Sunday, 29 April 2012


This weekend was a weekend of goodbyes. Not bad goodbyes, but emotional ones nonetheless.

First off, on Friday night, we said goodbye to our local steakhouse. I’ve always said that, despite sampling fish and chips on a variety of continents, the pub at the end of my road serves the best in the world. Made even better by the fact that they also serve cocktails not to menrion that it’s stumbling distance from my bed (and i have stumbled it many, many times). I will still be able to eat the fish and chips, but now that we’re about to move out of our flat, it’ll no longer be as locals. It was a sad time when we walked out of there for the last time. From now on, we’ll be taking taxis or arguing about driving detail…
Last cocktail as locals
On Saturday, Mr G said goodbye to his twenties with the last celebratory event for his birthday (he celebrated for almost as long as me!). Twenty four of us set up camp on a large table at Zenxi and ate our fill of Chinese, drank cocktails and champagne, had a few cross words with an aggressive waiter and welcomed Mr G in to his thirties with a Sponge Bob Square Pants cake, a sparkler and a hideous cocktail of epic proportions (nice one Lucy and Neil).

The hideous cocktail from Lucy and Neil

Sponge Bob cake!

Lucy and Neil's "revenge" from the barman!

We reigned in the post-dinner drinking though, as on Sunday we said goodbye to most of our furniture, white goods, food, clothes, electronic equipment and ornaments as we packed up our flat and prepared to make ourselves homeless. This is a whole other story.

The empty lounge
We spent Sunday night sitting on our one remaining seat, with our two remaining cups, watching the telly (now propped up against the wall) and saying goodbye to Homeland as we’ll be away when the last episode is aired.  

Am feeling very, very ready for some Hellos, specifically, “Hello bedtime”…

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A birthday weekend for the Boy

age denial!

This weekend Mr G turned 30. He’s not happy about it. He’s been a grouchy old man ever since his birthday dawned, sand has been trying to deny his new age, so it was good that we had a long weekend of celebrations planned.

Birthday Brunch

Friday morning began with fruitcake, cards, presents and tea in bed, followed by Eggs Benedict, his favourite breakfast, at our regular brunch spot before we jumped on the train to London to begin our big birthday day out.

First we skipped over to Lambeth to drop off our bags at our hotel, the Tune Hotel Westminster. It’s a teeny tiny hotel with teeny tiny rooms, at teeny tiny prices. I paid £60 for the room (I declined the extra £20 for the windows), an extra £1.50 each for a towel and toiletries pack, £3 for a telly and £1 for a hairdryer. The location was convenient for all our destinations (only a 15 minute walk to Borough Market) it was spotlessly clean, the bed was SO comfy and for that price, it perfectly suited our needs! I’ll definitely be using them again, seeing as it’s cheaper than a taxi and so close to the station. What a find!
The teeniest hotel with the teeniest prices!
Anyway, after we dropped off our bags (£2 for each bag, per day) we made our way back to London Bridge to get in the queue for The London Dungeon.
Scary times!

It’s Mr G’s favourite day out from his childhood, and every time we’ve walked past over the last 8 years, he’s whined about wanting to go in but the thought of it always put me off, so I thought on his special day I’d make him happy and take him along.

Well. I hated every second. I’m not one of those girls that likes horror films, ghost stories or being scared for fun, my imagination is far too over-active to be in the dark for that long and I’m way too girly to appreciate blood, guts and gore. Not only are there a lot of unnecessary gruesome details (was London really that hideous and scary?) but after being made to jump out of my skin within three minutes of entering the building I spent the next two hours in such a heightened state of anticipation, just waiting for things to jump out at me, I needed a stiff drink when we left.
Sunshine and showers at Borough Market

So we headed to Borough Market, one of my favourite places in London, for a glass of speciality cider, an ostrich burger, a glass of prosecco and a giant macaroon… just a quick snack!
Girl cider vs Boy cider!

After that we wandered back to Waterloo via a little Cuban bar called Cubana (shock!), a quick mojito stop and we were back at the hotel getting ready for dinner.
Back-to-basics mojitos

A short while and a quick tube ride later we were at the Mandarin Oriental taking our table for dinner at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Seeing as Mr G was so generous with his surprise day/night out for my birthday, I thought that it was only fair to repay the favour with something pretty special. And it was pretty special. I wrote about it here!
so yum!
After dinner/Dinner, we had some drinks in the Mandarin Bar and then moved downstairs to Bar Boulud for one of their famous white cosmopolitans. I was offered one on a corporate show round back in September and unfortunately had to decline, so I had been coveting one for such a long time, that to be so close it would have been rude not to pop in.

