How we planned our Prague trip!

Lazy me , I wrote this post on the bank holiday weekend but didn’t end up uploading it ! But here it is now ! Followed up of course with my Prague and Vienna trip travel adventures !!

Hello everyone ! It’s Monday and we are all waking up feeling very happy that we are not rushing to work ! London has many food festivals happening all over and also the Notting Hill Carnival concludes today.

Hubster and me have just got back from a 3 day highland tour and so am feeling on top of the world. The highlands are simply breathtaking ….But more on that in my Travel posts later, first let me tell you how my girlfriends and I planned a super 3 day getaway to Prague!

A beautiful reminder of our Highland adventure  – many more to come soon – keep reading my travel posts ! Would love to hear your comments too !

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It was my first ever trip to Europe and Jools who writes a travel blog told us one lazy afternoon over a lazy cuppa coffee how she has been wanting to go to Prague for ever. I actually wanted to go to Spain as my first Europe trip but well Prague sounded good too! Muks who is a travel enthusiast was super excited too and just like that we set the plan into motion. Jools being the smart travel blogger that she is found us a brilliant deal with British Airways and we saved a ton of cash by booking our flight tickets and hotel stay with BA.

Next task up was of course getting MP and me a Schengen Visa. Jools had already got her from a trip before and wanted to make the most of the visa. Fab !

So while I started a new job ,Muks and Jools met for coffee again and did all the hard work of planning the itinerary and Muks chalked out a list of all the documents you need to apply for a schengen visa. Here is a quick look on the Czech Republic visa site for documents necessary – please note this list is subject to change and you can get updated information about how to apply for a Schengen Visa for entry into the Czech Republic from the official website here

  • Print out of valid return ticket
  • Proof of stay  – booking details of your stay in Czech Republic
  • Valid travel insurance documents
  • Xerox of your passport front and back
  • Xerox of visa to prove you are legally in the U.K when applying from U.K
  • Proof of employment if valid
  • Employers letter original confirming that you are on their payroll
  • Bank statement of past 3 months or your partners bank statement if you are financially dependant on them

Of course you will need to carry your original passport and visa / BRP card .

For more information for applying for a visa to visit Prague specifically visit the tourist information website here – they have a fabulous and helpful section with names of places where you can do currency exchange at sensible exchange rates while in Prague .

Jools meanwhile had a brainwave (expected!) and we decided to throw in a day trip to Vienna on Day 2 of our 3 day trip. Brilliant idea I must admit and again she found us a cracking deal with a travel company based in Prague.So a one day road trip to Vienna was planned too.

Now all that remained was for us to get the visa! Which arrived in 5 days promptly – cool or what?! But it was a nervous wait espp for Muks as she is stickler for rules and timelines whereas I am …aheam NOT really the kind that would sweat over things much! hehehe

Muks did tons of research and spent hours online and finally the Czech embassy wrote back to her confirming that on a single entry schengen visa we are allowed to travel within schengen states. Muks and my very skeptical OH breathed a sigh of relief that at the Vienna border control we would face no trouble . All this while Jools was confident we could travel to Vienna too and after reading the email , we had a smug ‘told you so’ attitude which probably irked my OH a bit…but hey a hard core travel blogger and a food blogger who has been bitten by wanderlust both can’t go wrong can they ?

All that remained was to pack our bags, with daytime temperatures of 27 ° C predicted we had sun-tan on the top of our lists !

Wahooooo!!!

Stay tuned to my travel blog post series to find out what happened in Prague and on our exciting one day trip to Vienna! What we saw ( or didn’t manage to cram into our packed sightseeing schedule !) and the exciting Czech food we ate – Schnitzels – yes ! 🙂

L – R – Moi , Jools and Muks with the Astronomical Clock in the busiest square in the old town – when I first laid my eyes on this magical clock I fell in love with this city of cobbled lanes and  historic monuments … it’s as if every brick had a story to tell… am sure they do actually … if only one could care to ask …

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Uni brings Nikkei Cuisine to Victoria

The largest Japanese settlement outside of Japan is in Peru and the unique fusion cuisine that is Japanese Peruvian is called Nikkei.Fiona invited me to accompany this time to discover Nikkei , she is an award-winning freelance writer and marketing consultant who currently writes about travel and London lifestyle for a number of publications and runs her own London lifestyle blog called London Unattached.

