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STK, London Review

I may be a million years late to noticing this, but there really is something to be said for a restaurant that does one thing, and does it well. Industry bods might call it a ‘hero menu’, but little old me simply calls it a ‘good idea’.

I mean, I’ve been let down before. Shoddy ramen at ramen restaurant Tonkotsu left me running back to ramen gods Bone Daddies weeping a promise to never leave them again. So it really sucks when you go into a place, scan the three item menu, and they manage to somehow cock it up.

I feel like that’s what happens when tourists go to (shudder) Angus Steakhouse and the ilk for their meat fix. Which brings me to, gloriously, my new favourite steak restaurant, STK.

STK London

They do other things- range of starters, few bits for the vegetarians in house- but, as you can well imagine, the main event here is the meat. I popped down to their last blogger evening with some foodie friends for a cocktail masterclass and a steak step-by-step chef experience. Forks at the ready.

             STK Cocktails STK Cocktails

 

After knocking back a lovely, sweet and light Vanilla and Goji cocktail, we headed behind the bar to make our own STK Martini.

Needless to say I was better at drinking them than I was at making them. Though Mary might’ve pipped me to the post on the martini-o-meter, I still think I did pretty well.

STK Cocktails

STK Cocktails

Thanks Mary for the photos and for the shake off!

We then snuck past the waiters to go into the STK kitchens. I’ve worked in restaurants before, so I know I shouldn’t still be wowed by them, but they do look impressive. And they’re hotter than the centre of the sun, so half the wow-factor comes from sheer disbelief that anyone could work in there.

 STK London

Head chef Jared took us through the differences between USDA and wagyu meat, gave us a quick lesson in knife skills and a tour of the kitchen, and spent the rest of his time fielding aggressive questions from us bloggers on why we couldn’t make our Tesco value steaks taste as good as his. He was gracious, funny, and had a corking accent. Nice guy!

 

Wagyu vs USDA #meatmeatbaby #steak #STKLondon

A photo posted by Farrah Kelly (@farrahkelly) on


 

We’d worked up an appetite watching the orders come and go, so after poking around, chopping, a bit of frying, and bribing the chefs to give me the best cut of meat, we went back upstairs for our dinner.

STK Steak

The steak. It was about four times as much as I would have expected. This is SO much food, and it took a good me a good long while to get through it. Obviously, I ordered rare. I don’t usually like ordering rare because I’ve been burned before by bad steak, but having seen the chefs in action, I felt as though I could trust’em, and they delivered. It tasted exactly how a rare steak should, and the sides were all fab (I didn’t get a look in on the mac n cheese, but the speed the sharing dish went down with speaks volumes)

STK desserts

And finally for dessert, a deconstrcuted STK snickers bar. This was weird and wonderful and I wish I’d ordered about seven of them- not because they weren’t filling (the beef had seen to that), but because if there was any way I could’ve snuck them into my pocket to have one a day for the rest of the week, I would have found it.

After my visit to STK, I feel like charging into the Leicester Square Angus Steakhouse and Pied-Pipering them all the way to Holborn, so they can actually experience London’s best steak, and not just an unmet promise.

 STK London, 336 Strand
STK London on Urbanspoon Square Meal

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How to eat cheap in London

It’s way too easy to be mugged off when it comes to restaurants in London, and you could by all means resort to only eating from Maccy Dees in order to save your pennies. You could, but you’d be miserable (and probably unhealthily fat).

Instead, over the last year or two, I’ve figured out how to eat cheap in London, while not missing out on London’s hottest restaurants. Being skint in London does not mean you have to miss out on the best foodie spots. Listen up and take notes, hombres!

Subscribe to newsletters

Newsletters are an absolute goldmine of cheap restaurant deals in London, and probably where I hear about most offers. Restaurants approach these newsletters to get the word out about their newest menu, opening, or events, and they often sweeten the deal with exclusives. We’re talking free drinks, half off food, or cheeky complimentary courses. I’m signed up to these guys: Sauce Communications ~ London on the Inside ~ The Nudge ~ Hot Dinners ~ Londonist ~ Dojo ~ BarChick~ Hardens ~

Midweek offers

If you want the best of London’s foodie scene, avoid Friday and Saturday. The queues are shorter, and the offers are plentiful. Bog standard Happy Hours are rife, and you can dig out some skint London gems if you know where to look. Try beer and buns at Flesh & Buns on Mondays (£15), the All American Sharing Board at Dirty Bones every Thursday (£15), Sunday brunch at LIMA Floral (£18/£30), and Wings Wednesdays at The Rum Kitchen (£19.50).

Meat Market London

Know the dishes

We’re all guilty of food envy, and there’s nothing lamer than departing with your hard earned cash for a substandard meal at a place you were psyched about. Most restaurants have icon dishes- order this. They’re the best sellers for a reason, so do a little food blogger research to find out what everyone’s loving. I rarely eat out without checking recommendations from Clerkenwell Boy, Heroine in Heels, Angie Silverspoon, Hugh Wright, Hollow Legs or We Love Food. Never have food envy again.

