Tag Archives: food

Never say never – ready made biriyani spice mix

I was just having a read over some of my old blog posts and remembering how much I enjoy writing them so thought I’d drop another one for your reading pleasure. Or my writing pleasure, you may not enjoy reading it. Sorry about that.

So after my my trip to Sri Lanka the travel bug hit again, but rather than have to go through another trip with my dad, I took my husband to Venice with his best mate and his wife. We went for the Damien Hirst exhibition but as the Biennale was on, it seemed rude not to fill our weekend with art, so we did. Lots of art. It was amazing. The wine, not so much, until we found a lovely place on San Pantalon (I KNOW, but we did wear trousers, so it’s all OK) and drank a lot of wine. And that was great.

But I’m not here to talk about the mediocre tourist food of Venice, I’m here to share with you my latest food cheat discovery – Biriyani spice mix. Rice is probably my second favourite carb after bread in all its many and varied and delicious forms (sorry coeliacs/gluten freers, you’re missing out). And is my go-to comfort food (you can take the girl out of Sri Lanka…). My sister’s lovely sister in law lives in Saudi Arabia and the last time she came to visit, she brought an amazing care package of spices and herbs and the aforementioned biriyani mix. I’n not usually a fan of pre-mixed spices, being a purist and all, but frankly, this was so good I’m converted.

So here’s my recipe, using the spice mix, similar ones are available in all Asian (and some major) supermarkets. FYI this serves approximately 478 people, but it also freezes really well, so freeze in individual sized portions and then simply reheat from frozen in the foil in the oven – easy week night treat supper.

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Chicken Biriyani 

  • 600g basmati rice (wash and soak the rice, whilst you’re preparing the masala, for at least 30 mins)
  • 3 x onions, finely sliced
  • 6 x tomatoes
  • 5 x cloves of garlic, made into a paste
  • 1in of ginger, made into a paste
  • 8-10 chicken legs and thighs (skin removed but on the bone)
  • 3 x big potatoes chopped into 1-in cubes
  • 200g yoghurt (I used greek style)
  • 1 packet of biriyani spice mix
  • Water

Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large pan and add the onion. Fry until golden then remove 1-2 tablespoons of onions and put to one side. Add the tomatoes into the pan and fry till they’re soft, then add the ginger and garlic pastes, fry for 30 seconds, then add the chicken. Fry for a few minutes, till the chicken is golden, then add the potatoes, yoghurt and the spice mix. Stir well and fry for about 5 mins, till everything is coated. Then add 1-2 cups of water, bring to the boil then cover and simmer until the meat is falling off the bone – probably 15-20 mins.

Whilst that’s simmering, bring 8 cups of water to the boil and add the presoaked and drained rice to the pot. You need to keep a close eye on this, and take off the heat and drain just before it’s cooked – about 10-12 mins.

In the same pan as you cooked the rice, put a layer of rice back in the bottom, about 1cm deep. Then spoon over a layer of the cooked masala, repeat with the rice, then masala two more times. Try to ensure you’ve got equal quantities of chicken on each layer. Top with a layer of rice, then pour over remaining masala sauce. Cover and cook this for 8-10 mins, try not to stir it as you’ll lose the layers.

Serve with raita and poppadoms or just eat on it’s own, either way it’s delicious.

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Eating down the freezer…

Did I tell you what I got for Christmas? I don’t think I did. Anyway, I got an ice cream maker. It’s not one of those that freeze on the counter top, it’s one that you need to freeze the bowl and then churn like a churning ocean of emotions (nb, I found a poetry book I wrote when I was a misery teenager today, so forgive any ridiculous turns of phrase…) 

The ice cream maker looks amazing but I haven’t been able to use it as our freezer is permanently full. Full like a bean bag, before the woes of the world drowns its liveliness with hugecrushing asses. Yeah. I’ll stop soon. It’s currently sitting on the shelf, next to the deep fat fryer that we also bought for Christmas, which we love. But more on that in another post.

