London Dining - Winter Edition

Friday, 27 November 2015

Picking somewhere to eat in London is no easy task. Despite living in central London for over eight years my restaurant list is as long as ever. What with constant new openings, nightmare "no bookings" policies and mine and my friends' dietary whims (I sometimes forget until I am reading an entirely meat-based menu that I, er, don't eat meat anymore) it sometimes feels like picking where to go for dinner could be a full-time job. Help is at hand though with my winter round-up:

1. Mangal 1.1, Bedroom Bar, 68 Rivington St, EC2

The original Mangal has opened a Shoreditch outpost. Sophie and I attended the opening and were treated to a simple but super tasty Turkish meal - starting with a selection of dips and Turkish bread and ending with sweet baklava. The menu is quite meat focused but after doing my "oh sorry I'm veggie" thing I ended up with a plate of falafel while Sophie tackled the mixed grill. Despite being a new opening, the restaurant had a great atmosphere and I can definitely see myself returning.

Mangal 1.1 Shoreditch
A selection of yummy dips (always hard not to go wild with the bread and to be too full for anything else!)
Mangal 1.1 Shoreditch
They look small but even for me, these are potently sweet!
2. Friends of Ours, 61 Bitfield St, N1

When my Insta-friend, Eliza, was in town she suggested brunch at Friends of Ours - we're always liking (and heart-eye emoji-ing) each other's food pictures on Instagram so we obviously had to go somewhere appropriately Instagram worthy for our first IRL meet-up. Friends of Ours is a super cute cafe with an "I want it all" brunch menu and great coffee - I had to have an almond milk iced latte despite the weather. Obviously, we both had the avocado on toast for the 'gram and our waiter brought us fresh juices due to the kitchen losing our orders which was a nice gesture. The cafe is on the small side and gets busy so arrive early for brunch!

Friends of Ours Hoxton
Allpress coffee and an almond milk iced lattes. Since stopping coffee earlier this year I can now only drink it iced - even when its minus degrees outside...
Friends of Ours Hoxton
Fully loaded brunch table. 
Friends of Ours Hoxton
Egg porn. 
3. Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, 42 Northampton Road, EC1

B&H seems to be an Instagrammer's favourite - the interior is just so damn pretty. The conservatory here is one of my favourite spots for a drink so I was intrigued to try the brunch menu before Hannah, Sarah and I saw Hamlet at the Barbican (and I was keen for my stomach not to rumble constantly throughout the very long first half as it had on my first viewing). B&H has a simple brunch menu and its definitely popular - the restaurant was packed with everything from dates to baby showers. I had the eggs florentine which were nice but not mind-blowing, style over substance is maybe a little unfair but I'll probably stick to B&H for their amazing cocktails rather than food in the future.

B&H Buildings brunch
Iced Americano because Hamlet is long.
Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings Brunch
Egg porn again. The eggs were perfect but the rest felt a bit...uninspired? Or am I all brunched out?
3. The Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, W1

Not exactly a restaurant but my one and only formal dinner of the year so  I couldn't not photograph it. I'm always in awe of how they manage to serve dinner to so many people at once, especially considering the myriad of dietary requirements that this many guests must have. I went for the pescatarian option which was a goat's cheese tart, sea bass fillet and a chocolate and raspberry tart for dessert. Got to love a bit of Masterchef-esque plating!

Fine dining. Minus me switching the cutlery for every course because I just cannot hold a knife in my right hand (no, I'm not American or left-handed....)
4. Little Japan, 32 Thurloe St, SW 7

My friend S and I were looking for somewhere near South Kensington station and opted for the tiny and not-particularly-glam looking Little Japan. What the restaurant lacks in decor it more than makes up for with its food - we both had salmon bento boxes, miso soup and green tea and paid around £15 each which is amazing value for Japanese food in London. Also, I got to use the bento box emoji on Instagram when I posted this. If you're looking for a simple, no-frills but authentically Japanese meal then this place is a must-try.

