Eating My Way Around: Circus London

When Millennium hotels told me they were putting together a bloggers guide to London, I knew that was something I wanted to be part of. It’s so hard when you are visiting a new city and you don’t have a clue where is good and where to avoid, so something from the people to the people is always handy!

For the last two years I’ve been to the Udderbelly at Waterloo and watched Limbo; a fantastic contortion and freak show style cabaret act that has to be seen. I think it’s amazing how people bend in half the wrong way and master interesting acts such as knife swallowing and dancing with fire – I just love the quirkiness of it all. I’d been to Circus in Covent Garden before, which plays on the whole circus acts theme, and decided to take the boy for a last date night before the wedding.

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Sold as an “innovative combination of cocktail bar and cabaret restaurant”, it’s a really unusual concept with the main table doubling up as a stage for the acts. They come on in intervals during the night, depending on when the people dining at that table have finished their courses, and once the food is finished it transitions to cocktails and dancing.

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The Pan Asian menu is absolutely delicious, and we opted for prawn and spinach dumplings, wasabi and purple shiso scallops, seared and peppered tuna and pancetta and blow torched salmon nigiri to start. My favourite starter of the night was the prawn and spinach dumplings; they melt in your mouth and were a delicious combination of flavours. The boy preferred the scallops but to me there was too much mayonnaise which covered the delicate flavour of the scallops.

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The sticking point for this place is that you have to order a main course, and with so many delicious sharing items on the starter menu nothing really grabbed us, however we plumped to share the red chilli miso black cod with pickled ginger and lime, accompanied with green beans with pork, shrimp and scallops. The sauce that the fish came in was absolutely delicious and the beans tasty, although a little salty and very difficult to eat with the chopsticks.

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And the desserts were amazing. I (obviously) went for the doughnuts, this time with white chocolate magnum pops, apple compote and green tea ice cream, while he picked the chocolate and caramel fondant with malted milk ice-cream.

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So would I recommend Circus? Don’t get me wrong, a bill that comes to over £100 for a couple (including alcohol, mind) is excessive for a mid-week date dinner, but this isn’t a mid-week date dinner kind of place. It’s the sort of place you go for a birthday or as a show stopper; a fantastic night of surreal entertainment and delicious food that you want to share with special people.

27-29 Endell Street | London | United Kingdom

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Posted on January 30, 2015 and filed under London.

Wedding Myth Busting: Finding THE ONE (dress, not man)

So I’m getting married. In less than three weeks.

Let’s let that sink in a sec. WHAAAATTT?

It’s led me to a few life realisations, I’ll tell you that much, the largest one being the dress. I read a blog post today (and I can’t find it again, so apologies!) about the feeling when you buy your wedding dress, you know, that feeling of “the one” and “the perfect dress”. Hate to disappoint you unmarried folk, but it honestly doesn’t happen like that. All the crying on Don’t Tell the Bride when they find the right dress and the tantrums over it not being the right one –its all for viewers. Don’t get me wrong, I tried on six or seven dresses that I knew weren’t the ones, but when I put on “The Dress” it wasn’t like the end of a Disney film. In fact, I was torn between two different ones, and both were nothing like the one I had in my head. The decider was the fact that one was slightly prettier, and was way more comfortable when I did the sitting down test. It didn’t hamper my breathing or make me feel like my boobs were under my chin, and so it was the one, and that was done. I won’t share the picture of it in case anyone at the wedding is reading (despite the fact that I have pretty much shown everyone but the Groom), but in my head the dress of my dreams was something Grecian or fishtail.

