Saturday, 30 August 2014

Review: Banana Tree, Milton Keynes

I was eagerly anticipating the opening of the new Banana Tree restaurant at The Hub in Milton Keynes. I'd checked out the menu before at their branch in Soho, so couldn't wait to try when they finally opened their doors.

Banana Tree serves up fantastic food and drinks from the Indochina region; Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Singaporean dishes. They have several locations, mostly around London but are creeping their way up via Watford to Milton Keynes... yay!!

The bar area is really cool, with big comfy chairs hanging from the ceiling, my boys loved having a swing in these while we waited for our table. There's a long seating area to the side of the bar too so a good place to meet friends before dinner.

We were seated quite quickly and given some prawn crackers to nibble on while we chose from the menu. 
I wanted to try EVERYTHING!! 

First up, these fresh Indo herb wraps; light and aromatic Nem Noung Coriander Meatballs, served with Batavia lettuce, fresh herbs and a delicious Nuoc Cham dipping sauce.

Sticky Thai wings; Marinated fried chicken wings tossed in house special tamarind, garlic, sweet basil and chilli sauce

Dried pulled beef with aromatic herbs and peanuts; served with prawn crackers.
Our waitress told us to chew slowly to really release the flavours. It had an amazing intense taste.

We also had the steamed chicken dumplings in a vinegar, garlic and fresh herb sauce, but my boys dived in before I had the chance to take a pic.

This was from the kids menu; crispy chicken with mango and sweet lime sauce, served with either steamed rice or noodles. It also included a dessert of either ice-cream with sauce and sprinkles or sorbet.

The Banana Tree Laksa; Rice noodles topped with house special spiced coconut broth, with aubergine, tofu and bean sprouts. There was a choice of coriander meatballs, chicken or king prawn.

I had the legendary beef Rendang; a famous speciality from the Minangkabau hill tribe of Indonesia. A deliciously rich and nutty slow cooked dry and fragrant curry with a toasted coconut based sauce. I chose a lovely fresh and spicy green papaya salad to go with.

The boys enjoyed their ice-cream and I sampled the spiced Malay 'pull' tea, which was like a chai and made with condensed milk. A lovely end to the meal.

I can't recommend the Banana Tree enough... we thoroughly enjoyed our meals and I can't wait to return again very soon.

Julie x

Save 20% on tickets to The BBC Good Food Bakes and Cakes Show

The BBC Good Food Bakes and Cakes Show launches in London on 25-27th October this year and I'm so excited that I will be having a stand here...
Save 20% today! Simply quote 20EX20 when you book.
Packed with baking, bread-making and cake-crafting demonstrations, free step-by-step master classes, and hundreds of essential baking products, this is the perfect place to develop your home baking hobby. 
Plus, you can watch Mary Berry, Mich Turner, John Whaite, Paul Hollywood, and more of your favourite bakers LIVE at the show! A seat in the Bakes & Cakes Theatre is included in every full day adult advance ticket.  Book yours and save 20% today – just quote 20EX20 to claim! 

Hope to see you there!

Julie x

T&Cs for ticket offers

*Offer valid on Adult and Concession standard advance tickets only.  Offer ends 30.09.14.  †Standard Bakes & Cakes Theatre seat included per advance standard ticket, subject to availability. Gold seats available for £3 extra per person. All admin and transaction fees included. Ticket terms and conditions apply. Not all celebrities appear on all days, check the website for details. Information correct at time of print.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

An evening of tapas with Omar Allibhoy at Tapas Revolution

I was recently invited along to join Omar Allibhoy for dinner to experience the new dishes on the menu at Tapas Revolution. As you may already know, Spanish food is another of my passion's, and I've already had the pleasure of meeting and cooking with Omar at a cookery class at Leith's (see post here). So when asked, I didn't hesitate to accept!
The restaurant is located on The Balcony at Westfield shopping centre and is Omar's dream of bringing a taste of the casual, convivial style of a Spanish all day bar to London. From calamares fritos to jamon de bellota, a crisp cold cerveza to a cheeky Rioja, Omar shares the everyday eating habits of his life in Madrid.
As we sat down at the bar we were first treated to a bowl of delicious, plump olives which Omar had sourced and cured himself accompanied by jugs of cold Sangria laden with steeped fruits.
Omar went on to tell us a little about the menu at Tapas Revolution, how it changes every quarter with the seasons. This is topped up with a specials menu that varies depending again on seasonality and availability. We were then tempted with a host of dishes he'd chosen for us to sample....

Fuet: Catalonian cured pork sausage with lovely white marbling

Ensalada de tomate: red and yellow tomatoes, olive and red onion salad doused in olive oil

Pan de la casa: toasted bread topped with a tomato and garlic sauce and jamon Serrano
Gazpacho de sandia; traditional Chilled vegetable soup with a hint of watermelon

Pulpo a la Gallega; simply steamed octopus with potatoes and pimenton paprika

Arroz negro; black rice with saffron, prawns and squid, served with alioli

Croquetas de jamon; deep-fried Iberico ham croquettes
Grilled baby artichoke with Romesco sauce
Pimientos rellenos de setas; Piquillo peppers stuffed with mushrooms in a pepper sauce
Crema Catalana; traditional dessert of Spain, made with vanilla pod, cinnamon and orange

All of the dishes were truly amazing, I eagerly await the opening of Shoreditch and many more Tapas Revolution!

Muchas gracias Omar x

Monday, 11 August 2014

Review - Sol y Luna tapas, Northampton

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, I can't think of a much better way to spend a few hours than enjoying some tapas and Sangria. 

Okay, maybe we could have been sitting in a courtyard garden in Granada, just maybe...

Instead, we headed to Sol y Luna tapas bar on Kinglsey Park Terrace in Northampton.

Outside the front of the bar there are 4 wooden tables with parasols, we chose to sit here as the afternoon was warm and pleasant. There are a small number of tables inside too, plus some stools so you can sit at the bar if you choose. At the time of visiting,they were also close to finishing an outdoor eating area behind the bar too where they will be giant paella cooking events.

We ordered a jug of Sangria to share while we browsed the menu and nibbled on the complimentary olives .

Starting with some pintxos of manchego with chorizo and serrano with tomato. 

Pimientos de Padron - Galician green peppers fried and sprinkled with sea salt... delicious!
Padron peppers come from the North West of Spain and while the majority are mild in taste, a small amount (10-20%) are particularly hot.
Carcamusas - stew of pork shoulder, peas and tomato. This was a favourite, we ordered seconds of this.
Salpicon de Marisco - chilled mixed seafood with peppers, onions and olives and dressed in a home made vinaigrette. 

Albondigas con tomate - meatballs with Mediterranean tomato sauce - I'd have to say these were my favourite as you can tell by my impatience to get stuck in!
Patatas bravas - fried potatoes with alioli and paprika

Calamares a la Romana - deep fried squid rings in light batter 

There was actually a mix up with our order and we received these two dishes by mistake, but I did taste the Esgarraet and I would order it next time I visit.

Esgarraet - salted fish, red piquillo peppers and aubergine.
Pollo Limonero - chicken breast in lemon, rosemary and white wine

Overall, the portions were plentiful and we had a really enjoyable meal.

Looking forward to returning again soon with friends.

Julie xx