Food: Jamaican Jills

Jamaican Jills has been one of Neath’s best kept secrets for some time. Now it’s migrated west to Swansea and taken up residence at the bottom of Wind St. You’d be forgiven for thinking Jills was a chain restaurant as the scale and the impact of the place screams success. Perhaps it helps that the previous residents left a shell that could easily be adapted, but it’s really the heart and soul of the cooking and the people who cook it that shines through.

 

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Using the Jamaican flag and the Caribbean as its decorative cornerstone the restaurant is bright and cozy, with splashes of Patois overhead and her signature hot wing challenge on the wall near the kitchens. The design lover in me also noticed the Artek A330S lights, designed by my favourite Architect and designer, Alvar Aalto. Probably a repro, to have something Finnish in the place, seems odd but the glow of the brass on the lights does suit the warmth of the place.

The whole place sings with its unique selling perspective – cosy, good value and gloriously Jamaican. Building on the reputation of its parent restaurant, this bright new light in Swansea’s culinary spectrum looks set to set many a tongue alight with its big flavours and great atmosphere.

 

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The menu sports the dishes one would expect of a Jamaican restaurant but I think, and I’d hope, that people would be brave enough to go off piste and try some lesser known delights. Standouts for me included the wonderfully tender and spicy goat curry, served with rice & pea, her Ackee and Saltfish is also deliciously moreish, served with gorgeous fried dumplings. Lunch menus and seasonal special menus are available too (like the recent one for Valentine’s Day) and are as varied and interesting as can be. Typically, the Jerk chicken is bold and punchy, the wings big and juicy. If you’re feeling brave you can try the Spicy Wing Challenge and get a t-shirt and your face on the wall. If you’re bold enough to sign the disclaimer then bragging rights come at the price of 7 hot wings in fifteen minutes with a 5 minute cool down – no drinks!

 

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Their bar is fully stocked with regular favourites (including Red Stripe, naturally) with a particular emphasis on cocktails for that Caribbean dimension. Two for one exists on most of the favourites with the Rum Punch being a particularly delicious and unique offering. They also offer a range of “smoking” cocktails served over dry ice for that added wow factor. The Children don’t get short shrift either, their meals echo the adult menu but come in Small Portions or Big Portions so you can gauge them by the appetite of your child. They also come with unlimited drinks and a dessert, which is a nice touch.

 

It’s so easy with new restaurants for them to have a muddy and confusing atmosphere, like they don’t know what they’re about, but that definitely isn’t the case with Jamaican Jills. From the bubbly staff to the slick management, Jills has hit the ground running and doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon. Locally grown successes like this should be sung from the rooftops and supported wherever possible, but when the food is this good it’s all the more satisfying to just go along and see for yourself what the fuss is all about.

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Design: Normann Copenhagen in Homesense

On Monday evening, perusing around Homesense with Tom, I came across this treasure trove of Scandinavian design. They had boxes and boxes of Normann Copenhagen design. I couldn’t believe my luck!

Agnes Vases in all different shapes & sizes from the mini up to the 32cm one & the fat  ‘plant pot ‘ looking one, all priced from £3.99 up to £7.99, (Which is an absolute bargain considering they usually start at £10 and can go up to as much as Seventy quid!)

The Agnes Vase, designed by Agnes Fries uses Handmade Chinese porcelain from Jingdezhen and combines & contrasts it with a top of black hand-painted brush strokes. Its subtle yet striking, graphic and perfect for a monochrome/ Scandinavian styled interior.

I decided to go for the 20cm vase, a Goldilocks among the rest in my opinion. Being ‘Not too big, not too small’ it doesn’t get swallowed up by a room, but it isn’t also too large to be a centrepiece on my small dining table, and at £6.99 instead of £39.99 I just had to get it!

They also had the Floe tealight holder there in so many shades & hues. I picked up two considering they were £3.99 each in coral and dark green, perfect for both my Spring/Summer  & my Autumn/Winter looks! Designed by the Spanish designer Ramírez i Carrillo to echo a traditional antique oil lamp, it gives a small but impacting atmosphere when styled into your interior.

When I got home I immediately had to take them out of the boxes and incorporate into my Winter décor.

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the Agnes Vase looked perfect on my Normann Copenhagen Block Table, rubbing shoulders with some succulents & my Yule candle from Flying Tiger Copenhagen & Menu X Stokke Austad candle holder. I used a branch, that we had lying around from last christmas and adorned it with some of our homemade baubles & himmeli.

