Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Cosy Kettle at Somers Town Coffee House

I've just found the yummiest, scrummiest bar in town. Cosy Kettle is the new cocktail bar downstairs at the Somers Town Coffee House at Euston/King's Cross. Cosy by name, cosy by nature, this underground cellar with its comfy sofas and higgeldy piggeldy bookshelves serves a wonderful array of classic cocktails as well as some modern specials.

The big idea is.... coupling cocktails with cake! I like cake. I like cocktails. This is surely a winning combination. We sampled the battenburg special, a mini battenburg served with a cocktail, containing apricot liquer, chambord and a host of other yummy ingedients which I can't quite remember (hic!) in a combination designed to complement the cake itself. LUSH.

The Batten, the Burg and the Battenburg
I also tried the Lynchburg Lemondade, a strong, long drink made with Jack Daniels and triple sec, while my buddy had the Apple a Day which was also lipsmackingly good.

Lynchburg Lemonade and An Apple a Day
Cosy Kettle is about enjoying a drink and relaxing, and ultimately telling the snobbery around cocktails to do one. And what better way to get rid of the snobs than to shake a cake at them?

Cocktails come at around £8-9 each and the bar is open Tuesday to Saturday, licensed to 3am.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Melbourne: Eating

It's been a month since I was in Melbourne. Time flies right? I was thinking about this post, thinking, "urgh, no too much time has passed, there's no way I am going to remember what I ate and where", but after thinking about it for all of about ten seconds, the food memories came flooding back.

My sister and I base everything on food. She's 22, I'm 28. I once said to her, "do you remember when we went to Great Yarmouth?" ad she said "is that where we  went to the Little Chef?". Yes, yes it was, and you were 7 years old. And you still remember sausages, chips and beans in Little Chef?! Food is so evocative though, isn't it? Anyway, I digress.

When we landed in Melbourne it was early morning. We went to the hotel to drop our bags, then my sister and one of her friends met us there and we went to one of their favourite spots for some breakfast. This was the first of 3 trips to La Roche, because it was bloody good. They do deals on food every day of the week. At weekends, it's breakfast, and when I tasted this breakfast I thought, "I think I'm gonna like it here". The breakfast consists of eggs poached, fried or scrambled on toasted Turkish bread with bacon, sausage, tomato & hash brown. Simple but effective. The poached eggs were like perfect teardrops. Amazing.

Our further two trips to La Roche were on Monday nights. Monday is when they do Surf and Turf for just $17.50 and boy is it tasty?! A great big steak topped with big juicy prawns and an amazing garlic sauce, with chips of course. Wine is just $5 a glass during happy hour, so a glass of red wine with that and you've just had, like the best meal ever for £12. Mum spent the whole of the following week saying, "I don't care we go to eat as long as we can go back to La Roche next Monday for Surf and Turf again." Fine by me! We went back, but this time I had a chicken parma, an Australian classic. It was an enormous chicken escalope covered in cheese, it was so big it covered the plate. The fries were hidden underneath, there was so little room left. Incredible.
Surf and Turf
Mexican Chicken Parma at La Roche
Melbourne has a number of foodhalls, inexpensive places to get lunch which quite frankly poop all over our foodhalls which normally contain a Spud-u-Like, a McDonalds and a Harry Ramsdens. Lacklustre. One of the best I found was at Southgate Plaza, right by the Yarra and Flinders Street station, which has Mexican at Salsa's (lovely burritos to rival our Chilango) and Rhumbas for great tapas and Italian food, the counter is full of mouthwateringly good-looking arancini and piadini. Then there's sushi, Chinese, Indian, a juice bar, coffee shops and a bit of everything. There's also some sit-down restaurants like Wagamama (which I didn't realise they had in Oz), bars (including an ice bar) and some more upmarket fare. Being part of an office complex, this place gets pretty busy at lunchtime, but after nabbing a table it was fun to people-watch and see what everyone else was having.

Down the road from Southgate Plaza is the impressive Crown Melbourne, boasting a huge casino, hotels (the luxe Crown Metropole included), spas, luxury shopping, another great food hall and restaurants galore. On one of our first days in the city we walked in and had a good gander at everything and spied a fancy seafood place, The Atlantic which is hard to miss with window displays crammed with succulent crabs, lobsters and oysters.

