The Retreat


In Summary….

If you are looking for a yoga retreat in Beautiful Sri Lanka,Villa De Zoysa is the place, if you are looking to travel solo like myself or with company, meet new friends, eat authentic wholesome food Villa De Zoysa is definitely the place.

If you are looking for a tourist guide, a history teacher, an entertainer and friend all rolled into one,Devinda is your host.

This imposing Colonial villa, ( The White House ) built by Devindas grandfather is where people come together from all walks of life, all brought together by their love of Yoga, a place to reflect on life, be inspired, explore ,be adventurous and laugh.

The Villa is located in Boossa, set back from the road, opposite the beach and set amongst the hustle and bustle of the busy road, Tuk  tuks, local shops and cafes, and lots of smiley, helpful Sinhalese.

My Experience…..

For me this was not just a holiday, it was the most empowering thing Ive ever done, traveling half way around the world on my own was completely out of my comfort zone, but I wished I’d have done it years ago, it has now made me feel I can do anything,


On this sort of holiday it really is all about the people you meet that make it what it is. And for that I was very lucky.

On my first day arriving at the Villa I must admit I did feel a bit daunted, Devinda had been away for a few days and it was quiet. After unpacking in my very spacious bedroom with balcony overlooking the front gardens, frangipani trees, a grazing cow and a train line, I ventured downstairs to explore.

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I was greeted by Ruth and Sue, Ruth was the mother of Emma our yogi and so they had flown out from their home in Portsmouth to have a holiday and support Emma on her first retreat teaching experience abroad, her current residence now being Dubai.

I was too tired from the flight to join in yoga that evening but joined them for the evening meal around the dining table. These three ladies were certainly my sort of people, we got on so well we felt like we’d known each other for years, and so they, and the other guests became my companions for the next ten days.

Already missing my own dog, I found affection with Devindas dogs, Prince and Bo, always by my side and very amusing.

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The yoga classes commenced at 7.30am after meeting on the veranda for our morning tea. One of my favourite parts of the day. It was until 9am , then breakfast was served.

Emma our Yoga teacher was the epitome of health and beauty, unlike myself who struggled to look remotely attractive in the heat with my hair constantly stuck to my neck! She put so much thought and forward planning into her classes, everyday a different theme, working through the Chakras.

It was the little things that made her class unique, the lotus blossom Incense sticks that would be burning as you entered the yoga Shala, situated in the garden facing the swimming pool and Villa, the lemongrass oil she offered to us to rub into our palms, the music that we moved to. One morning we worked in pairs to put a sequence together from the  position sketch cards she gave us, my partner was Dantha, ( Devinda’s nephew who was staying for a few days )

Feeling envigorised and nicely stretched from the morning class we were sometimes offered orange coconuts from the garden, which we paused to drink before our breakfast.

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The dinning table was always a hive of activity and chatter, where would we go? Who was coming and how would we get there? While we passed each other the bowl of delicious fruit salad, buffalo curd in a terracotta dish, mangosteens, melon, the rotti was always popular and an omelet or boiled egg was offered,freshly cooked to order.


We headed into Galle by Tuk Tuk and found ourselves a boat trip. While waiting for the boat along the river we were shown around a herbal garden, which was very interesting ,to see ginger, galangal, black peppercorns etc growing in their natural form. A little shop sold all the lotions and potions.

We sat on wooden benches and were given a welcoming cup of tea, at a small cost we was offered a massage, once all agreeable, men seemed to appear from no where and poured oils onto any exposed flesh they could get their hands on, ” it’s ok you are in Sri Lanka now madam ” promising the oil they were now pouring into our hair was non greasy.This made us all laugh as we now all looked like we’d had a perm!


Once on the small motor boat we headed up river to look at the mangroves, visit a temple island and a Cinnamon Island. Here a local man lead us to the cinnamon trees, showed us how he stripped the bark,, made the shavings to make the powder, oil, and dried out the sticks. At his humble concrete home, he rustled up a cup of cinnamon tea for us and showed us the nicely packaged products he had for sale.

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Other trips included a visit to a small temple,taken care of by a monk with the loveliest head of white hair and beard, his four playful dogs as company. A local tea plantation, growing virgin white tea which included a personal tour guide, a cup of tea and cake, a show around the factory, machine process, a tasting and a shop to purchase all varieties of tea, with no charge but a donation box, well worth a visit. The Tsunami photo museum which was a smal museum with a very big impact.

Evening yoga which started at 5.30pm often ended in candlelight as it got dark early, but the temperature never really decreasing. In the Shala,  I must say I found it hard to concentrate sometimes, it’s always been a downfall of mine because I’m easily distracted, but with the vision of Devinda chasing one of his dogs around the veranda, laughing , with the other dog hot on his heels was a sight worth seeing which would bring a smile to anyone’s face.