I followed this tutorial by Nalle’s House to make the ornaments. It all fits so well together, with the vase completing the look. Not too ‘out there’ & Kitschy Christmassy. Monochrome, just festive enough & classy!

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The Floe fits perfectly on my IKEA side table keeping my little Tomte company. It looks great with the Sanna Annukka illustrated ‘The Fir Tree’ by Hans Christian Andersen underneath, strengthening the green and it also works well with the Iittala Aalto pieces, all creating a nice harmonious look.

Let’s hope some Normann design is at your local Homesense store, but get it quick as it will vanish fast!

Design & Food: Nordic Berlin: The Nordic influence on the German Capital

Recently I went on a cultural exchange trip to Berlin with University, funded by DAAD. Whilst there I noticed the Nordic influence on the city. Whether it’s my Scandi-obsessed mind I don’t know, but I found many influences from the Northern lands on the German Capital.

Architecture

 

 

It is possible to see the Nordic influence within Berlin,with some of its architectural destinations.

 

The Hansaviertel complex, near the Tiergarten has some of the best examples of mid 20th century architecture in the country, Interbau, a competition devised in 1957, for the world’s best architects to come up with a building each, within the complex. Here, you’ll find buildings from the Scandinavian masters of functionalism; Alvar Aalto, Arne Jacobsen and Kay Fisker, along with other international tour-de-forces such as Oscar Niemeyer, Le Corbusier and the famous Bauhaus school founder, Walter Gropius. In recent years, they have uncovered- and restored, a mural on the pavilion of the Aalto building. This mural, is a wave of sinuous, organic lines, that references his famous piece of design, the Savoy vase- now produced by Iittala.

 

Built in 1999, the Nordic Embassies in Berlin house all the diplomatic buildings of the Nordic countries, shoulder to shoulder. Devised by architects Alfred Berger and Tina Parkkinen, the embassies,- all designed by teams of different architects have been arranged geographically, each one reflecting the qualities of each nation. For instance the use of Milk glass in the Norwegian Embassy, references the glaciers of the Norwegian landscape. The Swedish and Danish Embassies proudly display the materials of their homelands, with the Swedish Embassy using white Gotland limestone, and the Danish Embassy highlighting its use of warm wood, and contrasting cold steel- its trademark materials, made famous internationally. The Icelandic Embassy, features a floor, paved with large lava tiles, which are illuminated below with a red light- giving the impression of the stark, volcanic landscape of the country. The Finnish Embassy, even includes two saunas- a nod to the compulsory national past-time of Finnish life. At the heart of the building complex is the Felleshus, or the Pan Nordic Building- which combines a space for exhibition, conference rooms, canteen, auditoriums- for all of the Embassies- and the general public, too. Using a mixture of Nordic materials, this building, expresses the unity of the Nordic countries.

 

The Nordic influence on Berlin can even be seen in the most German of all buildings; The Reichstag Building, housing the Bundestag. Along with the amazing architecture of Norman Foster, the Danish architect Per Arnoldi designed the concept of all the doors and the protocol room.

 

 

 

Shopping

 

Being a capital, Berlin is a shopping haven. The Scandinavian influence shines no less here, with so many Nordic brands to choose from. If you’re looking for clothes shops, stores such as H&M, COS, ECCO, Monki and Marimekko are for you. Design lover? You’re spoilt for choice with stores such as Scandinavian Objects, Iittala, Bolia and Bo Concept. Not forgetting that the big department store,

KaDeWe, stocking the Scandi favourites such as Normann Copenhagen, HAY, Ferm Living, Design House Stockholm and Georg Jensen.

 

 

 

Food & Drink

If you’re fed up with currywurst and pommes and looking for something a bit more Northern in flavour, then the restaurant Munch’s Haus on Bülowstraße is worth a shout. Serving up Norwegian traditional fair, with a twist, I’d recommend a visit!

 

A place that is equally popular in Berlin, as they are in the Nordic countries, is the humble liquorice shop. Loved by Northern Euopeans alike, these small confectionary shops are where you go for your fix of the black gold, or rather salty, black gold- flavoured with Salmiak ( an ammonium salt). In Berlin, Kadó, is where you go. An institution for 18 years, they stock a variety of liquorice products, from subtle Italian stuff, to the punchy (and tongue numbing) Icelandic and Finnish liquorice.