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My fiance thinks (and sadly this isn’t a joke) that it looks something like this. In his words, it has ‘arms like a t-shirt. No not a t-shirt, shorter than that and more fitted, but essentially a t-shirt. Its shiny. It has a v neck (at this point he is miming a deep V, something boy band worthy) and it is very tight at the knees. Fishtail? (He has obviously hear me utter fishtail at some point). A few months ago I innocently asked him what dress size he thought I was, and he replied “UMMM, a 30?” I looked shocked. “OK..” he said in a I’ll-indulge-you-then sort of voice, “a 28.” I’m a 10, 12 at a push. Thank the Lord we are not going on Don’t Tell the Bride, as his shiny t-shirt number would also look like a four man tent on me.

He waits with baited breath.

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I went dress shopping with my Mum and a couple of the bridesmaids plus my Dads wife, and I found the whole thing really overwhelming. I felt the need to find “the one” and got more and more frustrated when I didn’t. the dress I have is perfect for me, is really flattering and makes me feel disappointed when I have to take it off and wear normal clothes, but it wasn’t this firework explosion that I always thought it might be. And that’s just fine, because pressure. And I’m not that kind of girl!

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Posted on January 28, 2015 and filed under Weddings.

Eating My Way Around: Flesh and Buns, Covent Garden

Eating my way around London has taken a slow start this year what with the idea of not fitting into a wedding dress being slightly terrifying, but this weekend we broke the fast, and went for brunch at Flesh and Buns.

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I’d heard a lot about Bone Daddies from friends, but Flesh and Buns was a totally new experience.  The website description was promising, offering DIY filled steamed buns in a classic rock and roll surrounding with frozen margheritas being their speciality. I was in.

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And I wasn’t disappointed. We opted for the express brunch menu, and I chose seafood ceviche while the boy opted for salmon California rolls. In true fashion, I preferred his; the ceviche was lovely but the salmon and avocado in the California rolls were just right.

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For the main course I opted for piglet belly while he chose duck leg- and they came with the steamed buns they are most famous for. Our friends told us that when they had been before they saw people picking the self – assembled buns up with chopsticks so, when in Rome…. And I nailed it.

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For £24.95 you get two courses and a glass of wine, and we added desserts to ours. I had seen the kinako doughnuts with black sugar custard, and although torn between these and the black sesame crème brulee with cherry sorbet, I opted for doughnuts. Fantastic.

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Flesh & Buns | 41 Earlham St | London | WC2H 9LX

Have you been to Flesh and Buns? What are your London recommendations?

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Posted on January 27, 2015 and filed under London.

Five Happy Things

I’ve seen happy things posts all over the interweb, and thought that after the terrible week I have had, it might be worth starting to list the positives. It’s so easy to get bogged down by the wet weather or the horrible things, so sometimes its soul lifting to have a think about the good things. So here goes…

One / Yesterday marked three weeks to our wedding. Three weeks! Twenty days left of being a Tinker, twenty days left of waiting for the fun and twenty days till I have all the people I love in one room together, to celebrate our wedding. How exciting!

Two / Brunch at Flesh and Buns- I’ve heard about Bone Daddies and their sister restaurant, but wish I had been sooner! I went for piglet belly, but the fun thing about this place is all the dishes come with these odd little buns. You make up your mini Japanese sandwich and then try to eat it with chopsticks. I nailed it!

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Three / Cooking from scratch – this week I have made roasted tomato and goats cheese soup, burritos, rhubarb and ginger crumble and the best pastry crusted fish pie I have ever made. Comfort eating is winter at its finest!

Four / Clarins face mask. This time of year water is my skins worst enemy, and face creams don’t seem to touch the side. I have been reading beauty blogs like a demon, but for me the go to solution is Clarins Thirst Quenching Hydra Balance mask. I’ve used it on eczema on my body, but it makes my face less like a raisin and more like an actual face.

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Five / eBaying my life away. I read somewhere that the average person sits on £1000 of things that they don’t use in their home, and its totally true of ours. Things we have accumulated over the years and really don’t need have been listed, and I hope to make some money to do something extra on our mini moon. Fingers crossed, and here’s to a clutter free 2015!

What has made you happy this week?