Devinda took us all to the beach one evening for yoga, Prince and Bo both excited to be going to the beach, us trying to balance in a tree pose while they chased each other through our mats, kicking up sand and being playful, but these are the fun memories I have. It was also wonderful hearing the waves crashing and watching the sun go down on the white sand.

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Evening meals were worth saving an appetite for, with so many dishes brought out, white and red rice, salads containing lotus flower root, different types of cucumber, fresh tuna, okra, and curries, all in abundance, you never went hungry. Dessert was little baked bananas with chocolate, or fresh fruit or crepes and ice cream, always followed by a large pot of lemongrass and ginger tea.


During the week we had been joined by Dave and Laura from Woodford Green, Akiko a Japanese lady and her two friends. Together we made a great group of stories and laughter.

The best evening was when dinner was served in the garden, even the lamps were brought out, the table set for ten under the stars, an evening of pumpkin and ginger soup to start, our normal mix of  dishes plus king prawns in lemongrass, garlic and ginger, wine and lots of laughter and banter. After dinner and Gin and tonics on the verander, Dantha suggested going into Galle for a drink.

A few of us,chauffeured by Devinder went into Galle one afternoon, we watched live cricket  Sri Lanka V Australia from above on the fort wall then very kindly treated to High Tea at Amangalla, a beautiful Colonial hotel.

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Akiko, Giuilo and myself take a Tuk Tuk into Galle and explore the Dutch market, fruit, veg and fish market, lots to see, a photographers paradise, then a well earned drink….make mine a bourbon!

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At the villa I venture into the kitchen on a few occasions and although the guys don’t speak much English , I watch and learn, the head chef has been there 26 years but the cooking all seems to come so natural to them.



I have a day to myself at the Villa, a swim in the warm water of the pool, watching the dragonflies dancing and skimming in pairs across the water, reading, listening to music, accompanied by the dogs and later on, tea on my balcony. This is my time to reflect….. I have had so many moments where I have thought to myself  ‘ I’m really doing this, I’m here!’ And it’s been truly amazing.


Today I am leaving , I leave the villa early to catch the train to Colombo, I am meeting Dantha for breakfast first. At the station the Tuk Tuk driver waits with my suitcase, ready to push through and save me a seat, which I’m grateful for, the train gets very busy, but I soon arrive at Colombo where Dantha is waiting to whisk me away for one last breakfast, we eat, chat and laugh and I could have easily stayed for hours but I have a plane to catch.

Sri Lankan Airlines for a direct flight.







Charlie and the chocolate factory @ One Aldwych

My school friend Donna and I have birthdays a few weeks apart,and thought it would be nice to invite a few close friends and celebrate together.

I suggested a themed afternoon tea at One Aldwych in Covent Garden and Cocktails after at Radio rooftop bar which is conveniently situated right opposite.

We were very lucky to be chauffeur driven by my friends hubby who is a black cab driver, he was dropping us off and working in between before taking us home after.

The hotel lobby was simply beautiful, a stone statue of a man with rowing oars sits in the middle, quite unique.

The flower displays of wicker urns with an abundance of yellow cymbidium orchids were very opulent,they had pink string with little pots of camomile or the likes at different lengths and this really captured my imagination, giving me ideas for my garden.

The Lobby had the most beautiful large high windows, and although we didn’t have the weather on our side to start, the sun did come out and stream through.


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The menu cards were worth the ask to keep.

For my accompanying tea I chose the chocolate tea which was a sensational blend of Indian Assam, Chinese Yunnan black, Peruvian cocoa nibs and Madagascan vanilla pods. it is smooth, deep, rich and moorish with a velvety mouthfeel.

I informed the staff at the hotel that I didn’t eat meat prior to us arriving and this was taken care of , the service was very friendly and attentive, we couldn’t have asked for more.




The lobby really is a lovely setting, it has a fresh and tranquil feel to it while you enjoy the culinary delights and friends company.

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The Afternoon tea is priced at £39 per person or £49 includes a glass of champagne or a Charlie Cocktail.

A couple of the ladies went for the Charlie cocktail but a cocktail called

‘For Love’ really caught my eye.which was presented in a small cocktail shaker, the combination of lemongrass, vodka, and ginger to name a few was absolutely delicious, and dry ice for a bit of drama when pouring.




The sweets that followed were very much in keeping with the theme, golden eggs, caramel milk,cake pops,Eton  mess and homemade candy floss.

We were comfortably full, you get a two hour time slot and this was still plenty of time for the five of us.

We then headed over to the ME hotel and up to the tenth floor to the radio rooftop bar.


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More delicious cocktails were consumed, again the service was very good and attentive, well worth a visit especially on a beautiful day or when the sun goes down.

It is advisable to reserve a table.

Had a really great day!