So in the spirit of my new year resolution to spend too much money on stuff, I have made a plan to eat down the freezer so I can start making ice cream. Today I have taken three chicken legs, chorizo and some chicken breasts out of one of the overstuffed drawers and I’m making a chicken and chorizo stew. Admittedly, I’m making enough for about 14 people and I’m currently home alone (the wino is in Spain for “work” which has so far involved a five course lunch and a lot of fun) so that there’s the fear that I’ll simply cook a shit tonne of stuff and then refreeze it but luckily my sister is doing up her kitchen so can’t cook at the moment, so I’m taking this to her and her family tomorrow. I’m good like that. 

It’s a lovely simple recipe so I’m sharing below. I’ve put the amounts that I’ve used to clear out my freezer but you can make it bigger or smaller. Obviously. 


Chicken and chorizo stew

  • 3 x chicken leg joints
  • 3 x chicken breasts, cubed
  • 4 x chorizo sausages (the type that need cooking not the ready to eat type) 
  • 3 x red peppers 
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced 
  • Olive oil and salt and pepper
  • One tin of tomatoes
  • One tin of chickpeas

Heat the olive oil in a pan. Meanwhile, remove the skin from the chorizo and slice into chunks. When the oil is shimmering hot, add the chicken and brown it on all sides.

Remove the chicken and leave to one side. Add a little more oil (not too much though) and throw in the garlic and chorizo. 

Let the chorizo brown for a couple of minutes then add the cubed peppers and let that cook for a couple of minutes too. Throw in the tin of tomatoes and then fill the empty tin with water and add that too. Stir the chunks of chicken breast in to the mix, then place the chicken leg joints onto the top. Bring the mix to the boil, cover and leave to simmer for around 30-40 minutes. At around 25 mins, add the drained chickpeas. For a thicker sauce, remove the lid from the pan around 20 mins in to the cook. 

Once it’s cooked, chop up some parsley and sprinkle on top. 

Serve immediately, with some crusty white bread. 

The trouble with crumpets…

I’m British ergo I love me a crumpet. Delicious, bubbly, yeasty crumpety goodness, covered in butter and jam and with a cup of earl grey. What’s not to love?

I went to visit friends in France a few weeks ago – and I was challenged to make crumpets (the French do not love crumpets and my British mates were missing them). Now, I’d never made them before, but hell, I love me a challenge so off I went to my best friend Google who gave me a Paul Hollywood recipe.

We found most of the ingredients in Sue’s cupboard and subbed in some others and started the batter which was supposed to rest for a couple of hours. So we tested it after a couple of hours and whilst they tasted crumpet-y, they did not have that well known bubble top. So we left it another couple of hours. Still no bubbles. We finished the batter the following morning. Still no bubbles.

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See? Bubbles when in the pan…

We did however, see Hagrid in one of the crumpet tops, so any Harry Potter fiends out there, hit me up for your next Potter pilgrimage location.

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Hallelujah/Hagrid

So I’ve been wondering what went wrong (I blame the French ingredients. Obviously. Never my fault) and this weekend, we had a friend over for brunch so I decided to make them again. On my fancy new cooker.

This time, Jamie Oliver was my go-to recipe (thanks Google, I don’t know what I’d do without you). The batter was supposed to rest for an hour and then you make a call based on the bubbles in it. There were NO bubbles in my batter. Well, some but not crumpet levels of bubbles.

So I left it overnight and there were a few more bubbles in it and I cooked it and there were bubbles in the middle but again, there were no bubbles on top.

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Everyone was terribly polite about them and they looked more like crumpets than my french attempt (and tasted just like crumpets) but I need help, bakers, what am I doing wrong?  I think I’m turning them when they’re too wet, needs to be a low temperature for a long time so it’s basically dry on top and you’re just colouring the bubbles?

(I am very sorry for overusing the word ‘bubble’ and ‘crumpet’ but there are very few synonyms for them).