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Posted on January 26, 2015 and filed under Best of the weekend.

❝If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.❞ ‒Nelson Mandela

I love to travel but since summers spent as a child in the Mediterranean, I have always hated the fact that I don’t speak any other languages. I remember my Granddad teaching us basics in each of the languages of the countries we visited, but when my little sister wandered into a café to practice asking for an ice-cream and the rude man stopped her halfway through her sentence and went to get the English speaking lady, it scarred us for life. I understand the stereotypes of English tourists, but way to ruin a small child confidence!

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At school I excelled in French. But having only actually ever visited France once it didn’t prove to be too helpful, and after leaving school a grand total of twelve years ago I can hardly remember a word of it, other than to be able to confidently ask a French person when their birthday is. So when I was contacted by Rosetta Stone to learn a language this year to help with my travels it just seemed too good an opportunity to pass up.  Especially with the New Year, New You mantra still (quietly) pinging around in my head.

I chose Spanish, as the class starts from beginners and my capacity for the Spanish language currently sits at “Hola! Huevos ranchos por favour!”

Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.
‒Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I’ve been doing it three days, and I’m so surprised by a) how it’s not dull at all and b) how much I retain the information I have learnt so far. The programme runs through a flash card system, says the words to you and then makes you repeat them, scoring you on the pronunciation and the stops and teaches you how to spell the words, in the right tenses. So on day three I can still tell you the sentences I have learnt, and feel  confident that my mashed potato brain might even make it past the weekend without losing some new words. Hopefully.

How competent are you at learning languages? Do you speak a second language fluently?

I was gifted the subscription to Rosetta Stone but all views are my own.

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Posted on January 23, 2015 and filed under Experiences.

2015 Travel: The Germany Edit (Baden Baden)

Baden-Baden is a fantastic town to take a trip to for a long weekend from London, with a short flight time and enough prettiness to keep you occupied. Nestled on the edge of the Black Forest, it’s an absolutely gorgeous town and well worth a visit. My top picks for 48 hours in Baden Baden are:

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One / Friedrichsbad – visit the baths for relaxation and detox; the choices are the older baths where you go stark naked from room to room getting buffed and moisturised, or the slightly more demure modern baths (which was my preference).

Massages, facials, solariums and saunas are all on offer here, but the best part of my four hour visit was being able to swim outside in a warm pool with the snow falling. I didn’t even mind the quick nippy hop out of the water and up the steps to the Jacuzzi! The picturesque mountains make a fantastic backdrop to this amazing sight.

Two / Merkur Bergbahn – we took the bus as far up the mountain as we could get (it was off season, and in the summer the little funicular runs) and once we had wandered around we stopped in the sweet little café and had coffee and cake. It’s well worth it for the view!

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Three / The Faberge Museum – really pricy for entrance to the museum, but its worth it to visit. The beautiful eggs are displayed proudly and the guide tells you loads about each of them.

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Have you ever been to Baden Baden?

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Posted on January 21, 2015 and filed under Travel.

The Little Yellow Door, Notting Hill - Because Everyone Loves a House Party

Last week I had the pleasure of being invited to a pop up restaurant in Notting Hill. The invite came less than 24 hours beforehand so I knew nothing of what to expect, other than it was a pop up designed to be like a house share – Friday night dinner party, Saturday night drinking – you know the drill.

To give you some background, the façade of the building is jammed between two businesses, and is (clues in the title people!) a little yellow door. It looks like a house share you would miss eleven times walking up and down the street trying to find a new place in London and despairing at Gumtree and there is no way you are booking traditionally, you simply send a Whatsapp message to the hosts. Or the flatmates, as they like to call themselves.

Upon arrival you are served a gin cocktail from a vintage teacup, and after chatting to the other party guests, shown to your table. Punch (what house party would be without it!) and wine flows with the conversation, and the food is served.

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THE FOOD.