 

Just fancy something light with a coffee? Then look no further than the Oslo Kaffe Bar, at the Nordic Embassies. Wether you’d like to have a ‘kaffee pause’,‘kaffe og kaker’,‘fika’ or ‘kaffee og kage’, the act of having something small, with a coffee (or tea) and an opportunity to catchup with friends is an institution all over Northern Europe. The Oslo Kaffe Bar is a great place to do it too! Sip a well made latte, and eat buttery, cinnamon filled pastries amongst great pieces of design, such as Jacobsen’s iconic Swan chairs. There’s nothing better, I dare you!
 

 

Miscellaneous

 

A few more Nordic influenced perusings on this trip:

 

When the group and I had an opportunity to bake for students at a school, I noticed their cupboards stocked with Rosti Mepal cookware. They seem to be very popular here. Once two brands, Danish Rosti and Dutch Mepal, the companies were combined in 1976. In 1950 the Swedish Sigvard Bernadotte and the Danish Acton Bjørn designed the Margrethe bowl. This stackable mixing bowl, named Margethe after the queen of Denmark, is now in many homes across Northern Europe and Berlin and is a Design classic.

At the U-bahn station in the Gesundbrunnen district, you’ll find a beguiling sight. Osloer Straße isn’t just named after the Norwegian capital, as architect Rainer G. Rümmler designed the station emblazoned with the Norwegian flag, since its conception in 1973.

 

 

Food: Honey Soy chicken & grapefruit salad

As the weather has miraculously changed this week, I thought a summery dinner was needed. So, on Sunday, before I went to work I got two frozen chicken breasts out of the freezer, (NATURALLY, VEGETARIANS/VEGANS CAN SUBSTITUTE THE CHICKEN FOR TOFU) and put them on a plate to defrost. After I came home I made the all important marinade:

  • 3-4tsbp dark soy sauce
  • a big spoonful of honey (Vegans could substitute it for Agave, I wanted to use some local honey gifted by my plumber who also keeps bees)
  • 1 tsp of light soy sauce
  • a generous amount of chilli powder – Fresh chilli would be best
  • a thumb size amount of ginger, grated
  • 1 spring onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp chinese Black vinegar
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • 200ml orange juice
  • a splash of garlic infused oil

I marinated the now defrosted chicken for a couple of hours and then stuck it in a foiled tin and poached it on a medium heat until cooked and tender.

Leave to cool, and strain the cooking marinade. DON’T THROW AWAY, IT’S COOKING GOLD, YOU COULD USE IT AS A BROTH BASE, OR WHAT I DID AND USED IT TO MAKE THE DRESSING.

Refrigerate the chicken and leave for the following day.

Yesterday evening, I flaked the chicken into chunks. Got the bowl out for my salad, I used my huge 11″ Lotus design Deka plastic bowl- Based on the famous Cathrineholm enamel bowls by Arne Clausen.

In the mean time I cut and segmented a pink grapefruit. To the strained liquor, add in some toasted sesame seeds and a squeeze of grapefruit juice, from the offcuts from preparing it to make a nice sesame & soy dressing.

Now to assemble the salad:

  • Empty a bag of baby spinach leaves and a handful of rocket, place in the bowl, pour a bit of the dressing
  • Add in half a cucumber, chopped into strips and two chopped spring onions (save some for garnishing)
  • Now, add in the chicken, then the grapefruit segments and mix.
  • Pour a bit more dressing on, and sprinkle some toasted black sesame seeds and the remainder of the spring onions.

C’est fini!

We served this with a nice orange, lemon and ginger cocktail- served in my stunning Kaj Franck designed Iitala Kartio carafe that Tom Brought back from his travels in America. To make, mince a bit of ginger ( thumb size I’d reckon) and steep in another 200ml of orange juice. Add 2 shots of vodka to the carafe – I used my fave, Finlandia. once steeped enough to your liking, strain and top up with lemonade.

Serve and cheers ;D

 

Design: Part II of the London Jaunt

After a lovely night of sourdough, Chianti and some quality Welsh cheeses, I had fallen victim of the dreaded hangover. Never fear, Lowri with her warm smile and a warm cuppa at hand to heal my self-induced woe!

