SWEETENED LABNEH WITH MIXED BERRIES

labneh3One of my favourite desserts is Greek yoghurt with mixed berries and honey. Very simple, but delicious. Recently, I had labneh, a strained yoghurt, in a salad and remembered how much I liked it.  So yesterday, I decided to strain the Greek yoghurt I had in my fridge, and make it into labneh instead. I sweetened it slightly with honey and a little vanilla extract before I strained it, then just topped with more honey, some mixed berries and some raspberry coulis.  I decided to top it off with pistachios to add some colour. The labneh was thick and creamy, the berries were sweet and juicy, the honey added to the sweetness and the pistachios added some lovely crunch to the dish.

This serves 2-3 people, depending on how hungry you are.

For the labneh
500g tub of Greek youghurt (I used 0% fat) or natural yoghurt
1 tbsp runny honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping
200g raspberries
1tbsp icing/confectioners sugar
Handful of strawberries/blackberries/blueberrries…whatever you prefer
1 tbsp runny honey
Handful of unsalted pistachio kernels
A few fresh mint leaves

To make the labneh, you need to start this dish the day before you want it, as the yoghurt needs time to strain.

Simply add the yoghurt to a mixing bowl, squeeze about 1 tbsp of runny honey into the bowl, and 1 tsp of vanilla extract and mix together.

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Over another mixing bowl, place a sieve and line it with a large piece of muslin. Pour the yoghurt mix onto the muslin cloth

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Then tie a knot in the cloth so it looks a bit like this…

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Then place it in the fridge overnight or for a few hours. The longer it strains, the thicker it gets.  If you don’t have time to leave it overnight, just leave it for as long as you can, then wrap a clean tea towel around the muslin and twist and squeeze it until all the excess liquid has been squeezed out into the bowl.

Once its ready, untie the muslin and gently remove the labneh.  It should be thick and resemble cream cheese. Place this on a serving dish.

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To make the raspberry sauce, place 150g of the raspberries, the icing sugar and a splash of water in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Strain through a sieve to remove the seeds and add a squeeze of lemon juice (if you have some), then put to one side.

Then its just a case of assembling the dish.  I start by drizzling some more honey over the labneh…

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Then just scatter your choice of berries on top and around it, pour the raspberry sauce over the berries and then add some chopped pistachios and garnish with some fresh mint.

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And there you have it…a creamy, delicious, healthy dessert!

labneh

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‘HEALTHY’ SALTED CARAMEL CHOCOLATE CUPS

CupsMy diet has changed quite dramatically recently. I’m not sure when or even if I will return to how I was eating last year and I’m well aware the name of my blog doesn’t match how I’m eating at the moment, so for the time being I’m looking for healthier alternatives.

Recently I was trawling through instagram and found a photo of these salted caramel chocolate cups which came from a recipe on Kalifornia Love.  The chocolate is made from raw cacao, coconut oil and a little maple syrup and the ‘salted caramel’ is made from dates blitzed with water and salt. That’s it!

I had all the ingredients in my kitchen cupboard so I thought I’d try them out. Wow! They blew me away. First of all, there is no added sugar , the sweetness comes from the dates and a little maple syrup. Dates have been a revelation for me over the last few months. I never ate them before but they are fast becoming my go-to sweet treat now that I’ve cut back on refined sugar and chocolate. They’re still high in natural sugar so I don’t eat them day and night but I always have a box of Medjool dates in the cupboard. Secondly, these chocolate cups taste amazing. Truly amazing. I was so shocked when I tried the first one, then quickly popped a second in my mouth. Then a third. You get the picture.  I really need to learn some self restraint!  My friend Carmen popped round to my flat and she tried them too and also loved them, immediately asking me for the recipe.

Oh and these little beauties take minutes to make. Minutes! You can make a batch, freeze them and then just grab and go anytime you need a sweet treat. Perfect.

