Archive for the ‘Food and Drink’ Category


February 10, 2013

Anyone who has lovingly prepared food for another knows its potential power. Silky-smooth and sensually-satisfying is the way to go for a hot Valentines night this year and Lobster Bisque is hard to beat, say nutritionist and author, Fiona Kirk.

As far back as the late 1800s, the aphrodisiac powers of seafood were championed, which is easy to understand as it’s got the lot. It is a rich source of iron which increases blood flow to our sex organs, zinc which increases the production of testosterone, the ‘libido lifter’ in both males and females, Omega 3 fats which boost our mood and iodine which makes us feel vivacious and ready for whatever the night might have in store!

This slightly extravagant soup takes a little time to prepare but right from the first spoonful you just know that your efforts were worth it and the rest of the evening is going to take you and your valentine into a very good place.

Lobster Bisque

Enough for 2 with plenty left over for a late night snack!

Steam 2 lobster tails (frozen is fine as long as you defrost them completely), shell side down over a pan of simmering salted water (about a pint and a half) for 8-10 minutes or until the flesh is cooked through but not tough. Remove the lobster, save the water for the stock, take the flesh out with a couple of forks and set aside.

In another fairly large pan, gently sauté the lobster shells in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for 5 to 6 minutes. Add a couple of large glasses of dry white wine, 24 fluid ounces of chicken stock and the water used for steaming the lobster, bring the whole lot to the boil and keep at a rolling boil until the liquid is reduced by half (takes around 45 minutes).

In the meantime, sauté 1 small fennel bulb, cleaned, trimmed and finely sliced and 4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until soft and transparent (don’t let them brown). Add 3 medium-sized tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and chopped, 2 tablespoons of white rice, 1 tablespoon tomato puree, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of thyme and stir until well-mixed.

When the stock is reduced, strain it through a fine sieve, return to a clean pan then slowly stir in the vegetable/herb/spice mix. Bring back to the boil, turn down the heat, add at least 2 tablespoons of brandy (it’s Valentines night after all!) then simmer gently for another 45 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and thyme and liquidise the whole lot (you will probably have to do this in two batches) until velvety-smooth. Return to a clean pan and keep on a very gentle simmer until just before serving (or refrigerate overnight and reheat – gently!)

Just before serving, slice the lobster flesh into bite-sized chunks and add to the soup with a dash of lemon juice and a few tablespoons of double cream, heat through for 5 minutes or slightly longer if you can possibly wait and serve in cups, mugs, bowls or just dig into the pan together with very big spoons!

For more (slightly less extravagant) soup recipes and her 10 day Flab Fighting Soup Diet see nutritionist Fiona Kirk’s eBook Soup Can Make You Thin, £4.99 available through

For more ideas for Valetine’s Day, Slimming and Fitness activities near you see

toptable diners reveal their top 25 most romantic UK restaurants

February 6, 2013

In anticipation of one of the most romantic days of the year, toptable, a leading consumer destination site for restaurant bookings in the UK along with its parent company, OpenTable, Inc. (NASDAQ: OPEN), revealed today their diners’ top 25 most romantic restaurants. The list reflects the combined opinions of approximately 400,000 reviews submitted by verified toptable diners for nearly 4,000 restaurants across the UK.

The top 25 shows French cuisine as the hot choice for romance ahead of Valentine’s Day this year, accounting for almost half of the list, while Italian and British are also proving popular romantic cuisines. Despite the growing popularity of Asian food amongst UK diners, there was no room for Chinese, Indian or Thai cuisine in the top 25, with the list consisting entirely of European restaurants.

“Romance can mean very different things to different people but a gorgeous meal, perfect service and warm atmosphere make for an undeniably romantic combination. Each of these restaurants offers a different romantic experience, but all are truly best of class,” said Lucy Taylor, head of restaurant relations at toptable.

“When it comes to Valentine’s Day, the top restaurants fill up quickly so it is always best to book early. However, many diners still wait until the last minute and plenty of availability can be found on Last year, almost 30% of bookings for Valentine’s Day were made on the 13th and 14th February,” she added.

Fred Sirieix, General Manager of Galvin at Windows, which was included on the list commented, “We are obviously delighted to be recognised as one of the most romantic restaurants. It is especially humbling knowing the distinction is based on diner reviews. We strive to create singular experiences for all our guests and when it comes to romance this quality is especially important.”

The top 25 romantic restaurants in the UK are generated from approximately 400,000 reviews collected from verified toptable diners between January 2012 and January 2013. All restaurants with a minimum “overall” score and number of qualifying reviews were included for consideration. Restaurants were then scored and sorted according to the percentage of qualifying reviews for which “romantic” was selected as a special feature.

toptable top 25 romantic restaurants in the UK:

Apsley’s A Heinz Beck Restaurant – London, Belgravia

Chapter One – Kent

Chez Bruce – London, Wandsworth

Clos Maggiore – London, Covent Garden

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – London, Belgravia

Galvin at Windows – London, Mayfair

Galvin La Chapelle – London, Spitalfields

Gauthier Soho – London, Soho

Kendell’s Bistro –Leeds

L’ortolan – Reading

Petrus– London, Belgravia

Quantus Restaurant & Bar – London, Chiswick

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay – London, Chelsea

Roux at The Landau – London, Oxford Circus

Seven Park Place by William Drabble – London, Green Park

The Fat Duck – Bray

The French Table – Surbiton

The Greenhouse – London, Mayfair

The Grill at The Dorchester – London, Marble Arch

The Ledbury – London, Notting Hill

Theo Randall – London, Belgravia

Thirty Six by Nigel Mendham at DUKES LONDON – London, Green Park

Topes – Kent

Trinity – London, Clapham

Viajante – London, Bethnal Green

About toptable Reviews

The toptable reviews program helps diners find restaurants that best fit their dining occasions.  Diners who recently honoured a toptable reservation are invited via email to submit restaurant feedback using an online form. Visitors to toptable can access reviews for thousands of toptable restaurant partners across UK. The toptable reviews program has generated more than 2 million reviews by verified diners in the UK.

For more ideas about how to spend your Valetine’s Day and to wiin great Romantic Prizes see  

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