Review: L'Autre Pied

Saturday, June 25, 2016
When people speak of dining in England, 'English food' is often dismissed. And let's face it, black pudding and fish & chips don't quite do the country justice for its culinary greats. Rather than come to England searching for English food, you're better off accepting that the best places to eat would involve cuisines from around the world. And that's how you really eat here. 

Although eating out in London can be expensive, eating well is not much more so (relatively, at least). A meal at a Chinatown eatery, including drinks and dessert would set you back about £20, whilst a multi-course fine dining meal could be had for about £30.

My visit to Michelin-starred L'Autre Pied was one such meal, where Boyfriend and I indulged in a seven-course tasting menu for £30+. We made a booking for dinner via the Fever app, but if you're interested, there's the identical offer available on Groupon here: Seven-Course Tasting Menu For One, Two or Four from £31 at Michelin-Starred L'Autre Pied (Up to 52% Off)

Upon arrival, we were greeted and escorted to our table, then were promptly served yummy bread to go with some fantastic butter. The restaurant wasn't very large, was quiet and dimly lit, and simply decorated. 

We were first presented with the Celeriac, Lemon, and Wild Rice, which was a great start to our meal. Best part was the crispy wild rice on top! 

This was followed by Salad of Hierloom Carrots, Radicchio, Creme Fraiche, Black Quinoa. Perfectly cooked carrots, but otherwise unremarkable.

We then moved onto our mains! We started with Cod, Charred Leek, Mussels, Lemon, Rye. Now, I'm a huge fan of fish, and the cod here was perfectly flaky and fresh! Unfortunately, one of the mussels I bit into tasted fishy and just plain funky, which was a huge disappointment. Boyfriend's dish came out fine though so I think it was an anomaly.

When I told the waiter about it, the chef offered his apologies and was nice enough to offer a replacement. But as it was such a small aspect of the dish, it wasn't necessary. But hey, it's good to know that they were willing to offer it, even for someone who's visiting the restaurant on a Groupon.

The next dish was Roast Pork Tenderloin, Peppered Swede, Baby Turnips, Apple and Mustard Leaf. Although I didn't and still don't know what swede is, I do know that I enjoyed the entire dish. But then again, you can't ever go wrong with pork and apple - a classic combination that always tastes good. 

I don't know about you, but for me in particular, I'm always really wary when cooking and really struggle to perfectly find the right balance between undercooking and overcooking, often preferring the latter because it's more likely not to poison my nearest and dearest. So, whenever I get the chance to have some perfectly cooked pink pork, I embrace it with open arms! 

On the menu offered on Groupon, the pork is to be followed by cheese. But as we hadn't yet found the ability to appreciate cheese with a meal, we instead asked for a replacement dish, which they very kindly obliged us with. To my absolute delight, what that meant was that we got three desserts instead! 

This was a creamy custard topped with sorbet and a fruit cube. I don't know what this was in particular, but ice cream is always a good idea.

The favourite aspect of my meal however was this dessert. I was always going to like anything chocolatey, but when topped with crispy crumbly chocolatey goodness, this became something I loved.

Our meal concluded with a Rhubarb Cheesecake with Mandarin Sorbet. I think it takes a particular palate to like rhubarb, and unfortunately, I'm not that person. But, it was pink and pretty, and the cheesecake beneath the rhubarb layer did not disappoint. 

If you're looking to have dinner somewhere fancy on a budget, L'Autre Pied might be the place for you. I'll have to admit that the food didn't strike me as particularly French, nor particularly memorable but every dish was a visual delight, and it was a wonderful experience sitting across my love and being able to enjoy such a vast variety of good food. 

And so what if the food we ate wasn't English? That evening, we walked around the city, taking in the sights and sounds of a bustling London - and that for me, is the English dining experience. 

Some ol' Baltimore charm!

Sunday, June 19, 2016
Hello from the other side... across the pond to be exact! 

Since the last time we spoke (because we're friends, you and me), I've been pretty much living my teenager-on-a-school-holiday life, going to sleep at late hours because I'm up at night watching Korean dramas (I've started watching Monster), only to wake late in the a.m. to read some much missed fiction (specifically Inferno by Dan Brown), the difference being: a) I am no longer a teenager and b) I'm doing all of this in good ol' Maryland, USA. 

