Heroine in Heels

Thursday, 8 October 2015

A Meat Feast In Northern Ireland

The Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast (1)

Last Friday started off like any other day. I was at work sat doing spreadsheets when I received a call.

Would I like to go on a foodie tour of Northern Ireland... tomorrow.

Well in the spirit of YOLO and said sign me up, and a half a day later I arrived in Belfast.

I was staying in the Fitzwilliam Hotel, right in the centre of Belfast. The hotel was a mix of funky colours and patterns, but with a dash of lux finishes thrown in. It also had a really nice homely sort of touch.

The Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast (4) The Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast (5) The Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast (3) The Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast (2)

I wish I'd taken more photos of the room for you, as it really was quite big and spacious. Oh and one thing about this hotel is they constantly feed you. On arrival there was a plate of mini desserts, then later that day there was another plate, and each night there was chocolates on the bed. 

I'm sure the hotel was trying to make me fat... and I was ok with that.

Now the trip was all about exploring Northern Ireland's wonderful local produce. They are so hot on the idea of independent producers and have won 100's of awards, which for a country where you can drive from one end to the other in 2 hours is rather impressive. 

Peter Hannan (9)

The first day was all about meat. Mmmm meat.

Traditionally Northern Ireland dinners were focused around meat- specifically beef- and of course, potatoes. One woman told me if steak wasn't eaten once a week, it was a sign of hard times. 

Now whilst I love to eat food, I think it is also important to know about where it comes from and the hard work that goes into that steak your chowing down on. So first we headed to Peter Hannan's Hannan Meats. Peter is a butcher and produces some of the best meat in the whole of the UK. He is the butcher for Heston Blumenthal and also Mark Mix's Tramshed.

Don't I look sexy in my butchers gear?

Peter Hannan (10)

I'd say he's doing fairly well.

Peter Hannan (5)

Now, yes this is where your meat comes from guys. This is what it looks like before it makes it's way to your plate.

But what makes Peter's meat so good that Heston want's it? He has a salting chamber which he uses to control bacteria in the air so he can age his meat for far longer than normal. He wouldn't say what the process is, as it's top secret. Damn.

Peter Hannan (4) Peter Hannan (3) Peter Hannan (2) Peter Hannan (6) Peter Hannan (8) Peter Hannan (7)

Doesn't he look proud?

Peter Hannan (1)

Back out of the meat chambers, we tried a couple or 3 of his meat sausage rolls. I'm not just saying this now, but seriously, they were bloomin' good. 

I think it might have also had something to do with the vast amounts of lard in the pastry... you know where this trip is heading right?

There was also a good reason for going to see how the meat started off, as later we were heading for a meat feast, where all the meat was from Peter Hannan. So it was important to see the whole process end to end. 

Peter Hannan (13)

As it got late, we arrived for dinner at James Street Bar and Grill, a restaurant which aims to use local produce.

Each course was paired with an Irish drink, although I don't actually like cider, but I was told this one was a decent one.

Peter Hannan (15)

But fear not though, I was hardly missing out, as the starter arrived. 

Sweet bacon ribs. Are any other words needed?

The meat sliced like butter- and I really hate that phrase, but it was true. 

There was a gorgeous thick layer of melt in your mouth fat, which if you just let sit on your tongue, releases so much flavour. 

Peter Hannan (14) Peter Hannan (16)

Again, not my cup of tea, but again I was told it was a good choice to have if your in Belfast. 

Peter Hannan (17)

Next we have thin sliced eel and pork. A combination I never thought I would see, but surprisingly worked rather well. The delicate yet salty eel, with the loud sweet pork worked beautifully together. 

Of course, the main event was the ribs. Oh the ribs. Sweet, sweet ribs. 

I can honestly say they live up to all those awards you saw. Have you ever seen ribs so full of meat? Truly the best ribs I've ever had.

Finally after all that I did manage to squeeze in dessert- oh such a chore- more because I'd never actually had a Baked Alaska before.

Yeah it was OK, but I'd say skip dessert here and just order more ribs. 

Belfast, you have fed me well so far. What else have you got in store for me...?

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Friday, 2 October 2015

Best Places For Solo Dining In London

Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (37)

I don't know about you, but I refused to go out for dinner alone. Breakfast yes, lunch fine, dinner? Not chance. However with ever increasing busy lives, sometimes it's hard to find a similar schedules with friends to go out for winner with. So is this going to stop you eating out? It shouldn't do.

I've recently started dining out alone and surprisingly I've really enjoyed it. There is something quite glamorous about sitting alone with ones own company and a plate of good food.

However it still can be slightly intimating to sum up the courage, so I've put together a guide of the best places to go for solo dinning.


The Ivy Market Grill

I've been solo dining here for a while now. Whilst you are more than welcome to take any table, I'd recommend sitting at the bar. The bar staff are always happy to chit chat with you as they make drinks, and speaking of drinks, being at the bar you always get served first.

The food is classic British plates like Grilled salmon fillet with steamed asparagus and watercress hollandaise; and Rack of lamb Herb crusted lamb with fondant potato, minted sugar snaps and lamb jus.

They also do a great brunch menu- oh and do me a favour and order the salted caramel espresso martini. Just divine.

Read more about it on my blog here


Kitchen Table

The intention of the Michelin Starred Kitchen Table was to create a feeling of someone cooking in your own home. A 19 seater u shaped table around the kitchen, it's a no where to hide kind of dinner. However for solo diners who want company this is ideal as it's certainly a talking point and encourages conversation with the people next to you.