Little Japan Kensington
Bento Box. If the next person going to Japan could just put me in their suitcase...
5. Manna, 4 Erskine Street, NW3

My friend P and I were looking for a new veggie restaurant to try and Manna is highly recommended in online reviews. The restaurant used to be vegetarian but is now fully vegan and has been a Primrose Hill mainstay so I was intrigued to try it out. The food is simple and internationally inspired - after much deliberation (so novel as non-meat eaters to have free reign of the entire menu!) we both went for the enchiladas to warm up on a freezing day. As our order was late we were treated to free bread, olives and hummus to start which were very welcome as we were there for a late lunch. The enchiladas were really tasty and definitely not lacking in flavour or filling-ness due to their lack of animal products. I'd have no qualms about taking meat-eaters here as the menu is so diverse and it's less "hippie" (not that I mind that) than other London vegan restaurants. 

Manna Vegan Primrose Hill
Complementary bread, hummus and olives. 
Manna Vegan Primrose Hill
Vegan enchiladas - perfectly warming and spicy. 
Ok, so where should I add to my list? 


Insta-Oufits - A/W 2015

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

I often share my daily outfits on my Instagram page - I rarely do proper outfit posts anymore. Blogging has changed so much from back when I had my tripod and camera set up in the corner of my old flat and would frequently shoot and outfit post before dashing out the door to work! I'm intending on getting back in to doing proper posts though as I had fun putting this one together and after a bit of a wardrobe sort out I'm feeling more inspired about what I wear. Until I recruit a photographer boyfriend I'm just going to have to muddle through with the tripod and the occasional bullying persuading of friends and family to take my photos. Here are my recent favourites (I keep saying that I will move the scooter but there's really no where else it will fit...):

Topshop dress & Galleries Lafayette scarf
For: Stylist Live 
ASOS crochet top, Primark bralet, Skirt from Spitalfields Market, Cat ears from Shanghai
For: Halloween in Brighton
ASOS dress (here), hair accessory brought back from Iran by Mummy Lipstick 
Sweatshirt from my travels in Seoul, striped dress from Sainsburys
For: Lazy Sundays
How do you put outfit posts together? 

Salad Secrets - Eat More Veg Month!

Monday, 23 November 2015

This month my Florette recipe challenge is to eat more vegetables. Vegetables can be seen as dull but they shouldn't be! If you get creative with vegetables they can create tasty meals which can be inexpensive, tasty and healthy - don't just rely on supermarkets but check out food markets where vegetables are often super cheap and don't neglect the "ugly" vegetables either. It's shocking how much food is wasted just because its not seen as "pretty" enough to grace the supermarket's shelves... Vegetables may not always be photogenic or as visually pleasing as a platter of fruit but in winter I really try to make an effort to eat more of them in a bid to boost my immune system against winter lurgies and avoid wasting money on sad lacklustre fruit that's been imported from the other side of the world.

Florette sent me a box of inspiration for this month - freekeh & quinoa, vegetable crackers, pumpkin seeds, a "Beet-It" shot and a lemon squeezer... 
Pink Party Crackers (Veggie)

Taking inspiration from the beetroot theme for a snack / party canapé and from the starters at the V-Curious Supperclub. I topped the crackers with soft goat's cheese, cooked beetroot and Florette baby kale for a colourful bite that takes five minutes to make.

Warming Veggie Bowl (Vegan)
This is so easy to make and perfect for a cold evening. I built up my bowl with a base layer of wilted Florette baby kale, quinoa, courgetti, tofu and sun-dried tomatoes. A topping of pumpkin seeds adds crunch. 
Bright, colourful and full of different textures - vegetables are neither boring nor ugly! 
What are your favourite ways to use vegetables?

The V-Curious Supper Club - A Four Course Vegan Feast

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Last Saturday evening, my friend P and I headed north (well, north London) for an evening at the V- Curious Supper Club. The supper club came with the promise of a four course vegan feast prepared by our hostess, Rowena, and the company of eight other "curious" diners. I arrived first at precisely 7pm - feeling a little nervous (my attempts at describing a supper club to a male friend maybe did not help me here - oh, yes, well I've paid to have dinner in the home of someone I've never met with people I don't know!)! I immediately felt welcomed and had a chance to chat to Rowena about the ideas behind the supper club and about my blog (and could I, maybe, possibly take pictures of the food!) before the other guested started arriving.  