Discount cards

Sign yourself up to the right discount cards. If you’re a student, there are surprising (independent) places that offer discount, so check it out. I’ve got a Tastecard (ta, Natwest!) and I also have a Bankside Buzz card. If you work in a big building (like the Shard, Bluefin, or one of the fancy bank buildings) there’s usually a corporate discount card for the local places. If you’re keen on a particular restaurant, check their site for loyalty schemes, like the Dirty Bones Friends With Benefits, or the Meat Liquor FREE SHIT. You may have to schmooze to get the good stuff, but it’s worth it!

Burger me

 

Go to networking events

Stop auto-deleting those emails that are inviting you for ‘the chance to network (which means what exactly? Everything is a ‘chance’ to network. I have the ‘chance’ to  network with the kids kicking a ball at my window right now. I have the ‘chance’ to network with the bus driver every day. You mean ‘this will be a general social occasion’.) Badly worded though they might be, before you mark as spam, check where it’s hosted. They often have newly opened, cool, or up and coming restaurants as their venue- with nibbles provided.

Launching softly

Keep your ear to the ground for soft launches. This is the trial period before official launch, and is usually 50% off food (or off everything!). You have to remember that many dishes will change, staff aren’t fully trained yet, and there may be a few hiccups along the way. To me, it makes it all the more charming! To find out about them, follow foodie tweeters (like the blogs above!), and follow your favourite restaurants for expansion plans.

 

Phew! You’re welcome my loves. Go ahead now and tuck in.

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A day in Positano, Italy

I’ve been dreaming about a holiday to the Amalfi coast for years. It all started with some typical Facebook-envy; girls I knew from way back when were uploading photo after photo of dreamy Italian coastline, and I was all a flutter with trying to plan a trip. I collated Pinterest boards, bought calendars with AMALFI written all over it, and set about drawing up a perfect itinerary.

Obviously, as so many travel plans do, things got waylaid and it wasn’t until a few years later, when I received some mega compensation from EasyJet (my story here), that I actually got around to booking this trip. It was a long time coming, and had a lot of built up expectation to meet.

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And guess what? Positano beat those expectations. For years I had been idly wondering how the breeze would feel on those precipitous coastal roads, how the colours of little houses built up a rockface would pop against the blue sky, and of course, of how much pasta I would eat. Positano fulfilled all of those little daydreams- most importantly the one about pasta.

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We were staying in nearby Sorrento, so woke up early to grab the coach. The coach is an entire experience in itself, so instead of feeling sleepy or bored from the hour long winding journey, we were buzzed and giddy like two kids who knew exactly how much gelato was waiting for them on the other side.

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Positano is not built for the weak kneed. Everything is up or down a hill, with long winding roads to connect you, or monstrous flights of stairs. We spent all of our exploring time puffing and panting, stopping to rest our weary legs or pick up a congratulations cocktail after a particularly steep flight. Round every corner is a little gem, pastel painted houses, coffe bars, sweet pottery stores or private gardens you can just about peer into.

Positano village

After several hours of lounging around on the beach and working up an appetite by scaling every flight of stairs we came across, Jonathan consulted TripAdvisor and we wound our way to probably the best restaurant in Positano: Saraceno d’Oro. We loaded up on linguini con vongole, and homemade pasta with fresh-off-the-boat seafood.

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The service was fabulous, and we sat in a glorious little bit of sunshine. I honestly think that this was one of the best meals of my life- maybe because the carafe of wine was so delicious, the waiter was singing loudly to Italian music, because we’d spent so long hunting down the perfect restaurant, or just because the food was so damn good. It might even have something to do with the shot of limoncello we rounded up the meal with. Who cares- if I could spend every lunchtime here, I would.

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In a happy, light mood, we tottered off down the hill to lie on the beach and treat ourselves to some more gelato and vino, still professing how great Italian food was. Seriously guys, I don’t know if you knew already, but the Italians, they got this food thing down.

As we were there in early April, people-watching was especially rewarding as Positano prepared for tourist high season. Crates of lemons were ferried between stores, flowers ready to bloom being planted along roadsides, signs and hotel walls being painted anew.

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Positano in April was just stirring up to life, with a handful of places closed (most notably none of the pools were open for business), but the quiet and the charm of watching the town get ready, as though for a big party, makes visiting slightly pre-season all the more worthwhile.

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Once the sun had started to set, we packed up our books and made the ascent to the bus stop. Tip for you- it’s almost completely unmarked, so take note of where you hop off the bus when you arrive.

I fell in love with Positano, and I’ll definitely be back for round two. Though it’s small enough to feel satisfied you’ve ‘done’ it in a single day, it’s got that Italian habit of leaving you wanting more.

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My Airport Horror Story

Let me start this off with a disclaimer. I love Easyjet. I think budget airlines are a wonderful thing, especially for broke guys like me, and I already have another three flights with them booked- they’re my go-to airline and this story aside, I think the service is on point. (I even have the Easyjet app. The love is real). I love Monica’s post on flying with lowcost airlines, so this is not, I repeat, not, a tirade. If you want one of those, go somewhere else.

I think I’m finally ready to talk about my Easyjet horror story.

