Friday, 26 July 2013

Dining at tibits Vegetarian Restaurant London



A few months ago, I reviewed a cook book written by tibits Restaurant team showcasing some of their most popular recipes.  Endeared with the book as I was, I placed tibits on my 'must go to' list and so I was then delighted when my husband and I were offered the opportunity to visit the restaurant and dine there.



Outside Patio Area - tibits


Situated in a little hub of restaurants known as the 'Food Quarter' on Heddon Street off Regents Street, its location is perfect for central London with Piccadilly Circus only being a few minutes’ walk away. 




Exterior of tibits


Upon arrival, we were met by Duty Manager Lidija who introduced us to the rest of the team before commencing a tour around the restaurant and an explanation of the ethos behind tibits.

tibits Restaurants were originally launched as a family business over 10 years ago in Switzerland by three brothers, Reto, Christian and Daniel Frei, together with Rolf and Marielle Hiltl, of Hiltl, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world, established  in 1898 (according to the Guinness Book of Records).  In London, tibits has been opened for over 4½ years with plans in the pipeline to expand across the capital and potentially in time across the UK.

The restaurant's ethos is very much about casual dining, ensuring that diners can relax in informal surroundings.   Although a fast paced environment, customers are encouraged to take their time and are never hurried out. 



Chandelier Ceiling


The decor is contemporary with seating styles a mixture of raffia/wooden chairs and sofa couches.   Bold printed, floral wallpaper complements the souk-style chandelier lighting.  The large paned windows provide perfect views of the outdoor shaded patio seating area as well giving you ample natural light and the opportunity to people watch!  The relaxed dress code is most welcomed because if you're doing the tourist trail or simply popping by for a whistle-stop visit, a change into smarter clothes isn't always practical so tibits is perfect for these occasions.





Interior seating areas - tibits


































The staircase by the bar leads you to the airy, light downstairs area where there is more casual seating available.  Artwork adorns the walls, including a gorgeous painting we fell in love which was painted by a Swiss artist called Freda.  This is also where parties of 8+ are accommodated and where events are held.  





Downstairs Area


Swiss Art by Freda




It also provides a haven for families with the mini 'Kids Corner' in sight, containing amusements for entertaining children with and the area also provides privacy for nursing mothers.   The restaurant's child friendly approach extends from tibits' policy in Switzerland where it is paramount.








As described above, the style of dining differs from the usual restaurant drill and again echoes their mantra of achieving a relaxed ambience.  Once shown to your seat, you are then free to visit the Food Boat at your leisure to begin selecting your food.




Food Boat


The 'Food Boat' is the focal point of the restaurant, located in the centre, hosting over 40 hot and cold dishes including desserts.  There is also a soup of the day (which was Beetroot & Caraway Seed when we visited) and all meals come with a complementary bread roll.  The dishes are on a rotation system which means that if you visit regularly, you will be able to experience a wide range of dishes over the course of time.  tibits also observe seasonal cooking so everything you see will be specific to the current season.




Bread Baskets
Soup Station























Differing from standard 'all you can eat buffets', at tibits you only pay for you choose.  This concept is particularly good for those that want to control the amounts they eat or who wish to choose a mixture of things rather than having to buy individual portions.  Costings are regulated by weight rather than per meal/course.  So the heavier the items on the plate, the more you pay - eg: a plate of pasta, potatoes etc would cost more than a plate of salad. 

The costs are: 
Breakfast - £1.70 per 100g
Lunch - £2.20 per 100g
Dinner (6pm onwards) - £2.50 per 100g

You can of course get your food weighed at the till as many times as you wish to ensure that you only spend what you want.




A suggestion would be to get all your cold items first and then select your hot items to ensure your meal remains warm.  If you're planning to have more than one plate, it would be worth opening up a tab at the till so you only have to pay once before you leave.





More Dishes from the Food Boat





The dishes on the Food Boat during our visit were:  Chilli Sin Carne, Gnocchetti alla Mediterrana, Indian Dhal, Aubergines, Power Green vegetables, as well as cold salads and their signature dried green bean salad (which was my absolute favourite).  So much so, I am hoping to re-create the dish at home for myself!  The beans were beautifully dressed with scattered walnuts and were promoted as a 'concentration booster'.  Look out for a future blog post about it!





Dishes from the Food Boat




Each dish has a name plaque against it which contains a description and main ingredient list.  There are also abbreviations listed to help those on a specific diet.  Of course everything is vegetarian, but V = Vegan, L = contains Dairy G = contains Gluten etc. 

To maximise the tasting opportunity, I had morsels of nearly all the dishes.  I had:  houmous, olives, falafel, pasta, Indian Dhal, Power Greens, broccoli, roasted parsnips/carrots, Lebanese Tabouli Salad, Gnocchetti alla Mediterrana (made with courgettes, capers and kalamata olives) and chilli sin carne (meaning chilli without meat - soya mince with tomatoes and kidney beans).  My husband had: chilli sin carne, guacamole, jacket wedges, Indian Rice and salad.  My dish came to approx: £10 and my husband's dish to approx. £12. 




My Husband's Meal


My Meal


Everything that we both had was delicious, packed with taste and flavour.  My husband was totally enthused with the chilli sin carne commenting on how it had been seasoned perfectly and as a daily meat-eater, the whole meal hadn't made him miss meat at all!  I couldn't resist an extra portion of the Gnocchetti covered with the dried green beans - the two items worked so well together.

For dessert we both went for a favourite of ours which was tiramisu.  Made on site, the sponge was deliciously drowned with strong coffee and the cream was freshly whipped - we could've easily gone back for seconds or thirds!




Dessert Section of the Food Boat




There are a mixture of soft drinks, smoothies, juices and alcoholic cocktails available at the bar.  We opted for the Lemonade (which was made from passion fruit syrup, lemons and sparkling water), Ginger Carrot Apple Juice (which included those ingredients plus lemon and fennel) and also Fitness Juice (made from apple, fennel and lemon).  The lemonade was particularly welcoming for the hot weather and acted as a palette cleanser as well.  The juices were really tasty, I was curious how they would taste with fennel, but it balanced well with its fruit counterparts and of course the added benefit of them being packed with vitamins was a great bonus!   



Ginger Carrot Apple Juice
Lemonade with tibits 'I Love You' Reward Card

Fitness Juice



In addition to dining-in, tibits also offer a take-away service for those in a hurry.  Costs are cheaper than dining-in and also include the provision of small or large containers plus lids and cutlery.
Takeaway costs:
Breakfast - £1.40 per 100g
Lunch & Dinner - £1.70 per 100g 

In addition, the Bar serves at least 4 types of sandwiches for takeaway (inc vegan options), plus crisps and pastries.  There is also the opportunity to buy their recipe books if you want to recreate the tibits experience at home.




tibits Cook Books For Sale

tibits Ice Cream Cart




The customer base is varied and somewhat eclectic ranging from city office workers conducting informal meetings/interviews, theatre goers seeking a quick dinner, tourists looking for hearty fare, through to celebrity clientele - you can find everyone here proving its mass appeal.

Their success can of course be attributed to their excellent food, location and ambience but the one thing that is key and of continued focus is their dedication to customer service.  They are very keen to receive feedback and to act upon it always ensuring that the restaurant is geared towards the customers' preferences.  For instance, there was repeated feedback for more vegan dishes which they have listened to and now the restaurant provides more vegan dishes than previously with more planned in the future.

They commend loyalty by running a Reward Card scheme whereby you get a free drink after every 6 meals purchased which is a token of their appreciation for custom.


It's not just the customers that love the concept of tibits, Head Chef Brian stated:
"I've worked as Head Chef at tibits for almost 5 years and, although I'm not a vegetarian myself, I love working with the huge range of delicious, fresh ingredients we use to create new and exciting dishes for our customers. We change our menu seasonally, which also includes dishes that are influenced by cuisines from around the world, including Asian, Indian, Mediterranean and the best of British. On our unique 'food boat', we offer over 40 healthy but satisfying hot dishes, salads, soups, desserts, smoothies, cocktails, wines and beers - so come on in and try us out!"


tibits is absolutely perfect and can morph into any occasion you want it to.  For a quick lunch, grabbing a take-away en route from work or for drinks with friends in the evening.  In Lidija's words, "We like to wave each customer off with a smile" and I can vouch that they do and to quote their mantra about tibits it’s: "Food that loves you back”.  Indeed it does, guaranteeing that we ourselves will be back.  And soon.



~~~

tibits Restaurant
12-14 Heddon Street (Off Regents Street)
London
W1B 4DA
www.tibits.co.uk
Sunday-Wednesday 10:30pm closing time. Thursday - Saturday 11:30pm closing time.

~~~

Other Links

To read my review of 'tibits at home' cook book, click on this link.

~~~

Disclosure:  This post was written following a kind invitation from tibits Restaurant London to  experience their menu.   This review was conducted with honesty, without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website.


Thursday, 25 July 2013

Flavour of France - Veggie French Tarragon Mock-Chicken Recipe

Prior to going abroad, one of the first things I do is research the culinary aspects of that city/country.  Whether that be reading up on local dishes or checking out the restaurant scene, I always like to know what I can expect, especially useful as a vegetarian!

I really do think that by doing as locals do, you get more out of your trip by acquainting yourself with local customs and potentially having the opportunity of experiencing something you have never tried before, something that you wouldn't be able to get in the UK or perhaps that wouldn't taste the same back home.  This not only broadens your taste buds but also enhances your holiday and on a wider scale, it helps local economy and trade.  Personally, when abroad, I like to leave all things Blighty behind and find myself a good tapas joint, bistro, taverna or if I'm further afield, a good beach shack noodle bar!

You may have read a post of mine recently about sampling vegetarian inspired French Food at a restaurant called Le Truc Cafe in Birmingham.  After my visit there, it got me thinking about traditional French food and the veggie versions I could make of them.

The opportunity arose when I was presented with a recipe from Superbreak for French Tarragon Chicken and I thought about how I could make a vegetarian version of it.  So tasking myself with this mission I began making a meat version for my husband and a veggie one for me to have with our traditional Sunday roast vegetables.  Plus it also gave me the chance to utilise the tarragon plant I have in my herb garden.


Tarragon from my Herb Garden



Instead of using chicken meat for myself, I used Quorn Chicken Style Fillets, ensuring that they were fully defrosted first.  Using separate pans and dividing the other ingredients between the two, I prepared the recipe as follows:
~~~



Vegetarian - Quorn Chicken Style - French Tarragon Chicken


Meat Version - French Tarragon Chicken


French Style Tarragon Chicken/Quorn Chicken  
Serves 2

2 Chicken Meat Breasts (Skinless/Boneless) - 1 person portion
2 Quorn Chicken Style Fillets (Defrosted and scored with a knife) - 1 person portion
1 Large Onion (Diced)
2 Garlic Cloves (Chopped)
50ml Dry White Wine
200ml Vegetable Stock
1.5 tbsp Half-Fat Crème Fraîche
½ -¾ tsp Cornflower
1-1½ tsp Cold Water
1 tbsp Tarragon Leaves (chopped) or Dried Tarragon Flakes
Vegetable Oil for frying.


Method

1.    Pour and heat vegetable oil into two separate non-stick frying pans.
2.    Divide the diced onion between the two frying pans and fry gently until soft.
3.    Divide the chopped garlic between the two frying pans and fry with the onion for
       a couple of minutes.

4.    Add the chicken meat breasts to one frying pan and the Quorn Chicken Style fillets to
       the other frying pan and gently fry both until lightly coloured.

5.    Pour 25ml of white wine into each frying pan and bring to the boil.
6.    Once boiled, pour 100ml of vegetable stock into each frying pan and then return to a
       gentle simmer. 

7.    Whilst the chicken/Quorn is cooking, in a small bowl, mix the cornflour and cold water
       together into a semi-runny paste.  Leave to one side.

8.    Stir both pans occasionally for approximately 8-10 minutes or until there is just a tiny
       bit of liquid left in each pan.

9.    Divide the paste between the two frying pans and stir well.
10.  It will begin to thicken almost immediately, at this point divide the crème fraîche
       between the two frying pans and stir well.

11.  Divide the tarragon between the two frying pans and stir again.
12.  Cook gently until all the ingredients have cooked through in both pans.
13.  Serve each portion with new potatoes and/or roast vegetables as preferred.

NB:  To make this a full vegetarian dish, swap the chicken meat for 2 more Quorn Chicken Style fillets.  To make larger portions, increase the quantities of other ingredients and the number of Quorn fillets/chicken breasts used.

~~~



Both versions were deliciously creamy with the flavour streaming from the garlic and tarragon in every bite.  The cream also works well with vegetables, providing an additional sauce to accompany them with.

By only using one extra pan, vegetarians and meat-eaters can both have an almost identical meal experience with very little additional effort.  This recipe makes for a great dinner party classic which works so well for a mixed dietary group of guests.

If dinner parties seems too close to home and you want to try this dish (or something else French and veggie) in more authentic French surroundings, why not see what offers there are on the Superbreak website for a long weekend in Paris? 

Once there, then find yourself a nice pavement cafe overlooking the Seine with a chilled glass of French wine to hand and peruse the menu en français ....

~~~

Disclosure:  The above recipe was provided by Superbreak to promote their city breaks to Paris.  The recipe was amended to reflect preferences and to accommodate vegetarian ingredients.  I was re-imbursed by Superbreak to cover my expenses to create the meal.  This review was conducted honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review of the recipe.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website. 


