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The perfect Valentine's spot


A Second Serving reviews Counter in Vauxhall...

When I first visited Counter last May (check out my review in the archives), I had a great time, so expectations were high when I was invited back for a return visit. Just to remind you, the restaurant is an all-day bar and brasserie nestled in a 200ft arch under Vauxhall station. Last time, my only criticism was that the atmosphere was a little lacking (it hadn't been open long) but I'm happy to report it's much improved - I prefer the new, brighter lighting and there's a busier feeling to the place. Once again, service was impeccable and the food was brilliant.

A veal chop main

Why go?

Counter have a special Valentine's menu that they're launching on Feb 14th. Head Chef Mahrez Loukal will be cooking up a delicious three course set menu for £45 – plus a complimentary glass of Rossini to sip on. So if you haven't picked anywhere to take your date yet, consider this place as you won't be disappointed. On our visit, I went for burrata as my starter. If you don't know what burrata is (I did Google to double check) it's fresh Italian cheese made with mozzarella AND cream - aka heaven on a plate. As I sunk the knife in, the creamy bit inside all oozed out... delicious. I kinda wished I'd filmed it on my phone so I could set it to slow-mo and enjoy it all over again. And it really was as tasty as it looked, with some gorgeous olives, sorrel and cress on the side to add a bitter element to the plate.

When my boyfriend saw there was crispy duck on the starter list he of course went straight for that. I have to admit when I saw his plate (below) I was a tad jealous as it was huge, I mean I'd have been happy with that for a main. The duck came with apple, cucumber, chilli, croutons and pomegranate molasses all mixed in a really rich and fruity sauce. Nom nom nom!

For my main course I went for the honey-glazed wild salmon fillet which came with grilled artichokes and dandelion leaves for £18. It wasn't a huge portion but it was a pretty phenomenal piece of fish - really juicy and soft on the inside with this crispy sweet skin on top. I'd normally skip the skin but there was no way I was doing that this time! My boyfriend went for the English veal chop which came with crispy sweetbreads, wilted spinach and sage (pic on top). It didn't stay on his plate for very long so I have to assume it went down well. To finish I had a delicious pistachio brownie. I tried to eat it slowly but struggled because it was so damn good. The gooey sauce was amazing, I just wish there had been a teeny bit more!

My fishy main


We're mac 'n' cheese addicts so ordered some mac 'n' cheese balls as a side (very random I know). To be honest, they were a bit dry and didn't actually taste very cheesy so I'd skip those if you're popping in!


Arch, 50 S Lambeth Pl, London SW8 1SP

Sugar heaven!


A Second Serving reviews SugarSin in Covent Garden...

It's hard to ignore SugarSin as its bright and colourful façade means it immediately stands out in such a touristy area of London. The sweet shop is also in an ideal location as it's right across the road from the Royal Theatre which is, funnily enough, currently showing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But while theatre goers will no doubt be stocking up on sweet treats for the show, SugarSin is also the ideal place to pick up a fancy gift for a loved one or perhaps just get a sugar fix for yourself. The modern Willy Wonka style shop is run by its founders, Anna and Josefin from Sweden. The sisters have travelled the globe tasting countless varieties of sweets in a mission to create the most distinctive and delicious grown up gourmet confectionery that's just as beautiful to look at as it is to taste. They sell pretty much everything you can think of, from prosecco gummies, to chocolate almonds to pic 'n' mix.

Why go?

If, like me, sweets are your guilty pleasure, then you really must pay this place a visit. The shop is only small but as soon as you step inside it's a real feast for the eyes... you're basically in an Aladdin's Cave of sugar. As well as being a beautiful little shop, the sweets themselves are fantastic. My fave were the sour shots - they're infused with real peach and wild strawberry juice and topped with some serious sour sugar crystals. The texture was very different to anything I've tried before and I loved them, in fact I ate so many that I woke up with a sore tongue the next day! One of the things I was most impressed with though was the price. The shop is full of gourmet sweets but they're also affordable - for example a jar of whipped strawberry candy is just £6. Whether you're eight or 80 you will love this shop!