The Date

This year for me is all about doing things outside my comfort zone, I’ve booked a holiday, yes I’m going solo, I’m waiting for no man !  anyway more on that later.

Im always looking for dining partners for all the places I want to go, and so when I met a cheeky crappie called Jimmy who also seemed to be a foodie, I thought he would be fun to go out with,so I told him about Boro Bistro which is the place I spotted on my last trip to London.

I sent him the link to the restaurant, he sounded as excited about the menu as I did, asked me when I was free and he called me to say he had booked a table for us the following week for 7.30., I do like an essertive man so that was a good start.

As Jimmy was working at London anyway during the day we agreed to meet up at Borough Market tube station, however I made a small blunder because this is not the nearest tube, London Bridge is your best bet.

I made my way up there and arrived first, waiting with, and I don’t mind saying -nervous excitement.

Only ever seeing him in his work clothes I didn’t know how he was going to scrub up and we did joke about a possible floral shirt scenario.I was pleasantly surprised when he walked through the station, looking and smelling gorgeous with a smile for me and a kiss.

Unfortunately it was tipping it down outside so we grabbed a black cab for the short journey, me secretly knowing my hair does not do well when damp.


What appealed to me about this Bistro was not just that it is nicely Situated in the leafy shade of Southwark Cathedral and neighbouring Borough market, of which most of the produce comes from,such as olives, cheeses, spices, fruits and vegetables, but they offer a great range of platters of French cheese and charcuterie to share.


Sometimes you just don’t know what to choose from on the menu and so it’s nice to try a few different things together, and like tapas it arrives all at the same time or whenever it’s ready from the kitchen.

Arriving at Boro Bistro we head down the steps to the restaurant, ,unable to enjoy the outside seating area which had enticed me here in the first place, of course I’ll just have to come back in the summer, We are greeted as we walk in and are given a choice of two tables, I choose the table for two on the right, opting for the seat facing out into the restaurant and my date is facing only me, just the way I like it 😀

We quickly decide we will stick to spirits, he’s tipple is vodka and lemonade and my new drink is Jack Daniels Honey with a ginger ale and a wedge of lime, I think we both enjoy wine but admit we are also light weights, probably not a good idea on a first date. the drinks are ordered and they are quick to replenish them when asked.

Browsing the menu and spoilt for choice, we order some olives to wet our appetite while we decide.Jimmy feeds me the olives across the table with the cocktail stick, all very seductive until the juice runs down my chin, lots of eye contact and flirting going on and I feel like a teenager again.

After much discussion we order …

Mussels, samphire and sun dried tomato paste, mouclade,

Deep fried soft shell crab, chick peas, wild garlic and Verjus

Poached hake in coconut milk, lemon grass and pearl barley.

Zander Teriyaki, baby gem, cucumber and grilled lime

Squid, chorizo and Jersey Royal potato,

Savoy cabbage, baked oyster mushroom salad, quail egg ,

Croustillant bleu d’Auvergne and figs.

Its so difficult to know what to choose, it all sounds delicious, drinks are flowing and so is the conversation, no awkward silences and the night is going well so far, being quite absorbed in each other makes it slightly difficult to be as observant as you would if dining alone or with a friend but hey I’m a woman I can multi task, and after all who’s going to be dining alone? This is the sort of place you want to be coming on a date, it’s funky music and quirky props make it a fun place, nothing pretentious about the place, staff are relaxed but helpful and attentive, it’s a Tuesday night and the restaurant is full with a great atmosphere.

Jimmy visits the bathrooms and reports back about the Lips ( I’ll let you discover those) I decide to check out the ladies which also have something to make you smile about… Pictures of naked men and lots of them, there are bottles of wine everywhere used as candle holders, wax that has collected over a long period of time and all lined up on the shelf by the stairs, quite a dated thing actually but well suited here, all very French, all very bistro. Lamp shades with legs and that’s what I like about it, the eyes….discovering new things.

The Soft shell crab wasn’t as flavourful as I had hoped, however the Zander was beautifully cooked and a first for both of us, a fish similar to perch.

The hake however, in coconut milk and lemongrass is definitely a combination I love, the mussels, always a winner, not had them with sun dried tomato and samphire before but Jimmy polished those off nicely.

The Cheese and figs came in the form of little wraps like a spring roll and were utterly delightful.

Although lots of little tasters I felt comfortably full, we skipped dessert , Jimmy settled the bill and we decided to go on to a bar.


Arriving at Covent Garden the streets looked deserted, I was beginning to wonder if anywhere was open at 11pm during the week, but descending the stairs to Dirty Martini, it was like discovering an oasis, I opened the doors and the place was pumping! This was where everyone was hiding, with a resident Dj and enough people to make a great atmosphere without being over crowded it was a great place for a few cocktails.