Sunday, 21 July 2013

Veggie Meal Combinations Using Sauces from Sainsbury's

Anyone who has rummaged through my kitchen cupboards will verify my love for, and increasing stock levels, of sauce bottles.  Although I make a lot of things from scratch, it is always nice to have different bottles to hand to enhance a dish or an ingredient, especially if time is of the essence.
So when presented with the opportunity to try some sauces from Sainsbury's I was delighted.  As were my cupboards.














~~~
The first sauce I tried was Sainsbury's own Chinese Inspired Marinade.  Its description states that it contains plum jam, soy sauce and star anise plus other spices including ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, cassia, cardamom and clove.  Although not denoted as a vegetarian sauce per se, it is suitable for vegetarians.



Sainsbury's Chinese Inspired Marinade



The knee-jerk reaction would be to use it as a marinade for a Chinese stir-fry, as coating for bbq food or to use in an oven dish as suggested on the bottle.  And although it states it’s Chinese, I didn’t want to limit its use just for Chinese food so I decided to try it out with some other ingredients to see how it worked.

Firstly, my husband and I tried the sauce itself.  It was a fabulous mix of sweetness (from the plum jam) and savoury (from the soy sauce) and just enough spice to give flavour without over powering it or making it too hot (which is perfect for me)!  If more spice is preferred, then you could always add more to the sauce.  Nevertheless, it definitely had a taste of the Orient and the Chinese flavours you’d expect were all coming through.

We first used it when my husband covered a fried tuna steak with the sauce and I used it to marinade Quorn Chicken-style pieces with rocket leaves, serving artichoke risotto with both meals.  We both commented how delicious the sauce was, its extremely pleasant taste and how well it worked with our respective dishes.  The peppery element from the rocket leaves really complemented the sauce’s sweetness and the rice absorbed the remainder of the sauce from the plate which also worked well all round.



Quorn Chicken Style Pieces in Sainsbury's Chinese Inspired Marinade
served with Artichoke Risotto

The second time I used Sainsbury’s Chinese Inspired Marinade was when preparing mushrooms for a pasta bake.  Whilst gently frying them, I added a splash of the marinade in to flavour them up.  This worked beautifully!  The porous nature of the mushrooms meant that they soaked up the sauce during the frying process.  Added to the cooked pasta with the bake’s tomato sauce, gave a new dimension of flavour and a different twist to the pasta bake.  A new method which I will continue to use!



~~~
Next I tried Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Oak Aged Balsamic Dressing.  A blend of oak aged balsamic vinegar of Modena, British cold rapeseed oil, black pepper and a touch of sugar.

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference
Oak Aged Balsamic Dressing

This was an extremely gentle dressing where the balsamic vinegar was evident but not over bearing and with a tiny hint of sugar made it very tasty.  Rapeseed oil has become an artisan oil of late and is very en vogue right now, its inclusion here made for a mellow flavour. 

I made a warm salad with lambs lettuce, avocado, Quorn Roast Chicken-Style fillets, potatoes and tomatoes then I drizzled the dressing on top.  It really lifted the salad and worked well with all the components.




Quorn & Lambs Lettuce Salad with
Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Oak Aged Balsamic Dressing

I also made a tray of roast vegetables (potatoes, carrots, parsnips) and I usually coat them in oil and balsamic vinegar anyway before roasting so I was interested to see how the dressing would fare in comparison.  The vegetables once roasted had a gorgeous sweet glaze which was utterly moreish and I drained and saved the excess dressing oil from the tray to use for dipping later on.  I found this was one of my favourite ways to use the oil.



Vegetables Roasted in Sainsbury's Taste the Difference
Oak Aged Balsamic Dressing



Lastly, I decided to make a topping for my pasta which I made from soft goat’s cheese, foraged-cooked nettles and caperberries drizzled in the dressing.  Having washed my nettles thoroughly before use, I then cooked them in salted water for over 10 minutes before removing excess liquid and keeping them to one side.  Once my pasta had cooked, I placed it into a bowl and then positioned the soft goat’s cheese on top.  I then rested the nettles on the cheese with the caperberries on the side before trickling some of the dressing on top.  The tartness of the cheese, coupled with the saltiness of the nettles and caperberries with the sweetness of the dressing worked so well, a real montage of taste.  Although I served this with pasta, you could serve this goat’s cheese mixture with any meal accompaniment – potatoes perhaps?




