La Gelatiera, Artisan Ice Cream Parlour – what’s not to like?

This is a first for No Expert – a post on an Ice Cream Parlour!

I have actually been to lots of Ice Cream Parlours all over the world, including some memorable ones in Italy, Spain, North and South America, Germany, France, Sweden and Denmark – my favorite Ice Cream surprisingly was Goats Milk Ice Cream sold by a street vendor in Kiev of all places, but that’s another story. So why visit La Gelatiera? which is tucked away in a side street close to Covent Garden. Main reason, it’s serious Ice Cream – seriously good. It’s also kind of nice to know that their Ice Cream is rich in vitamins and protein but low in fat (on average 6% – 8% for gelato and 0% for sorbet).

I tried two flavours today:-

Basil and Chilli Gelato – I first had Basil Ice Cream at the rather good Waterside Restaurant in Eastbourne, so the bench mark for me on this was set pretty high. La Gelatiera breached it – WOW – that little kick of chilli is amazing.

Banana Sorbet – so creamy, so much banana flavour, more conventional but no less of a winner than the Basil and Chilli.

I will most definitely be back to try some more flavours.

The Parlour has a modern trendy feel to it, it is quite small and has a glass floor in one corner that enables you to peak into the “laboratory” where the Ice Cream is made. There is seating for about 8 – 10 people inside and a few seats outside. It also specializes in Coffee from Artisan Roasters and has a nice looking selection of Cakes and Pastries.  You can even have Ice Cream with your Cake, so what’s not to like?

Made a return visit on a Saturday evening to try some more flavours.

Mint and Chocolate Gelato – Very refreshing, could really taste the fresh mint, plus lots of shards of dark chocolate.

Popcorn, Caramel and Chilli Gelato – Another winner, creamy with soft caramelized popcorn and a touch of chilli

Hazelnut Gelato – a more conventional flavour, but still very nice.

I would also recommend the Matcha Tea Gelato – very refreshing.

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The Grand Hotel Eastbourne – Afternoon Tea at The White Palace

The Grand Hotel Eastbourne has a lot of history associated with it.  Lots of musical connections – Debussy completed  ‘La Mer’ here in 1905. The BBC Palm Court Orchestra used to broadcast live from The Grand Hall and Dennis Potter’s Cream in My Coffee was filmed here.

Visually “The White Palace” is quite stunning, it’s very much a remnant of a bygone era.  Just the sort of place where you would expect to see Miss Marple sitting in the corner knitting.

Our visit on Easter Sunday when The Palm Court Strings were playing was my first opportunity to have a formal “Afternoon Tea” outside London.

We arrived early enough to check out the bar.  The drinks selection was not as extensive or as special as it could have been, just some fairly standard Whiskeys, some common brands of  Rum and a couple of Sherries. The Cocktail list was much more interesting and the ones we had were very nice indeed.  Even if they were expensive – i.e., London cocktail prices, but then again The Grand is a 5 star hotel. So after a leisurely start we made our way to the far end of  The Grand Hall where Afternoon Tea is served.   The  layout was a bit awkward, set up as it was to accommodate The Palm Court Strings, which made it difficult for the staff to serve tea and rather limited our ability to order anything beyond the Champagne Afternoon Tea we had already paid for.

However I have to say, it was the string quartet that really made this an occasion. They only play on the last Sunday of each month and the very conventional Afternoon Tea would have been something of a disappointment without them.  Not that there was anything wrong with what we had to eat. The Cake Stand contained a selection of perfectly fine sandwiches, scones and cakes. It was all just a bit too conventional for my taste.

We also had a brief look at the menu for the Hotels main restaurant.  Nothing very exciting there either. The pricing structure for a la carte dishes was a bit odd, in that the price quoted per dish was on top of the £27 set menu price which meant that if you went entirely a la carte you had to remember that there was an extra £27 to add to your bill – What’s wrong with just having a set menu and showing “the real prices” for the a la carte dishes? (maybe  Miss Marple can get to the bottom of that mystery!).

When we left the Hotel at about 6 o’clock, we were very surprised to still see people sun bathing by the outdoor pool, indeed Eastbourne (on the Sunshine coast)  is certainly a sweet spot for a Staycation when you get the kind of weather we had on our visit.

Marks out of 10

Food 5

Service 5

Ambience 7


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BB Bakery at County Hall

BB Bakery

When I go out for a walk I like to have a destination in mind – which I have to admit is usually somewhere that serves coffee and cake. My destination today was the Royal Festival Hall and the Real Food Market. However I got waylaid as I was passing by County Hall. I spotted a sign for BB Bakery. So out of nosiness rather that anything else I peeked inside. The signage had me expecting some kind of Pret a Manager or at best a Le Pain Quotidien or a Patisserie Valerie type venue. BB Bakery does after all share a building with McDonald’s. However I found that it was actually more in keeping with The Marriott Hotel which is also part of the County Hall complex. I was very surprised by its unexpected warmth and elegance, something that chain Patisseries rarely if ever manage to achieve.