So no recipe yet, I’ll be remaking them again (third time’s a charm?) and if those actually look like  proper crumpet, I might yet post it. But in the interim, HELP ME GET MY CRUMPETS TO BUBBLE. (thanks)

Here’s a picture of the plate of carbs I served for that brunch. Not all bad. Eclairs and pancakes saved the day (PS remind me to tell you about the first batch of eclairs I made that my mum ruined some other time…)

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And we’re done for the year

And so it’s farewell to yet another year. Compared to the crazy body punching blows of 2014 that left me broken in several small pieces and on a granola obsession, this year has been much more stable, with a few gigantic waves thrown in to keep me on my toes. Or to knock me onto my substantial big brown ass but not enough to break me. Thank GOODNESS for that.

I started this year very unemployed and on the hunt for a job and in April, I won a competitive pitch against 20 agencies/freelancers for a project which was a great confidence boost. But that was only a few days work over a few months so I also had the opportunity to work with some super clever agencies and individuals who made me fall in love with PR again (well, a bit, I’m far too cynical to drink the KoolAid and completely lose my mind!) I’m ending this year working with a fantastic team on a longer term project so that’ll hopefully keep the wolves from the door and get me back on a much more even work-life keel. (Sorry about all the maritime analogies, I think I want to be on a beach).

Speaking of beaches, I started the year, in the midst of my unemployment, in Goa with my darling wino (because there ain’t nuffink like celebrating unemployment with a huge holiday) and then over the next 12 months, we also went to Istanbul, Berlin and had a big gay weekend in Suffolk. All told, a much smaller year of travel than previous ones, but I blame that on my work shy foppishness. Goa was incredible, met some wonderful new friends, explored a beautiful part of the world and now I’m wondering where I can go in 2016. I want to end the year in Australia but I can definitely feel a weekend in New York to catch up with my buddies on the cards and possibly somewhere a bit Scandi.  But that sounds a bit like a resolution and I’m loathe to set myself up for failure before the year’s even started.

Sunset at Mandrem

We also contemplated becoming supperclubbers in 2015 but trying to hold down a 9-5 and then cooking for 15-20 people on a regular basis sent me into freefall a bit so we had one awesome trial run with friends and family and then just carried on as normal.  Maybe we’ll do it again in 2016? I’ve been told that we’re hosting the family for Christmas next year (which is possibly about 30 people) so that may inspire me to finally get the kitchen updated. Doubt it though, I’m quite lazy and scared of commitment (and also, we may run away to Oz so we don’t have to do it…)

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We’ve had an interesting year with our cat, Doris. She was bullied by another cat who was sneaking in the catflap and eating her food so decided to let us know about her unhappiness by peeing on our bed. Delightful. Put an end to that madness through lots of loving but she’s ended the year pooping in the lounge. Not sure what’s wrong with her, think she’s just insane but that was definitely one present I didn’t want to find under the tree.

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Before she started to leave us poopy presents all over the house

The wino has continued to put up with my madness as well as mad times at his business but that’s his story to tell so I’ll not go into details. He’s a good, if annoying, man who I wouldn’t replace for all the tea in China. Possibly for all the chocolate in the world but not tea.

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I turned 40 too this year, which I celebrated over three weeks and loved every minute of it, so much that I may be 40 again next year – gird your livers, chums.

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And on top of all that, I went to a gin festival, I ate at some incredible restaurants, I spent a lot of QT with gorgeous people who inspire me and make me laugh till I want to pee (I am 40 after all), I baked a LOT and this year was just lovely. Apart from the four failed Amazon deliveries that have made me realise that Amazon Prime is not worth the money it costs and that their drivers are more than a little bit racist. But that’s a conversation to have with their press office rather than bitching here – unless I don’t hear back from them, in which case, bring on the bitching.

So onto 2016 – I’m in employment, I have a roof over my head, I have more shoes than a girl could ever possibly need and a lovely man by my side. If 2015 was about getting back together (after 2014 decided to break me down), I think 2016 is about bringing joy back. Which mostly means spending time with those reprobates who are my dearest framily, experiencing new places and eating lots of food. Those aren’t resolutions by the way, that’s just good sense. Oh, and I’ve got a flying lesson and a Segway experience and a cake decorating class to do that I’m hugely excited about (god bless birthday present experiences!) Thanks to those of you who have listened to my ramblings over the last 12 months, I may post more regularly over the next 12 but don’t hold me to it, I’d hate to let you down. Here’s to a 2016 that’s filled with joy for all of you too.

 

 

Recapping November… and Monkey(bread)ing around

Blimey, what a month. As I mentioned, briefly, in passing (ALL THE TIME) I turned 40 in November and as that’s apparently quite the milestone, I decided to drag out the celebrations for the better part of the month.

The actual day, my wino and I went to breakfast at the Delaunay (amazing), saw Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy which moved me to tears in parts, utterly emotional and beautiful and then had a mildly crappy afternoon tea because we’re old and needed a sugar hit. And then dinner with my family that evening which was also simply super (although mediocre food, didn’t expect much more from the local curry house).

My birthday gift from the husband was a trip to Berlin so we went the following weekend and stuffed our faces with German cakes and weinerschnitzel and saurkraut and stuff. Had the best time at the Photography Museum at the Frank Horvat exhib, love his stuff and went to a few other galleries and mostly just pootled around the city really. Don’t go to the zoo, it’s absolutely horrible and I totally cried at the sad lions and camels. Tinged a little bit with sadness – an old friend moved there  a few years ago and I was hoping to catch up with him and his partner but wasn’t to be the case as his partner sadly lost his battle with cancer the week before we arrived. Nic’s been bravely and beautifully blogging at his struggles with dealing with his loss here – please go read it, it’s an honest, heart wrenching and sad read (love you Nic).

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Then back to London town, to start a new job (which is awesome and huge and I think may keep me away from blogging for a bit just whilst I get my head into it) and to celebrate with a bunch of my very best family and friends.

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We’d booked out lunch at one of our favourite restaurants in Queen’s Park – the lovely Caldo. It’s a tapas place and wine bar (and my husband does some of the list so he knows them well). Sorted out a set menu and awaited the hoards to arrive – and boy did they. There were friends from all aspects of my life – school, university, work, drinking in bars, family friends, family members, all told I haven’t felt so loved since probably my wedding day. I always think it’s amazing that some of those people have been in my life for the whole of it, the experiences we’ve shared together could fill books.  It was a lovely day, there were shots done, a cake by a baker (Fondant Fox) whose creations I’d been drooling over on Instagram for a while and whilst her cakes clearly look amazing, they also TASTE amazing, which is possibly the most important thing. And then there was the afterparty. And from that I don’t remember much, but I do know that my fridge was stuffed full of fizz, a tequila station was set up in the kitchen and I had enough Doritos to feed 500 peple before we went to lunch but the next morning the fridge was empty and there were Doritos all over the floor. Lord knows what happened to the tequila. Never saw the bottle again, think it ran away. Took me the better part of a week to recover – won’t be doing that again for a while… Although I tried, the following weekend when my GBFF treated me to an amazing Twin Peaks themed dinner/immersive theatre thing (which I’ll blog separately), I had to follow a bus and a Spice Girl around in a pee yellow car for a day and I have been hanging out with X Factor stars. All told, November has been quite spectacularly full on and, frankly, awesome.

Last weekend was the first weekend we’d had at home since October and the last till Christmas so I decided to get baking – and I’ve been wanting to make Monkeybread for quite some time. For those of you who don’t know, Monkeybread is (probably) an American thing, it’s effectively enriched, sweet dough balls, rolled in cinnamon, sugar and butter and baked. What on earth about that is not to like? I’ve been avoiding my bundt tin since last Christmas when I didn’t grease it enough and an impressive cake I should have made (spiced cranberry) got stuck in it so I had to slice it to take to a party. Not ideal. So I decided to bundt the shit out of my monkeybread to break the fear. And I’m glad I did. It looked GREAT and tasted even better.

Couple of changes I made to the recipe. I have a sweet tooth but I don’t think it compares to most American recipes I’ve seen – sometimes even I get unnerved by the levels of sweetness in a recipe. So I decided to use a traditional white bread dough to make the monkeybread and hope that the sweetness of the cinnamon, sugar, butter would be enough – and it most definitely was. If you do want to go all out, a brioche style bread would probably work quite well – I had no milk in the house so couldn’t do that. Next time, I’m going to experiment with savoury flavours -I think herbed bread and cheese would be amazing. But here’s my recipe, enjoy!