After spending a solid 3 days without leaving the house, my mom and I finally decided to explore the city via free Uber rides - (Promo code: 'ubertiffanyk' if you're a first time user for free credit) and headed to Inner Harbour, where most tourists flock for some of that Baltimore charm! 

We were meant to take a nice slow walk along the water and check out the malls along the way. But me being me aka completely hopeless with directions, led my mom away from the shopping area, towards the fishing boats, all the way to the backyard of some very fancy and most certainly private Ritz Carlton residences, only to realise that despite my frequent glances at Google Maps, I was heading in the exact opposite direction. 

Have you ever confused the 'you' dot on the map with the destination dot? Yeah, well that was me. Ha.

Thanks to the scenic view and pleasant breeze, the 23 minute walk back in the other direction felt more like a helpful addition to the goal of 10,000 steps we're meant to take daily than a dreadful trek beneath the scorching sun. And well, it definitely didn't hurt that we had adorable ducklings bobbing on the water alongside us! 

I've been here for about two weeks now and the more time I've spent in this city, the more I've come to realise how deserving it is of its moniker - Charm City. And what better way to charm than with blue skies and blue waters? 

Despite the presence of a water taxi, this charm isn't anywhere close to the Venetian sort, or even any other European city, with their cobbled streets and proud history. Although Baltimore showcases its history with its Star Spangled Banner flying high and naval vessels populating the waters, it isn't their history that grabs you. It's how everything comes together that does. Standing at Inner Harbour, ships on my right, restaurants and huge malls on my left, with laughing, jostling people all around, I wanted to look at everything, but at the same time, wasn't particularly interested in anything. 

Maybe it's because it was so easy to get a feel of the place, that I didn't find the need to search for it in its history or in its shops. Baltimore just feels like an easy place to be in, a medium-sized city with just the right amount of hustle and bustle. 

I happily touristed it out, taking pictures with every stationary object till the sun got the better of me. I ended up wrapping myself in a scarf lest the dreaded 'construction labourer tan' ends up featuring in all of my graduation photos.

And with America being glorious, great America, land of the free the do-whatever-you-want, not a single soul looked at me funny and I went on with my day dressed exactly like that, topping it off by finally having a taste of some Cheesecake Factory goodness.

Mmmmmmm. That's some great cookie dough right there! 

Lexington Market

Sunday, June 12, 2016
I'm kicking off my return to blogging by sharing about Lexington Market, one of Baltimore's most famous spots, and officially the location of the best meal I've had in the States thus far! A quick Google search and you'd soon figure out that if there's one thing Baltimore's famous for, its their crabs, and boy oh boy, did it not disappoint. 
I'm no stranger to markets thanks to the great food I've had in London, but Lexington gave an entirely different feel. For lack of a better word, the neighbourhood itself was rather ghetto and from the moment you step in, the entire place is seeping with its culture. There were musicians playing in the centre of the market, and the people around were dancing without abandon. People were getting down reaaaal low, swaying their hips and closing their eyes, moving their bodies to the beat. It felt surreal, like I was in a television show where everyone knew the right moves to a song. 

As we were walking along the stalls, I had people asking: 'You doin' alright, guuurl?' But of course, familiarity was abound as well. When there are markets, there are Asians, and for every three stalls we walked by, at least one would be manned by an Asian person, selling fried rice and chow mien. We weren't there for the Chinese food though and headed straight for Faidley Seafood, for a taste of that world famous, award winning crab cake! 

I have to tell you, these things don't come cheap! We ordered a jumbo lump cake (about the size of a tennis ball) each which came at $14 per piece, but they were definitely worth the steep price! We also got a 'Cream of Crab' to share at a more affordable $6.

Both the crab cake and the soup were delicious. Each bite of crab cake was an explosion of flavour, complete with a very satisfying amount of crab meat. The batter on the outside was slightly crispy, housing the buttery crab flesh within that was so well seasoned the flavours linger long after you've swallowed. My sister and I ate unhurriedly to savour each bite, and the accompanying free salad helped prevent the meal from getting too moreish. 

The soup was delectable, creamy and flavourful, with once again, a generous portion of crab. They provided some crackers to go with the food, but I couldn't help but wish for a buttery crusty roll to go with it instead. The portion was generous as well! I'm convinced I will be haunted (or blessed, idk) with dreams of crab cakes and crab soup for days to come. 

