Author: Rebecca Rutt

It’s not often we head to Vauxhall in search of the hottest new food spot, but when repeated friends insisted we take the trip, we went to Counter under the Vauxhall arches to see what the fuss was about.

Nestled literally under the train arches (opposite Sainsbury’s for those not familiar with the area), is Counter, the all-day bar and brasserie serving a mix of French and American dishes.

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It’s London’s longest restaurant (remember this for future pub quiz knowledge), and decked out in antique mirrors and glamourous art deco-style lighting and as soon as you’re inside it all feels a bit more a trendy neighbourhood in New York rather than, errr, Vauxhaull.

Now down to the food, it's open every day so whether it's morning brunch with the papers, lunch with friends (there's a £10 two-course option with wine), dinner after work or cocktails, it’s there.

There’s a large menu and although it wasn’t the most adventurous we’d seen, everything we had was well-put together with deliciously combined flavours.

From tortillas stuffed with creamy avocado cut with a tangy yuzu vinaigrette and cold smoked melt-in-your-mouth pigeon to classics such as French onion soup, pate and caeser salad. Not forgetting the indulgently-wonderful deep fried mac and cheese balls which we’re still having dreams about.

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There’s a good-sized menu to choose your main meal from, from classic American dishes of burgers and fried chicken to delicately put together fish dishes of sea bream and halibut.

The fish we had was simple yet beautifully presented with flavours that complimented each other expertly while the burger was akin to those you might find at the likes of Meat Liquor or any of the other London favourites with dedicated fans. And both come with a range of fresh, colourful sides – the sprouting broccoli with bacon was our favourite.

When it comes to the sweet options, we weren’t disappointed with twists on the classics to please even the fussiest diners. Think perfect French pastries blended with indulgent-American desserts and you’re about there.

So, a blood orange tart with rhubarb topped with popping candy or Banoffee banana bread with dulche de leche popcorn – have you ever heard such a inviting phrase?!

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It feels like somewhere which would fit in more comfortably in central London but that’s why we love it because of the way it’s landed with a style which will hopefully encourage others like it to come to the party.

No longer is Vauxhall just a grimy hub for passing through on the way to a nicer neighbourhood, Counter has successfully planted it on the map as a place to visit.

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Holloway Road, once an area purely reserved for late-night questionable food choices and dodgy pubs rammed with Arsenal fans is quickly becoming the new destination for creative dining and Croft Kitchen, the pop up dining club inside Vagabond, is a welcome addition to the scene.

Set up by ex-Mugaritz chef, Phil Walther, the communal dining pop up serves seasonal British dishes in a supper club setting from Sunday to Thursdays through the summer.

With a weekly-changing menu, for the refreshingly price of £30 a head, the dishes are inspired by classics from across the UK and made with local produce.

All seven dishes were pretty outstanding and favourites included; mackerel with lightly salted lemon and samphire , a creamy golden egg yolk with girrolles and sweetcorn followed by crusty Peckham Rye bread with juicy pork rillettes, tangy fermented cabbage and pickles finished off with delightfully sweet strawberries and raspberries coated in fennel vinegar

To go along with the food there’s English sparkling wine, IPA’s and seasonal cocktails and with only 35 places per night  you’ll need to book (email: hellocroftkitchen@gmail.com ).

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Finding somewhere in Soho which doesn’t cripple your budget or leave you hankering after a MacDonald’s on the way home is a life-long mission of mine and Vapiano on Wardour Street achieves exactly this feat, moving it onto my recommended places for when you next find yourself in the area.

It's the fourth branch in London of the German chain which is a kind of modern take on fast food. You choose your food, go up to a long counter and order it and then wait (or watch) it be prepared and cooked right in front of you.

The difference is that the food is also pretty decent. It’s nothing too fancy but it is comforting, delicious, inventive and extremely reasonable.

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The restaurant serves Italian food but i's more exciting than your usual pizza pasta with fresh, colourful ingredients used in well-presented and tasty dishes.

Another excellent benefit if you’re going in a group – each diner is given a card which their order is added to, saving the inevitable annoying end-to-all-group-meals when working out the bill (to that person who always leaves us short we know who you are and we hate you).

All-in-all Vapiano is an easy, laid-back venue for fast food with a difference – it’s delicious, inventive, and cheap, something to shout loudly about.

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Set in the beautiful countryside of Cheshire, Rookery Hall Hotel in Nantwich is really something quite special.

It feels like it's been designed for those in need of an escaped from the grind and dirt of London and not only is it ultra peaceful and relaxing - it's also got all the modern amenities you need to make your stay a complete break.

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The hotel is massive  - spread across 38 acres with 70 bedrooms. The rooms are decked out with everything you could think of including - luxurious baths to disappear into for a few hours (with TVs built in – what more could you want).

When you drag yourself out of the room (you really don’t need to – there’s room service on hand for those weekend stays…) the dining rooms are worth a look in. The antique dark wooden panelling gives a sophisticated decadence to the bar and dining rooms which look out onto the stunning garden views.

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Even if you’re not staying over night, the food on offer is enough for a visit. The menu is everything you might expect from a country house restaurant but what gives Rookery Hall the edge over other similar hotels is the quality and extra touch that goes into everything. Every dish we had was not only beautifully presented but also substantial and delicious. It's hearty, comforting food and everything you want after a long day relaxing (hiking) around the neighbouring landscape.

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Just to top it all off - there’s an Elemis spa in a converted stable block on hand to bring you back to your full restorative state. There’s seven treatment rooms, a relaxation room, glass-roofed indoor swimming pool and a gym (should you feel the urge). If you looking to unwind – you don’t need to look very far.

The entire stay is a thing of restoration and relaxation and the perfect antidote to London which everyone should and must experience. It’s only 15 minutes away from the M6 and we’re already planning our next escape back…

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How do you make the weekend even better? Throw in a hearty three-course meal of comforting brunch goods mixed with an endless supply of cocktails. Where can you get this beautiful combination you cry? Head to Canary Wharf right into One Canada Square for a life-altering foodie experience.

It might be a little way to travel but when you see the menu, you’ll be pleased you made the effort, and you get the added bonus of travelling on the DLR (we know you love it as much as we do).

To start, there’s a range of breakfast-themed cocktails on offer. Raspberry Bellini’s, spicy bloody marys or plain old Prosecco, by the bucket load. Soaking up the fizz there’s a three-course menu on offer combining the best bits of breakfast and lunch, think mini eggs Florentine followed by fluffy blueberry pancakes and bacon.

We tried the beautifully delicate salmon tartare followed by a plate of creamy crab linguini and a banoffee-knicker-glory. The perfect way to kick off Friday’s hangover and get set for the day. Also on the menu we dug into avocado on toast with chilli jam, a fragrant salmon fishcake and the exquisitely rich salty chocolate torte.

Three courses are £25, two are £20 and it’s £15 extra for bottomless cocktails. To make the whole thing even better, there’s live music from 1pm so it’s the perfect place to sit back and relax and over indulge on this exceptionally naughty Saturday treat