I didn’t have high hopes for the food – the house parties I have been to having historically consisted of a few nachos, and if lucky, a cheese and pineapple hedgehog but I have never been so proved wrong in my life. Starters of beef Carpaccio, burrata and mozzarella and a selection of Italian hams came first. Then the ariancini balls with a mushroom mayonnaise (at this point Erica and I realised that stocking our stomachs up with the bread was a mistake) washed down with more punch. The duck ragu began the main courses (served in a large dish where someone played mother and served into smaller cups – very reminiscent of teenage “dinner parties”) followed by the pork belly. I can’t even…. Pork belly is my favourite and after having a few disappointing dishes over the last few months, this has restored my faith in humanity.

The desserts were a little disappointing after such amazing delights – a trio of teeny puds; salted caramel tartlet with nuts which was reminiscent of a tracker bar, a chocolate and panacotta pud and a canoli with quince, pear and pistachio – couldn’t put my finger on what this was and could only think of cucumber. In TLYD’s defence though, desserts ain’t my fav and I’m a tough customer.

The flatmates sat with us and ate, joined in our conversations and generally had a laugh with us, which is something that makes this pop up entirely unique. If you are tired of the regular London haunts and want something unusual to do this year, then you need to check this out. Just Whatsapp our new bffs.

Open till' July - check out The Little Yellow Door here.

I was invited to the evening at TLYD and dinner was on them, but all views are my own.

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HOW TO Make Your Own Candle - Fun For Crafternoons

Theres a real trend happening for homemade items, and with shows like Kirsty’s Homemade Christmas to guide me, I made my own food hampers for Christmas presents. We bought cellophane to wrap them and make them look spectacular, and filled them with sugary treats and savoury delights; all homemade. And I loved it.

So I resolved this year to try and learn more crafts. I love candles and spend a fortune fragrancing our home with them, so after extensively researching on Pinterest I decided to make them my first homemade creation; hoping for more frankincense than Frankenstein.

I saved a few plain jars from old candles that were spent, and bought pre waxed wicks and pellets of candle wax from Amazon., and then, using trusty Pinterest, got going.

You will need: Candle Wax | Pre-Waxed Wicks | Candle Jars - I got them all pretty reasonably from Amazon.

Firstly you need to make sure that if you are using old candle jars that you have cleaned them out properly. Use boiling water and the wax should float off the glass. All the recipes I found made huge quantities, so I discovered that if you use the jar you are going to make the candles in as a measure and allow 1.5 cups of wax pellets, it’s a pretty accurate measure.

Then I stuck the waxed wicks to the bottom of the glass. I actually used a little wax that was burning on one of my room fragrances and that kept the wicks firmly in place, but instructions I have read suggest glue dots. Either be professional, or wing it, like me.

Using a glass pot, warm the wax over a pan of boiling water. TIP – after trying this a few times I have found that a glass measuring jug is actually the best thing to make these in as it makes the pouring way neater at the other end. Make sure you don’t have the heat on too high as you don’t want the water bubbling into the wax.

Once the wax is completely melted take it off the heat and add your fragrance. I made 2 candles so again, winged it and added two teaspoons of my eucalyptus and mint room fragrance. I absolutely adore it (my favourite bath and body works scent) and seeing as my candle has long since burnt out and they don’t ship to the UK, homemade will do! At this point you can add fresh herbs like lavender or candle colouring, but I left mine white. Remember, if you are adding candle colouring go for a drop at a time as you can add more, but you can’t go back!

Pour the wax into the jar, taking care not to touch the sides as it will cool on the glass and look messy. Leave to cool and then trim the wick!

Since getting up this morning I have noticed two things, the first being that the lounge smells delicious which may mean slightly adjusting the amount of essential oil I added to the wax, but secondly, that the wax, when drying, has risen slightly round the edges and dipped in the centre where the wick is. I will have to investigate further before making some more, and if anyone has any worldly wisdom on this, please let me know!