For the chocolate
6 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil, melted
6 tbsp raw cacao powder
1.5 tbsp maple syrup

For the salted caramel
A handful of Medjool dates, I used about 5 or 6 large ones
1/2 tsp sea salt
4 tbsp water

Simply mix the melted coconut oil, cacao powder and maple syrup in a small bowl.

Line up cupcake cases (I used very small ones) and pour a bit of the chocolate into each of them. (I found that the chocolate mixture started to solidify quite quickly. It poured easily into the first few cups then I had to spoon it into the rest.)

Chocolate cups 1

Place in freezer until the chocolate is solid (about five minutes).

Meanwhile place the dates, water and salt into a blender (I used my NutriBullet) and blitz.
Add the mixture on top of the chocolate.

Chocolate cups

Then pour more chocolate on top until it covers the caramel. (I had to re-heat the chocolate mixture over a bain-marie to make it pourable again).

Place back in fridge and let it solidify completely for about 5 minutes. And then your cups are ready to be devoured!

Cups

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TOASTED MUESLI

1I really notice a huge difference in my eating habits over the course of a day, based on what I have for breakfast. Sometimes I skip it, then I end up snacking by 10am. Or if I eat too early, at about 7.30/8am, I’m still hungry at 10ish and I start snacking.

However, if I eat something healthy, something with low GI, it sustains me throughout the morning and I don’t feel the need to snack. Now, obviously, you would think that knowing this, I would do it every day. I don’t of course. I’m my own worst enemy. It really depends on my frame of mind. At the moment, I am trying to eat a lot eat better, so with that in mind, I decided to make a batch of my favourite healthy breakfast…toasted muesli.

This is incredibly easy to make and can be stored in an airtight container for at least a month. The amounts in the ingredients are just a rough estimate. It really depends on how much you like each item. If you don’t like something, take it out or substitute it for something else. If you like raisins and sultanas, add them. I don’t so I use dried cranberries instead and usually dried blueberries. The other day when I was shopping I couldn’t find blueberries so I got goji berries instead. Or you can add dates or dried apricots…its totally up to you.

Ingredients
300g rolled oats
125ml apple juice
2 tbsp vegetable oil
60g raw almonds
40g pumpkin seeds
100g sunflower seeds
20g sesame seeds
30g flaked coconut
30g dried goji berries
60g dried cranberries

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Preheat the oven to 160°C / 140°C (fan) / 315°F / Gas 2-3.

Place all the ingredients, except for the dried fruit, in a large bowl and stir well to combine.

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Spread the mixture evenly over a large baking tray and place in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until lightly browned. (keep an eye on it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten about it and burnt it!)

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Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Then transfer to an airtight container. When you’re ready to eat it, add whatever fruit you like to it. In this case I added dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots and goji berries. If I have some pomegranate in the house, I’ll add fresh pomegranate seeds too. I often have it with milk but its delicious served with natural yoghurt instead. Its totally up to you.

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This is a really delicious breakfast, and so good for you. The oats will provide slow releasing energy throughout the morning, keeping you full until lunch. The seeds provide iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium, arguably the four most important minerals our bodies need. The almonds are high in vitamin E, are a natural antioxidant and also come packed with a whole host of other important nutrients. They’re low in saturated fat and high in protein. In this case I’ve used goji berries which contain beta-carotene, a high concentration of vitamin C and 18 kinds of amino acids. A perfect start to the day!

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I really hope you like it.

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BRUNCH AT M1LK, BALHAM

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I love brunch. There really is nothing better at the weekend than hanging out with your friends over good food and a few bloody mary’s/proseccos.  My weekend brunches are probably my favourite meals of the week and I love looking for new places to go. Recently, I was rather surprised when my friend Cassie, who rarely travels south of the river, suggested we have brunch at M1LK in Balham.  She had recently met a chef called Dan Ingram who worked there and had heard great things about it.