V-Curious Supper Club
For an amuse bouche we were served sweet potato and sprouted barbecue bites - these were delicious and a perfect way to start the meal. 
V-Curious Supper Club
Raw beetroot ravioli with lemon cashew cheese and rosemary cream to start. This was beautifully made and presented - I think often vegan eating makes people think of hippies eating tubs of hummus but this proved that vegan food can be refined and photogenic, too! 
The evening was one of the best Saturday nights I've had in a while - for less than the cost of a restaurant meal we were treated to amazing, delicious food that had been made with love and passion, had great conversations with our dining buddies and felt truly welcome in Rowena's beautifully decorated home. This was my first experience of a supper club and I'm a convert - it felt like being at one of the civilised adult dinner parties I dreamed that my late twenties would involve but without having the obligation to return the favour when you're a single girl living in a studio apartment with very little cooking ability.
V-Curious Supper Club
The main was a quinoa, avocado and shiitake pilaf with a side of kale. This was so tasty - I loved how it combined Mexican and Asian flavours. The supper club is BYO if you want to bring your own alcohol but I stuck to lime-infused water and the food was amazing enough on its own. 
The menu was a complete surprise (all we knew was that it would be vegan but you can notify Rowena of any allergies) and each course was explained to us by Rowena who was so passionate about vegan food and vegan cooking. Despite the vegan theme there was no preachiness about veganism - as the title suggests this supper club is ideal for those curious about vegan eating but all are welcome - our table was a mix of vegans, vegetarians (my friend P), newly converted pescaratins (me) and meat-eaters.
V-Curious Supper Club
I'm already a fan of vegan desserts so I was really excited to try the chocolate truffle tart with whipped coconut cream and raspberry coulis. Even the orange flower was edible!  
For those already interested in vegan eating this evening was further confirmation that meals without meat or animal products can be amazingly delicious and for committed carnivores its a chance to try new things and see how delicious and satisfying vegan food can be. Whatever your own views are about eating meat and animal products, it is indisputable that eating less meat is better for the environment and better for us too if it means we try new recipes, new foods and be open minded.

The last course was absolutely amazing - a vegan cheese board. I'm not usually a cheese fan (especially after making the connection between dairy and my skin acting like a 14 year old's...) but this was incredible - it looked and tasted cheese-like but was made of cashew and coconut. The cheeses were smoked gouda, basiron pesto cheese, piquant sun dried tomato coconut cheddar and lemon cashew cream cheese. The perfect way to end the meal and the first time I've wanted to try everything on a cheeseboard!  
The up-coming supper clubs can be booked here and you can get a sneak preview of the sorts of dishes that could be offered can be found here.

Have you been to a supper club?

Black Friday with Boohoo

Friday, 20 November 2015

Next Friday isn't just any old Friday (although any old Friday is still a welcome day in my book!) but is Black Friday - an American import which is now one of the most important days in the British retail calendar, too. Black Friday marks four (!) weeks until Christmas Day and is the perfect chance to get your Christmas shopping sorted with discounts abounding and retailers pulling out all the stops to get your to part with your hard-earned cash - any excuse to self-gift while you're doing Christmas shopping is fine by me...

Boohoo invited me to put together an all-black outfit for Black Friday - what other colour would be appropriate? I opted for the Mia midi-dress which can be dressed up or down for any occasion and is definitely worthy of a place in any winter wardrobe - I pretty much only wear dresses (unless I'm at the gym) so one with long sleeves and a longer length is perfect for this time of year. To dress it up for a weekend dinner party I chose the Vanessa faux fur gilet -  a piece that would work a denim miniskirt and a polo neck for a casual vibe and will also be accompanying my Christmas party dresses in December for some much-needed warmth. The final touch to this outfit is the Imogen turban headband - picking an unusual accessory in black is a great way to ease yourself in to a trend piece and with the crazy weather we are having at the moment this is perfect for keeping my hair in control while making me feel a tiny little bit 1920s silent movie actress (at least more than my usual messy top-knot!).

These pieces work so well together but will also be mixed and matched with my existing more colourful wardrobe items, too. I usually avoid black as it can feel a bit too work-like but I loved wearing an all-black outfit which played with lengths, styles and textures and this definitely did not feel office-y in any way. There's also something about black which is timeless and makes you feel put together and in control more than any other colour. I accented the all-black ensemble with my own gold jewellery but kept my make-up simple as the all-black outfit was statement enough (Coco Chanel in the poster behind me would approve, I hope!).