Over the next couple of days I realised that it was Mother's Day in Australia while we were there, and my poor old mum had a crappy UK Mother's Day, my present was late and my sister probably didn't even acknowledge it, as she lives in Australia so wasn't subjected to the same marketing messages that we were here. So I emailed the restaurant and booked a table, pulled my sister aside and told her the plan and on Sunday we managed to gear her over to that side of town right in time for our booking. So we suggested walking through the complex because it had just started to rain (for once, rain was welcome) and as we strolled through, I said "Let's just take a look at that divine menu again. Oh isn't it lovely? Such a shame we can't go here. Except we can because I have a table booked in 3 minutes time." Mum was swept off her feet, delighted and very, very surprised. We had the feasting menu which consisted of oysters and prawns, luscious soft shell crab and barramundi, fries and salad and a delicious cassonade for dessert. Everything was delicious. The feasting menu is $60 each (£40). We checked out the wine list but the prices made me want to cry a bit so we opted for water and carried on our tradition of $5 supermarket wine back in our hotel room. Heathens like us wouldn't appreciate fine wine anyway!
Oysters and Prawns at the Atlantic
Barramundi,Soft Shell Crab and Fries at the Atlantic
Another highlight was Joe's in St Kilda, which is a really cool, fairly new diner selling American nosh with an Australian twist. The food was incredible, we opted for several plates and shared because we just wanted a bit of everything, so we had kranski sausage, soft shell crab, harissa chicken, fries and a chickpea salad. There was a relaxed vibe, it was clean and the staff were really helpful, and the final bill was modest too.

We had so many other amazing meals in Melbourne, including Mexican at Taco Bill which is a very reasonable sit-down restaurant, lovely authentic Thai food, fantastic Greek cuisine in the now miniscule Greek Quarter and so so much more. We happened upon a down and dirty takeaway establishment which was newly opened on Chapel Street, the Cheeky Prawn. As it was newly opened, they were boasting 50% off selected items on the menu (they were pretty vague about how long the deal was for, "oh maybe a few weeks?"). We each had the soft shell crab burger (are you spotting a theme yet?) which was delicious and came to something ridiculous like $5 each, and we shared a seafood chowder which is the best I've ever eaten. It's fast food like with its formica tables and plastic cutlery, but damn I wish we had something like it in the UK.
Enchilada Nuevo Mexico, Taco Bills
Our final night was spent at Cafe Cavallino on Lygon Street which is the Italian part of town. There are tonnes of Italian restaurants, some with staff outside trying to tempt the tourists in. My sister had asked an Italian friend for recommendations, and she told us where to go and where to avoid. We opted for Cavallino. We wanted to tick off as many main food types as possible, and Italian is a big part of Melbourne's culture. The whole place is covered in Formula 1 memorabilia and has cute gingham tablecloths so it does feel like you're in a southern Italian ristorante. The menu was huge, so much choice, so we spent ages poring over it. I've just had another look at the menu and I can't actually remember which one I had, it was so vast. But I know this: we all agreed it was one of the best pizzas we've ever eaten, far better than UK chain restaurant fare.

N.B. My favourite ever Italian Restaurants in the UK for authentic Italian are La Pizzeria Italiana, Catford, and BB's, Sheffield.

Other highlights included:
These enormous sushi rolls were$2 each
  • Sushi. It's everywhere. It's cheap. Try Edo Sushi and Noodles on Degraves Street.
  • A deep fried scallop. I mean, can you even imagine a better way to debase such a delicate thing? It's amazing. Funk Fish, Queen Victoria Market
  • Gooey cakes at the famous Ackland Street bakeries. apparently Monarch is the best.
  • The coffee. Almost anywhere. Our chainstore fare in the UK sucks in comparison.
Because Melbourne is such a multi-cultural city, you can get almost any food, from any place, at any time. It's incredible. I want to go back, there's a million restarants I didn't get to try, and what better way to live your life than by a food bucket list?

Sunday, 28 April 2013


After a mental week at work, 3 days of which were spent at a trade show with loads of booze and naughty food, I was ready to crash this weekend. But I already knew that this wasn't going to be the case, owing to a girl's night out we'd planned ages ago.

In an attempt to spend some time with the Boy before I go to Australia (5 days and counting), we went to Angel in the morning to do some shopping. I needed some toiletries for my trip so popped to Boots and got some L'Oreal Elvive Full Restore 5 shampoo and conditioner, which were half price for the 400ml bottles, and some Nivea Happy Time shower gel, which was just 97p a bottle, so cheap and cheerful for me as always. We checked out a couple of opticians, I'd had an eye test the day before at Specsavers and had been told I need new glasses so wanted to shop around.. Below are my current favourites, although I also want to check out the Orla Kiely range at Boots.
Karen Millen 12
We spotted a branch of Bill' on White Lion Street, I didn't know it was there so I think it's fairly new (they seem to be popping up all over the place). I've wanted to check out Bill's for a while, so we popped in and got seated straight away, and told that breakfast was being served til 1pm (it's 12noon on weekdays). I opted for the vegetarian breakfast and Boy had the sausage sandwich, with a side of bacon and cauliflower cheese from the main menu.
Bill's vegetarian breakfast 
Bill's decor, Islington
I loved my breakfast. I am not a vegetarian, I am generally very carnivorous indeed but the description got me (poached free range eggs, tomatoes, hummus, mushrooms & guacamole, sweet chilli sauce, basil 
& toast) and I was not disappointed. I got additional bubble and squeak with mine, and we got a coffee each too. The bill came to just under £25 including 12.5% service charge which we were happy to pay as the service was great. A nice touch at Bill's is that they give you a carafe of tap water without it having to be asked for, I get so fed up with snotty looks elsewhere when you request tap water. Bill's branches have selection of handpicked deli products in store, all of which can be bought online too, along with the cookbook Cook Eat Smile which I now have my eye on after flicking through it in the store, it's a beautiful book.
Cook Eat Smile