Whats your crafty outlet?

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Posted on January 16, 2015 and filed under Craft.

She Wore Flowers in Her Hair & Carried Magic Secrets in Her Eyes

For the past couple of months, looking at flowers has been a bit of a pastime of mine. Not intentionally (I’m not now big into gardening!) but for the sake of the wedding I now know my gerbera from my gardenia. And I love it. our wedding is peacock themed, so we are picking out the teals, blues and golds and trying to blend these through in all the additions, like the flowers. Teal and gold flowers are hard to come by, so the florist and I have decided on white tulips and lilies for me and white tulip posies for the girls, with peacock feathers in the mix to add a little colour and gold ribbon trails to finish them off. The flower girls are going to have cute little pomanders made of gypsophila, with a ribbon wrist tie made of the cut offs from my wedding dress alterations; mainly to minimise bouquet destruction!

I’ve always loved a bouquet of flowers, and regularly buy myself a bunch of tulips to brighten the flat and make my weekend a little brighter, but there is nothing like receiving a bouquet in the post, arranged thoughtfully and finished with a ribbon, is there?

With Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day coming up, there is never a better reason to send a bunch of flowers to brighten someone’s day, so when I received this gorgeous posy in the post from the Appleyard, I was over the moon. How gorgeous are those roses? This bunch is called “true romance” and I picked it because I love calla lilies, but the variety of arrangements on the site is vast and the bouquets are all beautiful. I have my eye on the “Bluebelle” posy for the wedding!

 

What are your favourite flowers?

These flowers were a gift for review purposes from Appleyard, but all opinions are my own.

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Posted on January 14, 2015 and filed under Weddings.

The Travel Edit - Dublin Part III (The Alcohol One!)

In November I visited Dublin for the weekend to explore a city that I had never been to, and tick another country off my list. For 48 hours we schlepped through the top sites, pausing only to get engaged (I promise I will write about that sooner rather than later!) and, despite the rain, we had a fantastic trip.

You can read about it here and here, and this is the last post in the little Dublin mini-series – Dublin for drinkers! If you wondered why I had talked about a whole weekend without the merest mention of Guinness or Jameson then no, I am not high, I was saving it.

Ireland is famous for the craic, and the craic always includes the two main products of Dublin, Jameson and Guinness. Of course, in the spirit of a fair review on weekend breaks, we had to visit both tourist attractions – the Jameson Museum and the Guinness Factory.

I was pretty excited for the Jameson Museum, but in all honesty it was a little disappointing. I had thought it was still a working factory, but actually production of the whisky moved to Cork, so its now just a museum that documents how the whisky is made and the history of the factory. The highlight might have been at the end, when you are escorted into a tasting room and allowed to try the whisky and compare to other whiskies on the market – the problem being that only 4 people from the 20 man tour could participate. Underwhelming.

The Guinness factory on the other hand was absolutely fantastic. Guinness is one of the most successful global brands, and the reason for its success may be the interesting history of the site. In 1750, Arthur Guinness approached the people who owned the factory and talked to them all afternoon about renting the factory.

In a hurry to seal the deal as the night drew to an end, they hurriedly drew up a contract, and the deal was done. The contract was for £45 per year but was fixed this way for the entirety of the 9000 year lease meaning that now, in 2015, what was once a princely sum is now barely any money at all.

It was great fun.  During your tour you can taste and smell the ingredients, as well as see all the marketing for the history of Guinness and touch the hops at various stages. The experience ends with a free pint of Guinness in the Sky Bar, with views across Dublin.

In my humble opinion when visiting Dublin for the weekend, skip Jameson and just do the Guinness tour. It will give you time to see the other sights of the city, or if you prefer, to sit in the pub and enjoy the Irish hospitality.

Have you been to Dublin? What was your favourite part?

*This trip was provided by Tourism Ireland, but all views are my own*

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Posted on January 13, 2015 and filed under Travel.