I always enjoy watching bartenders engrossed in their mixology, shaking, measuring and pouring.Espresso martini and a strawberry daiquiri were first up, then I discovered a champagne cocktail on the menu, a few of those and I felt a little tipsy by now, relaxing and enjoying Jimmy’s company.

Realising  we had lost track of time, caught up in the moment, we made a sudden dash for the tube with 3 minutes to spare but unfortunately missed the last train from Liverpool Street! Well we’ve all done it haven’t we? In fact this was my third time and I’m old enough to know better.

Dont worry I got home… Eventually

It was the best date I’ve ever been on but let’s not tell him that!

Covent Garden


Whistle stop London tour for foodies.

We are a family of foodies! No doubt about it, we don’t eat to live , we live to eat!

For my sisters birthday I was invited along to join my Sister Jackie and eldest niece Kayleigh for a day out in London.

We are made up of a pescetarian, a Gluten free vegan and a ( locally sourced, organic) meat eater. ( yes a chef’s worse nightmare!)


It’s a family birthday get together, which doesn’t happen often enough as Jackie and Kayleigh Live in Devon and I’m in Essex. They had a good idea of where they wanted to go, in fact they had been following these cafe’s , shops and deli’s on Instagram for quite some time and found real inspiration from them .

Here we are meeting at Liverpool Street station by the flower stall ( my favourite meeting place)

First stop Covent Garden , Neal’s Yard  –26 GRAINS

We are so lucky, it’s the most beautiful day and as we walk up to  Neals yard from the station the sun is streaming through the buildings, a dose of Vitamin D is welcomed.

Neals yard is somewhere we all wanted to go for sometime , part of Seven Dials which features quite a lot in the books of my favourite Author Lesley Pearse.

A little bit of history….

Seven Dials was originally laid out by Thomas Neale, MP in the early 1690s, who cleverly laid out the area in a series of triangles to maximise the number of houses as rentals were charged per foot of frontage and not per square foot of interiors. 

The names of the seven streets were chosen with the intention of attracting affluent residents, however some of the names have subsequently been simplified or changed because of duplication with other streets in London. 

Neale aimed to establish Seven Dials as the most fashionable address in London, following in the footsteps of the successful Covent Garden Piazza development earlier that century. Unfortunately, the area failed to establish itself as Neale hoped and deteriorated into a slum, renowned for its gin shops. At one point each of the seven apexes facing the Monument housed a pub, their cellars and vaults connected in the basement providing handy escape routes should the need arise. More

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We huddle into the little cafe with excitement, wonderment and a craving for hearty,healthy food. It’s brunch time!

Studying  the blackboard menu, I quickly decide I’m going for a Nordic spice porridge bowl, consisting of coconut milk, oats,cinnamon,cardamom, turmeric and ginger , topped with raisins, Apple and maple. And a cup of  green tea.

Kayleigh chooses a blood orange and cacao crumble and a fermented berry cordial.

Jackie however is always the last to decide as she is a Pisces and they are notorious for being indecisive,spoilt for choice she opts for a bowl of brown rice with coconut milk, toasted coconut,cocoa nibs, black tahini, date syrup and lime with a turmeric latte.

We look around and as a few people vacate we now have ourselves a nice table in the window, rustic wooden table and tall wooden cubes to perch on, the kitchen smells wonderful, and we await eagerly for our nutrition in a bowl.

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We sampled each other’s and all were absolutely delicious, the place had a lovely buzzy atmosphere about it, funky music and happy staff.

There was a steady flow of customers and I can see why you would be drawn to this hidden gem nestled in amongst the brightly painted eateries of  Seven Dials.

We left with a comfortably full tummy, inspiration and a warm glow.

Next stop- Tottenham Court Road- Planet Organic

Having a walk to burn off calories and enjoy some more winter sun we enter ‘ planet Organic’ a large brightly lit store with upstairs cafe.shelves stocked with everything you can imagine that is vegan, gluten free, dairy free, and oozing nutrition from raw superfoods,honey and nut butters, detox and cleansing,herbal supplements with a make up, skin and hair care section.

Upstairs is a cafe which in my opinion is lacking in design and features, positioned upstairs without a sunny window it did not feel inviting, personally I’d have liked to seen it filled with plants and quirky foodie props.

Its a great shop for getting all the unusual items that our everyday supermarkets don’t stock but you could quite easily end up spending a small fortune if not careful.

Downstairs at the front of the store is a counter of hot and cold food and drink to takeaway. They had a good choice of both hot and healthy and fruit smoothies. we grab ourselves a hot drink that we drink as we walk along, which is no easy job, weaving in and out of people, trying to chat, walking and sipping a drink through a small hole and that is so damn hot that your palette is in danger of blistering and numbing. But!……..places to see , more food to devour, we have no time to waste!