We also went to H&M, where I got two great tops for just £9. This black number was £7.99, but 50% off (also in white, khaki and blue).
Black lace top, £7.99

This beautiful cream glittery top was marked down to £10, but when I got it to the till it was just £5! I can't find it on the website, so here's my picture below. Two tops for £9, I am still marvelling!
Mega bargain top
After shopping, I headed home and started working on my hair. I have long straight brown hair, which I wear in two styles. Up (in a ponytail). Or Down. I wanted to try something different, and inspired by Sienna Miller, I went for a plaited headband approach. An hour and many kirby grips later, it was achieved, here's me with my friend A. I wore the new black top with a blue boob tube top underneath, with black jeans and flat pumps

A and I had an amazing night at Koko, Camden. It was a Guilty Pleasures night, so the music was loads of amazing cheese and we had a really good dance. I loved it, though had one two many Skittlebombs and Jagerbombs. Taking all those kirby grips out on the night bus home was a wonderful feeling!

Today should be a lazy day, but I never sleep well after booze, so awoke around 7:30 (didn't go to bed til 3:30, ouch) then wandered to the shops again. I needed some new sunglasses so picked up some £5 jobbies from M&S, I am forever breaking them so I don't spend a lot of money on them, I have been known to get through 5 pairs in a month. I popped to our local car boot which is on every weekend and got 5 of the Game of Thrones books for 20p each for the Boy before going to Tesco to stock up our fridge. I am currently baking the Hummingbird Bakery Buttermilk Pound Cake and the chicken is marinading for tonight's Starlight Spicy Chicken Wraps. Who said hungover Sundays had to be dead time?!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Tired of London...As if

Spring has sprung, the sun is out, I am as happy as can be! Yesterday I had an absolutely lovely, lovely day with one of my besties, Laurel. After a leisurely start to the day with the boy, and a trip to the post office to post my latest book swaps and get him some Euros for his trip to Belgium, I headed over to Liverpool Street to meet lovely Laurel and check out Judy's at Spitalfields to check out the wares. We didn't buy anything on this occasion but did grab an amazing peanut butter cupcake from Betty-Lou's Bakery which we devoured between us, simply stunning! The next Judy's at Spitalfields is 4th May.
Pillow fight in Trafalgar Square

We got the tube to Temple and had a coffee, before heading to the National Gallery via Trafalgar Square where there was a massive flash-mob pillow fight going on! Much fun to behold. We soaked up some culture in the National Gallery, we'd never been before, I didn't know how the stunning it is inside with its glorious ceilings, we got told off for trying to take photos, but here's a snippet from Flickr....check it out!

We wandered up to the Japan Centre, then checked out Paxton and Whitfield on Jermyn Street, one of the oldest cheese shops in London, which is incredible. We then spent a good hour in Waterstones on Picadilly ogling the fiction, art, travel and craft books.

The main reasons for getting together this fine weekend were to go to Judy's, and then to go to the Clueless Quote-Along at Prince Charles Cinema, so we grabbed our tickets before enjoying a Cafe Rouge dinner complete with vino. There's currently a deal on O2 Priority Moments to get one main meal and a second for £1, so we took advantage of this, I had their Poulet Breton and Laurel the Aubergine Gratin, delicious! On the subject of the O2, there's also a deal to get a free bag of Percy Pigs in Marks and Spencers, just buy showing them a code, get them before they're gone!

After more wine at LVPO (happy hour 5-9!) we headed to the cinema, full of excitement for the film. We met two other like-minded ladies who kindly took this photo of us (below), and Laurel and Jess took part in the competition they had at the start, where Laurel came away with Stranger Than Fiction on DVD. The film was amazing, if you're a Clueless fan (and who isn't?!) I would highly recommend going along to the next one on 31st May, so much fun! Next on the list is Anchorman.
Today I checked out Capital Car Boot in Pimlico, it was a lovely day for it. I didn't buy anything, but I would go back. It's £1 entry and there's a decent split between traders and people genuinely clearing out their homes, so while nothing to catch my eye this time, there were plenty of bargains to be had. It was such a nice day so I wandered around and ended up at the Southbank where I text my boss to tell her how aaazing Clueless was, and she invited me around for a cuppa as she only lives down the road. We ended up going straight back out for a spot of brunch at Ev's nearby which was incredible. We both had a eggs with feta, soooo tasty, it comes with a coffee and delicious bread so was a snip at £4.95, highly recommended.
Eggs at Ev's
It's so easy to get stuck in a bit of a rut in life and falling into the trap of going to work, spending the evenings at home and wasting weekends away. Now that it's summertime (sort of) I am determined to make the most of the extra hours sunlight, and being in London. We talked a lot yesterday about all the things we wanted to do this summer, like go to Burger and Lobster, check out the Museum of Childhood, go on a boat trip along the Thames, spend an afternoon in the bookshops of Charing Cross Road, head to Kew Gardens and Richmond... What's on your to-do list this summer?