I used to live in Balham in what seems like another lifetime ago. Back then there were no delis, there was no Waitrose, there was nowhere nice to hang out except one little cafe but because it was the only place worth going at the weekends it was understandably impossible to get a table there. It’s a very different story now.

I arrived at M1LK, which is at the end of Hildreth Street Market, just a minute’s walk from Balham tube station, at 10.30am on a very cold morning, and met Cassie who was already standing in the queue holding a hot cup of coffee. Obviously, as is the case with everywhere I seem to want to eat in, you can’t book. Its a small place inside and they had put some seating outside but there was no way I was sitting in the freezing cold whilst eating my breakfast. So we queued until a table became available inside, catching up on the gossip whilst hopping from foot to foot, trying to stay warm.

As soon as we were ushered inside, I got really excited.

M1LK

Its very cosy and very buzzy. A neon pink ‘M1LK’ sign hangs on the white-washed, semi-stripped brick wall behind a counter adorned with incredible looking cakes and the odd doll’s head. Framed butterflies, old photos, floor to ceiling windows, mis-matched furniture and crockery, an open kitchen in the corner…I loved it instantly.

Inside

We sat down, ordered coffee and tea and were handed our menus.

Menu

I wanted to eat everything. We kept seeing food coming out of the kitchen and being placed on tables around us and everything looked amazing. I’m kind of off meat at the moment so I decided to order Burford Brown scrambled eggs on sourdough toast and sides of roast tomatoes, field mushrooms and hash browns. I had initially wanted the black cabbage and the smashed avocado as well but when I was ordering the waitress replied, “Is this for both of you? Or just you?”. So I ditched the cabbage and avocado.

M1LK scrambled egg

M1LK mushrooms

With hindsight it was just as well as I was stuffed with what I did order. It was so delicious. The eggs were perfectly cooked, the hash browns came with a mound of cheese on top! I’d go back for those alone to be honest. As I glanced around I noticed most people had a pile of cheese-topped hash browns on their tables.

Cassie went for probably the prettiest brunch dish I’ve ever seen…Baked eggs with Käsekrainer (a cheese-filled Austrian sausage), black cabbage, labneh and wild flowers.

M1LK baked eggs

She absolutely loved it. I tried a little (without the sausage) and the flavours were bold and punchy, it was heavenly.

Dan then came out of the kitchen to say hi to us and told us we had to try the pancakes with brûléed bananas, pecan brittle, maple syrup and coffee cream…

M1LK pancakes

It was absolutely divine but we were so stuffed we couldn’t finish it. I really want to go back so I can work my way through the menu.

M1LK source all their produce from independent, local, family-owned suppliers around London, and the Southeast. They bake cakes and cookies all day, everyday using organic flours and meals from UK co-ops and mills in Oxfordshire. They work closely with their butcher to source organic, heritage and rare-breed meats from individual farms in Sussex, Norfolk and Surrey.

This really is a fantastic little brunch spot and I’m so glad Cassie introduced me to it.  Its quirky, packed with atmosphere and great music, the food is fantastic and the (Workshop and Koppi) coffee is wonderful, the staff are really friendly and its just a lovely place to be.  One thing to bear in mind if you go…they don’t take cards, so bring cash.

And if you can’t get to Balham for some reason, the owners have just opened a new café in Clapham Common, Fields.

M1LK, 20 Bedford Hill / Hildreth Street, London, SW12 9RG
020 8772 9085
8am-5pm Monday – Saturday
9am-5pm Sunday

Twitter: @m1lkcoffee
Instagram: @m1lkcoffee

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BUTTERNUT SQUASH & SAGE RISOTTO

Butternut squash risotto

You know those really irritating people in January who go all ‘holier than thou’? The ones that were so much fun in December suddenly spend all of January banging on about the benefits of kale and quinoa whilst swigging from their NutriBullet cups on their way to the gym or hot yoga. Twitter and instagram are full of them. The magazines are full of articles about them. You can’t escape them. Annoyingly, I am one of them!