After a long chat and some (more) tea and toast, it was time for myself and Tom, to set off. We started off in Tufnell Park, on the Northern Line, to visit a design shop, which had been there on my last visit. But, alas it had vanished 😦

Left a bit disappointed, I only managed to notice it in the corner of my eye. Near Tuffnell Park station a lovely little coffee cavern, Bear + Wolf. It’s been open nearly a year now, so it is still a bit of a secret.  A lovely design focused coffee shop, this ain’t no ordinary trendy London café, instead it’s a lovely relaxed space, where you can sit on vintage barstools and on teal Eames DSW to the back of the room. They have a kids cave, that’s a bright, colourful space contrasting with the matte grey of the rest of their shop. Did I mention their cakes? Man, the pistachio lemon cake, was divine, perfect with my green tea.

Leaving all cheered up, we decided to fulfil my crave for a design store and headed for The Conran Shop in Marylebone. The Mecca for design lovers, with its carefully curated collection. Things on display like precious jewels. I was left drooling after a black Anglepoise desk lamp. AAAHHH! That silhouette, such a classic! – And Marie-Louise Groot Kormelink’s Small house Wardrobe reminded me of the cute biscuits I had bought the day before in HEMA.

Tom then fancied going to Camden, so next, we headed there.

As it was a bloody hot day, we both needed something to cool down. Good thing that our first port of call was ChinChinLabs a regular haunt of ours when we head up to London. I always try their specials, so I had their vegan Easter special of passionfruit and marshmallow ice cream sprinkled with cacao nibs, whilst Tom had his favourite of Pondicherry Vanilla . What an ice cream! Sweet and tart, then the deep bitterness coming in from the cacao. So good! I’d urge you to get one if it’s still on the specials board when you visit.

The ice cream still tangy on our lips, we started to peruse round the market. We visited a Camden favourite of ours Atomium at The Stables Market. This time, among the myriad of treasures, there was a period Arne Jacobsen Series 7 chair, Stelton steelware an Alvar Aalto table and a good selection of West German vases. Heaven.

With all that looking. My belly was well and truly rumbling. Lucky our London regular, Honest Burgers have a branch within Camden market. We knew exactly what to order. The Honest, cooked medium rare. Paprika onion rings. Homemade lemonade. So bad for me, but did I care? HELL NO! The meaty, savoury juice  running down my fingers as I bit down on the buttery, shiny brioche bun. This is the definition of dirty food. DIRTY, DEVIOUS, DELICIOUS FOOD!

Full up and deeply deeply satisfied, Tom and I then got ready for our long and arduous journey home. Three cheers for MegaBus!

 

Food: A big hug in a bowl!

Coming home from a rather arduous 9-5 shift on Bank Holiday Monday, (I know, “what a way to make a living”- it’s been in my head all day :/).  I needed a pick me up. Today hadn’t been the worst, but it really hadn’t been the best, and with the weather beaming outside, It made me long to finish sooner.

Thankfully, when I got home, Tom gave me the hug i needed, but he had also cooked us both dinner, a relieving surprise (as I didn’t feel like cooking tonight!) Major Brownie points won there.

Tonight’s dinner, (classic yet understated), the 80s classic carrot & coriander (cilantro) soup.

A simple, cheap, flavoursome dish that is exactly what I needed, a big hug in a bowl!

To make it he softened a large, chopped onion and two large cloves of garlic, then he chopped up four/five carrots; three/four sticks of celery and half a bag of new potatoes.

He added all that to the pot and covered with water (using boiling from the kettle).

He seasoned it with with bouillon, lots of black pepper and a generous handful of fresh coriander.

Then he covered it and let it simmer until the carrots and veg fell off the fork. Finally, he blitzed it down with a hand whisk and checked the seasoning.

I finished it off with a dollop of sour cream and some more fresh coriander – 80s-tastic I know 😉

(You can omit the sour cream, and it would be suitable for Vegans 🙂 )

We served it with fresh bread on my Iittala Solaris side plates, and devoured quickly!

Design: Happy Easter!

Happy Easter guys!

Thanks for reading my blog posts! I hope you all nosh until you’re sick of chocolate and enjoy the merriment with friends and family!

I decided the photo i should use this year is my Iittala Aalto vase (Savoy vase) filled with tulips in seasonal hues on my Saarinen Tulip table (tulip inception 😉 )

Glad påsk!

With love,

Nathan x