Next Stop – Oxford Street-Selfridges Forest Cafe

Selfridges is great in the fact that firstly it was founded in 1909 a family owned and run store that is still going strong, evolving and keeping up with the lasted trends and designs. Voted best department store in the world.

    Secondly it was founded on March 15th which is actually my Sister’s Birthday.

After collecting a few food items –millionaire slices by Livia’s kitchen ( yes more food! Did I mention Kayleigh is pregnant, but we are a family of grazers, we eat little and often or another word for it is greed ) ☺️

Its the roof top bar that I wanted to show them, after discovering it last year when it was ‘ Vintage Salt’  which I loved, and so I was keen to go back as I know it changes as a pop up. Now called Forest cafe, it was in it’s transitional stage of winter/ spring, and so after locating what seems like a  secret lift,operated by a smiley member of staff that takes you up to a reception desk hosted by another smiley member of staff who directs you to either restaurant or bar, you have a long walk way dressed with silver berch trees ( don’t hold me to that ) and twinkle lights, all very magical.

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The restaurant itself requires a few moments to absorb, stand back and take it in, the coloured tartan blankets, careingly placed for the customers needs, the colour palette of pastel pinks and blues with a magical forest feel, beautiful!

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A week or so after it was transformed into a fairytale vision of Spring, which now means I’ll have to go back ( it’s a tough job….)

The outside roof bar area consists of two or three open sheds, painted in cool colour shades inviting you to sit inside with friends amongst the blankets and cushions ( right up my street ) a larger open shed which is the bar and a collection of tables and chairs, I really do love it here, it’s a great place all year round for eating, but more so in the summer for drinks for a real London Buzz, the view really is nothing spectacular but hey we are in London, we are outside enjoying the sunshine and drinking Cocktails!

Cocktails always need to be consumed on a day/ night out in London, ( Mocktail for muma to be )


Next stop – Borough Market  

( tip- use London Bridge station its nearer than Borough )

Borough market is the most famous fine food market in the country, the old market on Borough high street was banned and the new one opened in 1756 and has been growing and adapting ever since, providing a haven for quality food producers.

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Everything the heart desires from hand dived scallops,pain de campagne, Bermondsey red,kurusele olives, matsukaze matcha can be purchased here, if you work near by, lucky you! The food sellers offer a feast for the senses…. Scotch eggs, cakes and bakes, curries, smoothies, quality coffee and food from various corners of the world.

Still quite full we buy something to try and share from Gujarati Rasoi 

which represents the best of British Indian food today, recipes passed down from rural India over generations, their passion comes alive in the range of food they serve using only fresh ingredients and whole spices,.

Our takeaway box contains three types of veggie curry, all flavourful and moorish.


After taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of the market we have a little walk towards London Bridge,  it is here, just a few yards up from the market that a place catches my eye, a sunken bistro with a wonderful outside seating area, comfy and quirky at the same time, I take note of it’s name and I make it my next trip to London ( see next blog).

and onto…

Last Stop- Marble Arch –The Mae Deli


Created by Ella and fiancé Mathew, it came about after Ella was diagnosed with a rare illness, getting frustrated with doctors, hospitals and medication, Ella began to look into healing through dietary and lifestyle changes.

starting with a blog, book and social media it was their dream to have a space to share their love of healthy eating . With a menu based on plant based dishes, natural and inventive using simple ingredients.

the idea is you pick and choose from the selection of salads and hot dishes to create your own Mae bowl.

In my Mae bowl I have wild rice with peppers and corriander, charred kale and broccoli,maple roasted sweet potato, and beetroot houmous. Good value at £10.75 for 4 hot dishes.

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Photos taken from Facebook page

We head downstairs to the seating area which is warm and inviting, joining a few others that are grabbing a Mae bowl before it closes.

We chat about the day… It’s been a beautiful day, great to see each other, we have laughed, talked and eaten our way around these eateries that have given us such inspiration.








Indian Feast at Darbaar

Money and time permitting, I’m trying to work my way around all the new and interesting eateries that catch my eye, which isn’t always easy being a restaurant manager myself.

So I wangle myself a rare Friday night off, find an available friend and off we go….

My friend Donna doesn’t drink ( lucky me!) she is also happy to pick me up and drive to London, which is great as we can then chat all the way there plus it’s door to door luxury travel, heated seats, no standing around in the cold waiting for trains for us Essex girls.

Our reservation is for 7.30 which I booked with ‘open table’ all very easy and sends you a confirmation email. But we arrive earlier to sample some drinks at the bar.

We was greeted by two lovely ladies at the reception and directed to the bar, which had a nice lounge feel about it, seductive lighting, soft aubergine velvet seating and the heady scent of lilies.

I decided to go for the smoked fashion cocktail, plum wine, bourbon in a smokey cloud and Donna went for the Darbaar smoothie ( mocktail) I love the drama of cocktail making and this certainly had drama, the glass cloche was filled with smoke through an inserted tube and ‘ voila’ suddenly the bar smelt like a bonfire on a early autumn evening!