So it was a bright summer Monday afternoon that I trooped in Uni (the Japanese word for the sea urchin, a Japanese delicacy) restaurant and sushi bar designed by Andrew Martin, in Belgravia minutes away from the travel hub that is Victoria station.

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I was shown to a cosy table downstairs.

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For starters I got some steamed edamame with a spicy chilli and garlic sauce (£4.50) and some refreshing green tea served in a typical cast iron heavy pot which I would love to have as part of my growing food prop collection which now occupies every corner or of our tiny rental flat much to the chagrin of my hubby – I guess the last straw was trying to pass off a very heavy cast iron pot as a ‘place to keep his usb drives and wire hehehee

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I had happily managed to forget my phone at home and therefore Fiona tried in vain to inform me of her delayed train. Blissfully unaware of this I sipped my tea and munched my edamame all the time trying to ignore some stuffy banker type folks on the table next to me talking shop – how boring…

So when Fiona arrived she managed to move us to a bigger table away from the ‘big boy talk’ as she aptly called it and onto a table where I could dump my bags and lay my camera lens and other paraphernalia – I do not travel light …

To make life easier we chose to have bento boxes for our mains and mine came with the udon noodle and fish cake soup while Fiona had a light Miso soup. I was feeling ravenous by the time the soup arrived and devoured it in a flash! (£24.5 per bento box – comes with soups, salad, sushi, & maki, main dish, side, rice and dessert)

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Nabe Udon  – Noodle and Fishcake Soup with Prawn Tempura.

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Beautifully light Miso Soup

My Bento box had Kaiso Wakame  – seaweed salad ,prawn and carrot tempura, main of duck tataki – seared duck breast finely sliced and dressed with mirin and soy, fried rice and sashimi selection. The duck tataki was deliciously morish, I also loved the seaweed salad and the sticky fried rice with the sashimi was very filling.

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Fionas bento box came with steamed rice and anticucho sauce  black cod and was very appetising , to read in her own words read her review of our lunch at Uni here.

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We washed down our Bento lunch boxes with some chilled sake.

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The very polite manager came and urged us to experiment with some of the Nikkei range from the menu and we were served two stunning dishes.

Tiraditos of Yellowtail with kizami wasabi,Yuzu and fresh mint presented in a creative and stunning display, it was delightfully fresh, sharp in taste with a delicate balance of colour and flavour. (£15.5)

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Wildly beautiful looking salmon tartare tacos with cucumber,tomato,masago and creamy miso were crunchy and melt in your mouth creamy all at one once exploding with a light flavour in every bite – delicious! (£6)

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Stuffed to the gills now I had to walk around click a few pictures and allow for some space to be created in my tummy to fit in some dessert 😉

To my amusement the very attentive young lady on the staff showed us how the colourful lamp shade were made from bottle of campari that could be detached and well glugged , given it was a hot summer afternoon I think it was a great idea that Fiona ordered us some Pisco Sour shots instead ;).Never having tasted these before I downed them in one go much to my own peril, the sake already in my system the shot gave me quite the buzz!

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Thankfully my cooling Matcha Gelato worked wonders and cooled me down several degrees -phew!

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Fiona managed to stay light with desserts too with a selection of fresh fruit.

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The creation of former Nobu chef Rolando Ongcoy, the menu at UNI offers a good selection of grilled meats ,fish, sushi,sashimi, selection of tempura and maki. The Peruvian influence is prevalent throughout UNI’s menu, ceviche and tiraditos peruano included.

The bar area upstairs also has plenty of seating on high stools and around the bar, perfect for knocking down Peruvian fav’s like the pisco sours or coconut-based Chilli Mojito.

