POP! PEANUT BARS // PRODUCT REVIEW

A little while back we very kindly received a box full of POP goodies! The box contained a variety of POP peanut bars, flavours including raisin & dark chocolate, peanut butter & dark chocolate, & coconut.

Each of the bars were delicious & crunchy, & made a fantastic mid morning snack, thanks to them being fabulously filling!

We also LOVED the packaging & the branding behind POP – the bright colours are very appealing, & very striking – you would definitely spot the bars on a shop shelf!

Thank you to the team at POP for getting these out to us – we are excited to these guys grow!

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BANHOEK CHILLI OIL // PRODUCT REVIEW

We have recently been gifted with premium product Banhoek’s Chilli Oil – delicious chilli oil made in South Africa. We are very excited to try this in many ways! So far we have used this a couple of times, firstly smothered over corn on the cob & secondly, used to fry some tomatoes along with some added chilli flakes – fiery & extremely tasty!

We’re looking forward to trying this out in various ways, & we would love to know how you’d use the product – feel free to leave a comment!

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KULA CAFE // BRUNCH REVIEW

A couple of weeks back we were lucky enough to be treated to a lovely brunch at Kula Cafe – a cute little cafe located right in the heart of London’s bustling shopping district, Bond Street. The cafe itself is situated on James Street, along with many other cafes, bars & restaurants, the perfect spot if you’re looking for lunch whilst shopping.

We were given menus on arrival, & as the day was beautiful we decided to take a seat outside. Seats outside are quite limited, so you’ve got to be ready to pounce as soon as one becomes free. At first, the cafe didn’t appear to be too busy (I think we’d probably missed the breakfast-time rush) but soon began to fill up both outdoors and in – although we were advised that the cafe does get so much busier – I can only imagine how hectic this must be!

Shortly after arriving we placed our order – and on our menus were;
Drinks
– salted caramel & toffee frappe
– Hollywood diet juice
Brunch
– egg florentine halloumi
– halloumi omelette
(we love halloumi here at Essex Foodies!)

Both drinks were delicious! The frappe was creamy & sweet, whilst the juice was fruity & refreshing. Both drinks were of a medium size which was perfect, too much frappe can be too sickly & too much fruit juice can be acidic, but the sizes here were fine & lasted us throughout our visit.

Both of our brunches were also delicious, we were blown away by the sizes of the portions & their generosity on ‘extras’ on the plate. The omelette was served with with a salad garnish as well as a slice of toast, definitely more than enough to set you up for a day of shopping! The omelette itself was completely full to the brim with cheese (no complaints here whatsoever!), & layered with perfectly cooked halloumi – my friend enjoyed this dish & she completely rated it. I went for the eggs florentine halloumi, which was a dish made up of poached eggs, hash brown, Hollandaise sauce, avocado, sauteed mushrooms, halloumi & salad all served on a bed of toast. I was honestly not expecting the dish to be as huge as it was, but I soon managed to work my way through it! Everything about the food was perfect, it looked lovely, was full of flavour & was very filling & kept us going throughout the day without the need to snack on anything – ideal if you are up in London for the day really. I would also say that this give you great value for money, some places would charge extra for the sides of toast & salad but Kula include these, certainly worth noting.

Once we’d finished our ‘mains’ if you like, we were then surprised with a massive Eton Mess waffle! This dessert was humungous but again, we soon found our way through this between the pair of us – my advice here would be that if you do visit, be aware that these desserts are really, really big & would easily be enough for 2 people.
The waffle itself was fluffy & fresh, & all the toppings were again fresh & worked beautifully alongside the waffle. The waffle was stacked with whipped cream, ice cream, meringue & fruits including strawberries, raspberries & blueberries as well as a fruity sauce. It was nice to have refreshing toppings to it rather than it be overloaded with rich chocolate for example (especially with the weather).

The pair of us were astounded by the quality of the food at Kula, everything that we had was superb. Not only was the food very photogenic, but it was tasty – there are no other words for it in all honesty! We would most definitely visit here again, & would recommend trying out Kula if you are ever close by!

A massive thank you to all at Kula for welcoming & looking after us!

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BALTI NIGHT // TAKEAWAY REVIEW

Last weekend, this award-winning takeaway based in Braintree very kindly provided a meal for myself & a couple of friends. My friends are already huge fans of this Indian takeaway, & are very friendly with & know the staff there, so after mentioning Essex Foodies to them, Balti Night very generously invited Essex Foodies to try it for themselves. As my friends already eat here regularly, this review will be based on just what I ate & experienced.

So first off, we ordered our food in the shop itself, so we got to see firsthand just how busy it was. The shop was packed with queue just starting to form outside of the door, & continued to stay busy whilst we were there. The phones were also relentless, with each line answered the entire time we were in the shop. I would say that we were in the shop itself at around 7.45pm, so I would imagine that it only got busier as the evening went on. I think the demand here speaks volumes & shows exactly why this takeaway has picked up as many awards as it has, which leads me on to mention just how many awards this place has won & been nominated for – their walls are completely dominated by various certificates.