We are shown to our table which is conveniently opposite the open kitchen and I immediately recognise head chef Abdul Yaseen, the restaurant is not even half full at this stage so he looks very relaxed with his team of chefs around him.

This is his first solo project, having spent over a decade at the Cinnamon Club and Cinnamon Kitchen.

The Vision was to offer a shared dining experience inspired by the banquets of the Indian Royal Court in a relaxed setting at his new restaurant.

The 5,500 sq ft venue is located near Shoreditch and Liverpool Street. It is a 70-cover cocktail bar area, 120-cover restaurant including an interactive grill seating area, 20-cover private dining room and a chef’s table for up to 10 people.

Design company Nanu Design has worked alongside Yaseen, to create a modern day interpretation of the palaces of ancient India. The restaurant features an open kitchen, chandeliers, ornate mirrors and drapes with the elephant head being the trade mark.

Darbaar’s cuisine takes its inspiration from the many diverse regions of India – cooking with traditional clay ovens and a large charcoal Robata grill.

The menu  features healthy grills, street tapas, spit roasts, biryani and royal Indian gravies with artisan bread.

When entering the restaurant I was instantly transformed back to holidays past, the smell of spices and cooking reassures you that you are going to experience a feast for the senses.

Service was very attentive, the Maitre’d Pajtim takes our order, I have chosen the salmon tikka which had a wonderful sauce to accompany it, and the Seabass to follow.

I did find that the menu was a little bit limited, not sure how often that gets changed but for someone like me as a pescetarian it could be a bit difficult.

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( Donna looking like a saucy secretary )

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image Photographs taken from the website.

We choose not to indulge in dessert but a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc for me while we enjoy a bit of Banter with Abdul when he comes out of the kitchen to chat with us. Patricia our waitress was also very sweet and Pajtim charmed us with his ways, ( almost reminding me of  Fred Sirieix from First Dates)

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One always has to visit the bathrooms to check them out and we were told they are often spoken about, so I suppose I need to report back that they were Japanese in style having electric seats and flushing options which Donna found very amusing, I was more impressed with the Scottish seakelp hand wash!

We really enjoyed our experience at Darbaar, made to feel very welcome and relaxed and comfortably satisfied.



Skinny Tarts

I saw these skinny tarts by chance, when I caught the end of one of loraine pascale’s cooking programmes, and I’m so glad I did!

Not only are they reasonably healthy and low in calories, they taste delicious, easy , fun and quick to make but most of all so visually pleasing, and for someone who loves to take photographs of food, this was partly why I chose to make them.

So if you want a treat this Easter, but are watching your waistline these skinny tarts are ideal.


I recommend you make them and eat them the same day- due to the yogurt making the filo pastry soggy after a few hours, ideal for an afternoon tea, make them just before your friends arrive and place on a cake stand, I guarantee they will be admired and demolished in minutes.


To make 12 tarts -You will need….

A 12 hole muffin baking tin.

fillo pastry ( I bought a box and used just under half, freeze the rest for another day or make 24/28)

80g unsalted butter- melted

250g natural low fat/ fat free yougurt

seeds of 1 vanilla pod  ( or a tsp of prepared vanilla extract, see “how to” )

1tbsp of honey

Your chosen fruit ( I used grapes, figs, blueberries, Raspberries, melon and physalis , and passion fruits for decoration)

Any toppings or mint leaves for decoration. Plus a fruit coulis to dress the plate.


Lets get Started….

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) with the middle shelf ready.

Melt the butter in a small pan, Grease the muffin/ cupcake tin well.

Set half of the filo pastry aside and cut the other half into squares.

the squares should be big enough to go into the holes with enough to hang over the edges.

with a pastry brush, brush each square with the melted butter, and start layering the squares on top of each other to create a star shape, you will need 4 – 6 squares for each case.

once they are all completed Place the filo cases into the oven for 5 minutes or so, giving them time to crisp up. Once they look golden brown and crispy, remove them from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes or so. Remove them from the muffin tin and place them somewhere to be filled.

In a small bowl mix the yogurt with the vanilla and honey and fill each case with the mix.


Then time to decorate…. cut your fruit in small slices and use them for height, add berries for a splash of colour , halve the physalis and grapes then scoop out the passion fruit to drizzle over the top.


There are no rules to this part, just use the fruit that you enjoy to eat and that is in season and available.

I love figs and berries but if you can get exotic fruits like dragon or star fruits these look great.

To decorate your plate use a fruit coulis, or loosen some jam with some warm water to drizzle on your plate around the tarts. garnish with a mint leaf and Enjoy!

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Mattha- Indian Infused milk


The good thing about this is you just mix the ingredients together, chill and serve.