Your teeth will fall out! But when sweets taste this good they're not meant to be enjoyed in moderation. Right?!


1 Russell Street, WC2B 5JD

Steak & craft beer heaven


A Second Serving reviews 'Smiths' of Smithfield, Cannon Street...

Last week I was kindly invited to attend the VIP launch party of 'Smiths' of Smithfield, Cannon Street, so I took two of my pals along to check out the new venue - and what a treat it was! The contemporary restaurant is a counterpart to the Farringdon gaff which is THE place to go for world class steak, breakfasts and craft beer. In the Cannon Street restaurant each of the four floors has a distinctive style, offering something for everyone depending on mood, budget or time. The first floor is also host to a bar which is dedicated to craft beer (hell yes) with a selection of 60 to choose from. They're also set to hold 'Meet the Brewer' evenings which will give discerning drinkers the chance to sample different beers from a range of exciting craft brewer. Exciting stuff.

Why go? 

The kitchen is headed by Henry Omereye who has created a menu of 'playful interpretations on classic dishes,' including grilled halibut with lobster mash and Henry's cornfed chicken. That enough should be a reason to go! On our visit, we tried canapes such as gin cured peppercorn salmon, rare breed mini burgers, haloumi burgers in brioche buns and different cuts of meat on sharer boards. They were all delish and packed full of flavor and we went home with our bellies full of food. There was also a LOT of prosecco doing the rounds so all in all an absolutely fantastic night. As well as being the first to enjoy the most wonderful beef, we also got to watch a butchery demonstration which was really interesting. The venue, which can hold 250, was buzzing - a sign of good things to come I'm sure.


The Walbrook Building, Cannon Street, London, EC4N 8AF.

A taste of the tropics


A Second Serving reviews Trader Vic's in Mayfair...

Trader Vic's, a legendary tropical paradise bar in the basement of the London Hilton at Mayfair, has launched a new island fusions menu - and it's really bloody good. The menu has been created by executive chef of Trader Vic's, Shiran Fonseka, in collaboration with Shelina Permalloo, who you might remember from Masterchef (she won in 2012), and she's also the brains behind her own Mauritian street kitchen, Lakaz Maman.The new pop up menu, which is inspired by the shores and taste experiences of Mauritius, is available until the end of October so if you fancy something different, give it a go!


Why go?

Trader Vic's is well known for its delicious Mai Tai cocktails and the new menu pairs brilliantly with all those fruits and flavours. You can pick and mix small plates or go for the wooden platter of food for £19 which allows you to sample a bit of everything. If you're like me and you love eating but hate sharing (cos you're so damn greedy) the platter is perfect because everything is already separated into two - so they'll be no fighting over that last prawn! The food itself was fab. The BBQ ribs had a sticky, smokey flavour and the meat literally fell from the bone. The deep fried prawns were greasy, but in a good way, and huge too. They also went really well with a rather zingy coriander and coconut chutney. My favourite part was the delicious pineapple that came sprinkled with chili and is a traditional Mauritian street food. Yum!


The menu is only available until October 31st - boooo!


Trader Vic's, London Hilton, 22 Park Lane, London, W1K 1BE.

A secret liquor bar in Fulham


A Second Serving reviews Below The Cut in Fulham Broadway... 

This gorgeous little liquor bar is tucked away beneath Hanger sw6, a steak restaurant in Fulham. If you were passing by, you wouldn't know even know it was there - but you should! The secret bar is a fab drinking den and serves some serious cocktails alongside a small plate menu that encompasses a bite size version of the restaurant upstairs. You can snack on salt beef croquettes, mini steak sarnies or Parmesan chips, to name but a few. While the bar has only very recently opened, they'll be hosting live music nights from acoustic evenings to DJ sets in the future. One to watch!

Why go? 

