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Archive for September, 2010

17 Took’s Court
London EC4A 1LB
020 7242 2622

www.vanillablack.co.uk/

One thing about living in a world city like London is the totally different class of vegetarian restaurants available. In many towns, the vegetarian establishments are typically cute and quirky but not particularly fine dining. Don’t get me wrong, I love my quirky and fun veggie restaurants, but it’s nice to branch out for a special occasion.

The name, Vanilla Black, creates images of stark contrasts. The establishment rides on this theme with a fine but demure atmosphere. During lunch the crowd was mostly polite people in business attire and a solo me in my denim and trainers plopping down a humongosized hobo bag with camera, maps and books spilling out the edges.  At the moment, I felt like Vanilla in a world of Black, but it was lunch and I had been on the lookout for upscale vegetarian dining for a while.

Weekdays from 12-2:30 Vanilla Black has an amazing set menu of 2 courses for £18 or 3 courses for £23. I decided on 2 courses: an appetizer of Sweet and Sour Glazed Baby Beetroot with Candied Fennel and Wasabi Cream and a main of Asparagus and Chervil Pesto Crumpet with Yoghurt Curd, Potato Cakes and Leek Tagliatelle.

The staff was courteous, polite and attentive but formal. In keeping with the contrast theme, the server brought bread with sea salted butter and black peppered butter which I immediately chowed down on along with a glass of white wine.

Sea salted and black peppered butter for the bread, wine.

The wonderfully presented beetroot dish had the most amazing wasabi cream. The power of the wasabi mixed with the cooling cream made an unusual but perfect pairing and flowed nicely with the natural sweetness of the beetroot.

Sweet and Sour Glazed Baby Beetroot with Candied Fennel and Wasabi Cream

The unlikely combination of ingredients were proving to be well thought out and delightful. I conquered every bite of the beetroot and was anxious for the main course.

Asparagus and Chervil Pesto Crumpet with Yoghurt Curd, Potato Cakes and Leek Tagliatelle

“This is what crumpets are?!?” I thought as I vowed to eat crumpets every day. The aparagus, yoghurt curd, potato cakes and leeks were extremely pleasing. At this rate, my ordering skills were  having a 100% success rate. I decided to go ahead for the dessert. The plates were small-ish, I reasoned.

The peanut butter parfait sounded a bit rich so I chose Olive Oil and Vanilla Roasted Pineapple with Chili Syrup, Mango Pureé and White Chocolate Ice Cream. That’s where my lucky streak ended. The Pineapple overpowered all the other ingredients and left the dish feeling stagnant. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t live up to the expectation after the other two courses.

Olive Oil and Vanilla Roasted Pineapple with Chilli Syrup, Mango Pureé and White Chocolate Ice Cream

Bottom Line: Vanilla Black works the contrast theme with amazing and inventive results. The pricetag is a little hefty for everyday, but the restaurant boasts a decent set lunch best with dessert skipped.

Vanilla Black on Urbanspoon

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Back in May as the summer began, Boyfriend and I decided to take a day trip down to Brighton to check out the scene. We hopped on a train from London full of other beachgoers. The weather had just begun to get warm and nice and everyone around was buzzing with the promise of summer. Coming from a climate where summer constitutes two-thirds of the year, I tend to take such things as a day at the beach for granted. The whole of Southern England was fully taking it in.

Brighton Pebble Beach

We dipped our toes in the freezing water and I immediately felt awe for those brave enough to swim. After an hour or so of laying around and having someone’s child throw pebbles at us, we decided to have a walk around and check out the rest of what Brighton had to offer.

But where do I fit my beach towel?

The beachfront was simply overwhelmed. The ice cream stores were packed and the restaurants were drained of menu items.

Hope you wanted tiger prawns for lunch.

Thankfully, there’s quite a lot more to Brighton than the water. We stumbled upon a park, cute homes, groovy looking shops and restaurants. Once away from the droves of people on the icy beach, I was really digging it. I’ve been told the nightlife is quite the scene. As we embark upon Fall, I’m thinking this is a good thing.

Brighton, not all beach.

Groovy looking shops abound.

The excitement and crowds over what I considered to be a mildly warm day scared me. It’s occurred to me that although I have traveled quite a bit and have spent months at a time away in Europe or mountain climates, I have never fully experienced the seasons.  I have only been a visitor, popping in for a while and then returning to my natural habitat. I imagine how odd it was for explorers or immigrants before today’s globalization. It must have been difficult for them to wrap their heads around their new home and the weather. Humans adapt, but it’s not without effect.

As for me, I am learning to recalibrate what warm is and trying to soak up the sun while it is around. I’ve developed a plan for my impending Seasonal Affective Disorder that involves lots of trips to the Mediterranean and vitamin D supplements but I think the best plan is to learn to embrace it.

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I had the opportunity to take a helicopter ride from the Cotswolds to Blackbush airport.  I had been on a helicopter once before and by the end of the experience, I was left nauseated from a bad case of flicker vertigo. I was desperately crawling out towards the ground as soon as we touched down. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous this time around. I managed to suck it in, strap on the seat belt, and was pleasantly surprised that this time the ride was smooth and easy. I was able to enjoy myself and snap a few photos of the green and gold quilt patches that make up the landscape.

I hope you enjoy them.

Aerial View of English Countryside

Aerial View of English Countryside

My Lovely Pilot

Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England. Birthplace of Winston Churchill

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