To the left of the entrance is the counter area surround by tables and shelves of beautifully presented cakes and baked goods or as BB Bakery calls them Viennoiserie. I spent much longer here than I expected too, it was just so peaceful and relaxing sitting in the smart and comfortable seating area, indeed if you can ignore the rather drab walls and ceiling it does rather feel like the lounge of a good hotel. I ordered a slice of lemon and butter cream cake and a coffee from the counter. The waitress delivered it quickly and it was a pleasant change to have my coffee served in a china cup rather than a mug. The portion of cake was large, light and moist with a creamy butter filling and lemon flavouring that was strong and refreshing.

UPDATE: April 2011 – I returned for lunch. My salmon quiche was seriously good, tasty with lots of salmon and a nice balance of tomatoes, peppers and courgettes. I followed this with a small piece of heavenly strawberry roulade this place is definitely my favourite London Patisserie now.

UPDATE: BB Bakery also have a small selection of wines, including a dessert wine – see BB Bakery Wine list.

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The Rocks – Omelette challenge

Having  just finished watching the Omelette challenge on Saturday Kitchen, my choice of breakfast in The Rocks Restaurant may have been subliminal.  When my ham and cheese omelette arrived in a matter of minutes from order to table, unlike those on Saturday Kitchen which take seconds and look on the whole inedible, this omelette was close to perfect.  Delicious with a really light and fluffy texture. Actually it was easily the best omelette I have had in a long time.

The Rocks on Vauxhall Bridge Road is fairly new, formally Cafe Rocks – a well respected sandwich bar,  it has expanded to double its orginal size and is now a full blown restaurant.  It is a good spot to stop on route to Tate Britain.  The monochrome decor –  black marble tiles, black tables and chairs, may not be to everyones taste, but I thought it was both effective and practical.  I definitely plan to return to try their all day breakfast. The rest of the menu looked interesting too,  it included several Turkish dishes.  I need to make a few more visits and try more of the menu, but based on the omelette (known to be one of the best ways to judge a chefs ability) I suspect The Rocks is something of a Gem! (Pun intended).

Marks out of 10

Food 5.2

Service 5.2

Ambience 6

UPDATE : January 2011 – Made a return visit.  One dish on the menu to avoid is maybe the Eggs Benedict, which is actually not Eggs Benedict.  It tasted ok,  but was missing key ingredients like muffins and ham.

UPDATE : January 2014 – Nice to see that The Rocks is still going strong. Everyone who came in got a warm welcome and the service was good. It had a nice turn over of customers on my visit, with people choosing to both to eat in and take away. I  would recommend the Börek as a main course, it was tasty and nicely presented, although there was too much salad for my taste. They also had a decent selection of cakes and pastries.

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Confessions of a Chocolaholic Afternoon Tea at the Hilton

Overindulged at the “Confessions of a Chocaholic Afternoon Tea at the Hilton”  in the Podium Restaurant on the ground floor of the Park Lane Hilton.

This afternoon tea is good value for money, compared to a lot of the hotel based afternoon tea options in London (£29.50 including a glass of champagne).

The three tier cake stand used looks great and I was impressed by the chocolate selection, even the gold sprinkled base was made out of chocolate.  There is so much here, making the pretty take away handbags a must.  The Tea selection was also interesting and extensive.

The open sandwiches were beautifully presented, tasty and fresh. The chocolate spread with Chocolate Chip scones was also a nice touch. Not so keen on the cup cakes though which were rather ordinary.

The let down was more on the service side, which although friendly, was really slow. It was hard getting attention and it was nearly a hour before we started!  I am also not sure that “I did not have time to bring the extra sandwiches is a particularly good excuse” in a hotel of this calibre.

The room was pleasant enough but had rather bad acoustics and the use of live and canned music really did not work.

Marks out of 10

Food 5.7

Service 3.8

Ambience 4

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Gastronomica – Piemonte in Pimlico

Had breakfast at Gastronomica in Pimlico, a cafe/deli that advertises itself quite rightly as Piemonte in Pimlico.

Actually Gastronomica is a lot more that just this one cafe/deli. They have several market stalls (including one at Borough Market) and another couple of  cafes in Wapping and Manchester as well as a wholesale food business.

The cafe in the heart of Pimlico is not that pretty from the outside, as it is located in an unattractive red brick block of shops behind a rather garish red awning.

Inside it is much more attractive, the Cafe area consists of a couple of large wooden tables and a few smaller ones, surrounded by shelves of Italian Wine and cabinets full of wonderful meats and cheese. The menu is quite small, mainly Italian sandwiches, cheese and meat boards and salads, but everything looks really good.

My breakfast was just a simple ham and cheese tostado, served with a really good cup of coffee.  They also had a selection of cakes, which were inviting enough for me to want to make a return visit to try them along with another cup of that coffee. It’s always good to find an alternative to the ubiquitous Starbucks and Cafe Nero coffee shops.

This place captures the best of Italy. It’s very laid back, I particularly liked the way they went off menu to please a family that just wanted toast and jam for their kids. You definitely don’t see that in Starbucks.

UPDATE : January 2011, returned for coffee and cake, had a piece of strawberry and pannacotta cheese cake, and another cup of their great coffee.  I also bought some Delizia Mandorla (Almond Cakes) which are lovely with a glass of Amaretto.

Marks out of 10

Food 5

Service 5.2

Ambience 5.5

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