Union Jacks, London

Lex and I love our Football (or Soccer, as some Aussies still call it…), and when we went to London, football games and stadium tours were high on our list of things to do. Royal family stalking was also high on the list…

It was a rainy day in London when we decided to head to the home of my beloved Spurs. The stadium tour was unreal and we got to see behind the scenes of White Hart Lane. On the bus on the way home we drove past Union Jack’s in Convent Garden. We decided to pull over because a) we were hungry and b) I’m a huge Jamie Oliver fan.

Union Jack’s is Jamie Oliver’s themed diner for wood-fired flatbread pizzas, grills and sharing plates. It has a great vibe to it and the staff are super friendly and laid back. The prices were also quite reasonable with a full pizza setting you back about 12pounds. Think of it as Italian pizza with a British twist.
Below are my top 3 picks at Union Jack’s:

Old Spot
Slow-roast shoulder of pork, quince and Bramley sauce, Cropwell Bishop Stilton, cracklings and watercress

Red Ox
Oxtail and brisket, slow braised in Worcestershire sauce, Sparkenhoe Red Leicester, watercress and fresh horseradish – not my typical go-to kind of pizza, but the fact that it is slow braised makes it a winner

Chilli Freak
6 chilli varieties, roasted and crushed with tomatoes, Tom Calver’s fresh curd, rocket, mint and lemon. Not for the faint hearted but perfect for Lex and I.

Lex, fancy going back to London? The Premier League is heating up and it could be the year for Tottenham!

Lis x

UJ

UJ2

Pret A Manger, NY and London

Whilst technically a fast food chain and not a restaurant, I wanted to share Pret A Manger with you, as I think it’s absolutely perfect for travellers and people on the run. Lex and I first came across Pret’s when we were in London. We were staying up in Nottinghill and on a morning walk towards Hyde Park we stumbled across Pret’s. It kind of became our go-to place for breakfast and cheap lunches. They had beautiful soups which came in handy on rainy days in London and chilly afternoons in Bath. During a quick Google Map search around our hotel in NY I noticed there was a Pret’s right around the corner, so Lex and I made sure we visited the NY version.

The great thing about Pret’s is that it is affordable for breakfast and/or. It also serves freshly made and healthy meals that are great for travellers and people who don’t have time for a sit down brekkie or lunch. I won’t bother giving you a list of Pret’s in either London or New York as when you get there you’ll notice there’s one on almost every corner! I believe they are now a franchise, however Lex and I have never been disappointed with the food or service. Now some of you might have been put off by my earlier description of Pret’s as a fast food chain, however it’s not your typical McDonald’s or KFC. Instead, Pret’s serves organic coffee and natural food that is fresh and all left over food at the end of the day is donated to the poor and hungry. Another plus? There are also vegetarian and vegan options.

What we ordered:

There is quite a range to choose from at Pret’s, and guaranteed there will be something for all taste pallets. When we go for breakfast, Lex and I normally order a cup of fruit – my favourite was the ‘posh fruit cup’ that had mango, pineapple and lime. Lex loved the detox fruit cup with pomegranate, mango, berries, pineapple, apple and orange. Their Five-grain Oatmeal is also delicious and packed with all the healthy stuff – chia seeds, flax seeds, amaranth, quinoa and steel-cut oats. It’s a good way to get your energy and metabolism working of a morning! For lunch Lex normally orders a wrap of some sort – he particularly likes the Avocado and Toasted Pine Nut Wrap which is a tortilla wrap of sliced avocado, tomatoes and cucumber drizzled with Pret’s yogurt dressing and topped with toasted pine nuts, shaved Parmesan and spinach (delicious!). He has also had the Bang Bang Chicken Wrap consisting of chargrilled chicken drizzled with sweet chilli mayo and Asian dressing topped with grated carrots, cucumber, red onions and sesame seeds again rolled into a tortilla wrap. As for me, I can’t resist the fresh soups on offer at Pret’s. They come in a small and large size (I go for large – duh!), and are piping hot when you pick them up off the shelf. I’ve pretty much  had every soup Pret’s makes, but my favourites include the Chicken Noodle which has slow cooked tender chicken stirred into a rich and flavoursome chicken stock. The Mafalda noodles are the perfect sidekick to add some body to the soup too. I also LOVE the Tomato Feta which has crushed tomatoes, caramelised onions, garlic and vegetables, all topped off with a dab of cream and a sprinkle of feta – heavenly, and something you would be happy to get at a more expensive establishment!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you eat at Pret’s every day of your life – if you’re in NY or London I definitely hope you try out the delicious fare they have on offer at some of the best restaurants in the world! However, if you want a quick, cheap, and tasty eat then Pret’s is a great option. Enjoy!