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Monkeybread 

For the dough:

  • 400g strong white bread flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 1 tsp fast acting yeast
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 300ml warm water
  • Oil for kneading

For the cinnamon sugar

  • 100g butter melted and slightly cooled
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • Pinch of salt

Put the flour into a bowl and add the salt and yeast, making sure these two ingredients don’t touch. Add the warm water and bring the dough together to a sticky shaggy mess. Scrape any dough from your fingers and then cover the bowl and leave in a warm place for 30 mins. After that time, turn the dough onto a lightly oiled and dusted board, and knead. Use whatever method you’re most comfortable with – I use Dan Lepard’s, it’s easy to follow and usually comes out with a great bread. Knead for about 5 mins, return to the bowl, leave covered for 15 mins, then repeat this process twice more.

After the last knead, put the oven on a low-medium heat (around gas mark 4 or 170C) to preheat and make your cinnamon sugar – simply mix the sugar and spices and salt together in a bowl. Grease a 25cm bundt tin.

Turn the dough out onto a board and start rolling small dough balls – you want to get at least 30 small balls (golf ball sized). Dip and roll each ball into the melted butter and then dust them in the bowl of spiced sugar and then placed them into the bundt tin. 30 balls comes up about half way up the tin – don’t worry about this, once all the sugar coated balls are in you need to leave it for its final prove so it’ll fill up.

The final prove takes around 30-45 mins (the doughballs should spring back when you poke them!), then put the tin into the oven to bake for one  hour.

Let the monkeybread cool in the tin for 15 mins, then turn it onto a serving platter and give the base of the tin a good whack, it’ll release and leave it ready for serving. It’s a lovely indulgent breakfast cake but equally good when still warm with ice cream. Enjoy!

 

 

Hasselback potatoes and salsa verde

I am a girl who loves me some carbs. Oh yes. Carbs in most formats float my boat but were I to only be allowed one type for the rest of my days, I’d go with bread. And I’d go so far as to say, that potatoes would be my least favourite – I only really like them in mashed form and to be honest, should this one carb totalitarian future I’m envisioning offer instant powdered mash instead of any real actual carbs, I’d probably be totally OK with that.

Is now a good time to announce my overwhelming love for processed cheese too?

However, I’ve been noticing recently a lot of people I stalk on social media posting pictures of some fancy looking potatoes and some googling informs me these are called Hasselback potatoes and they’re a Scandi thing and they look super pretty and super easy (I refer you to my earlier ‘powdered mash’ comment) so I figured, during Chocolate Saturday, I’d give them a go. Not with chocolate though, that’d be grim.

So the joy of hasselback potatoes is you get the crunchy skin of a baked potato, with the creamy inside of a mashed potato and the crispy edges of, well, crisps. And you slice and bake and baste once and they come out all buttery and yummy. I decided to pair this with a roast chicken and some salsa verde, mostly because I’ve been craving it. And some vegetables, because I do actually want to make it to 40. Which I’m still convinced is in 15 years and not two weeks.

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Hasselback potatoes are super simple. Preheat the oven to gas mark 6. I made 6 potatoes for two of us which was far too many – I reckon two per person, max, unless you’re starving in which case, you decide, I’m not your mother. The easiest way to prepare these is a tip from Nigella – put the potato into a wooden spoon and cut slices into it without going all the way to the bottom – you want it to fan out and by putting it in a wooden spoon, it stops you from slicing too deep. The slices should be as thin as possible – I averaged about 3mm but if you can go thinner, well done. And stop showing off. Once your potatoes are prepared, put butter (about 5g per potato) and oil into the roasting tray and put onto the heat – once it is smoking hot, add the potatoes, cut side down first and then turn over and sprinkle salt over them. Baste once and then put into the oven. They’ll take about 45-55 mins to cook (depending on the size of your potatoes). Once cooked, transfer to a warmed dish and serve. With more butter.