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Victoria being a very office space kind of area is lucky to have Uni in its midst now, with bite sized healthier meal options ,seven- dish bento boxes for short lunch hours are on offer at a price of course. So the big banker boys and girls can have their financial pow-wow meets in the fancy cubicles or basement vaults if you please which can seat about 10 – 12 people, and if the huge ice buckets with bottles of chilled Moet and the power talk we overheard from the table next to us are anything to go by then Uni is already a haunt for these suited and well heeled office folks!

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  • Website:Uni
  • Opening Times: is open for lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday inclusive

*With  thanks to Uni for the invitation. No monetary compensation was offered for a positive review . All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Uni on Urbanspoon

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Dinner at The Brasserie , Tower Guoman – a review

On the day of the Mens Singles Final when Djokovic won  the match against Roger Federer ,I had an invite to go dine with a few fellow bloggers at The Brasserie at the Tower Guoman. I must admit the match was so engaging that I was glued to the tv and only in the game that I was just to nervous to watch so I dragged myself out and kept pestering a dear friend of mine in whatsapp till she gave me updates of almost every move on the court …. I was hoping that Djokovic would win and also hoping that the match would end before I hopped onto the tube and lost network… Lets just say that all invisible divine forces were with Djokovic ( and me )that day coupled with his awesome performance, just as I was about to get into the tube… there it was..,… message I was hoping to see on whatsapp…. ‘He won’… which led to a very comical impromptu gig on the staircase by me watched by bemused passers by…heck a good win deserves a dance ..at least ! Bonus points to all those who also watched this match to oogle at Boris Becker …teehee

After that I needed a refreshing drink and just as I was settling in the beautiful area  just outside the Guoman, an open air bar  and siping my cocktail gazing up the Tower Bridge was perfect. Chilled Prosecco, Cocktails and Mocktails flowed while we chatted up with the manager who also had dinner with us later .Meeting my friends after Food Blogger Connect was fun and camera lens choices, food photography ,the Wimbledon final results and the stunning view dominated our conversation. Before long the rain decided to play spoil sport and we were ushered inside to our huge table at The Brasserie.

I took the seat the far end of the end but the view from any where inside is just as brilliant , it’s the first time I was so close to the Tower Bridge and you can be guaranteed you will have the best seats in town at The Brasserie with superb views of Butlers wharf thrown in.

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The table was neatly laid out with our special menu for the evening there and fresh bread , warm and just out of the oven with 3 different dips arrived.

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Our rustic bread selection with truffle oil and olive oil.

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To go with our Rustic Bread selection we had the smoked paprika dip – the bright orange one and my fav of the 3, one with chives in the middle and a plain one which I found a tad too salty.

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I choose to have the Grilled Vegetable and Goat Cheese Tart to start off my meal with – it sounded very appetising – Tomato olive salsa,balsamic reduction,pine nut,sekura cress – hummm yes please.

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The thin crisp  pastry base was not one bit soggy or eggy, the grilled Manchego cheese ( a cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain from the milk of sheep of the manchega breed) tasted great in combination with summery veggies like asparagus and grilled peppers and the salsa was very good ,I loved the taste of the olives and hints of fennel, the cress made the whole dish so fresh not just to look at but to taste too.

The Head chef Kamaldeep Singh (left) and his colleague decided to take us through the process of how the new menu was created , the origin of ingredients and basically make us hungry for more!

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Madeleine seated next to me choose the other option as her first course :Peppercorn Cured Beef Carpaccio – Manchego cheese , home cured tomatoes,charred artichokes,mizuna and micro cress. I was avoiding red meat that so was very happy to photograph her dish and ask how it tasted but equally satisfied with my light tart.

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The carpaccio was hammered thin and artichokes placed over – it looked great, to find out in her Madeleine’s own words what she thought of her dish go check out  her review here.Very happy with my first course, I expected the second course to deliver and impress me a bit more. Must say my Pan-Fried Fillet of Sea Bass served with diver scallop,caper crushed potatoes,mixed bean salsa and ‘sauce vierge’  did not fail to do so. It looked amazing and I had to photograph it from various angles – we food bloggers!

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But  this was simply delicious and worthy of praise for more reasons than one – made using farmed sea bass responsibly sourced scallops, a lighter than most sauces that usually accompany a fish main the scallop sat one a delicious pea puree and cream base.

