Sunday, 30 April 2017


Joe Allen opened 40 years ago following the success of its American sister restaurant and it has been a hit ever since. If you are going to the theatre, it has always been one of the places to dine. The venue is filled with theatre memorabilia (we loved ticking off all the shows we had seen on the back of the menu), the waiters are wannabe actors and the casts of the shows regularly frequent the restaurant. I loved that at 17.45 the restaurant was practically full to the brim and had a great buzzy atmosphere. 

We were immediately shown to our table and it bought back memories of my last trip to Joe Allen's over 20 years ago (eeek I am getting old)! I made my daughter Arabella order a Shirley Temple as that was my old favourite.

The menu is typically American - ribs, salads, chicken, steaks, eggs - a lot to choose from. We decided to start with crispy squid and tortilla chips with guacamole. 

The food came out very quickly. I was expecting more from the squid, it didn't taste particularly fresh and was quite chewy however we were all fighting over the tortilla chips and guacamole, it was delicious. Arabella licked the bowl clean!!

They had a great children's menu with all the usual suspects and it was no surprise to any of us that Arabella went for mac and cheese. The portion size was quite large for a kids' menu but we weren't complaining as it meant we could all tuck in and together we polished the creamy, cheesy dish off.

I completely forgot about the secret burgers that are off menu and so instead went for "Mac Ragu" which is a combination of beef and pork ragu with mac and cheese and my husband Pascal ordered crispy pork belly with spicy Boston beans.

We enjoyed the mac ragu but in our opinion it wasn't cheesy enough and was a little dry. Once we added a couple of spoonfuls of Arabella's mac and cheese, it was perfect. The crispy pork on the other hand was amazing, the pork was soft and succulent whilst crispy on the top and we loved the beans which I am happy to report weren't spicy at all. 

Despite being fit to burst, I still wanted a pudding so I encouraged Arabella to order the knickerbocker brownie from the children's menu. I was expecting something small but instead was presented with a huge sundae of ice cream, sorbet, chocolate, cream, brownie and caramel sauce - Heaven!!

I wonder how big the adult one is...I might have to research it one day, along with the secret burgers!!

Once I had scoffed the ice cream sundae, we ordered the bill and we were very pleasantly surprised at how reasonable the evening was - it made me like the restaurant even more. I was sad to leave as I loved listening to the pianist playing but it was time to hotfoot it to the theatre. 

If you are looking for a show, go and see School of Rock - it is AMAZING. The kids play all their own instruments and are outstanding - I am hoping it might encourage Arabella to practise her flute!!

Joe Allen

13 Exeter Street
Tel: 020 7836 0651

Square Meal
Joe Allen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, 23 April 2017


My daughter Arabella was given a cook book for her birthday and so last week we decided to try out a recipe for supper. I am feeling a lot of guilt at the moment as I don't make home cooked meals from scratch every night for Arabella like I used to. There is very little time nowadays because of the baby. I know it's not for long - in a few months time Olympia will be on proper food and we can all eat the same thing - but I still feel guilty. 

Anyway I decided to cook this quiche as Arabella and I are big fans of the Higgidy ones, the recipe recommended making your own pastry but I decided to take a short cut and buy short crust pastry. I have never blind baked before and I made a bit of a mess of putting the pasty in the tin but thankfully my presentation didn't affect the taste!

This took quite a while as you have to blind bake for 20 minutes and then bake with the filling for 40 minutes and then leave it to stand for 10 minutes. In typical me fashion I didn't read this so it was all quite rushed and stressful!

Ingredients for 4 people:

A roll of short crust pastry
2 eggs, beaten
100ml single cream
125g sweetcorn
100g ham, cubed / shredded
100ml milk
75g gated cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small leek, sliced

You will also need baking beans to blind bake.

Firstly take the pastry out of the fridge an hour before you need to cook it. Then you need to blind bake / pre-bake - I had never done this before so was a little apprehensive. 

Start by preheating the oven to 200 C / gas mark 6. Then roll out the pastry into a lightly greased quiche tin, press it down and mould round the tin. Finally prick with a fork all over. My tin was slightly too big hence it didn't look particularly neat. Next cover with a sheet of baking paper and fill with the baking beans. Pop into the oven for 15 minutes. Then remove the paper and beans and bake for another 10 minutes.

Whilst this is baking fry the leeks in a tablespoon of olive oil until cooked.

Reduce the oven temperature to 180 C / gas mark 4.

Fill the quiche base with the ham, sweetcorn and leeks. Then whisk together the eggs, milk and cream and pour this over the base and top with the cheese. Bake for 40-45 minutes.

Leave to set for at least 10 minutes and then serve with a crisp green salad.