My salsa verde was a bit of a mish mash of herbs from my garden and fridge. And I didn’t have any mustard so I didn’t use that. But I’ve since bought some so I’ll see if it makes much of a difference. I liked this one but I love processed cheese so what do I know?

Salsa Verde 

  • 2 large handfuls of fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 large handfuls of fresh coriander (stalks and leaves)
  • 1 large handful of fresh mint (leaves only)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 green chilli
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tsp capers
  • Olive oil (about 3tbsp)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Splash of red wine vinegar (which I also didn’t have, so used the vinegar from the capers)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and chop the garlic and chop the anchovies into tiny pieces and transfer with the capers to a large mortar and pestle. Bash together with a little sea salt until you have a paste.

Chop your herbs together finely and add to the anchovy/caper/garlic mix. Using a lot of elbow grease, pound this togethr until you have a paste and then add the liquids – and give it a stir. Season to taste. Mine was a little bitter so I added a little bit of demerara sugar which helped lift it.

Serve with hasselback potatoes and a roast chicken if you want to be just like me. I’d imagine it will also be delicious on other grilled meats.

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Can Vico revitalise Cambridge Circus? (Absolutely yes!)

I met my wino at the opening night of Dehesa many moons ago and we’ve been delightfully happy and scarily well fed ever since. But those heady days of going to the opening of the latest, well, envelope, are far behind us. We do eat out a lot still (you don’t get our fine figures without a significant amount of three course + wine dinners) but suburban life has put a bit of a dampener on being able to go to every opening or wine tasting or whatever.

However, when you get an invite (through the wino) to the opening of a new restaurant from the team behind Bocca di Lupa and Gelupo, you really can’t say no. Particularly when the food and drink is free all night. So last night, on a torrential Monday in August (gotta love British summers) we found ourselves at Vico.

Vico is soft launching this week – check out its social media channels (Facebook / Twitter/ Instagram) to find out details of how to get to one of this week’s events or head over to Cambridge Circus from next week when it’ll be officially open to the general public.

Vico takes all the skills and techniques of the formidable Jacob Kenedy and transports them to a format that’s right for the location – effectively Italian street food. Vico is in that formerly chain zone of Cambridge Circus, on the site of what was probably a Pizza Hut or Frankie & Benny’s. It’s one of those locations that Londoners avoid (unless you’re walking from Soho to Covent Garden) – just filled with tourist tat and not particularly appealing. However, a Polpo opened there recently, the refurbed Ivy has just reopened around the corner and it’s hopefully coming into its own now.

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The food is sold by the weight and features several different varieties of arancini – and as you’ll know from a previous post, I love me some arancini. We had two black squid arancini – I’d thought these would be my favourite but I found them a little underseasoned for my taste (I will admit that I’m a bit of a salt junkie so this may just be me). We also had the beetroot and goat’s cheese, hazelnut and blue cheese varieties and these were all amazing – the risotto rice was cooked beautifully and they were served warm and unctuous.

On top of that, we tried the prosciutto and mozzarella pizza with rocket, a salad of some grains (I didn’t see what) which you could add rabbit to and a endive salad with parmesan and some lovely bacalao fritters. Oh and a fancy Italian sausage roll which was layers of crunchy pastry around some beautifully flavourful pork. Probably my favourite. For all the food in the image at the top of this post, and 500ml of red wine, our bill would have come to about £45 – not bad at all.

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We washed this down with 500ml of red wine – wine is on draft and sold by the carafe. You can get a 250ml or 500ml. They also have prosecco on draft which I didn’t realise until much too late but I literally cannot wait to order me a pint of prosecco. There’s also beer, soft drinks, Campari and various other spirits but I stuck to the wine. It was Monday, goddamnit. I’m not sure if they removed the seating for the event because I’m pretty sure I saw some stools hiding around the back, but it would be good if there was some seating.

Rather than trying to be Bocca di Lupo 2, Vico offers a range of beautifully prepared, simple Italian finger foods that you eat at standing/perching tables, rather than sitting down for a full meal. It’s perfect for the location – quick for a good pre-theatre bite, great for families and probably quite nice for a quick dinner with friends. Will most definitely be back. Regularly.