Monday, 1 April 2013

A foodie Easter

Easter and the week leading up to it has been a lazy one. I still had the remainder of a bad cold last weekend when I locked myself out on Sunday afternoon when doing the food shop (Boy went out while I was out shopping, I hadn't taken my key), so two extra hours in the cold made my cold come back with a vengeance. I worked on Monday but was good for nothing, so spent Tuesday and Wednesday in bed, dosed up with Day Nurse, chicken soup and as much Vitamin C I could soak up.

I've been trying really hard to eat better in general and look after myself, so I am less susceptible to these things. I've recently been obsessed with The Londoner's recipes. Rosie's Skinny Shrimp Curry, Skinny Spaghetti and Epic Fish Tacos were all on the menu this week. All really easy to make, honestly, the prawn curry is the first curry I've ever made and not stuffed up. I served it up with bulgar wheat, a lower-calorie, higher-fibre alternative to rice.

The skinny spaghetti recipe is basically chilli con carne served with cabbage as spaghetti, which sounds lame but actually works really well and will be something I do a lot more often to save myself from the bloat . The cooking times for that recipe are long, I didn't read it right so had already started cooking when it said "leave for an hour before chucking in... and then leave for a further hour". I didn't. It was already 18:30 and I was already ill, hungry and just wanted to eat. I reduced those times to 20 mins each and it was still tasty as anything. Maybe I will try for the optimum marinations when I have more time. I also made this with turkey mince rather than beef, lower in fat and usually cheaper. The fish tacos...are well, epic. We are having them again tonight, for the 4th time in about 3 weeks, I love them. Cannot get enough, if I was to recommend any of these recipes over the others, it would be that one.
The Londoner's Skinny Shrimp Curry 
 Luckily I felt better on Thursday, well enough to go back to work, albeit with Day Nurse by my side. A lot is going on at work at the moment so it was hectic, but I made it through the day and came home to make some Easter cookies. My friend had bought me some Easter cookie cutters years ago which I still hadn't got round to using, so we whipped up some biscuits according to the Hummingbird Bakery recipe for Sugar Cookies, and iced them in green (because green was the only food colouring I had).

On Good Friday, we hopped on a train to Burton-On-Trent, to see our friends who recently moved there. Tasha and Martin met through us two years ago, and got married last October. I was a bridesmaid, and the Boy an usher at their wedding last year, but time and distance means we don't get to see each other nearly enough. This Easter, we rectified this with a lazy weekend of food, drink and laughs in the Midlands.

Nacho preparation, accompanying Fajita Friday
Martin's incredible burgers.
The best roast dinner I've ever eaten.
Besides eating, there was much drinking to be done, and napping, and watching Disney films (Fantasia and Beauty and The Beast were our choices). We caught up, snuggled, played Cranium and laughed til our faces hurt. Luckily Martin and Tash have this furry fella, Roger, otherwise we'd not have moved at all all weekend.
The River Trent at Washlands
A walk along the canal (finished off with a pint or two of course)
 We've just got back to London, and I feel relaxed and rejuvenated, but also indulged and a little bit chubbier. Back to walking to work tomorrow and a little bit of holding back to deflate my waistline! Easter brought with it the start of good old British Summer Time, and while there's still a definite chill in the air (and in some parts still snow on the ground) when I turned myself to the sun yesterday I definitely felt some warmth and it felt good. I had even come out in freckles by the time I go to a mirror! Time to stop hibernating and get outside and start living!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Spoilt Rotten

My recent trip to Paris was part of my 28th birthday celebrations, and that was a treat enough for me. We went away midweek so I also organised an evening out with my friends in London last night. We went to Meat Market first for some of my favourite dirty great burgers and I'd booked a table at Henry's which is fast becoming one of my favourite bars. I didn't expect to get so fantastically spoilt by my friends too.

Dave's cousin Kris came up to see us and brought with her a nice bottle of red. My friend and flatmate Anna met us at home before we went out, and gave me a lovely mug by Merchant and Mills and some beautiful chocolates from Fortnum and Mason, and a box of delicious cupcakes from Hummingbird Bakery, along with the Wallpaper guide to Melbourne. However, earlier in the week, Dave's dad had sent me not one but three Wallpaper books, for Melbourne, Beijing and Shanghai which is funny as I only added them to my wishlist last week when I blogged about them, he must have logged on just after I updated my list. So with two Melbourne books, Anna is returning her copy!
Merchant and Mills
When we settled down in Henry's still reeking of burger juice, Laurel gave me more presents, a very bling notebook and pen and a bottle of Guerlain's La Petite Robe Noire, which is a very sexy scent indeed and feels very luxurious. Ghazaleh presented me with a mini bottle of cava and two boxes of French Fancies which she'd had made to order for me at AE Barrow and Sons in Canterbury after I ranted to her last weekend that I couldn't find any in my local bakeries. My friend Danielle showed up, back from visiting her folks in the States with a packet of S'mores Pop Tarts and then Dave's brother joined us after the Sigur Ros gig in Brixton where he gave me a divine Clothbound Classics version of Les Miserables, straight from my wishlist - I am thrilled but also massively daunted by the sheer volume of it!

I feel very blessed, I got so much more than I anticipated for my birthday, and am very humbled by it. But while I've had an amazing week, one of my best friends has not. Her husband Ben died last Saturday, 2nd March, losing his battle with leukaemia. Ben was only 30 years old, and was father to their beautiful Joe who is 16 months old. So even though I've been given so many wonderful gifts this week, I have one further request: If you are healthy and able, please go to the Anthony Nolan site and sign up to be a stem cell donor.   We can't bring Ben back, but we can stop this from happening to more families.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

My Week: Hair and Handbags

  • The Walking Dead. Love it so much. 
  • Siro-A's amazing show at Leicester Square Theatre, highly recommended. It's fairly short, but witty and awe-inspiringly well-choreographed. Book here. Sample it here. Click here quickly and you can get free tickets for this afternoon.
  • At Strada with Tesco vouchers (see post here). 2 mains, 2 desserts, one bottle of wine - £20 vouchers = £30, bargain.
  • A very naughty 2am KFC. Haven't done that for months. Was it worth it? I expect not!
  • Tonight: The Londoner's fish tacos, if I can just drag myself to the shop sometime in the next 8 hours to get some coriander and limes! Looking forward to it already, the recipe looks straightforward and foolproof.
  • A few weeks back I got an email telling me I'd won a Redken Smooth Locks Treatment at my local Supercuts. I had to have my hair tested to see if it was strong enough to take the treatment (and not over-processed). Supercuts is a walk-in salon, so I had to take my chances in terms of timing. I needed to stay in to try and get Beyonce tickets online at 9:30 but after they sold out in something like 10 minutes (which is a whole other rant) I hotfooted it down to Holloway Road and luckily the salon wasn't busy. First Wendy washed my hair with the Smooth Locks shampoo then applied the activator which is a very strong smelling substance indeed, not vomit-inducing but not pleasant either. The activator stayed on for 12 minutes before being rinsed out thoroughly (no unpleasant odour remained) and then the smooth sealer was put in before my hair was blowdried to perfection. The treatment is heat activated so blow-drying is an essential part. The results were great, I am blessed with having straight, manageable hair anyway, but it feels deliciously soft and light and looks really healthy, even after a night's sleep. The treatment which costs from £30 should last up to ten washes, longer if used with the Smooth Locks shampoo and conditioner. Here are the results:

  • I also picked up a mystery parcel from my local sorting office. Turns out I had won some Talullah Tu jewellery in a competition with Love it Magazine. It'll look great worn like the model with a strapless dress, or will dress up a plain t-shirt and jeans.

  • I went to the Orla Kiely sample sale in Clapham on Saturday (don't be jealous, I told you about it). I queued for about 25 minutes in the cold but boy was it worth it. I went with a particular bag in mind, which I'd seen in Mitsukoshi. but at £255 couldn't justify it (see my post here). That particular bag wasn't there, but this one was and I snapped it up at a much more palatable £120, it's an early birthday present to myself. It's a larger bag, but I like to have a big handbag anyway for notebooks, cameras etc, and it's a much more classic bag that will last me for years. It will actually probably be a good size for my upcoming one-nighter in Paris. Owning it makes me feel quite excited and nervous! This is the most I've ever spent on a bag and I know it's modest compared to some, but it's worth £345 according to this ebay listing (which has some much better pictures). I am going to take really good care of it, promise, I've already sprayed it with protective spray!

  • I also snapped up an Olive and Orange top for just £5. It's a simple top black/grey stripy long sleeved top (I've tried taking a picture but it's coming out all crazy, I can never get thin stripes to photograph well), one that will be great for all purposes, I can dress it up for work or dress it down for cosy weekends. Olive and Orange is Orla Kiely's diffusion brand which seems to have disappeared. The website is down, they haven't posted anything on Facebook or Twitter for a long time, and my online searching isn't bringing up any real results. Can anyone in the know shed any light on this for me?
  • While I was queuing to get into the sale, I got chatting to some ladies who'd travelled from Manchester to be there! They said that they'd heard about it through the Orla Kiely mailing list, but that usually the sale was held at Old Truman Brewery and that sometimes they hear about it through the venue before OK's own site, so I'm not taking any chances, I'm signing up for both newsletters and Sample Sales London, just to be on the safe side!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Bites and Bags

January is finally over. It always feels like the longest month, but now that it's finished, it feels like not long at all until Spring and then best of all, Summer. I hate the winter months, I detest having to wrap up like a sausage roll, with the cold inevitably getting in anyway. I hate that after Christmas, there just feels like there's no damn reason for it to be this cold. I hate being constantly hunched up from trying to keep warm against the bitterness of it all. In summer time I feel much more relaxed, my shoulders are less tense, I don't have to wear so much makeup. Last summer was a bit of a wash-out, but I am looking forward to this year's, I have high hopes for some real heat.

This Saturday my mum came to visit and I showed her the delights of North London. She was raised in South London and has been in Kent for most of her adult life so had never spent any time in the north of the capital. It was her birthday last weekend, so I took her to Ottolenghi for lunch, which was incredible. There was a bit of a queue, we met at about 11 at Angel and headed straight there for lunch as had seen the queue on the way past earlier on. We queued for about 20 minutes before we could be seated, and then were treated to an incredible feast. The lunch special comprised one main item with 2 or 3 salads at about £13 or £16 respectively. We went for the 3 option, so that we could sample as much as possible.I opted for the mushroom quiche with the famous broccoli (which I'd been curious about since I read Stella Newman's mention), Jerusalem artichokes and butternut squash, while mum had the beef with aubergine, maftoul and red cabbage and we each tried each others. Everything was sublime. All of it. We didn't have a drink, or any dessert as the meal was so filling, and surprisingly reasonable at the £16 each mentioned above. You can see the lunch menu here.

I'd advise turning up fairly early, while the queue moved fairly quickly on this occasion it can apparently get really busy later on. They were still serving breakfast alongside lunch, which also looked amazing. It was a lovely dining experience, and I'm popping all of the cookbooks on my wishlist so that one day I can achieve such culinary delights in my own home.
Those famous salads on display

We spent the rest of the day mooching around Islington and had a lovely time with only a small drama when I left one of my bags in Costa and had to run halfway along Upper Street to retrieve it. I got this New Look  jumper dress from the Cancer Research UK store for a princely £5.95. I debated whether it was too Christmassy (the Christmas jumper trend got quite ridiculous this year, with people seemingly chosing to spend their hard-earned on the ugliest things they could find), but decided that it was just Christmassy enough and if I had to endure another month or two of this cold, I might as well have a reminder of the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Mum and I went to M&S, which is a place I rarely shop but recently have been finding more and more appealing. This time, the items that caught my attention were this bag and scarf.

Marks and Spencers
Orla Kiely
Whilst I was running along Upper Street, the strap of my blue leather satchel broke again which will have to be repaired. I love bags thought have managed to be quite disciplined in recent years and keep the stash to a minimum, but at the moment I have two bags that I can only use the hand strap on until I get them repaired, and I really am a shoulder-strap kinda gal. I've decided that if I get a bonus this month (it's the end of our financial year, but it's not been the best year so looks unlikely), I am going to treat myself to this Orla Kiely Caramel Mocha stunner. If I don't get my bonus, I'll settle for repairing my existing ones and console myself with the M&S number!

This week I've had the pleasure of going to a preview of a new comedy phenomenon, The Comedy Store: Raw and Uncut which is basically a series of Comedy Store stand-up shows, recorded and played in cinemas across the country from this month. I particularly enjoyed the performances of Addy Van der Borgh and Louis Ramey (who is a filthy, filthy man!), and will be seeking out more of their work. The whole experience of watching a stand-up show in a cinema was odd but not unpleasant, at times I nearly clapped and cheered alongside the crowd onscreen but managed to stop myself just in time!

I've just got back from seeing Hitchcock at the cinema, another preview screening. I really enjoyed the film, Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren were both fantastic, even Scarlett Johannsson was pretty good as Janet Leigh (but that bloody D&G advert makes me want to stab myself in the ear). It's made me want to watch ALL of Hitchcock's movies and learn a bit more about him and Alma. It's in cinemas nationwide from 8th February. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Winter Pampering

I have had an underlying feeling of general GROT for the last week or so, not surprising with the weather we've had and the fact that all my colleagues have been ill recently, it was only a matter of time really. I felt super yucky on the bus home yesterday, and woke up this morning feeling naff, so decided to allow myself to get better and call in sick. Naturally by the afternoon I felt much better and got that hideous guilty feeling that perhaps I should have gone to work after all. That always happens, but I knew this morning that if I went in, I wouldn't have lasted the day.

This afternoon I had a little pamper to try and feel a bit more human. I got some Soap and Glory goodies for Christmas, including The Daily Smooth body butter and Scrub, Actually body scrub and Girligo body mist, which I slathered and sprayed, in the appropriate order. I really like Soap and Glory products, they smell delightful, work really well and are really good value. They are nearly always on offer in Boots, they're 3for2 at the moment (GO!).

I've also been trying to be better at moisturising. I received some gorgeous Elemis day and night creams for Christmas so I've been using them as religiously as I can remember to. Elemis products are pricier at around £40, but even after using for a short time, I can see why, my skin is silky baby soft at a time of year when it should by rights be feeling much crustier!

Pampering wouldn't be pampering without a big fluffy robe to do it in. Another Christmas gift for me, I was well and truly spoilt this year! My last robe was a fleece one, a Christmas gift about 12 years ago so I was long overdue a new one, and I found this one in Debenhams and directly my mum promptly to it. It's so soft, and makes me feel relaxed and cosy within seconds of putting it on.

Lovely Fluffy goodness
I've had a fairly busy old time recently, work has been manic with various team members being off and the weekend passed in a blur as usual. Here's what I've been doing:

Watching: Green Wing (old school hilarity), Breaking Bad (stunningly gripping, or grippingly stunning, I haven't decided), Movie 43 (odd. Very odd).

Listening: More Les Mis and showtunes courtesy of Elaine Paige - yesterday I had EPOS to thank for the fact that I had Hakuna Matata in my head ALL day.

Eating: An indulgent day on Saturday, I ate in Food for Thought which is an amazing vegetarian cafe/restaurant in Covent Garden, I've been going there for over 10 years, fantastically filling and healthy food. I also ate an amazing pork and chorizo burger at The Calf in Clapham on Saturday night. There might have even been a naughty cake in Le Pain Quotidien in between, but who can resist a chocolate fondant slice? Sunday, even naughtier, I popped to my good friend Laurel's who treated me to some amazing cake which she's entering into a competition. I'd post a picture but I don't want to compromise her chances of winning (and to my mind, she's got a blimmin' good chance)!
Food for Thought
Buying: Payday this month could not have come quickly enough. I treated myself to a case for my tablet which is on it's way from Hong Kong, as below, in my favourite shade of blue. Once it comes I might even be brave enough to leave the house with my tablet. 
Super kitsch tablet case
Laughing: This Tumblr is hilarious and combines two of my favourite things, Les Mis and Mean Girls

Losing: My efforts in walking, WeightWatching (apart from this weekend, ahem) and abstaining from booze have culminated in me losing 11lb as at last Wednesday. I'm weighing in this Friday to get the final end of Dryathlon result so I can pester my colleagues to sponsor me pound for pound!

Monday, 31 December 2012

A Polish Christmas

My mother's parents were both Polish, they escaped during the Second World War via Sweden where my Uncle was born, Scotland where my mum was born and then had six months living in Argentina before finally settling in London. For fear of being arrested, they never went back to their homeland. Nan worked as a bookkeeper on Fleet Street and Granddad worked for British Rail, they got a decent sized house in Southh West London, which my Grandmother at 91 still lives in (Granddad died in August 1991).

Like many Europeans, for Poles, the Christmas celebration was on Christmas Eve, so every year we'd drive up to my Nan's from Kent. With my cousins and aunts and uncles, she'd do a full Polish Christmas dinner for us, complete with herring, breaded fish, potatoes and bigos, and poppyseed cake for dessert (eurrgh!). After that, we'd open our presents from that side of the family then head home, before celebrating a British style Christmas at home on the 25th.

As the years went on, the dinner stopped, as cooking for 12 people was all too much and we'd go for coffee and cake instead, but now, Nan isn't really able to do much as the host, and the tradition has stopped altogether, and my Uncle's family prefers to take holidays in the UAE at Christmas, so Nan comes to us, along with my Dad's mum, all the way from the Black Country.

This year Nanny Kiki (so-called as that's what she called me when I was a baby) had a heart attack the weekend before Christmas and spent the 9 days in the run-up to Christmas in hospital. Her hearing is dreadful and her memory worse, but she loves to talk and is always cheerful. She had us very much on edge all over Christmas though with sudden gasps and grunts, and I felt I shouted "ARE YOU OK?" more than I said anything else! What I love about my Nan is her relentless cheeriness, even though it's repetitive, her most used words are "unbelievable", "lucky", "amazing".

Nan probably won't be in her own home much longer. The vast amount of medication she was given is too much for her to remember to take properly, the stairs in the house are steep and it's all becoming a bit of a worry. For years my mum has been doing the Christmas shopping for her, as it's difficult to get to the shops, find the gifts we want and carry them all home. This year my mum bought me on her behalf the stunning Rose Petal Jam Polish cookbook by Beata Zatorska and Simon Target which I thought was a particularly thoughtful given the circumstances.

My Nan may be with us for many years to come, or this heart attack may be signalling that her rich life is coming to an end, and even though she didn't choose this book for me herself, I can remember her by it.

2 days after Christmas, Nanny P went home from our house, and on the very next day, she fell over and broke her ankle. If it doesn't rain it pours (all this follows my Dad's back injury which he is still recovering from)! She is 96, and is very, very immobile anyway, so it's unlikely that she will recover well and will probably need to go into a home too. I am glad we go to spend Christmas with them both at home this year, and in subsequent years we can make the best of whatever the situation is.

I grabbed a handful of old photos from Nan's house yesterday. Unfortunately I don't know who's who in most of them. With my grandparents escape to the UK, I never knew my other older relatives or their friends. That's them at the back, top left.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

In the beginning, there was a careless young lady....

My first on my new blog about how utterly uncool I am. I was telling a couple of male colleagues at our Christmas party last night how little I care about what I look like. They accused me of exaggerating this for their sakes, which may have been the case. I guess the truth is that I do put a little effort into looking passable in everyday life, but perhaps not enough, so this blog was born to help me keep focus on my efforts in taking a little more pride in myself and my wardrobe.

For a while, my shopping motto has been: Don't buy anything unless you love it more than your very favourite item of clothing. Naturally, we all need those staple items like the essential black vest top (H&M is your friend, but I do think this is a good rule to have. I don't stick to this religiously, sometimes it slips, but I think its a bloody good benchmark for making sure you're not Just Buying Tat. At university, I bought new clothes on a daily basis, I was out most nights of the week. I would wear them once then sell them on eBay when I realised my bank balance was about to enter dangerous territory. Now, I really try to think, "Do I need this, do I really want it?" and am pretty strict with myself. This has been helped by the fact that, much of the time, I find high fashion utterly ridiculous and unwearable and dress for comfort.

I've made slight improvements already. In my last job, which was going nowhere fast and had me at my lowest in terms of motivation, I would often wear a plain top and the same pair of trousers all week long. Since moving to the capital, starting a new job that's actually going somewhere, with a great, nurturing boss, I've realised that I have worn skirts and dresses every single day and felt all the better, and more professional for it.

I also pay little heed to how I treat my body and my skin. I am currently a smoker, though this is set to change very soon (again). I frequently go to bed without taking off all my makeup. Since walking a lot my holiday to Japan in September, I haven't done even a tiny bit of exercise. So like many people, I am setting a new resolution to treat myself a little better. 

As the name suggests, this isn't a fashion blog as such. I see this as a diary of the start of a new effort to start treating myself a little better, pay more attention to what my body needs, what I look like and as a result, feel happier and have a more fulfilling life, on a bit of a budget. I am going to talk about products I've started using, the gradual improvement of my wardrobe through the purchase of inexpensive and interesting items, maybe some recipes I've tried, books I've read and the occasional brief film review and suchlike. 

With that in mind, here's my latest purchase!

Essentially, it's a blue jumper. Nothing special, but I realised I didn't really have any knitwear apart from a comical Christmas jumper (45p from a flea market in Tallinn last year!) and a dodgy Pringle style number I bought for a pub golf expedition, and neither are fit for public consumption. This is by Superdry and was RRP £44.99, but I snapped it up at the Seven Dials Christmas shopping event, where everything was 20% off, so this comfortable but presentable piece of knitwear was only £35.99. My boyfriend has cultivated quite a collection of Superdry checked shirts, they are his uniform (he does look really, really good in them) and I've never really considered the ladieswear because I've always been a cheapskate but after he queued to buy the latest addition to his checked shirt collection (orange and grey this time), I thought I'd have a little ganders at the ladieswear. There were two other shades of blue which we were equally tempting but my practical side told me to go with this one, which would ultimately go with more. 

Also this week, I've been to see Pitch Perfect, which I really rated. I scored some free tickets to a preview screening at the Courthouse Hotel, which was a lovely setting, right by Liberty's of London, and managed to drag the Boy along, after I couldn't find a girlfriend that was free at short notice to attend. It was really good, and even he, hater of musicals was impressed. It's not a musical as such, but it is a movie about a capella singing, and these aren't for everyone. I'd say even if you've read the synopsis and think it sounds lame, give it a chance anyway if the opportunity arises. A feel good film, with some hilarious moments (thanks Rebel Wilson), and some really, really good musical numbers. Anna Kendrick can sing? Who knew? 

We also ate at Bi Bim Bap on Greek Street which was pretty darn yummy. I loved Bi Bim Bap when I first tried it in Shanghai in 2008 so when I saw this Korean eatery in Soho I mentally filed it for later. A shared starter of squid, two mains and two beers came to £33 including service, so it's not bank breaking either. Really yummy food, nice cosy laidback little restaurant, no complaints here!