched between a white chocolate macaron and dusted with homemade red velvet cake. It was tricky to eat straight away, but once I’d gathered my patience and let it thaw a little I was right in there.

I wasn’t disappointed, such a good combination! A chewy yet crunchy macaron, and a flavour of ice cream I’d actually not eaten before (which becomes difficult to achieve as I love the stuff so much).

Yolkin---Cookies-and-Cream

James had the cookies and cream. He’s actually not much of a fan of macarons but I am a little determined to change his mind, partly so I can buy them more often and not feel guilty for eating the whole packet. I’m pleased to report he liked it too!

Aside from the delicious goods, what I also liked about Yolkin is the fact that it’s run by Sammi who is so humble about her success. She brought together the combination by trying to find a way to use up the eggs left over from making macarons and clearly works hard to keep our interest alive with treats almost to pretty to eat and great flavours. Small businesses with exciting and creative creations make living in London just that bit more exciting, don’t you think?

It was a great start to getting through the wishlist. I’ve already got brunch at Duck & Waffle booked in, I just need to try not to forget about the rest.

_ _ _ _

Have you tried Yolkin’s Macaron Ice Creams?

When the temperature takes a tumble one of my go-to central heating choices is a delicious hot chocolate. From the moment my icicle hands start to melt as I wrap them around a hot mug, to the second the molten warm chocolate meets my lips, I’m in sweet hot drink heaven. I’ve spent most of my life content with Options (mint is my favourite), Cadburys and most recently Twinings, but living in London means I knew there was better out there so I went on a mission to try the capital’s best hot chocolate. Here’s what I discovered…

The chocolatier’s one – Rococo, Belgravia

London's-best-hot-chocolate---Roccoco

The mission started at some point during a cold spell around October 2014. James was studying in Victoria and I thought a stroll to Motcomb Street for hot chocolate at Rococo’s would be a pleasant break and a chance to see each other during the weekend. I’m a big fan of their chocolate, which make great gifts and include plenty of experimental flavours, and knowing that they have an experienced Chocolatier behind the scenes I had some high hopes. Luckily it didn’t disappoint! I loved the cute branded China mug and it was a pretty perfect portion of the kind of hot chocolate I’m most used to, but with the froth you can only get in a cafe and the taste you can only get from chocolate that has more cocoa beans and less sugar.

Perfect for: A pit stop whilst exploring one of London’s most luxurious areas (even the Waitrose has a fancy facade!).

Address – 5 Motcomb Street, London, SW1X 8JU

The central one – Said, Soho

London's-best-hot-chocolate---Said

I first heard of Said via Cider With Rosie and I knew from the moment I saw Rosie’s video that I had to try their Italian chocolate lava. It was one of those occasions where I was shopping in Soho near the beginning of the year and I suddenly stumbled across it. As soon as I saw the chocolate display, I couldn’t resist stepping inside for a treat. You know you’re drinking the good stuff when it looks like this and has a perfect tempered sheen. It’s not for the faint-hearted though, and I’d say due to its thickness it’s a little closer to being a dessert! A small is certainly enough for most people in my opinion.

Perfect for: Hiding from the winter temperatures when you’re in the centre of London.

Address – 41 Broadwick St, London, W1F 9QL

The shopper’s paradise – Paul A Young, Soho

London's-best-hot-chocolate---Paul-A-Young

A couple of weeks ago I was meandering around Soho filling time between lunch with friends and dinner with James. I’d recently read the Londonist’s hot chocolate edit and thought I’d get my hands wrapped around a delicious hot drink from one of Soho’s best chocolatiers. I was so distracted by the wall of chocolate and the mouth-watering smell which filled the room that I almost missed the pot bubbling away in the corner, luckily I was saved from distraction when I heard someone put in an order. I was offered original or flavoured (nutmeg, chilli etc) and whilst I was tempted by chilli I went for the original. It definitely hit the spot, achieving the tricky balance of a fine chocolatey flavour without being too thick.

Perfect for: A mid-shop sugar boost.

Address – 143 Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1F 8WA. You could try the Islington and City branches too.

The rich one – Melt, Holland Park

London's-best-hot-chocolate---Melt

I made a special trip to Melt because I’d read about their chocolate on so many websites (it comes up every Christmas and Easter!). I opted for the Holland Park branch because Notting Hill gets a little crazy at this time of year (or any weekend in fact!), and I knew it was guaranteed to be a little quieter. They have a select few seats and it’s a peaceful place to stop for a while and imagine life in an upmarket part of town. I could easily see myself as a regular here of course!

London's-best-hot-chocolate---Melt-2

But on to the hot chocolate! They make it with melted chocolate and double cream so it’s super indulgent. The texture is similar to Said, being thicker than most hot chocolates, and you can certainly taste the chocolate’s luxurious flavour. I was offered chocolate samples whilst I was there and I challenge you not to come away with one of their small chocolate bars (I picked up the sea salted one). You see more of Melt in my video here.

Perfect for: Winter trips to Holland Park and its cute high street, or Portobello Market where you’ll find their other branch.

Address: 6 Clarendon Road, Holland Park, London W11 3AA or 59 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London W11 2AA or

The specialist one – Jaz & Jules’, Islington

London's-best-hot-chocolate---Jaz-and-Jules

Given that London has plenty of restaurants that specialise in certain things, (like I love Nata – which amazing, Chicken ShopThe Cereal Killer Cafe, and Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium), you’d think that there would have been a hot chocolate cafe a long time ago. However, Jaz and Juls are the first one’s to set up shop and see what happens. They started out at Broadway Market (where you’ll still find them at the weekend), but recently opened a cute cafe at the top of Chapel Market in Islington.

With my mission in full swing, I knew I had to visit so I popped down there last weekend. As you’d expect there’s plenty of choice and I was offered three different types of chocolate, plenty of different flavours, homemade marshmallows and cream. I was feeling indulgent so I went for Brazil origin with whipped cream and marshmallows. It was good but I regretted the cream a little as it made it harder to taste the chocolate flavour and compare it to other hot chocolates. However, its consistency was much closer to Rococo’s and I can’t deny that it was good.

Perfect for: Overdue catch ups, north of the river.

Address – 1 Chapel Market, London N1 9EZ

The Hyde Park hot spot – Cocomaya, Connaught Village

London's-best-hot-chocolate---Cocomaya

Cocomaya is a mere 10 minute walk from the office but would you believe that after 6 years of working in the area I’ve never been in? I was working one Sunday and felt a treat on the way home was in order, this was the first place that came to mind. I ordered a regular hot chocolate to go and given that there was no obvious counter for hot drinks,  no visible hot chocolate, and cakes definitely looked like their specialty, I wondered if it would be just another standard drink. I was gladly proven wrong as they handed over a cup of hot chocolate not too thick, not too sweet, not too milky and not to chocolatey. Almost the perfect balance!

Perfect for: Winter strolls around Hyde Park. It’s less than a 10 minute walk from Marble Arch underground station and less than 10 minutes away from Hyde Park.

Address – 12 Connaught Street, London, W2 2AF

What I’ve learnt from this research is that the finest hot chocolate comes in many different forms – from the fine chocolate flakes that mean you can recreate the experience more easily at home, to the carefully crafted molten chocolate thickened with cream, and the ones that lie in between (being my favourite).

I’ve got a couple more to test out and I’ll be sure to update this post when I stumble across them. Do you have any recommendations for me to try?

When it comes to sweet treats I have very little willpower and a catalogue of excuses, particularly on the kind of dark and damp days we face this week. But celebrating a birthday (even if it’s your boyfriend’s and not your own) is in my opinion a very worthy excuse, if not obligatory. I’d heard about Jackson + Rye opening last year and I’ve never quite forgotten about the dessert menu ever since.

Despite my sweet tooth it’s fairly unusual (although not unexpected) for me to choose a restaurant based on dessert, but when combined with a modern American-style diner interior and a menu of well-priced steaks, I thought I was on to a winner.

Jackson-+-Rye

I’d booked a table in advance to avoid embarrassment or a hunger-fueled panic, and whilst there were tables free when we arrived these quickly filled up.

Low lights, the clink of glasses and the buzz of others chatting made for a leisurely start to the evening celebrations. We ordered our mains (blackened roast chicken for me, steak and eggs for him) which arrived very swiftly and were devoured pretty quickly. Simple but tasty.

But I was ‘secretly’ really waiting for dessert. Melting. Chocolate. Sundae. Hel-lo!

Jackson-+-Rye---Melted-chocolate-sundae

As you can see they present you with an ice cream sundae topped with set chocolate and a little pot of hot butterscotch sauce for you to pour as you wish.

Obviously both having fiendish sweet teeth we poured the whole lot in and let it melt before our eyes. Yum.

Jackon-+-Rye---Melted-Chocolate-Sundae

Melted chocolate, a kind of marshmallow, ice cream, brownie with the butter scotch sauce and a cracking surprise ingredient (I’ll leave this for your discovery), made for a very tasty treat. I would go back just for this. It would certainly go down well with a weekend coffee.

Jackson + Rye is a great option if you love sundaes and the marvel of melted chocolate, or you’re looking for a menu with an easy choice of mains. After browsing their menus online it also looks like a great option for breakfast and brunch too. Buttermilk pancakes anyone?

Do you like a good ice cream sundae? Have you ever chosen a restaurant based on the dessert menu?

 

Most Londoners have an unsatiable appetite for the new, new bars, new restaurants, new ideas. Anything that hasn’t been seen, drank or eaten by the world and we’re keen to check it out (queuing and waiting lists, the norm). Luckily we’re often kept satisfied and the constant flux of new ideas is one of the many things that make it an exciting place to live.

It’s no surprise that when the Cronut was created in New York, London chefs were pondering over how to make their own and the hybrid food trend was officially brought into the world.

Bea’s of Bloomsbury were pretty hot of the mark with a follow up, and (with encouragement from the Evening Standard) created the townie, a brownie tart.

As someone with a sweet tooth and an unashamed interest in checking out a new craze, I had to try one. So during my little London holiday last week I made my way over to Bea’s original Bloomsbury cafe to get my hands on one. Sadly I didn’t have time to stop and enjoy a coffee with it (they do Square Mile here and they’re charming cafes), but I was determined to enjoy it when I got home.

Tea and townie on a drizzly afternoon, yes please.

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They’re about the same size as a mince pie, the right size for a sweet treat that isn’t too indulgent or sickly. Bite in and you get a mouthful of crumbly pastry and moist brownie.

20130827-195609.jpg

It definitely works. Sweet tooth satisfaction? Yes. As good as a brownie on it’s own? I’m not so sure. But then with brownies as my all-time favourite dessert I’m probably a tough customer.

I’m pretty intrigued about what new hybrid will come along next, with plenty of talented chefs in the city I have high hopes. But will they be permanent successes or just another food fad? We’ll have to wait and see I guess!

Have you tried a townie or Cronut? Heard about any new hybrids due on the scene? Do you have any of your own ideas?

Afternoon Tea is always a delicious treat, whether it’s at a cute tea shop or one of London’s luxurious five star hotels. Piles of sandwiches, scones and delicate cakes with endless pots of tea whilst catching up with friends is a pretty lovely way to spend the afternoon. I was talking about our trip to The Berkerley for Prêt-à-Portea with Lynn a few months back as I’d received a general email from The Goring mentioning their tea. A few minutes later we were looking into their Afternoon Tea and checking diaries to find a suitable day we could escape the office early for a treat.

Although advanced booking can seem irritating at the time, I was willing to wait for an award winning Afternoon Tea that has been served for over 100 years. It’s also quite easy to forget about it and then have the sudden joy of finding it in your diary. A great thing to discover just a week before getting muddy at Glastonbury!

We jumped in a taxi down to the hotel in Victoria, the entrance is surrounded by rows of blooming flowers and of course I was taken back to the excitement of Kate emerging on the Royal Wedding Day a few years ago. We were guided through gleaming hallways into the sunny yellow Lounge. (I only had my iPhone to hand and I was shy of taking pictures in such a luxurious setting so sorry for the quality and lack of photos!)

Afternoon-Tea---The-Goring---Interior

 As we were having a treat we decided we’d go for the Bollinger Tea which is £47.50.

Before the main event arrived we were served our champagne with a plate of strawberries and cream. This was followed by a small savoury dish, creamy layers of crab topped with a set chicken jelly. (I failed to take down the official name for this as you can tell…).

Then the tower of treats arrived!

Afternoon-Tea---The-Goring-1

 We were just in time for the Coronation Tea, which meant that we had coronation chicken, cucumber, salmon and egg mayonaise finger sandwiches. All tasty and with the high standard of ingredients you would expect.  The scones next were amazing and might even be the best that I’ve had! A light and airy texture, topped with clotted cream and fresh strawberry jam, I could’ve asked for more if I hadn’t had my eye on the pretty top layer.

Always an eye-catcher at Afternoon Tea and this top layer was no exception. It doesn’t look like a lot between two but we were already getting full and decided to split each treat. These included; Eton Mess, Strawberry and Elderflower Tart, Early Grey Macaroon, Rosewater Victoria Sponge, Royal Red Velvet Slice and Cassis Mousse Hat. A delicious mixture of flavours.

Of course the afternoon wouldn’t be complete without the tea.  I try to have something different when I’m given the opportunity, so I went for a fruity Mango and Strawberry. It was quite striking in the hotel’s delicate yellow china.

Afternoon-Tea--The-Goring---Mango-Raspberry-tea

It was also a nice refreshing change but perhaps a tea for those with a serious sweet tooth like me. There’s a lot of choice on the menu so I am sure there is something for every taste.

Feeling full to the brim, we were suddenly surprised with a mini sherry triffle, whilst I didn’t need to eat it I just couldn’t resist. It was just a few mouthfuls more after all! 

Afternoon-Tea---The-Goring---triffle

 We sat for a while longer and enjoyed the buzz of the Lounge. It’s not as large as other hotel lounges I’ve been too and this gave it a nice, relaxed atmosphere. The staff were faultless throughout.

 As we were not quite ready to leave and we were seated very near to the private garden, we decided to go for a wander outside.

