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Pane e Acqua – Milano

26 Apr

Chef Francesco Passalacqua’s aptly named restaurant Pane e Acqua offers much more than your average Milanese faire. The former tabbacheria has been transformed into an innovative cafe’/restaurant which is more like an all-day creative kitchen – an art gallery that serves slow food, if you will.

Renowned for his creative cuisine, Passalacqua presents a menu inspired by a mélange of Mediterranean influences alongside impressive gourmet Italian artisan pleasures.

The décor is eclectic and creatively entertaining with pieces such as the upside down wine glass and fork candle holder.

The interior is as seasonal as the menu, where everyday objects take on new meaning.

Many original features of the old tabbacheria  have been retained while the addition of hard minimalist features has created an industrial-chic feel.


Spaghetti al Limone by David Rocco

11 Apr

There are celebrity chefs who ‘expose’ the world to  ‘authentic’ Italian cuisine (which to many of us is the bloody obvious) … and then there is David Rocco. David takes you on a journey of his Tuscan reality – a life of slow food, of embracing the hour of aperitivo and pinzimonio (a tough gig but someone has to do it). Each episode you’re introduced to a friend of his who has an olive grove or a castle or a vineyard and quite frankly,  you fall in love with la dolce vita.

This simple, mouth-watering pasta dish is a zingy alternative to the norm.

450g Spaghetti

1 garlic clove, for rubbing

lemon juice form 2 lemons

5 tbs extra virgin olive oil

salt to season

1 cup Parmigiano cheese, finely grated (235ml), plus extra for sprinkling

a bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

zest of 1 lemon, freshly grated

  • Place spaghetti in a pot of boiling salted water and stir immediately to prevent from sticking.
  • Cut garlic in half and rub exposed area along the interior of a large serving bowl. This way the flavour of raw garlic will cover the inside surface of the bowl. Discard the garlic.
  • Add freshly squeezed lemon juice and slowly drizzle in extra virgin olive oil while stirring. Stir well until the ingredients have emulsified.
  • Mix in salt and parmigiano cheese.
  • When the spaghetti is al dente , drain and add to the serving bowl. Mix well.
  • Sprinkle with parmigiano cheese, parsley and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Chocolate and Amaretto Pudding

8 Apr

Chocolate and Amaretto Pudding recipe by Antonio Carluccio + Gennaro Contaldo

With hands the size of a bricks, impressive all-year-round tan and warm “long lost uncle” personas, Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo are undoubtedly London’s favourite Napoletani with restaurants scattered all over the UK. This simple, old-school ‘budino’ can be served either warm or chilled and is very easy to master . Add some Amaretto liqueur to give it a bit of  kick.

500ml milk
15g plain flour
30g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways
and seeds removed
80ml Amaretto liqueur
100g dark chocolate, finely
50g unsalted butter
30g amaretti biscuits, crushed


Put the milk in a saucepan and warm over a low heat.

Combine the flour, sugar and vanilla seeds in a medium-sized saucepan, add a little of the milk and whisk to a smooth paste. Add the remainder of the milk and warm over a low heat, whisking all the while to prevent lumps from forming. Stir in the Amaretto liqueur and continue to whisk until the mixture has begun to thicken. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and butter and stir to combine.

Spoon the mixture into serving glasses and serve either warm or cold, topped with the crushed amaretti biscuits.

Source: Two Greedy Italians

208 | Duecento Otto, Hong Kong

3 Apr

Image source: Duecento Otto

I’m rewriting my review of 208. The first night I went was quite frankly,  as we Italians like to say, “un casino” (a mess). My experience since then has proven that it was definitely a one-off. Giulio, the manager, has since ensured an unrivalled Italian dining experience in Hong Kong. For honest, authentic and creative flavours of Italy, this is the real deal. After watching the Milan derby at 2.45 am, a perfectly mixed Negroni sbagliato cocktail of Italian sweet vermouth, Campari and Prosecco was just what the doctor ordered.

Rarely are Italian restaurants able to balance a sophisticated menu and superb pizza. 208 does both.To start, we enjoyed an ‘Arugulasalad of peppery rocket in an aged balsamic vinaigrette, sharpened with shavings of  matured parmigiano reggiano and delicate specks of broken roasted garlic. The pizza is perfection. The dough was light and airy with a slightly puffed crust, wood-fired with D.O.C quality ingredients. You can (and I do) eat one on your own. For me? A Margherita.. 3 toppings – tomato sauce, mozzarella di buffala and basilico- unviolated by any other ingredient. My husband ordered the Diavola (spicy Italian sausage, chilli, tomato sauce and mozzarella).

Easily, two of the bests pizzas we’ve had out of Italy (and we travel a lot). Compliments to the pizzaiolo. 208 has become a fortnightly regular for us, and each time we promise to try other dishes but we’re so deprived of decent pizza in Hong Kong that we keep coming back for more. Next time.

I suggest you don’t eat before you come. You absolutely have to make room for perhaps one of the most simple, yet exotic desserts I’ve ever tasted. My husband and I have nicknamed it “The Med on a Plate”. The Roasted Figs in Saba dish presents caramelized figs served with homemade cookie crumble and a chunk of gorgonzola dolce. The perfect marriage of textures, tastes and fragrances. If you prefer something a little less naughty but equally delectable, try the Campari Orange Sorbet for an icy treat that is not too sweet and has a bit of kick. To finish – an espresso which is ‘ristretto’ with the perfect layer of crema.

Image source: Duecento Otto

The interior design is a fresh fusion of east and west, Chinoise wall tiles and warm dark timber are perfectly framed  by a striking iron façade. The connection between indoors and the external environment makes for a wonderful alfresco dining experience or apertivo setting.

Image Source: Habitat Property

The Verdict? A rockstar menu, and attentive service in an intimate, yet very cool loft-like setting. It’s also refreshing to see Italian staff bouncing around the place who always has time to stop for a chat. Buon appetito! Well-done 208.

Butler’s Wharf Chophouse – Shad Thames, London

30 Mar

In theory, the Butler’s Wharf Chophouse caters for everyone and indeed the Baked Artichoke Hotpot does look delicious. But let’s face it… you come to the Chophouse for a chop and that’s exactly what you get. A massive, mouthwatering chop!

The Venue

The Chophouse has a smart but relaxed ‘lodge’ interior adorned with wood and chunky furniture. Cream shabby chic French doors line the wall which looks out to THE view. Beautifully located along the Thames, with the Tower Bridge as a backdrop, BWC ticks all the boxes for a hearty (no pun intended) romantic rendezvous. The atmosphere is perfect, bustling but not overcrowded, healthy chatter and laughter without the usual hushed tones of some more pretentious establishments.

The Food

The menu showcases the best of British, so B-Y-O strong stomachs and elasticated waistbands! Pig trotters, liver and bone marrow are regulars for the brave and slow cooked Angus beef cheeks (to die for!). Old-school steaks and chops are also available for the less adventurous.

Desserts are old English classics and dare I say it… even better than your mother’s!  Rice pudding with rhubarb, trifle, sticky toffee pudding and Cambridge burnt cream. Wash it down with some of the delicious English Ortega wine, a lovely summer tipple and harvested right here in the Biddenden Vineyards vineyards in the beautiful Kent countryside…

The Verdict

Everything is cooked to perfection and literally melts in your mouth. It’s been a long time since I’ve used the word divine with food but this is definitely the place to use it in abundance! Zumba + Spin tomorrow.

I would urge anyone with a healthy appetite to head down to the river and enjoy these crisp Spring evenings with some top nosh! (Just don’t eat before you go!)

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