On to the food, on the menu for me there was;
Mixed starter, which consisted of hot onion bhaji, chicken seekh kebab, meat samosa & crispy king prawns
Poppadoms (goes without saying)
Chicken tikka chilli masala
Pilau rice
Saag paneer (my favourite Indian dish, something I order every time!)

So that was really my typical sort of order asides from the main – I would normally play it safe with a korma or dry chicken tikka, but seeing as this was going to be reviewed & written about, it was really best to mix it up & go for something slightly different – & I can safely say that I think I should definitely do this more often, & starters I would normally go for tandoori prawns, or a dry tikka starter but the mixed starter was recommended so this is what I went with.

The starter certainly allowed you to try what I would say are probably favourites – I enjoyed each & every one, the seekh kebab is not something I would ever think to pick, but this was a nice surprise, the meat was tender & bursting with tandoori flavour, likewise meat samosas would not be something that I would pick either but after trying them here, I think I have been converted! The hot onion bhajis were crispy & provided a nice warmth, & finally the prawns were cooked to absolute perfection, they were soft but with a nice crisp bite to them. The starter gave me an insight to what the rest of the meal was going to be like.

Main – so typically I’d normally go for a meat dish with rice & a side or two, depending who I’m with & if I’m sharing! In this case, the food was not shared, it was everyone for themselves – (not all bad, more for me, ha!)
The pilau rice was the perfect accompaniment for the chicken tikka chilli masala as it played the offset when the chilli became too much, however saying this, I would say that the chicken tikka chilli masala was in no way too hot, it could just have a little bit of a kick to it now & then – I’m normally a korma girl but this was by no-means too much for me. I would order this again for sure. Saag paneer – I’m a sucker for a saag paneer & I think I’ve completed my quest in finding the best. The dish here from Balti Night was rich & creamy, with the biggest chunks of paneer I’ve ever scooped up (my mouth is salivating thinking back on it!) With each mouthful, I wanted more.

I would doubtlessly say that Balti Night has claimed top spot for my favourite Indian takeaway, it’s a shame that they’re based in Braintree & I’m Chelmsford, or I’d be ordering lots more! These guys work tirelessly & it’s clear to see why they’ve received so many awards & why their shop is as busy as it is.

Thank you so much to the guys here for inviting me down & for allowing me to review them – I will most definitely be putting my order in when I’m next in the area & I know that my friends will sure as hell be ordering again in the very near future!

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DUSK // RESTAURANT REVIEW

Mid-July saw the opening of one of Essex’s hottest, most prestigious restaurants, which we were thrilled to be invited to. The evening promised glamour & sophistication, which it undoubtedly delivered.

Upon arrival, you get a feel for what the restaurant is going to offer – the cars parked to the front of the restaurant say it all & leave little to the imagination.

The venue itself boasts various different rooms/lounges, including a main dining area, a function room, shisha lounge & bar plus grounds overlooking the stunning Bentley Golf Club. We were lucky enough to be given a guided tour around the venue, & each & every aspect of it is simply stunning – certainly somewhere you could hold a wedding party reception, or perhaps a work-do Christmas party. Once shown around the premises, we were led to an outside decking area, overlooking Bentley Golf Club, to enjoy more drinks & delicious canapes. Each of the canapes we tried were outstanding, our favourite of the selection were the chicken tikka bites (which a few of the staff also told us were their favourites).

We were also lucky enough to be treated to a three-course meal & drinks (please be aware that the venue does not sell alcohol, however there are no objections to bringing your own). The menu was set, so the only choice to be made was chicken or beef – you had the options of butter chicken or roast beef for mains.

The menu offered a starter of prawn, green apple & lemon cappuccino, mains of either honey lemon roast beef served with baby yorks, twice fried chips & summer berry gravy or butter chicken with rice & freshly baked naan, & a trio of desserts which was made up of chocolate delice, lemongrass brulee & almond croquant & pistacho ice cream.

All aspects of the meal were incredible – the food was mouthwatering, & the presentation second to none, even down to the cutlery, everything was perfect & aesthetically pleasing. The ingredients used are certainly some of the best – the prawns were some of the best I’ve ever had – the starter consisted of just 3, however they were plump & juicy, just the right amount for a starter dish. The beef was also cooked to perfection, sometimes beef can be a tough one to crack & can often be quite chewy or laced with fat, however this was melt-in-the-mouth. My Mum went for the beef dish & she loved it. I went for the butter chicken & have to say, I think this was probably the best butter chicken I’ve ever tried. The dish itself was not the typical mild butter chicken, but had a fiery twist to it – a real winner. Desserts were also a huge success, they were not something we would typically pick off of a menu however both of our plates were cleared, so there’s not much else to say on that front. As the food was to such a high standard & ever so tasty, I would certainly return to see what the rest of the menu offers.

Thank you to Dusk for inviting us along to their launch & a huge, huge thank you to each & every member of the team who did everything they could to make the evening what it was. We loved every second of our evening & would quite firmly state that the food here is probably one of the best we have yet reviewed!