2 cups  Greek yogurt
7 cups water
1 inch ginger, freshly grated
2 tablespoon roasted cumin, powdered
1 green chili, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup freshly chopped corriander
salt as per taste.

Give the bottle a good shake before serving as it will separate. Strain into a glass and add some ice cubes.

this is a lovely refreshing drink in the summer.


Hot chocolate.


These chocolate stirrers are great to take out with you or give as a gift, maybe in a christmas or easter hamper along with other delicious treats.

you can customise them by half dipping them into melted white chocolate and topped with maybe crushed hazelnuts? the options are endless.

simply measure milk in your favourite mug, heat the milk gently and don’t allow to boil. Pour your hot milk into your mug and begin to stir in.

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Cherry Bakewell Cupcakes


The Bakewell tart is one of my absolute favourites. I love the moist almond frangipane and jam filling encased in sweet shortcrust pastry, there really is nothing better. So I was delighted when I saw a recipe for cupcakes, and it was the first time I had used fruit for the buttercream icing, so I was looking forward to making these.


Oh my, am I pleased with the result. The cherry bakewell buttercream is sublime, it really is quite heavenly and truly captures the essence of a cherry bakewell tart. These cupcakes were a huge hit with all the family. with my sisters birthday being on the same day as Mother’s Day this year I made them both a batch and packaged them up in a candy striped box for them to enjoy! I recommend you try these for yourself.

Cherry Bakewell cupcakes

Ingredients (makes 24)

250g unsalted butter (softened)

250g caster sugar

4 large free range eggs

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

180g self raising flour

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

50g flaked almonds

70g ground almonds

3 tablespoons of whole milk

Buttercream icing

500g icing sugar 300g unsalted butter (softened)

110g caster sugar

400g fresh or frozen cherries



1. Pre heat the oven to Fan 170C fan /375F gas 5. Line two 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.

Start by making the fruit purée for the buttercream. Place the fruit and caster sugar in a pan over a medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer.

Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to bubble gently for 10-15 minutes, or until thickened, stirring occasionally .

Once thickened drain through a sieve, using the back of a spoon to push as much of the liquid through. Set aside to cool. ( don’t discard the fruit that is left in the sieve, this will be used inside the cupcakes)

Place the ground almonds in a large bowl, then sift in all of the remaining dry cupcake ingredients apart from the flaked almonds.

Add the butter and eggs and beat for 60 seconds with an electric mixer.

Pour the almond extract into the milk then add to the mix and beat for a further 20seconds, using a  spatula scrape all the mixture from the sides and give it another quick

 Using two dessert spoons, spoon the mixture into the cases, two thirds full, don’t bother to smooth it out.

Place into the pre heated oven for about 20 minutes. or until they spring back when touched. Leave to cool, transferring to a wire cooling rack.

Meanwhile toast the almond flakes in a small pan over a high heat for 1-2 minutes tossing until golden, then set aside to cool.

 Hollow out the top of the cupcake and fill with a teaspoon of cherry jam. ( set aside from the sieve)


To make the buttercream, cream together the butter, and slowly add the icing sugar in batches until light and airy. Then add 5 tablespoons of the cherry liquid, and cream together again to thoroughly combine.

Using a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle pipe a swirl on top and decorate with the toasted almonds. Enjoy!



Spring Pea Risotto

Fresh, sweet peas combined with luxurious fat grains of rice makes for an exceptional spring dish, with just enough heartiness if the weather isn’t yet that warm. For the pea pod stock, blanching the pods is essential to transform their bitter raw taste into a beautiful clean pea flavour.
Equipment and preparation: for this recipe you will need a food processor that can blend ice.


For the pea stock
350g/12oz fresh pea pods, shelled, shells reserved (use the shells for the stock and the peas for the purée and vegetables)
350ml/12fl oz iced water
For the pea purée
100g/3½oz fresh peas (shelled weight)
10g unsalted butter
For the risotto
½ onion, diced
2 tbsp refined olive oil (or 30g/1oz unsalted butter)
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
200g/7oz carnaroli rice
100ml/3½fl oz white wine, plus extra to finish (optional)
40g/1½oz freshly grated  vegetarian hard cheese, such as Twineham Grange
¼ lemon, juice only
50ml/2fl oz extra virgin olive oil (or 50g/1¾oz unsalted butter)
For the vegetables
5g unsalted butter
120g/4oz baby courgettes, cut into 2mm slices
140g/5oz fresh peas (shelled weight)
40g/1½oz French breakfast radish, sliced
40g/1½oz radish tops
40g/1½oz baby leaf spinach
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
To garnish
15g/½oz pea shoots, blanched in boiling water for 5 seconds
20g/¾oz  vegetarian hard cheese, such as Twineham Grange