Boohoo Black Friday

Boohoo Black Friday

Boohoo Black Friday

Are you planning on any spending sprees for Black Friday?

RE: Boo Black Fr


Getting Nakd - Healthy Vegan Snacking

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

As December and Christmas come near there is definitely no shortage of sweet treats to eat but a steady diet of mince pies and Quality Street may not result in us feeling our best. I'm all for enjoying sweet treats but I definitely appreciate them more when they're not a daily occurrence... However, my sweet tooth still needs something to keep it happy and so for the past few years the Cocoa Delight and Cocoa Orange Nakd Bars have been top of my snacking list! When Nakd Wholefoods got in touch about their range of healthy snack bars I couldn't wait to try the other flavours on offer and stock my kitchen and work drawer with something more virtuous than the usual treats on offer at this time of year...

Nakd Bar Review
The range of flavours.
Nakd Bar Review
The Chocolate-y Ones: Perfect for a mid-afternoon chocolate fix, these bars all contain dates, cashews, raisins, cocoa and a hint of natural flavourings". All are under 145 calories and they are all gluten, wheat and dairy free. I love the Cocoa Orange flavour - it tastes so indulgent and the Caffe Mocha flavour is one that I haven't seen on sale before but I will definitely be tracking it down as even though I rarely drink coffee these days I still love all thins coffee-flavoured. 
Nakd Bar Review
The Fruity Ones: The Berry Delight was my surprise favourite out of these three - containing dates, cashews, raisins, raspberries and a hint of natural flavouring this would make the perfect breakfast bar - all of the bars count as one of your five-a-day too! The Rhubarb & Custard and Bakewell tart bars are both made of dates, cashews, raisins and natural flavouring - these two bars are the sweetest of the lot, even my sweet tooth found these two to be very sweet but for less than 140 calories each and no refined sugar they're a much better choice for a sweet hit. They seem to be big hits on Instagram with the healthy foodie crowd too - I've also seen a Christmas Pud bar pop up on my feed recently too which I need to track down.
Nakd Bar Review
The Nutty Ones: Cashew Cookie is the simplest bar ingredients-wise - just dates and cashews. Pecan Pie tastes very nutty and contains dates, pecans and almonds and Ginger Bread has the same ingredients list but with added ginger, cloves and cinnamon which give it a lovely flavour (my favourite of the nutty bars). These bars taste like the most "healthy" of the lot - although they do have slightly more calories than the other bars - Pecan Pie comes in at 156 calories but all of these come from good natural ingredients, no weird additives or strange sweeteners here. 
Nakd Bar Review
The Caffe Mocha Nakd Bar with an afternoon coffee for a double coffee hit! 
Nakd Bar Review
Banana "nice cream" (two frozen bananas blended in the NutriBullet) topped with cinnamon and the Ginger Bread Nakd Bar for a wintery take on a summer favourite. 
What flavour do you like the sound of most?


Call Me Maki - My New iPhone Case

Sunday, 15 November 2015

If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen me attempting some sushi puns the other day - the reason being that GoCustomized had offered me the chance to have a go at making one of their personalised phone cases...

I opted for a wallet-style case as not only can I use it to stash my Oyster card which seems all too happy to live in the deepest depths of my handbag but because in the last month I've managed to smash my phone screen twice and it could do with some more protection than my old (and now broken) case. I spent far too much time deliberating over what to go with - a seaside scene from my recent trip to Brighton? A kitty cat from one of the cat cafes I visited in Asia? Eventually I settled on a sushi-themed case to remind me both of my travels and my favourite food. I completed my design with a sushi-related pun and a lot more indecision on which font and text colour to use. After only a few days my customised arrived - here's how it turned out:

customised iPhone 6 case
A perfect new home for my phone.  
customised iPhone 6 case
Taking my new case out for lunch - for sushi buffs out there, I know that neither my lunch nor the picture on the phone case is actually maki but "call me kimbap" or "call me California roll" didn't have quite the same ring to it...

customised iPhone 6 case
Matching my new case to an outfit - ASOS cat shoes (sold out) and a smock dress from Seoul. 
Let me know if you create your own iPhone 6 case and what design you would choose!