Goats Cheese, Nettles, Caperberries on Pasta drizzled in
Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Oak Aged Balsamic Dressing

All in all, it was light enough for a dressing a salad or pasta with and equally was wonderful for roasting vegetables.


~~~
The last sauce I tried was Sainbury’s Taste the Difference Sherry Vinaigrette.  This particular vinaigrette was oozing Spanish flavour which included Spanish extra virgin olive oil, Jerez sherry vinegar, sherry cream, fennel seeds, rapeseed oil, orange zest, herbs and garlic. 


Sainsbury's Taste the Difference
Sherry Vinaigrette


Before use, it’s important that you give the bottle a good shake to ensure all the ingredients are well mixed.  I naturally gravitated to trying it first on a salad, which again was great -endorsing that vinaigrette is indeed a partner for life with all things salad!  The addition of the fennel seeds made it a little more crunchy which I enjoyed. 

I also decided to use it when cooking my Quorn Chicken-Style fillets to see how it would work with them.  Once defrosted, I scored the fillets, poured over the vinaigrette, scattered green olives on top and then baked them until they were cooked.  They turned out really tender and extremely delicious and it’s given me another variation of how to prepare fillets.  Indeed, if you are preparing meat, I’m sure using the vinaigrette on chicken meat would also work just as well.



Quorn Fillets with Olives cooked in
Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Sherry Vinaigrette


~~~
I have really enjoyed using the different sauces and testing them with a mixture of ingredients and meals.  These three will definitely join my army of condiments in my kitchen and will feature in many more mealtimes ahead.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Disclosure:  This post was written following receipt of samples from Sainbury's.  This review was conducted honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website. 



Thursday, 11 July 2013

Elderflower - Quintessential Summer Ingredient

Elderflower Bush

I have been out with my foraging gloves again and this time, I have been in search of elderflower.


Elderflower


I think it’s fair to say that there has been a renaissance for all things elderflower in the last couple of years.
  Once only thought of as a floral ingredient for drinks in the Victorian period or as a stalwart flavouring at the village fete’s WI cake stand, it has now been embraced with gusto as foragers and foodies lap up anything that contains this blossoming delight.

Close up of Elderflower

You’ll find it this time of year occupying the front row seat on most British hedgerows, bearing white flossy flowers.  It does often get mixed up with Hawthorn, do ensure you have a point of reference to help you identify it if you’re unsure of its appearance.

You don’t have venture far into the depths of the countryside to find it, you can often see it growing in public places such as canal paths and the like.  (As with all foraging, ensure that you only pick items that are on public land and not from private property!)  

The best time to pick them would be when it has been dry for a day or two as if picked when wet, you won’t get any of the pollen which is what actually gives the elderflower its flavour.

A common mistake is that it’s synonymous to Britain when actually it also grows wild in Italy and even North America.  In fact, the alcoholic beverage Sambuca is made from it and takes its name from elderflower’s official Latin name ‘sambucus nigra’.  Who’d have thought that such a pretty little flower could be the source of such an intoxicating liquor!

If you search the internet, you’ll find numerous recipes for elderflower – namely for cordials and lemonades.  However, I've adapted a lovely recipe for elderflower syrup which provides much versatility once made – drizzle it over ice cream, include it in an Eton Mess dessert or a favourite of mine is to stir it into a bowl of Greek yoghurt!  The choices are endless.  See recipe below.

Now that we’re experiencing this mini heatwave here in the UK, get your gear together and go foraging and give your food a taste of British summer straight from the hedgerow!

 ~~~


Sugar & Water Boiling for the Syrup

Elderflower Heads prior to being placed in the syrup


The syrup solidified 



Elderflower Syrup

300g Caster Sugar
500ml Boiled Water
Zest from one Lemon
1 Squeeze of Lemon Juice 
10 Elderflower Heads



Method

  • Boil water in a large saucepan.
  • Add the caster sugar and stir frequently for 5-10 minutes until it has become fully absorbed.
  • In the meantime, prepare the elderflower heads.
  • Cut off their excess branches and brush/wash gently each head to remove any bugs and/or debris.
  • Add the lemon juice and stir.
  • Add the elderflower heads (heads down) and stir.
  • Turn the heat off.
  • Allow the syrup to cool down which will also enable the elderflower flavour to penetrate the syrup.
  • After a couple of hours (more if time allows), remove the elderflower heads and discard.
  • Pour the syrup into a plastic storage box and either keep refrigerated or store in the freezer for prolonged use.
  • Use as desired.
  • NB: The solidified syrup will melt once heated again to a more fluid form.