Comprising of a 12 dish set menu, the European dishes include things like fried chicken skin spread with mascarpone, dotted with bacon jam and taramasalata with pork scratchings.


Chiltern Firehouse

While yes it is more famed for it's celebrity crowd, Chiltern Firehouse is surprisingly solo dining friendly. Again sit at the bar for a lively dinner watching the chef's prepare the food in the open kitchen.  Or people watch in the hopes of spotting someone famous.

Oh and it's not hard to get a seat at the bar.

Dishes are a contemporary mix for European and American with such items as Welsh Lamb with buttered snow peas and chargrilled Iberico pork with seared courgettes.

Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (37)

Ting at The Shard

As a solo dinner sometimes your don't want to make new friends at the seats next to you, which is why having a meal with a view is just perfect. Makes sure you request a window seat and you can face into the view, leaving everything else behind whilst you eat your dinner.

Try the Rhug Estate Organic Lamb Loin with Sake, soy, eryngii mushroom or the Dover Sole with Watercress puree.

Read more about it on my blog here

Flesh and Buns

Flesh and Buns make solo dinners who want to make friends so much easier. With a huge long table down the center, there is no end of opportunity to chit chat with the people around you.

Styled as a Japanese Izakaya (a sort or pub equivalent) there is a strong culture of socializing after work in Japan. However, unlike our after work pubs, an Izakaya always involves eating too. So drinking and eating- whats not to love?
Do me a favour and order the S'mores dessert. It comes with it's own mini open fire to toast them fresh.

Read more about it on my blog here

photographer-andreas-grieger-142 (1)

White Room Supper Club

Not really a restaurant, although the food is so good it really could be. Essentially a supper club is a dinner party hosted in someone house, but the guests are all strangers.

White Room Supper Club is one of the most refined supper clubs around. Hosted in a luxurious apartment by ex Investment Banker turned Chef, everything from the welcome canapes, to the table settings and of course the food, is just perfect.

Come alone, bring some stories and chat the night away like old friends. 

Read more about it on my blog here

How do you feel about solo dinning? Are there any other amazing places for solo dinners? Let me know below.

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Thursday, 1 October 2015

Midweek Breakfast at Ting, The Shard

Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (18)

Weekday breakfast's are usually an omelette at my desk or a shake on the way to work. However on Tuesday I got up extra early to go meet Bookatable at 7:30am for Breakfast at Ting at The Shard,

We were meeting as they wanted me to take some photos for their own blog and also discuss some exciting new plans, which I'll explain later on the blog.

But first, Ting. Located on level 35 of The Shard, the word Ting derives from the Chinese for Living Room, and that's because it is supposed to be a relaxing, welcoming restaurant, opposed to the more formal Shard restaurants.

Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (31)
Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (20)
Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (37)

I'm always saddened that I don't get to enjoy midweek breakfast menu's because of work, however I realized that actually I could, but it's more a case of that I like my sleep too much.

However what a view to have my morning coffee to eh?

Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (29)
Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (28)

I've said it a million times to people who are visiting London, don't pay to go to the View at the Shard tourist attraction which costs £25.95 (advanced). Instead go to one of The Shard's many bars and buy a drink and soak up the views from up there. 

Same views, just a little lower down, yet you get a great drink or two and somewhere warm to sit and chat. 

Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (38)

You can order a la carte or from the hot and cold buffet. We of course decided to do both. Well fuel for the coming work day right?

My lovely Bookatable hosts ordered Eggs Benedict and the Full English. I was told both were great. 

Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (3)
Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (47)

I on the other hand ordered the French Toast. Oh I do love French Toast. It was a lovely light consistency with a sort of airy spring to it as I put my fork in it. My only criticism was there wasn't enough. They had cut off the crusts and with quite a wide margin it seemed.

However fear not, as luckily we had also gone for the buffet option, and what a feast it is. Let me show you around a little.

Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (16)

There is the cereal station with runny honey too.

Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (10)

There are muffins, pastries and still warm bread rolls and slices in every variety you could want. 

Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (9)
Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (5)Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (8) Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (12)

There is fruit, cold cut meats, smoked salmon, cheese and even quiche.

Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (11) Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (13)

Now over on the other counter are the rather more peculiar items. Spaghetti bolognese for breakfast anyone? 

Or even Dim Sum?

Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (14) Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (15)

Seriously, you could actually stock up on all 3 meals in one go. I wonder if I'd had the day off, could I just have stayed there all day for all meals from the buffet?

Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (25)

We piled our plates high with bread and cheese and salmon. Make sure you try their cheese selection. I can't remember the names of the cheeses I had- too busy stuffing my face- but they were really good. Finally we rounded things off with a yogurt for 'dessert'.

I really wish I could have stayed here longer, as it really is a stunning space, and the views are of course amazing. The service was attentive but not claustrophobic which is sometimes a problem at more fancy places. 

Oh and if you order the buffet, it is unlimited tea and coffee which to be honest would have me staying for hours alone. 

Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (21)

Oh and I did have to try some dim sum for breakfast. Weird at that time in the morning, but still darn good. 

Sadly the clock was ticking and I had to rush off to start my day. 

However if you go in a bit of a rush too, please do me a favour and go the loo's first. 

It's practically a spa for your bum in there!

Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (34) Gong The Shard Laura Hyatt (35)

Oh and you can even charge your phone whilst you sit on the toilet. 

Now that's one way to start your day.

31 St Thomas St, 
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