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The mixed bean salsa tasted great with the morish caper crushed potato, the cress balancing off the dish in a subtle way.Nayna my vegetarian food blogger friend chose to have the Spinach and Ricotta Raviolli made with heirloom tomato salsa and served with freshly made basil cream sauce , to read her views go onto her blog here.Our first wine of the evening accompanied the first course , Vidal sauvignon blanc from New Zealand , aromas of gooseberry, passionfruit and guava lead into a palate that exudes tropical and passion fruit flavours.

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After that very satisfying sea food dish ,we moved onto the next course , I stayed away from red meat again and the Garden pea,mint and pecorino cheese risotto was fabulous for me , I love my rice and many a times I really need some to complete my meal and make it me feel full, maybe a psychological thing but coming from the coastal side of western India ,fish curry and rice is our most staple everyday far.One of the staff members asked me where I was from and when I said Mumbai, pat came the next question which I was sort of expecting – was the sea bass as good as the Pomfret, well no! For me pomfret is the king of  all fishes on this planet – but its a matter of what taste one has grown up with and our method of cooking is also so very different. But yes Sea Bass , Salmon and Basa are my favorite buys,best eaten fresh on the day of purchase ,hate frozen fish,tastes muddy and weird in curries especially.

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The  pecorino cheese added a subtle tangy taste to this very morish and filling risotto, its easy to get this dish so wrong because often the seemingly easier to make dishes are the toughest to produce to perfection . I am a great fan of the risotto that my elder sister hubby makes , he is a trained chef but now a very busy and senior marketing head honcho so it’s very rarely that we meet and even more rarely that I get to eat the risotto he makes. Ah sweet nostalgic family moments, only truly good food can bring on such an attack for me.. 🙂

By now the light had really faded and my risotto photo and all that follow look terrible!

I must admit Madeleine was very kind and allowed me to have a taste of burnt celeriac which I loved with some of the calvados sauce I scooped it off her plate with from her Confit of Gloucestershire Pork Belly. She enjoyed  my cheesy risotto too.

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The 14 hour low heat cooked pork belly looked so very appetising, the burnt celeriac adding to the earthiness of this dish,the cinnamon compliments the pork  and the savoy cabbage and compressed apple give it a tart almost tangy twist on the side. This was washed down with several glasses of a full bodied Chilean Merlot – Errazuriz , almost opulent with notes of berry and cassis fruit.

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It’s at this point that I slipped into blissful food coma and saw this beautiful rainbow emerge right in front of my eyes… the photo does no justice to the what we actually saw…

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That is us at the table – L- R – Bintu who blogs at Recipes from a pantry, Nicki who blogs at Baking Beardy,seated opposite her is Fiona who writes an award-winning blog – London Unattached,Nayna – who blogs at  Simply Sensational Food her other blog is Citrus ,Spice and all things Nice, and the lovely Madeline who blogs at Kitchen Journeys and documents heart healthy recipes at From the Healthy Heart.

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Was too full by now and the dessert platter served with a large shot of margarita in shot glass lined by sugar , managed to cut the sweet taste that was bound to settle on the palate after cheesecake ,a panna cotta that failed to impress because I was expecting the usual wobble and a refreshing pista flavoured ice cream  – my fav from the selection.

As we strolled out for an impromptu photo session and gazed happily at the beautiful Tower Bridge,I couldn’t help but wonder that though the exterior of  the Tower Guoman leaves one wanting the view of two world Heritage Sites – Tower Bridge and the Tower of London certainly makes up for it!A massive refurbishment project is on the cards too.A few more plus points include a convenient location within easy reach of the financial district, Canary Wharf, the Excel Centre, London City Airport, historic Greenwich, the West End and Westfield Shopping Centre. Also the newly launched menu at The Brasserie definitely warrants a visit. The menu is bold and one where the chefs have really gone the extra mile to hope that if they try ambitiously to achieve the Zero Mile Ingredient mark and grow their own herbs fresh on the terrace garden which is to come alive very soon!

The staff was very polite, genuinely attentive and ensured we had a great evening.