Preparation method
Start by making the pea stock. In a large pan of simmering water, blanch the pea pod shells for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, remove the blanched shells and refresh them in the iced water. (This keeps the colour and freshness.)
Once cooled, blend the iced water and pea pods in a food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve. Set aside 100ml/3½fl oz to make the pea purée and the remaining 500ml/18fl oz to make the risotto. (Add water to make the volume up to 500ml/18fl oz if necessary.)
For the pea purée. In a small saucepan on a medium heat, cook the peas in the butter for 5 minutes, adding a pinch of salt. Add the 100ml/3½fl oz reserved pea stock, bring to a boil and simmer for 4 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor, blend until smooth and leave to cool.
For the risotto, in a medium saucepan on a low heat, gently fry the onion in the olive oil with a pinch of salt for 2 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic. Stir in the rice and continue to cook for 3 minutes, until the grains appear shiny (this will give flavour and prevent them sticking together).
Pour in the wine, then 500ml/18fl oz reserved pea stock, stir and bring to the gentlest simmer with only one bubble breaking the surface every minute. Season with salt and pepper then cover with a lid and cook for 20 minutes. Check every now and again that it is not boiling.
After 20 minutes examine a grain of rice and check for a tiny speck of white starch in the middle. This means the risotto is nearly cooked. Stir the rice quickly for 5 minutes to achieve a creamy consistency.
Stir in 200ml/7fl oz cooled pea purée and the cheese. Season to taste and set aside.
For the vegetables, in a small saucepan on a high heat, bring the butter, 50ml/2fl oz water and a pinch of salt to the boil. Add the courgettes, cover with a lid and cook on a high heat for 30 seconds, then add the peas, radishes, radish tops and spinach, cover again and cook for 20 seconds. Drain and set aside.
To finish the risotto, stir in the lemon juice and olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add a dash of white wine to sharpen the flavour if desired.
Serve the risotto in a large dish topped with the vegetables, blanched pea shoots and a few shavings of the hard cheese.You can add a poached egg on top if you want to give the dish that little extra.


Mexican Kitchen

I was curious to find out more about the guy in the Mexican food van that pitches up down on Market Road, Wickford. Apart from the occasional burrito, I’ve never really sampled much Mexican food, not real authentic Mexican food.I contacted him and asked if he would be interested in meeting with me for a chat; he was delighted and was keen to prepare and cook some dishes for me in order to showcase his food.Of course, I was not about to turn down this kind offer from Cesar. I did tell him that I was pescetarian and he said that’s not a problem, as he had just the dishes in mind.

Greeted at the door by Cesar on the day of our meeting, I am ushered in to be seated at the dining table, where an array of dishes are ready to be unveiled and by now I am hungry and keen to see what is on offer.

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I am presented with a three bean tart topped with mashed potato cloud , beans with salsa verde, guacamole with pomegranate, and a bowl of mixed fish ceviche, which had been cured in lime and mixed with coriander, tomatoes and chilli.

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 Cesar tells me there is a misconception about Mexican food being very hot and spicy, in fact, it’s not all about the chilli. Although he seems very knowledgeable about types of chilli, he tells  me that he tends not to over use them.

For Cesar, it’s all about home cooking, authentic flavours with the freshest of ingredients that can be enjoyed by all the family.

It was his Mother and Uncle that first inspired him to cook. Born and raised in Mexico City, he has great memories of family gatherings with food playing a big part, especially a tuna cake, he recalls.

After completing a cooking course, Cesar went travelling around the States and then did a stint on the Grand Princess Cruise ships, working as a chef. It was on the ship he met his wife Rachel. They finally settled in the UK in 1999 and from here Cesar managed to land himself some good chef roles in several well known London restaurants, The Great Eastern Hotel, The Ivy and Daphne’s, to name a few.


I tuck into a slice of the bean tart; it has a soft tasty filling and the mashed potato cloud is just delightful with stiff peaks almost like a meringue.I love guacamole, and the one Cesar has prepared is topped off with pomegranate seeds which gives it a surprising crunch.Cesar insists I try some tacos loaded with these ingredients,and who am I to argue with him? Some hot smoked haddock is added and I get to try his homemade smoky sauce – the whole lot goes down a treat.Dessert comes in the form of a petite flower pot containing chilli chocolate sponge topped with cream and a sprig of mint playing the part of the plant, a very sweet idea.


Cesar feels he is always improving his recipes and wants to get things just right. He is always happy to talk about how his food is prepared and lovingly put together. He cooks every day and lets his customers sample dishes to help them broaden their palate.

He has gained lots of repeat customers and also offers deliveries and private catering, and hopes to open his own shop in the future. He has been serving customers for over five years now and all while juggling a home life and looking after his family.


The Mexican Kitchen food van can be found between 6-9pm Tuesdays – Fridays, Market Road, Wickford.

Call 07824 883711