This would be the perfect date place. You can have tasty but affordable food upstairs followed by cocktails and small bites down below. The bar has a blue, brown and grey colour scheme and is packed full of leather sofas, creating a very chilled out vibe. During our visit there was a guitarist playing live music which really added to the atmosphere and made it all feel very intimate. The cocktail menu is concise but that doesn't matter when the concoctions are so delicious. My fave was the Royal Lady – a fierce combination of vodka, prosecco, home-made rhubarb syrup and a twist of lemon. This was incredibly easy to drink and certainly cleansed my palate.


You wouldn't know it was there - so people need to shout out about it!


461 North End Road, Fulham, London, SW6 1NZ

Hot dogs in Hammersmith


A Second Serving reviews The Duchess of Cambridge in Hammersmith...

The Duchess of Cambridge, a traditional pub in Hammersmith, has teamed up with Banger Bros to create a brand new menu featuring gourmet hot dogs and delicious burgers. Nom nom nom! But, if hot dogs aren't your thing, they still have a huge menu with offerings such as bad-boy burgers and Sunday roasts. They also have an extensive range of British gins and a selection of ales and lagers to wash it all down with. The pub, which is just a four minute walk from Stamford Brook station, is light and spacious with a beautiful outside courtyard.

Why go?

Once I'd been told there were hot dogs on the menu I knew it would be rude not to give them a try. After much umming and erming (because there was so much damn choice!) I went for the Continental, made up of a Bockwurst, gherkin, remoulade, mustard and crispy shallots. You order at the bar, then get your food served at the table. There's a dining area on one side of the venue and more of a generic pub on the other. The hot dog, when it came, had been gently steamed then chargrilled to bring out all the flavour and there was a lovely crack as I bit into the meat - perfect. It came snuggled up in a soft, toasted brioche bun with pickles and sauce... and all for just £5.50. To finish, I had a serving of south street gelato-style ice-cream in a gorgeous lime and coconut flavour. It was quite different to anything I'd tried before - very sweet but refreshing, and went down a treat.


The hotdog bun was just slightly overdone for my liking. 


320 Goldhawk Road, London, W6 OXF

A snazzy new garden cafe in south London...


A Second Serving reviews Brother Marcus in Balham...

Brother Marcus is a brand new garden cafe in the heart of Balham - the brainchild of three 20-something best friends from London who have a background in catering, coffee and street food. They serve brunch, coffee and cocktails, and it feels like the kind of place where you can start in the morning and stay all day... my kind of venue then! The menu is simple and they're still mixing it up with new additions, but what they do have is VERY good. Just don't try and tot up the calories. They do some mean cocktails as well and there's also a great garden space outside for those who want to linger.

Why go?

This is the place to go if you're after tasty, filling food, in an easy, relaxed atmosphere with friendly staff and brilliant food. The big boy loaded buns come with quirky names such as the Notorious P.I.G. which is well worth a try if you're visiting. Made up of slow roasted spiced pulled pork, crunchy apple and rocket salad, lime yoghurt and a dirty Mexican sauce, the addition of crispy corn adds a cheeky extra dimension and is super more-ish. A bargain too, for just £9. The Salty Wench - 14 hour braised salt beef, two fried eggs, shredded potato chips and gherkins with a delicious smokey paprika sauce - is also a must try. As soon as you read those list of ingredients together you just know it's going to work. Nom nom nom! We also had a side of mac and cheese balls (standard) and sweet potato chips, which both went down a treat. The four cocktails on offer are all £8 and really pack a punch. Mrs Robinson, made up of gin, prosecco and lemon, was delish, as was the Negroni. All in all, Brother Marcus is well worth a visit if you're in the area.


It's very hard to find anything wrong with this place - the atmosphere was chilled, as I like it, the food, great, and service very friendly. The only thing I'd really have liked is a longer cocktail menu - so I can work my way through it!


9 Chestnut Grove, Balham, London, SW12 8JA.