Lis x

Barbecoa, London

If there’s one person who I believe has helped me understand my love of food and cooking, and sharing food and cooking with others, it’s Jamie Oliver. Jamie doesn’t know this of course. But secretly I’ve been channelling his philosophy of food and transforming the way I see and think of food at least for the past year or so. Six cookbooks later, many attempts at his receipes, great successes with those recipes, great failures with those recipes, and I can confidently say that I’m a true Jamie Oliver fan and a damn good cook now too.

When Lex and I visited London, he’d booked a surprise birthday dinner for me at Jamie’s London restaurant Barbecoa. The scenery at our window table seat was breathtaking. We had uninterrupted views of St Paul’s Cathedral to our left, and to our right the heat and flames of the kitchen. The rustic decor immediately transports you into a sophisticated steakhouse miles away from ‘Outback Steakhouse’ that frequent every block back home in Sydney.

BARBECOA IS A CELEBRATION OF TRADITIONAL FIRE-BASED COOKING AND INCREDIBLE INGREDIENTS. FOUNDED BY JAMIE OLIVER, IT’S MUCH MORE THAN A STEAK RESTAURANT. OUR IN-HOUSE BUTCHERS HANDPICK AND PREPARE THE VERY BEST MEAT IN BRITAIN, THEN OUR CHEFS COOK BEAUTIFUL MODERN DISHES USING TEXAS PIT SMOKERS, TANDOORS, FIRE PITS, ROBATA GRILLS AND WOOD-FIRED OVENS. AS YOU SIT AT YOUR TABLE OVERLOOKING ST PAUL’S CATHEDRAL, YOU’LL FEEL THE HEAT, SEE THE FLAMES LICK AND THE SMOKE DRIFT UPWARDS FROM OUR OPEN KITCHEN.

What we ordered:

Lex and I decided to order a bottle of Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, from Mareuil-sur-Ay, France – we were both really in to our Rosé during this trip, since then we’ve grown to prefer a nice Shiraz or Merlot. But alas, the Rosé as ordered and consumed all too quickly. In fact I can recall singing as we walked across the London bridge later that night…

I want to mention that the service was impeccable at Barbecoa, the waiters were attentive and knowledgable – and our water glasses were always being filled up! For an appetiser we kept it simple with a serving of the Barbecoa Sourdough with Veal butter (delicious and just 5pounds). For mains, of course we went for a steak. The real essence of this establishment is the care and efforts they make to produce handpicked quality beef, so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to taste! If you really don’t like steak though (apart from not going to eat here!), you can order the chicken or fish dishes. Lex and I both chose the Sirloin, medium-rare, with slow-roasted tomatoes. At 35pounds (and then still to be converted to Aussie dollars!), it was a pricey piece of meat, but then again we came to Barbecoa expecting that. Was it over-priced for what it was? Absolutely not. I’d pay double that for another steak this good. It was honestly the best steak I’ve ever had. Cooked perfectly, juicy, tender, aged-to-perfection. Lex’s quote? “Sooooooooo good”.

As a side we ordered the Garlic Mash Potato…I don’t even know how I can possibly describe this mash. It was amazing and Lex and I still mention it whenever we cook our own Mash or order it as a side whilst out. It was a creamy, textured mash with a clove of garlic sitting proudly in the middle. WOW. I actually just checked the Barbecoa Menu and they don’t seem to have it anymore. Jamie, if you’re reading this…!

And so the best birthday meal ever was sitting happily in our stomachs and it was off to wander the streets of London and snap some touristy pics.

Lis x

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