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PAGO FRUIT JUICES // PRODUCT REVIEW

Recently at Essex Foodies, we have been lucky enough to receive a fruit-juice filled package from the lovely people at Pago. The contents of the package included a selection of individual fruit juices complete with a cute Pago branded glass (the exact size to fit in one bottle of juice in fact!)

The selection of fruit juices included;
– Cloudy apple
– Cloudy cherry
– Multi-vitamin tropical
– Tomato (perfect for a Bloody Mary for those who love a cocktail or two!)

Each of the thirst-quenching juices have been delicious, & in all honesty, very more-ish (especially the tropical for myself.) Each juice is also individual so there is no hassle of using within a certain amount of days once opened. One thing that we are also very happy about is the fact that the bottles are glass meaning they are completely recyclable (yay!)

Thank you very much to Pago for getting these out to us, we have most definitely enjoyed each & every flavour!

You can find out more about the brand & order online here – https://www.pagofruitjuice.co.uk/

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GRAND TRUNK ROAD // RESTAURANT REVIEW

A while back, we were approached by a marketing agency who offered us the chance to dine at Grand Trunk Road, a restaurant located in the heart of South Woodford. Naturally, we were delighted with the request & soon found ourselves booked in. A couple of weeks passed & soon enough, the arranged date came round.

At first glance, the road where the restaurant is located seemed quiet & as if there wasn’t a lot going on, neither (from the outside) did the restaurant look very busy which put a little doubt in our minds, however this was all about to change. The door opened to reveal what is definitely a hidden gem.

The restaurant was at full capacity with not an empty table in sight, proving that it really is what’s on the inside that counts. The restaurant was dimly lit, giving the place a real chilled out feel and a really pleasant tone – perfect for an evening of cocktails & gorgeous modern Indian cuisine.

Upon arrival, we were kindly greeted & shown to our table, then presented with the drinks menu. I had already decided that I wanted to go for a cocktail – it was just a case of making the difficult decision of which one. I chose to go for Calcutta Night Rider, a vodka based cocktail, & lethal if I may say so! As with all cocktails, this was so easy to drink & I could’ve definitely drunk them all night long! My Dad played it a little safer than myself & went for a Cobra beer.

Once our drinks had arrived, we made our food order, & then indulged on a Poppadom Basket complete with chutneys. The poppadoms were light & crispy, just as they should be & the different chutneys were full of flavour & left a sweet taste in our mouths. We chose to share a starter from the Grill & Tandoor section of the menu & our starter of choice was the Bangali Basket – a medley of different fish dishes, comprising of a grilled King Prawn, salmon, seafood cake & seared scallop. Each sample of fish was fantastic, not a single bit went untouched. The component that stood out for both my Dad & I was the salmon, it was genuinely the nicest & probably best cooked salmon the pair of us have both ever tried. The fish itself was of good quality, very thick & meaty-almost, & the flavour was just spot-on. If I’d had known how good the salmon was going to be, I would’ve chosen this for main course. All of the other components making up the fish starter again were of very good quality & more than satisfied the tastebuds. This leads me onto the mains, where we each picked a separate main but shared rice & bread. For mains, I opted for Amritsari Butter Chicken & Dad the Kabul Ka Hiran Tikka (Venison), & we shared Zaffrani Pulao Rice & Missi Roti. One thing that we liked about the menu & the dishes was that it wasn’t your typical Indian with the usual suspects, but a much more modern & with a twist Indian cuisine.

My main of butter chicken was thick, rich, creamy & pleasantly mild. It didn’t look a lot size-wise but once I started to get through it, I quickly started to feel myself feeling full. I did however manage to finish the bowl! In hindsight, I think we would’ve been better off having a rice each as I found I had a lot of sauce left with nothing to accompany it. Overall for me, this is without fail something I would have again. To say that Dad enjoyed the venison would be the understatement of the century – I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone as thrilled as he was to see a venison dish at an Indian restaurant! To be fair, this is not something I’ve ever seen before, so I loved that Grand Trunk Road’s menu was slightly unusual. Dad described the dish as cooked to perfection & highly recommends it to anyone that visits the restaurant.

Following from our mains, we indulged in some delicious desserts. I went all out & even went for a dessert cocktail too, so I took pleasure in devouring a slice of almond & orange cake which was perfectly light & fluffy, & offered subtle citrus-y hints with a sweet crunch, washed down with a full-bodied & very potent espresso martini. Dad went for a classic slice of chocolate cake, which was luxuriously rich & fit for a king! As with the rest of the meal, not a single mouthful of either desserts were left. They were each very different from each other but both heavenly.

We both rated this restaurant very highly, & Dad went as far as to say that this was by far the best Indian restaurant he has had the pleasure of dining at, which is very bold statement. I certainly loved it here too, & would definitely recommend giving this place a visit – I think if you were to visit you would be captivated by what the restaurant has to offer.

Thank you very much to each & every member of the team at Grand Trunk Road who made our evening what it was, & a special thank you to Chef Sharma who took time out of his working day to come & speak with us, & give us an in-depth insight into his career of which he is so passionate about, & last but certainly not least, thank you to Plus 1 Communications for setting this opportunity up for us.