Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Chez Pommette

On our third night in Paris, Manbacon and I decided to try out Chez Pommette, a little restaurant we'd seen the day before while exploring Montmartre. The red exterior and handwritten menu on blackboards made the place seem warm and inviting. However, a glance through the window showed only two people (a rather stern-faced middle-aged couple) in the restaurant, even though it was dinner time and other eateries nearby were packed. A bad meal at home is unpleasant but easily brushed off, but a bad meal on holiday, when you have so little time to try out all that a city has to offer, can feel devastating. I wasted stomach space on this? Still, it was getting late, and we were starving, so we entered with a little bit of trepidation...and received a warm welcome from the only waiter in the place, who told us to seat ourselves wherever we wanted. 
Carrot veloute (it's what fancy people call soup)
I was craving duck, but a perusal of the menu showed no such meat on offer...until the waiter set the specials board down, and there it was, the magic word - canard. 

We started with the carrot veloute - thick, rich and velvety, a world apart from lacklustre Tetrapack supermarket soups. It was intensely moreish, and went very nicely with the complimentary basket of crusty baguette slices on the side. I was trying very hard not to lick the bowl when I got to the bottom!
Duck breast with potato dauphinoise
Next up, the main event - a glistening magret de canard served with a rectangle of potato dauphinoise. We asked for the duck to be served pink, and it came out beautifully so, with the skin seared til crispy and a little layer of fat beneath it. It came with a sauce made with some little dark berries - not quite sure what they were exactly, juniper or sloe, maybe - the tartness of the berries helped lift the meatiness of the duck breast. Oh, and I'm pretty sure dauphinoise is my favourite way of eating potatoes (yes, even more than chips). This particular example was especially memorable, with the potatoes sliced thinly and evenly coated  with creamy goodness. We'd be eating them every other day if I wasn't so lazy. 
Ile flottante 
We were both completely stuffed, but there was dessert to be had. I love ile flottante, and it's easy enough to make, but it's just never really occurred to me to make it at home for a fancy dessert. Anyway, this version was slightly marred by the ratio of meringue to custard. Too big a blob of meringue (also a bit too toothachingly sweet), sitting in a sad, shadow little pool of custard. More iceberg in a puddle than the delicate floating islands they are meant to be. Please sir...I want some more (custard). 

Still, that wasn't enough to destroy what was overall a very enjoyable meal. One more thing - our little tip seemed to please the waiter inordinately. He smiled and waved to us so enthusiastically as we were walking out that I thought his hand might start a hurricane all on it's own. For a moment there, I thought I might have  accidentally left him a €50 note. Maybe he's just always this happy when customers leave the restaurant? Will you let me know if you happen to eat there too?

Chez Pommette
86 Rue Lepic
75018 Paris

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Monday, 22 April 2013

Palace of Versailles

Scale model of Versailles
Model of Louis XVI's bedroom
It's probably no secret by now that I love a little bit of bling (ahem, yes, just a little...). So where better to soak some up than the Palace of Versailles. The place is a maximalist's dream come true. Even the gates glisten in the morning sun. No such thing as 'shabby chic' in that place, and thank Liberace for that! 
Restoration of ceiling murals

So much gilding, ornate frames, beautiful silk walls, and some really ornate ceilings including this one above. Just so much detail to drink in, really. Very much more is more, and a far cry from discreet and minimalist. Honestly, my brain was feeling pretty exhausted towards the end of our visit, but we discovered some lovely secluded, fairytale-like areas in the gardens where I could recharge and just let my eyes rest a little. We spent about 6 hours there, but the whole complex is huge, and I could easily have gone back the next day for another visit. I kind of had a giggle at the people who rented golf buggies or hopped on the Petite Train to get around, but at the end of the day, we gave in and hopped on one of the little trains for a ride back to the main gates too. 
Angry skies at the Petite Trianon

Friday, 19 April 2013

Villa Royale, Paris

Nope, there's no need to adjust your screens. The Villa Royale, which was our home for our four nights in Paris, is indeed this colourful and OTT. Oh why yes, I did go to Paris again, a mere month after my last 24-hour trip there. Why? Mainly because I just wanted to spend more time eating tiny cakes and walking around Paris, and also because it was a big-number birthday for me. I was completely enraptured by the blinged-out decor when searching for a hotel online, and to top it off, there was a whopping 30% off the price. Sometimes the stars just align...
Anyway, the Villa Royal certainly lived up to my expectations. All the photos above were taken in the lobby, and I haven't even got to the rooms yet. Each room is named after a notable French person - we got the Edith Piaf room, which had French windows that opened out onto a little balcony overlooking the Place Pigalle. 
Now, Place Pigalle has a reputation for being seedy and rowdy, and is lined with neon-lit sex shops, so may not be the ideal destination for some, but I really enjoyed staying there. I liked the neon lights, and the liveliness, and the general energy of the area. Aaand it's only a 5 minute stroll from the famous Moulin Rouge, as well as being very close to Montmartre and Rue des Martyrs, a street lined with yummy food shops and restaurants (more on that in a later post). 
Our room was on the small side, but then again, most rooms in Paris seem to be small. It's a very crowded city, after all. Anyway, who goes to Paris to spend all day in their rooms?! By the way, did I mention our room had pink silk walls? And a princess bed? And pink padding on all the doors? All in all, a delicious girly confection of a room. I did feel rather sorry for Manbacon, although he did say that he liked it a lot more than other more minimalist hotel rooms. I'm sure he actually loved it too.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Burger and Lobster