*With  thanks to The Tower Guoman for the invitation. No monetary compensation was offered for a positive review . All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

The Brasserie at the Tower Hotel on Urbanspoon

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Yum Chaa – Fitzrovia – Review

Absolutely bored and craving a afternoon out ,a close friend and me decided to check out Yum chaa sometime early february. As soon as we walked my eyes fell on this beautiful and welcoming armchair – its the kind of chair that you can sink into and loose yourself in!

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Lucky for us it was in a quite little corner where we could pour our hearts out to each other!

The counter had a beautiful  display and she decided to have the Chilli Chilli Hot Chocolate. I was having a very difficult time trying to decide which tea to have from the amazing range available of Black and Red teas.

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I finally settled for a red tea and a little something to bite into….in the quite pauses between our excited chatter I gazed into my tea cup…wishing I could tell what the future has to hold simply by gazing at how the bright red tea sediments lay there… if only …

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Loved their quirky note asking for ‘Valentines Day Funds’ now who can refuse a tip when coaxed like that? (espp when it will be used to buy an Adele album!)

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The quirky christmas tree kept the corner with the shelves a bit festive and the white washed walls seemed to have a sublimia soothing effect. The general atmosphere of the place is the sort where you can settle into a huge armchair , armed with a tea of your choice and spend hours sipping it alone or not. Its the kind of place you would take a good book to and settle in with a warm pot of tea, allow the tea to percolate and loose yourself in the pages of your fav storyteller.

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We lost track of time and almost over two hours later when Yum Chaa got really  busy we decided to let someone else take over our cushy chairs…reluctantly almost, promising ourselves that we would be back soon , very soon…

The shabby chic,relaxed atmosphere , mis-matched furniture, white washed walls and their amazing range of teas on offer will stay with you long after you walk out of the place and of course their catchy crazy name Yum Chaa is something you won’t forget easily!

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Disclaimer: I’ve written this review of my own accord and was this visit was paid for by me. I was not required to write a positive review and was not compensated monetarily for this post.Like all my previous posts about events and reviews, ALL opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

 

21, The Print Room,Covent Garden – a review

On the corner of Covent Garden Piazza , housed in a beautiful Georgian heritage site is a 3 story delightful place -21 – a rustic Italian restaurant, The Print Room – a cocktail bar with 2 balconies overlooking the piazza and all the live entertainment it has to offer and the terrace located on the Piazza – a great way to enjoy the outdoors, drink in the hustle bustle, gaze at St.Pauls – all this under the shelter of huge umbrellas and heating for chilly evenings.

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When I first heard of 21 the Print Room at Covent Garden I imagined it to be this tiny little place with a rustic feel , when we walked into 21 I felt I was walking into a huge cave with tunnels well-lit and the aroma of melted cheese wafting around .The historic cellar vaults converted in a fab Italian restaurant have a cosy warm feel .They also  proudly claims to serve the best pizza and pasta in Covent Garden – We were soon about to find out….

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Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

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Hubby and me walked into the place on a very ,very warm summer evening and were seated at table perfect for a romantic date but we food bloggers need light for clicking away ,so once we were moved to a new table and happily settled into a comparatively well-lit corner of our choice ,we couldn’t wait to order some drinks and cool down a few degrees. Just as I thought I would melt with the heat these beauties came to our rescue – a Mango Bellini (£7.50)for me and a  Verde Flower(£5) Sine Peccato,for the huster – it means a cocktail without sin.

The Mango Bellini – a Prosecco based cocktail was crisp,fresh,fruity ,summery while hubsters Verde Flower – a combo of cucumber,apple juice and elderflower with a dash of bitter lemon was fresh and light with lots of ice – so refreshing!

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Accompanied by Wild Boar Tortelloni (£7.25) – Pancetta ,green beans ,sage cream  and Black pepper Calamari with saffron aioli (£7.25) as starters.The batter for the calamari was a bit bulky making them a bit chewy, the tortellini  was very good, could easily have eaten some more!