The-Goring---Garden

 Pretty flowers, ducks and their ducklings waddling along the grass, a little patch of peacefulness in the centre of the city.  You also get a good idea of the size of the hotel itself from the garden, smaller than the nearby Dorchester but I liked that as it seemed more intimate.

You don’t need to reserve a table on the terrace and in the garden so we took the opportunity to have another drink before leaving. It could be a great little place for future drinks in the sunshine when I’m feeling flush.

As we left I I took a shot of the staircase.  

The-Goring---staircase

I could definitely picture Kate swishing down these stairs in her beautiful wedding gown.

It was such a lovely luxurious afternoon I would definitely recommend it. The Afternoon Tea is £37.50 per person, the Bollinger is £47.50 per person. You’ll need to book in advance, I think our booking was done about two months before.

Have you been to The Goring? Or have you enjoyed a luxury Afternoon Tea?

Did you know that down by the Thames, just a short walk from Big Ben is a fine historic hotel open to overnight guests and London explorers looking for a treat? Well The Royal Horseguards Hotel was a new discovery for me and a lovely find indeed. I was invited to pop in last week for their Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea which launches today. Riverside location, a fine London hotel and CAKE? I’m there!

As you can imagine, as someone with a sweet tooth I was pretty excited before we got there. We swished through the chandelier reception and went down to The Cellar to find the impressive Mad Hatter spread.

Mad-Hatter-Afternoon-tea---Royal-Horseguards-Hotel

Cue lots of DSLR and iPhone snapping.

Joanne Todd (Head Pastry Chef) and Louise Bintcliffe (Pastry Chef), together with their team had gone to a lot of hard work creating their new Afternoon Tea for us. It would be rude not to tuck in and grab a plateful right?

Mad-Hatter-Afternoon-Tea---Royal-Horseguards-Hotel---Plate

So let me tell you about some of the treats on the Mad Hatter menu.

Mad-Hatter-Afternoon-Tea---Cakes

(From top left corner) My favourite, the ‘Jam Tart with Hearts’, fresh raspberries sandwiched between sugar topped biscuits and held together with a sweet raspberry sauce. The ‘Earl Grey White Chocolate Tea Cup’, a delicate sweet shell with an unusual but tasty earl grey filling topped with a white chocolate tea cup. The ‘”Thyme” torte’, delicious little pastry cases filled with a smooth chocolate and thyme filling. The ‘Coconut Rabbit Cake’, almost too cute to eat, not that it stopped me from enjoying this nice light sponge.  Finally, the ‘Chessboard Battenberg’, a chocolate twist on a classic cake.

As if this wasn’t enough put us into a sugar coma, they also offered candy floss and cool little ice cream pops. Me and Lucinda couldn’t resist.

Mad-Hatter-Afternoon-Tea---Royal-Horseguards-Hotel---Candy-floss-and-Ice-pops

We moved on to some savouries with aubergine, Parmesan and sun dried tomato roulades, sandwiches and salmon blinis.

Mad-Hatter-Afternoon-tea---Royal-Horseguards-Hotel---Savouries

All washed down with pink prosecco.

Mad-Hatter-Afternoon-tea---Royal-Horseguards-Hotel---Prosecco

Full of treats and bubbles we welcomed a tour around the hotel.

Mad-Hatter-Afternoon-Tea---Royal-Horseguards-Hotel-Hallway

Their pretty hallway takes you to the main rooms. Of course I was quite interested in Equus, a decadent bar where I could certainly see myself sipping a few cocktails.

Royal-Horseguards-Hotel---Equus-&-Terrace

And for the summer I’d be in the Terrace overlooking the Thames and the Eye, enjoying cool drinks in the sunshine.

But if you’ve got the cash, I’d go for the luxury of staying in one of their river-facing rooms. There aren’t many places offering a view of the Thames and the Eye when you open your curtains in the morning! I took a little Vine video of the view away with me (see it here).

They saved the showcase of the tour until the end. A stunning, swirling marble staircase. One of the biggest in Europe, it even survived a bombshell in WW2.

The-Royal-Horseguards-Hotel---Marble-staircase

After burning off a little sugar we returned to The Cellar for a mini Easter egg hunt, virgin cocktails and more treats of course. How could I say no to this?!

Mad-Hatter-Afternoon-tea---The-Royal-Horseguards-Hotel

A fun filled evening and a great new London discovery.

The Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea is £35 each and it’s available from today (25 March) until 7 April 2013. It’s served in the Lounge and you can find more information and the full menu on the website here. If you can’t make it there’s plenty of other excuses to visit on the menu (cream tea anyone?).

Do you enjoy an Afternoon Tea? What’s your most favourite Afternoon Tea experience?

P.S. I was kindly invited as a guest to this event. All opinions are my own. You’ll only ever read honest reviews here.