Burger or lobster? With only two (well, three actually - the lobster also comes in the form of a lobster roll) items on the menu, even the most indecisive diner should take no more than 10 minutes to decide on their dinner. You'll probably spend at least that much time waiting in line anyway (the Soho branch only takes reservations for groups of 6 or more, and we only had 4 in our party that night). 
Once in, we were greeted by a supermodel-attractive hostess, who pointed us to a bar staffed by more frighteningly-attractive people. We ordered some cocktails and waited for a table. In contrast to the succinct  food menu, the drinks menu offered a positively novel-like two pages of beer, wine and cocktails. I didn't write down what we got though, and as it was a few weeks ago, I can't actually remember. It was peachy and pretty strong though. Anyway, when you go to a place called 'Burger and Lobster', you're hardly likely to be there for the drinks, are you?
And there you have it, the main event. If you're wondering why there are no photos of the burgers, it's because none of us ordered it. Three of us ordered the grilled lobster, and one had a pizza before coming to join us so spent the whole dinner drinking beer. In fact, on the way to our table, we had a sneaky peek at the other diners, and couldn't see one burger in the whole dining room. I guess the answer to my opening question would have to be a resounding 'LOBSTER!' that night. 

While our party opted for the messy delight of a whole lobster, quite a number of diners seemed to prefer the neater option of a lobster roll, with the meat conveniently picked out and mixed with mayo, then placed in a bun. Our lobsters came on a huge platter, with a heap of salad on the side, as well as hot chips and a garlicky butter sauce perfect for dunking the lobster in. And the lobster itself? Perhaps surprisingly (I wasn't hoping for much given it was only £20 for a lobster and sides), it was delightfully sweet and succulent, with a wonderful firmness to it. The other guys did well by finishing up everything on their plate, but I let the side down as usual by leaving half of my chips and a bit of the salad. No dessert for me, obviously...
However, if you feel like you have some room left for dessert after devouring the monster from the depths, hail one of the (obviously goodlooking) waiters and ask them for some ice cream. We didn't have any, but the couple beside us seemed to be more than pleased with theirs. 

36 Dean Street
Soho, London

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Short Shorts

Is it still too cold for shorts? It seems like Spring may never arrive at this rate, but I'm still optimistic and have churned out a number of shorts in brighter shades (that orange isn't really so fluoro in real life, the camera makes it look exceptionally vibrant for some reason). I'm sure I've seen several hipsters hobbling down Brick Lane in recent weeks sporting tiny cut-offs over thick tights in recent weeks anyway.

Those two in the pictures above will make an appearance in the Etsy and Folksy shops - just as soon as I get to cutting out and sewing another pair. The ones up there are available in the Tea Rooms in a size M, and I've got enough to make a few more pairs of each. The blue border print pair below is a one-off in size S, made with the last bits of fabric from the HUGE vintage kaftan that was used to make the cushions in this post. Always match your clothing to your soft furnishings, that's what I say!
In one more bit of shop news...I've finally caved in and joined Twitter! You can find me over there under @BobbieandLola, and I believe I've added a button on the right for you to click on to. Join me, I'm lonely!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Hot Cross Buns

Isn't it tough getting back to work after a four day weekend? An ample supply of hot cross buns should help ease the transition back. These were made with Nigella's recipe, and are supposed to yield 16 smallish buns. I like big buns (and I cannot lie), so decided to make 8 larger ones instead. 
Another change - I didn't have proper mixed dried fruit, so indeed of running to the shops, I made do with dried cranberries, candied ginger, glace cherries and chocolate chips. Rather unorthodox, but tasty! I'd also like to point out that my crosses look much neater than Nigella's scraggly efforts. Piping bag, you have come in handy once again.
Glazing the bun with a sugar syrup.
Eat fresh out of the oven with lashings of butter. For older buns, slice one in half and toast it for a couple of minutes, then eat with lashings of butter. It helps make the following week much easier to bear. 

Click here for Nigella's recipe.