The shop is run by Nancy Faidley, the same lady who has been running it for years, and of which hundreds of reviews have been written about. She apparently shows up at work every single day, and when I was there, we saw her keeping a sharp eye on the guests and staff, ensuring that everyone is well served. As the tables there are standing only, she noticed a young boy struggling to reach the high tables and called over a member of staff to bring him a little stool to reach. Now that's dedication right there! 

Whilst at Lexington, we couldn't bear to miss out on their famous fresh oysters as well, ordering a helping of oysters (they come in threes!) for $6.50. Little did we know how enormous they'd be! 

For comparison's sake, here's an iPhone 6s for scale.

Not only were they huge, they were delicious!! I only started getting hooked on oysters when I was in Howth, a Dublin Coastal Village where I got to try amazingly fresh oysters. The ones here were just as fresh, but so much bigger. Topped with some horseradish, a squeeze of lemon, and a dribble of Tabasco sauce, they were the perfect way to end our meal.

We worked off the meal by walking around the market, which wouldn't take more than 30 minutes, ogling the gigantic smoked turkey wings, abundance of fried chicken stalls, and steering clear from the bakeries which were selling cakes that looked over weeks old. 

The rest of Lexington was just like any other farmer's market, and we happily strolled through it, grabbing sweet potatoes, grapes, and some Black Angus beef on our way out.

I've been cooking loads since being here so may next blog about how we're planning to cook the 3lbs worth of beef! BUT, bearing in mind that I'm also 11lbs heavier than I was in March, the food posts should start slowing down. :P 

Hello! Hello!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

More has changed than just the seasons since the last time I was on this space. I studied and sat for the last of my law exams after spending hours and hours in the library (gaining 5kg in the process from all the snacking omggg), headed to Poland with my law girls for some much appreciated bonding and relaxation, allowed my boyfriend to appreciate my beauty away from the harsh library lighting and got some aweeeesome pizza, flew to the United States to watch my sister graduate as a doctor (!!!), finally caught up on Descendants of the Sun, and ultimately ended up here, lounging on a couch in Baltimore, Maryland with a little under a month to go before I head back to the UK for my very own graduation.

Talk about a whirlwind!

I thought about closing down my blog a lot in the time since my exams ended. A good friend of mine recently messaged me to tell me she needed some stuff taken down because she was about to start working. And another started privatising her social media accounts, away from prying eyes of prospective employers. And I know maintaining a lifestyle blog is practically impossible with a full time office job. To be fair, if clients Google your name, they’re expecting work records, not details on the lunch you had a week ago. But then again, I’ve had a blog since I was 10. Is a social media presence really harmful? Or is it only so when you have things to hide?

Personally, having a blog has had been to my advantage for lots of things. At scholarship interviews, I’ve been asked about my blog, and rather than harm my credibility, it has helped show my interest in writing and idk.. a more holistic life? Meeting people has occasionally been made easier because they’ve stumbled across the site and somehow, the ice gets immediately broken. Old friends keep in contact when they’ve read an update I’ve posted. More recently, writing colloquially has helped break the monotony of writing legal essays too! And more than anything else, my blog has been a great way for me to unwind, either through penning posts or rereading old ones.

So, to be honest, I don’t quite know what the right answer is as to whether I should be maintaining a blog. In fact, it is very likely that there won’t be an impact at all. I don’t particularly have a massive readership as the people who read are really those who know me anyway, and I’m not involved in particularly controversial activity. (I mean, seriously, I listed out completing a Korean drama as a milestone of the past month.) But on the other hand, I love that people I don’t know that well have read stuff I’ve blurted out here. I feel like I have lots of opinions on totally first world things that I want people to know about. I don't even mind that it's just my boyfriend and my mom reading!

So after thinking long and hard, I’m not shutting down the blog just yet! And yes, I know that Instagram and Snapchat and Facebook does a pretty good job of updating the world on everyone’s whereabouts, but there’s nothing quite like a rambly blog post removed from the pressures of likes and easy commenting to really get into someone’s head, eyy? As long as I enjoy writing, I’ll keep scrawling on this space (subject to confidentiality agreements lolol) and time constraints. And uhh… as I somehow managed to develop a severe case of repetitive strain injury (RSI) when typing intensely during my study period, I may be restrained by my easily injured body. As Matthew (of the Bible) so eloquently puts, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Now that we’ve gotten that list of excuses and elaboration of my thought process out of the way, look forward to more posts because I’m excited and raring to go!

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