Airport Horror Story

I’d had an amazing week in Split, Croatia with my girl Jai. We’d waded through waterfalls, watched epic sunsets from clocktowers of tiny islands, and drank every mojito we could. The holiday had been a roaring success, and we congratulated ourself for a fabulous trip as we rolled our suitcases up to Split airport, ready for our nice and simple two hour flight back to Gatwick.

We checked in, passed through security, and pottered around the scant shops Split airport had to offer. I logged onto the free wifi and kept myself busy playing the then astronomically popular Kim Kardashian app (I was a C-Lister, and wanted to get to at least a B list spot before we touched down in London).

The closer we got to our departure time, the more flights we noticed had been delayed. Ours was put back by about forty minutes. There was a signal problem with the airport, an announcement gurgled out, but should all be sorted soon. Cracking, back to Kim K and those gold stars.

After an hour or two, the airport had emptied out. The flight had been pushed back by a couple of hours, and other planes were steadily leaving in a single file fashion. We’d huffed and puffed about how annoying this was, how we’d have to rebook our pick up taxi on the other end. We were getting itchy, watching other passengers leave, having not heard a single thing about our own flight. Even most of the staff had gone home. It was around 11pm.

Then, it arrived. With a bang. Of the bird variety. After a long delay, when our plane finally hit the ground in Split, it also hit a seagull. Gruesomely, we were told this was a common occurrence when descending, but this time the bird had- welp- gotten stuck in the jet, and they needed a specialist to give the plane a once over before they could legally lift off.

As it turns out, 11pm on a Sunday doesn’t fall within the office hours of people whose job it is to scrape dead seagull out of engines. It looked like we were stuck here overnight. No biggie right? If anything, a cheeky night in a hotel would probably feel quite fancy and if nothing else it meant I had a great excuse to not go to work the next day.

As an apology, the kind folk at Easyjet told us we were legally entitled to a refreshment after any three hour delay. We queued up for the only remaining staff member in the airport to dole out – wait for it- a drink or sandwich. The only drink available was water. The only sandwich available was a ham sandwich, which went down famously with the vegetarians and Halal eaters. I dropped my sandwich after one bite.

Jai airport

Come midnight, the airport staff had all gone. Information was funnelled through select passengers who had enough battery life to check their EasyJet apps for updates, solemnly delivering bad news with measured outrage. We were riotous, trapped in an empty airport with fuck all to do and no signs of hometime.

After another hour or so of hearing zilch, the captain of our Easyjet flight appeared, delivering an impassioned speech on how he was going get you home no matter what it takes. From the reception, you’d think he was MLK or someone equally as inspiring, because we lost our minds with optimism. He’ll get us home, we thought jubilantly. We love you, Mr Captain Man!

Well turns out Mr Captain Man can suck it, because he immediately disappeared off into the night never to be seen again. Presumably, they headed off to a nearby hotel, thus snapping up the only remaining rooms in Croatia that evening. After another while of hearing nothing, a lone woman in a high viz vest nervously walked into the completely desolate departure lounge, anxiously eyeing up the hundred pissed off Brits like I imagine a lamb heading into slaughter does.

“Your flight is cancelled” she meeped. “There are no hotels“, she whimpered. “You have to sleep here” she mewed. “We don’t have any more food or any blankets” she breathed. “We can’t get your suitcases to you” she winced. “Bye” she croaked, fleeing into the night before she became responsible for a full blown riot.

We were delirious with disbelief. By this point, we’d been trapped inside the airport for about six hours, and there was no sign of being allowed to leave. The smokers were practically crawling up the walls. Everyone needed to charge their phones, and we had two plugs between the lot of us. We resorted to unplugging all vending machines, congregating round them like hobos round a burning bin. We shared scraps of encouragement and tried to find somewhere to fall asleep under the glaring lights. I reached A List Celeb status on the Kim K app, but it was no consolation.

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After a shitty night sleep, using handbags for pillows and duty free shopping bags as duvets, the airport started to fill up with passengers- who, begger’s belief- got onto flights before us. We cleaned ourselves using the free samples from the now open duty free shop, and got into a fight with an airport cleaner who was pissed because we’d unplugged a freezer and her icecreams had melted.

Weak with annoyance, we sat in clusters around the departure doors. Easyjet wisely brought in a new team- if we’d seen the Judas Mr Captain Man again we might not have been able to control ourselves- who expressed their disbelief and their pity with wide eyes and a palpable nervousness that we’d transfer the blame to them. They gave us everything for free- all the yoghurt pots and coffees our poor hearts desired, as we sulked our way to 30,000 feet and back to London, a mere twelve hours later than we should’ve been.

*Deep breaths*

Anyway so we got a whole bunch of compensation and a voucher for an EasyJet flight. I used this to book a trip to Italy, and honestly if you’d asked me in advance would I choose to spend the locked in a jumped up shed in return for a huge contribution to my next holiday, I probably woulda said hell yeah and buckled down for the night. So it’s sort of a happy story really. Either way- shout out to Jaime for staying relatvely sane throughout the ordeal, and for supporting me on my way to overcoming my Kim K addiction. You’re the best.