As you may have seen from my last post, I decided to start 2015 with a healthy new outlook. I’m usually the one moaning about those ‘kale types’, whilst I take another bite of my burger and wash it down with gin.  I have always been of the belief that January is depressing enough without depriving oneself of all your favourite foods.

However, this year I felt a little different.  I actually felt like my body was crying out for vegetables and was genuinely a little fed up of the constant stream of butter, cream, cheese, pastry, cake and chocolate. Unlike me, I know, but its how I felt.  So I decided to cut out the crap for a while, and focus on healthier meals. No more bacon rolls on my way into the office, no more biscuits at 11am, no more burgers at lunchtime, crisps and chocolate at 4pm and then off out for a rich three-course meal in the evening, to come home and have a cheeky wee chocolate Hob Nob or two before going to bed.

I thought I’d suffer, I thought it would be hard, I thought I’d have constant cravings…but I didn’t. One week in I realised I hadn’t had any meat, but I wasn’t missing it so I decided to carry on the way I was.  This is now my third week with no meat and I’m still not missing it. In fact, I’m rather enjoying coming up with new things to do with vegetables.  Talking of which, I had a butternut squash in my kitchen last night (I don’t know quite why I said it like that, it sounds like it popped round for a visit!) Anyway, I often turn this into soup or chop it up, roast it and serve with salad, toasted pecans and blue cheese…mmmmmmm. However, last night I decided to make a risotto out of it. I didn’t want to use white risotto rice so I used this brown risotto rice from Biona Organic. Obviously if you want to use white risotto rice, you can, and it would take a hell of a lot less time than this one did to cook.

This recipe serves 4 regular portions or 3 large portions. I ate it in 3.

INGREDIENTS
1 x butternut squash, diced (mine was about 350g after I peeled it and diced it)
1 x white onion, diced
3 x garlic cloves, chopped
1 litre vegetable stock
200g brown risotto rice
a few sage leaves, chopped (be careful, its a very strong flavour)
nutmeg (optional)
salt & pepper to season
2 tbsp olive oil

Begin by pre-heating the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

Place the diced butternut squash on a baking tray and drizzle with a tbsp of olive oil. Grate some fresh nutmeg over the squash (optional, but it really does taste good if you have it) and season with salt and pepper. Toss to mix then place in the oven for about 20 minutes until tender and starting to brown around the edges.

Meanwhile, heat the other tbsp of oil in a large pan and add the chopped onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes until the onion is soft and translucent.

Add the rice and stir through until it is coated in the oil. Then add about two ladles of vegetable stock and simmer until it has been absorbed. Add more stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring gently until it is absorbed before adding more.

After about 50 minutes (30 minutes if using white rice), add the butternut squash and the sage and continue to add stock. If you run out of stock and you feel the rice still needs more liquid to absorb, just add some boiling water from the kettle.

This took me about 90 minutes to cook as the rice just didn’t seem to want to cook! Obviously its different with white risotto rice so if you want to eat the night to cook this, use white! If you’re cooking for the next day, this brown rice really is lovely.

Season with salt and pepper and garnish with more sage leaves. I also grated a little more nutneg over the top and stirred it through.

And there you have it…a really lovely, warming, delicious and creamy dish that is perfect for a cold winter’s night.

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NEW YEAR CLEANSE

After weeks of gorging on copious amounts of cheese, chocolate, cake, burgers, pastry, Christmas dinner, roast potatoes, bacon wrapped dates, Eggs Royale and more cheese in the run up to and over Christmas…

Christmas…my body felt the need for some clean and healthy foods.  I hated feeling so sluggish and lethargic and I hate when my clothes feel too close for comfort!

Luckily, I got a NutriBullet for Christmas. If you haven’t heard of this, its a ‘nutrition extractor’. Basically, it completely breaks down your food with its 600 watt motor, pulverising and liquefying all the essential nutrition. I first heard about it earlier this year when my friends Jan and Mark got one and they loved it. Then I was flicking through the channels and came across a shopping channel that was demonstrating how it works. (You can see a very cheesy video here) In a slightly hypnotic fashion, I ended up watching as the demonstrator blitzed all sorts of ingredients together to create a ‘Nutri Blast’. I had to have one!

So on Boxing Day I headed to Whole Foods to stock up on vegetables, berries, seeds and powders for my NutriBullet. They recommend filling half the cup with a green leafy vegetable, then top up the rest with fruit and vegetables and then add water to the stated level. My first ‘Nutri Blast’ was a base of cavolo nero with raspberries, blueberries, white grapes and goji berries…

NutriBullet

Granted, the colour is not at all appealing, and I did add a splash of orange juice in at the end as it wasn’t quite as sweet as I would have liked it.

I have tried many variants and at the moment I’m rather liking one that I make with a base of spinach with added strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, goji berries, a teaspoon of beetroot powder, all whizzed up with coconut water.

As soon as I returned to London after the Christmas break I did a big food shop, buying everything my body was craving.

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So for the last week or so, as you can see from my Instagram, I have been making a variety of healthy dishes.

I am starting my days with hot water and lemon, then making a ‘Nutri Blast’ to have on my way to work (I am chopping up fruit and freezing it so as to reduce any waste). To be honest, those drinks really fill me up so I don’t find myself snacking on crisps, chocolate or biscuits at 11am like I did before.

At the weekend, instead of having my usual fry-up or Eggs Royale, I’m having avocado on toast topped with a poached egg.

Avocado & poached egg

For lunch, going clockwise: grilled salmon on couscous with pomegranate seeds, chopped pistachios, lambs lettuce, baby kale and asparagus. Then griddled halloumi (reduced fat) with quinoa, tomatoes, asparagus, peppers, palm hearts, spinach, rocket and thyme with a lemon, honey and olive oil dressing.  Then roasted butternut squash with spinach, lambs lettuce, feta, toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, cucumber, roasted tomatoes and peppers, and lastly whole wheat penne pasta with sliced brussel sprouts, red pepper, red onion, garlic and thyme, fried off with a little sherry and a milk and flour mix.
Salads

And again, these meals are keeping me going throughout the afternoon.  Maybe about 4pm I snack on some almonds or a have a couple of oatcakes spread with Light Philadelphia.

For dinner I have something simple and light, like dusted lemon sole (from most supermarkets, steamed vegetables and roasted tomatoes with garlic and basil. Or tonight I made a spinach, tomato and feta frittata which was surprisingly delicious.

Dinners

If I fancy something a little sweet afterwards I am slightly obsessed with Rachel’s low-fat Raspberry yoghurt, although I’m not sure how low fat it is when you eat the whole carton in one sitting! I do try to stop myself doing this.  I also love just simple Greek yoghurt with a little runny honey drizzled over the top.

Greek yoghurt with honey

At the moment, I feel great. I feel lighter and cleaner and oddly I’m not craving chocolate or cakes or biscuits.  And I realised earlier today that I haven’t eaten meat for a week.  Not on purpose, I just didn’t feel like it. Yes, its only been a week and I’m sure I will get back into eating all of these things soon enough, but its nice to know I can stop and not struggle. I’m also curious to see how long I can keep it up, and if my clothes start to feel a little less tight, that would also be a nice bonus!

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PORTER & RYE, GLASGOW

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On Friday night my good friend Maggie and I met up for dinner at one of Glasgow’s newest restaurant, Porter & Rye. Situated in the hip Finnieston end of Argyle Street, Porter & Rye is being heralded as Glasgow’s first ‘molecular restaurant’, serving fine dry-aged meats, small plate dining and classic mixed drinks.

Porter & Rye is the sister restaurant of The Finnieston, just a few doors down the road and is the latest venture from Kained Holdings who also own Lebowski’s and The Crafty Pig.