This was pretty simple to cook but I found it a right hassle and as I was cooking this I was thinking, what a nightmare, it will be rubbish and I am never cooking this again!! Luckily I was very pleasantly surprised. It tasted delicious and I was really proud to have baked my own quiche. Arabella liked it however she has requested than next time I leave out the leeks. If you wanted a vegetarian version you could substitute the ham for extra vegetables such as mushrooms or peppers or broccoli or if you like it meaty you could add some bacon. The choice is yours, knowing me next time I expect I will add more cheese!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017


I really wanted to cook a roast lamb on Easter Sunday but it seemed a little OTT as it was just my daughter Arabella and I for lunch. So instead I went for Arabella's favourite.....pasta! This is a recipe I found on Waitrose's website, I wanted something quick and easy as I am still finding cooking with the baby quite difficult. She seems to save her moaning to when I am slaving over a hot stove!! Anyway this only took about 15 minutes to prepare and then 25 minutes in the oven.

Ingredients for 2 people:

150g macaroni
1 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, sliced
200g lardons
350g tub of cheese sauce
50g Parmesan, grated
50g Cheddar cheese, grated
2 small bunches of cherry tomatoes (I only used one as Arabella doesn't like cooked tomatoes)

Preheat the oven 190 C / gas mark 5.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to the packet's instructions. Mine took 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the lardons for around 4 minutes and then add the leeks for another 4 minutes or until they start to soften and the bacon is cooked.

Add the cheese sauce and bring to the boil, then stir in the pasta and a good grinding of black pepper.

Transfer into a baking dish and place the tomatoes on top. Pop into the oven for 20-25 minutes until the topping is golden and the tomatoes are soft. Serve and enjoy.

Even though I was missing having lamb, this was a great alternative - I love a Mac and cheese and this recipe was so easy to make. Next time I might stir in a teaspoon of mustard to give it a bit of a kick. I was tempted to not bother with the tomatoes but they made a great addition and next time I will serve it with a mixed green salad. I am constantly looking for recipes that don't take too long and would suit a midweek supper and this definitely hits the spot.

Sunday, 2 April 2017


We have all become slightly obsessed with counting our steps in our household and so when we went for lunch a few weekends ago, we decided to combine it with a good walk. We decided to go to the restaurant Sticky Fingers in Kensington as the menu is both adult and kid friendly and I was particularly drawn to the pudding menu. Sticky Fingers is the brainchild of Bill Wyman, the ex bassist from the Rolling Stones and it named after their 9th British album (a good one actually - love Wild Horses)! The menu is your usual American fare - chicken wings, squid, burgers, steaks, hot dogs, fajitas....the choice is vast....8 different types of type of place!

Unsurprisingly we were all starving so we ordered Nachos Fondita to start...unlike normal nachos these came with a slightly spicy cheese dip in the middle and we added some pulled pork.

These were delicious and a good hefty portion, we loved the addition of the pulled pork although the cheese dip had quite the kick to it. Anyway it certainly whet our appetites for the mains. Arabella ordered off the kids menu and not surprisingly chose mac and cheese with garlic bread.

The curly pasta is served with a 4 cheese sauce and a biscuit crust. Arabella enjoyed the pasta but she wasn't keen on the crust which worked well for Pascal and I because we loved the cheesy topping.

Pascal went for a New Yorker style burger which was served with bacon, cheese, lettuce, red onion and gherkin. Pascal being typically French, likes his meat blue but they cooked it more medium/medium rare. He wasn't complaining though as the burger was really tasty. 

I was so torn over what to order - I wanted it all basically - a pulled pork hot dog, a blue cheese burger and the fajitas - but then I went for the buffalo 'n bird - a chicken burger with hot buffalo sauce, chopped lettuce, blue cheese sauce and chicken wings.

I love buffalo sauce and wish more restaurants in London served it like they do in America. This was really good although pretty spicy so I added some extra blue cheese sauce and it tasted like a dream. I am not normally a huge chip fan but these were the most amazing fries I have ever tasted.

By this point in the meal I was already stuffed but I couldn't resist a pudding. As part of the kid's menu, Arabella had a pudding included so we ordered her the fruit kebab which actually baby Olympia had. Arabella and I had bigger ideas....a freakshake....a salted caramel donut one to be precise!

The freak shake consisted of a salted caramel thick shake topped with whipped cream, salted caramel sauce, a homemade salted caramel donut and marshmallows. It was Heaven!! Arabella and I were fighting over every mouthful - if I am going to be critical the donut wasn't a patch on Krispy Kremes but it was still delicious and I loved the whole salted caramel combination. I think we would need to walk to Antartica to burn off the calories!!

A great lunch - service was so friendly and attentive and we all felt very satisfied. Sticky Fingers has been around for nearly 30 years, the decor is slightly tired, it isn't cheap but it was worth it. Bill Wyman originally opened the restaurant because he wanted somewhere to go just as he liked it - friendly and welcoming with excellent food and service - and 28 years on it does just that. 

Sticky Fingers

1A Phillimore Gardens,
W8 7QG
Tel: 020 7937 8690

Square Meal Sticky Fingers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato