Caillebotte, 75009

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On a quiet corner in the 9th arrondissement lies modern French cuisine at its finest, just around the corner from the bustling Rue des Martyrs which happens to be my flatmate’s favourite road in Paris. Headed by the owners of Le Pantruche and named after the renowned French impressionist Gustave Caillebotte, this chic bistro pulls out all the stops, refraining from being flashy and instead being tasteful (quite literally) in every respect. After hours of procrastination in the form of foodie research, I decided on this gem for my birthday dinner after having originally stumbled upon it on one of my many exploratory walks around the city. Caillebotte doesn’t have its own website nor does it need one, with rave reviews from the press and free advertising from its fans on Instagram, me being one of those very people. Caillebotte is by no means a typical traditional bistro found on the corners of every boulevard, instead delivering a modern spin on the nation’s deservedly celebrated cuisine.

Caillebotte’s décor is simple and elegant, fitting with the effortlessly stylish Parisian clientele it attracts. Its green colour scheme begins with the radiant sign outdoors, followed by green bar stools and plush benches inside, all complemented by wooden panelling. The room is well lit with vintage-style light bulbs hanging suspended above the tables while pot plants (my favourite) frame the windows. Either get a taste of the action and sit at the marble-topped bar with an prime view into the glass-panelled kitchen or nab a table in the intimate dining room a few steps below.

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I booked our table for opening time, 19.30, on a Friday night, worrying that it would be fairly quiet – the French often dine towards 20.30 – but it was already filling up and the atmosphere only got better as the night progressed. After our coats were taken and we were shown to our spacious table, we immediately ordered the restaurant’s refreshing Kir Royals, two cassis for my parents and a peach for myself. They were so good, dare I say the best I’ve ever had, that I had to order another before the meal even arrived. With this generation choosing their dishes from the online menus before they’ve even arrived at the restaurant, it was a nice change to be offered a never-before seen à la carte paired with the waiter’s wise recommendations. With the option of a three course meal for the well-priced €36, or the tasting menu featuring four savoury courses and one sweet option at €49, there’s plenty to choose from. It took us a fair bit of time to decide on our three courses, mainly because we wanted everything.

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Starter of mullet with cima di rapa and aioli

The starters were quick to arrive and each one as impeccably presented as the next. My flash-fried mullet with cima di rapa and a rich aioli sauce was sublime – the silky fish juxtaposed with the crisp-like breadcrumbs. The spelt risotto with mussels and stewed broccoli was also top notch, with the clever combination of curry-flavoured foam and the sharpness of wafer thin sliced apple. Neither dish was too heavy for a starter while the crusty bread, three punnets of which arrived at our table throughout the meal, was perfect for soaking up all the remnants. What a change from some English restaurants where you are unknowingly charged for their breadbaskets.

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Main of Challans duck with beetroot gnocchi and black radish mousse

The mains were once again outstanding, with my dad and I opting for meaty options recommended by our waiter. The tender Challans duck in gravy was faultless with hints of honey and cinnamon, served with a few beetroot gnocchi and a black radish mousse. My mum boasted that her fillet of monkfish was the best she’s ever had, soft and tender accompanied by new potatoes, turnips and a cleansing parsley jus.

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Main of monkfish with new potatoes, turnips and a  parsley jus

To finish off a memorable meal, we made room for the imaginative desserts. The deconstructed stewed rhubarb crumble with sage ice cream was undoubtedly la meilleure, each bite bringing new flavours and satisfying the mouth’s sweet and salty palette. Those who don’t have much of a sweet tooth should opt for the cheese plate with smoky rinds. Caillebotte’s impressive cuisine is matched by the kind staff who manage to make your experience a personal one despite the fact they are looking after sixty guests at once. When my dad, the chocolate fiend, ordered the nutty chocolate gateaux to the tune of comme toujours, the waiter remembered at the end of the night and exclaimed comme d’habitude when serving this delectable dessert. Paris might have a reputation for rude staff but this stereotype is far from the truth in this case.

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Dessert of stewed rhubarb with crumble and sage ice crea

Our table was needed back by 21.30 for the next set of lucky diners but our meal didn’t feel at all rushed, with the waiters even offering us a digestif at the end. Caillebotte is closed on weekends but open on Mondays, unlike many Parisian restaurants, so get booking. The perfect sized portions left us pleasantly satisfied and eager to return, knowing that their seasonal changing menu would offer another blend of innovative flavours on our next visit.

Caillebotte, 8 Rue Hippolyte Lebas, 75009 Paris

Peonies – Cafés et fleurs

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As the name suggests, this coffee spot is decked out in blossoming bouquets and delicate daisies, brightening up your day before you’ve even sat down to enjoy their  tremendous menu. While pot plants have become commonplace in brunch destinations, largely thanks to their aesthetically pleasing Instagram snaps, Peonies isn’t just another coffee shop trying to exploit this popular trend. It is primarily a florist, with bouquets on sale in the corner of the cosy room and a gorgeous rose pink watering can to match. It even had an air of that memorable scene in The Great Gatsby where Gatsby fills Nick’s house with an abundance of flowers to impress Daisy.

You can’t go to Peonies and not write about its dainty décor. A fusion of pastel colours and art-deco furnishings, Peonies is an interior designer’s dream come true. Emerald green tiled floors suitably contrast the speckled pastel pink tables while you’ll feel as if  you’re outside with white garden-furniture style chairs. Even their brass cutlery is picture perfect.

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Peonies plays on its floral roots, topping its Tartine d’Avocat with edible daisies – while they taste a tad bitter, they make it the most picturesque avocado toast I’ve had the pleasure of indulging in. Priced at €8.50, it’s a generous portion of perfectly seasoned chunky avocado and the superfood topping of cacao nibs on seeded rye bread. The staff are incredibly friendly, refraining from judging us for what I can only imagine resembled an avocado photo shoot. Our waitress even thanked us for complementing the Tartine’s appearance.

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Peering across at our neighbours, we were also envious of their choice: homemade granola and fresh fruit. It’s not just breakfast food at Peonies as they offer salads and wraps of the day while you can revel in the chef’s baked eggs with Scandinavian bread on Saturdays – all veggie-friendly. Even the drinks have natural twists, with mint-flavoured water on every table and elderberry lemonade featuring on the menu.

Peonies is a world away from its busy surroundings on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis in the lively 10th arrondissement. While the wifi was down the day we visited, it is usually up and running and Peonies is a fittingly peaceful spot for a bit of work, with laptops allowed on weekdays.

Peonies has managed to combine nature and nurture through their hybrid florist coffee shop. You only have to look at their Formule Peonies, offering an espresso and a small bouquet for €19, to understand their ethos.

Peonies, 81 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010

Paris Brunchin – Café Oberkampf

 

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The Paris brunch scene is far from disappointing, with most restaurants and cafés offering weekend menus all over the picturesque city. As you’ve already guessed, while I’m spending far too much money on food, I’m not willing to give up on this heavenly lazy sunday morning ritual…okay maybe it ends up being the afternoon. I’ll be posting about more top brunch destinations as my time in Paris goes on but here’s the first of the bunch, and possibly one of the best.

Café Oberkampf lies in the trendy 11th arrondissement on Rue Neuve Popincourt, attracting us expats and Parisians alike. The road itself is quiet and understated, distinguishable only by the crowd of brunchgoers who stand patiently by the entrance of the popular coffee shop after putting their name down on the waiting list. Be warned that the wait for a table can last about an hour but time flies as you sit on the benches outside with a latte in hand (did I mention they use Coutume coffee?). Luckily (and strangely enough), the weekends always seem to be good weather in Paris so the wait is a rather nice one, and you never know you might just get a sun kissed tan in the process.

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Once your name is called (what a glorious moment this is), you can take your seat in the cosy all-day café, met by an anglo-inspired brunch menu with something for everybody. Even though it’s everywhere, I’m a bit of a sucker for avo on toast. But I feel a little less guilty ordering it at Café Oberkampf, where the tartine is jazzed up with ricotta and ginger and accompanied by a help-yourself bowl of chilli salt. Their dishes are impeccably presented on oak boards, complementing the rustic wooden tables and interior design, fitting for the Instagram photo that we are all, lets face it, partial to.

Their homemade banana bread is absolutely gorgeous, with just the right amount of salted butter (coconut oil is on offer as an alternative), and grilled to perfection. It’s a good chunky slice as well so undoubtedly worth the €4. If you’re more of a savoury bruncher, opt for their Shakshuka style eggs or Green Eggs with Feta, which are both served in individual frying pans. These are fitting for either a snack, with 1 egg, or a verging on hangry customer, with 3 eggs.

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Seeing as I’ve been here twice within the space of a few weeks, Café Oberkampf is quickly becoming one of my favourite brunch spots. With friendly staff and a variety of excellent brekky dishes to choose from, this is sure to become my new ‘local’.

Hola Habanera (5 Stars)

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Habanera is a lively tequila and taco bar in SheBu, the locals’ nickname for the up and coming Shepherds Bush. From its artistic murals to the exposed brick walls, Habanera seems like it’s in the middle of the East End but thankfully, this gem is in the heart of West London. On the bustling Uxbridge Road sits a rustic restaurant whose colourful façade draws you right in.

I decided to give Habanera a go on a sunny summer evening, still baking after the 29 degree weather during the day. Everyone was out in London; the carnival atmosphere had come early.

I was taking a friend out for a birthday treat after months of having been apart. Usually, I’d choose to eat at one of my trusted favourites. This time, however, I thought I’d try something new and so took the risk of dining at Habanera despite never having been before.

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And the risk paid off! Not only was it a great evening filled with delicately crafted cocktails, several plates of truly authentic Mexican cuisine and great service from the staff but it has also joined my coveted list of favourite restaurants.

The place was buzzing. Good thing I booked too – Obviously I’m not the only one who rants and raves about this eatery. It is amazingly well established given that it has only been open for just over a year. It comes as no surprise that Habanera was awarded Mexican Restaurant of the year by the 2015 LUKAS Latin UK awards.

We had a table towards the back of the restaurant but the skylight allowed us to enjoy the rare English sunshine while dining on Central American food. I was even beginning to forget that I was in Shepherds Bush. Or maybe this was the tequila talking…


On to the Food & Drink

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Raspberry and White Peach Bellini

Blackened Salmon Salad

Blackened Salmon Salad

Habanera’s cocktails are awesome. It’s nice to see a restaurant play around with classics and create a fusion of flavours. For birthday drinks, we each ordered a Raspberry and White Peach Bellini and a Classic Margarita. The Bellini was a delicious aperitif while the fiery Margarita, lined with chilli salt, was a perfect pairing to the spicy dishes.

Habanera’s menu is inventive, varied and ridiculously yummy so instead of ordering a main meal each, get a few different plates and share them tapas-style. We went for two kinds of soft corn tacos, which are presented beautifully on a wavy plate, making them a delight for the eye as well as the tummy. Chicken Tinga was my favourite, with a dash of avocado and sour cream complimenting the shredded chicken, while the caramelised onion in the Butternut Squash tacos made them worth remembering.

We loved the sound of the Blackened Salmon Salad and were not disappointed. The charred salmon was perfectly cooked and flaked on a bed of juicy avocado, leaves and crunchy corn. And don’t miss out on the Sweet Potato Fries, which were sweet, satisfying, and a decent portion at that.

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Butternut Squash Tacos on the left and Chicken Tinga on the right

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Sweet Potato Fries

Whether you fancy a quick bite or a pre-concert dinner (Bush Hall is only a few doors down and Shepherds Bush Empire is down the road), Habanera is a must-visit. The team at Habanera also own The Hummingbird Café which I hope to visit soon! I’ll keep you all posted 🙂

£50 for 2 people including service and drinks

280 Uxbridge Road, W12 7JA.

Masterchef leads me to Lakeland

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Did any of you watch the latest season of Celebrity MasterChef? If you didn’t get the chance, it’s worth catching the last two episodes on BBCiPlayer.

I don’t usually watch the celebrity version but this season has been pretty inspiring, not to mention mouth-watering. They make it look so easy. You almost forget that such intricate and delicious-looking dishes have been created under time constraints. Luckily for me, I’m not timed when making dinner chez moi. Otherwise there would be a lot of stress and flapping about. Before you ask me who my favourite chef was, I actually loved the final four pretty equally though Rylan had to be the most entertaining. He seemed so genuine and always pushed himself to the limit (remember his trio of lavender?)

Sadly, even with 3D TV’s, we can’t actually indulge in the lip-smacking soufflés and melt-in-the-mouth risottos so the presentation of the dishes is key for us audience members. Yeah I know the saying is “Don’t judge a book by its cover” but when it comes to food, it’s all the more impressive when it resembles art.

To be fair, they do have access to countless utensils like those handy cooking rings, which always make the presentation perfect. You know the ones that kind of look like cookie cutters but are used instead to create savoury food towers. I was, of course, compelled to buy myself some of the kitchen gadgets featured in the program.

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So today I paid a visit to Lakeland, the dream shop for chefs and bakers alike. The shop has everything you could possibly need (or simply want) in the realm of kitchenware. I wish I could have bought the whole store but I had to limit myself to just a few essential purchases.I walked away with four large cooking rings, a toastamesh (perfect for students who want to make toasties quickly and cheaply without a sandwich maker) and eight traditional floral ice cream cups (did I mention I have an ice cream maker?) Oh and a long wish list.

Okay maybe not so essential… 

 

Keep following Spill The Beans to see these purchases in action!