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21 - Calamari starter

Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

I was told that the A la Carte menu is  fresh, Italian-inspired and prepared with the best quality local ingredients – well now, I love the sound of that ! We ordered the Cornish Crab Linguine (£14.25) and the Figaro (£14.95) – a Milano Salami,Parma Ham & Pepperoni Pizza for the main course but honestly if you’re doing starters then this one pizza between two people is more than enough!

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The Figaro is absolutely mind-blowing delicious with the 3 meat sitting there with black olives and cherry tomatoes – begging to be eaten! The goats cheese was nothing like I’d ever tasted before – so soft and creamy and not one bit salty. Abandon your fork and knife for this one folks, eat with your hands…lick the gooey gorgeous roasted garlic olive oil mixed with the melted mozzarella , as it drips off the sides while you devour this magnificent feast. The linguine was ignored by us for the first few minutes while we silently ate our pizza.I felt like Julia Roberts in the movie Eat,Pray ,Love telling her friend to drop the guilt and just eat their cheese laden gorgeous looking pizza when they go to Naples ,errmmm only I was sharing my Pizza with my hubster 😉

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The linguine was good though paling in comparison to this star pizza staring at us. The crab meat was mixed well into the pasta and it was have been fun to eat this pasta slowly after squeezing  lime generously over it , sipping a fine glasses  red which goes with the fresh seafood taste and the chillies in the pasta.I ordered a glass of Red- the Nero D’Avola 2011 (£5.65 a glass , £21 a bottle) with my linguine.Hubster had a glass of Prosecco Brut (£6.80) to go with the mains.

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Needless to say the mere mention of dessert and we would have exploded so we skipped dessert. Eager to walk and help digest the generous dinner now sitting firmly inside our tummies we took a tour of the print room upstairs which is a print shop turned cocktail bar, with a lovely balcony overlooking the piazza.We then walked out into the piazza past the Terrace ,to be greeted by fresh, crisp evening London air.

The Terrace at 21

Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

So lets see, 21 delivered on their promise of serving the best Pizza in Covent Garden , the wine selection and mocktails on offer are impressive and  I loved my Mango Bellini.Food and Wine taken care of .Ambience – the feeling of sitting huddled in a cosy cubby hole dating back to Georgian Times is something else, the view from the Print room is amazing , so I’d say this is a perfect place for romantic dates in the cubby hole of 21 or out on the terrace – better for warm summer evenings, great venue for hen and stag parties and a really cool place to hang out for drinks with your friends, they seem to have got it all covered huh?

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Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

The photo below is of the most posh cubby hole in 21 comes with a fish tank for company 😉

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Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

It was a beautiful clear night and the piazza was just so beautiful , a spattering of tourists seated in quiet corners near St.Pauls , the bars still overflowing with beer drinkers spilling out onto the piazza and of course the theatregoers walking to their cars or trying to get a cab.

The last time we were at Covent Garden with some friends they showed us this fab walking route to Waterloo station along the Waterloo bridge, it IS  a great walk along the various many theatres ,pubs and brightly lit restaurants of Covent Garden and  onto the bridge with stunning views of the London Eye on one side and the beautiful st.pauls cathedral on the other. And down the subway and you are inside Waterloo station, cool or what?!

It was an exceptionally windy evening as well and all of a sudden I wish I had my jacket on me, we stopped to take a few photos and this ones my fav:

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Rushing to take cover in the warm subway , we made it to the station in under 15 minutes , this walking route now my fav way to get to Covent Garden from Waterloo station and totally avoid the claustrophobic tubes and the slow buses crawling through the omnipresent traffic on  the narrow roads  of Central London…..( there … now that’s a sure shot sign that I have become am a Londoner now….when one begins to crib about the crowded tubes and moan about the traffic …and look of alternate walking routes.. I think the novelty of being a newbie to this city is finally wearing off… in every way… but then the magic has settled in and just like I will always , always love Mumbai no matter what ,similarly London has sunk into my being in a way that can never be reversed… safe to say…am deeply in love… with all that London has to offer – even the tubes … oh yes!)

*With thanks to 21 and The Print Room for the invite.All views expressed here are my own. I was not required to write a positive review. No monetary compensation was provided for this post.

 

 

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21 Covent Garden on Urbanspoon

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