The restaurant itself wouldn’t look at all out of place in London…exposed brick walls, tiled floors, filament lightbulbs, a dry-ageing cabinet in the bar area with cuts of meat hanging in it… It was packed full, even though it had opened just 9 days earlier. Word has obviously got around.

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Maggie was especially excited to be out as it was her first night out she’d had since she had her beautiful baby girl Katie 3 months ago. So when I arrived, Maggie was already at the table, studying the menu.

Our waitress was delightful and immediately talked us through their cuts of meat. However, Maggie and I weren’t really in the mood for steak so we decided to order a selection of small plates and sides. We also ordered a bottle of Malbec but the waitress suggested that might not work with what we ordered so she expertly talked us through the wine list until we decided on another bottle of red.

The first dish that jumped out at us was Pan-Fried King Scallops with citrus beetroot tartare, seaweed and scallop roe salt, lemon foam and grapefruit gel (£14.95). I asked how many scallops you get in a portion and I was told there were 3. The waitress did explain that they were hand-dived scallops from the Ethical Shellfish Company, caught fresh every morning off Mull.

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These were beautiful…huge, tender, juicy, meaty, perfectly cooked and the beetroot tartare added a lovely zesty earthiness to them.

The Free-Range Kilduncan Farm Crispy Duck Egg served with an onion consommé, tarragon oil and crispy onions (£5.95) was next up.

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The plate came with the egg in the middle then the waitress poured in the consommé and drizzled the tarragon oil around the edge of the plate.  The egg had a good golden crust with a rich runny yolk and the onion consommé and crispy onions were delicious with it. I really enjoyed this dish.

The Knochraich Farm crowdie cheese bon bons served with a butternut squash trio, parmesan air and Amaretti crumb (£5.95) sounded promising and were indeed tasty but we both felt there wasn’t enough of a crisp crust to them. We also didn’t really taste the butternut squash as the cheese dominated the dish.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the cheese was delicious, I just would have liked the butternut squash to have come through a bit more.

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The side dishes we ordered (all £3 each) were Bone Marrow Mac ‘n’ Cheese…

IMG_20150102_223346Absolutely bloody delicious! This had crispy bacon lardons throughout and to be honest, I could have ordered another one. In fact, if I lived in Glasgow I’d be in Porter & Rye all the time ordering this.  We also ordered the Wild Winter Mushrooms, buttered kale and truffle salt fries…all lovely.

For pudding we ordered two which we shared. Carrot cake with caramelised carrot purée, cinnamon aired white chocolate and Longlay Farm buttermilk ice cream. (£5.95)

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This was a very good take on a traditional carrot cake.  The sponge itself was beautiful…moist, dense and bursting with spices. It was one of the best carrot cake sponges I’ve tasted in a long time. The air dried cinnamon white chocolate was a bit odd and I’m not sure it necessarily went with carrot cake. I could taste the cinnamon which was nice, but not the white chocolate. Maggie and I could be philistines but we both said we kind of missed a bit of cream cheese frosting with our carrot cake.

We also ordered Dark Chocolate Mousse with Clementine sorbet, burnt orange purée and hazelnut praline. (£6.95)

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Delicious rich, dense chocolate…not really as light and airy as a mousse normally is, but that didn’t matter at all, it was lovely. The Clementine sorbet was superb, it was bursting with zingy flavour and complimented the chocolate perfectly, as did the hazelnut praline.

We had a fantastic night at Porter & Rye and I will definitely be back.  The service was spot on. Our waitress was incredibly friendly and very knowledgeable about each dish and the wine list. She was also there when we wanted her but didn’t bother us when we didn’t.  We thoroughly enjoyed the food and I’d love to sample more of the menu. They clearly know what they are doing and I reckon they could probably produce a fantastic steak so I’d like to come back for that.  If you’re in Glasgow anytime soon, this is well worth a visit.

Porter & Rye, 1131 Argyle Street, Glasgow G3 8ND.
Twitter: @PorterAndRye

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