White Cosmopolitan

After that we made our way slowly back to our hotel, once again via a bar in Waterloo. This time the Waterloo Bar and Grill for a lychee martini. The last time I was here was back in February after the Vintage Patisserie party and we got so, accidentally, drunk we were ordering mocktails thinking they were alcoholic. I think it’s something out this bar, as somehow (nothing to do with the day full of alcoholic beverages) I ended slightly tipsy again...
Obsessed with the lights in the Waterloo Bar and Grill

So we made our wobbly way back to the hotel, via a vending machine for bottles of water to stave off the hangovers, and slept like babies in the deceptively large, but mega comfy bed.

Hangover breakfast
We were up and out by 10am (check out time) and made our way over to Southwark to The Table Café for a big hangover fry up. And my word, was it big! It helped get me back on track, so I found the energy to head back to Borough Market so we could buy some bits and bobs to take back with us or as gifts, and then we made our weary way back home.

Birthday Throne!

A spot of sofa surfing, a few buckets of tea and a slice or two of fruitcake (Mr G’s fave) and we were ready for the next round of celebrations. A big family dinner at a local “bistro-pub complete with balloons, candles and singing – much to Mr G’s un-amusement! Apparently he didn’t want any attention. Hmm.
Too much attention!

Sunday morning saw us up bright and early in the sunshine and heading back to London to watch our friend run the London marathon. Well. What a day. I couldn’t relax until we’d finally spotted him (at the 22 mile mark), so how people coped before tracker chips and iPhone apps god only knows!
Best street in London!
We met up with everyone else at the finish line for some congratulatory cheers and hugs, before dashing back to the tube as the heavens opened.

He did it!

We completed the day with our standard order from our local Thai and some Sunday night telly (Homeland! Is he? Isn't he? arrrrgh) before hitting the sack for a well earned sleep.
You’d think it’d all end there, but no, this is me you’re talking about. She of the month-long birthday celebration. So of course Mr G still had more to go. Monday morning saw me back and work and Mr G back on the house-moving treadmill, but Monday evening saw us in our local steakhouse having a second family dinner (this time with my parents and baby bro) to celebrate the big three-oh. For a Monday night there was quite a lot of wine, bubbly and cocktails, but, you only turn 30 once I suppose!
Guess what I got Mr G for his BIG birthday? A BIG BBQ!
Happy birthday Mr G! I hope you rest up in time to round off all the celebrations off with a big night out with all your buddies next weekend.
And then we will put our feet up and grow old...

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Out and about: Dinner at Dinner

This weekend was Mr G’s birthday weekend, and as he well and truly spoiled me with some very special dining locations (as well as some beeeoootiful bling) I thought it only right to repay the favour! I’ll do a proper rundown when the weekend is out, but for now I’ll do a little review of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal… which was TOTES AMAZE! 

Tables are released at 9am on the first day of the month, for the month that follows. So on March 1st there I was trying desperately to bag a table via the online booking system. By 8 minutes past literally everything was gone! Or so I thought. A few refreshes, and I managed to find a table at 10.15 or 6.15. Neither was ideal, but beggars can’t be choosers so I went for the earlier table, knowing that there’s a lovely bar there and we could stick around afterwards for a few drinks.
In the end, with a few pleading phone calls, I managed to hustle the booking back to 7.00pm, which, although still a bit too early, was a much more reasonable time.

We arrived at 6.55pm (SO EARLY!) and were shown straight through to our Hyde Park-view, kitchen-view table by the friendliest meeters-and-greeters I’ve ever been met-and-greeted by (you know how sometimes in places like this they’re a bit snotty, Pretty Woman style?), and from that moment the wait staff were on us, bringing the cocktail list, pouring water, explaining the menu concept and describing the specials. Normally I find this a bit overwhelming and I just want to be left alone for ten minutes to read the menu myself, but these guys were so charming, chatty and helpful that it was actually very welcome. For “we-work-in-a-way-posh-restaurant” wait staff, they were fun, friendly and normal, made conversation and jokes and actually spoke to use like human beings. You know how snotty waiters can sometimes make you feel a bit small with the way they talk to you? Well these guys were great and so deserve a special mention!
Anyway, the food! The menu is basically a compilation of modern takes on Ye Olde Englishe dishes, some dating back as far as 1390. For a meat-and-offal-averse moi it wasn’t the most appealing menu, but I managed to find at least two or three items in each course that sounded appetising.

We decided against the specials but took the waiter’s advice on our main dishes where we were undecided and also their recommendation on the dessert, which had to be ordered with the first two courses as it took two hours to cook… more on that later.

Anyway, we got started with a glass of champagne, as it was a special occasion, and selected our food. Mr G went for the Rice and Flesh, which apparently dates from c.1390, basically a saffron risotto with calf tail and red wine. I didn’t try any as I was too busy tucking in to my Meat Fruit which, according to the write ups mimics Tudor serving styles, where meat was dressed up to resemble fruit to trick the eyes and tastebuds and surprise diners at Royal feasts. A ha!! There’s the Heston-ness I was looking for! It came out looking like a glossy mandarin orange on a wooden board, but was actually the smoothest chicken liver parfait I’ve ever eaten, surrounded by a citrusy mandarin gel and accompanied by a slice of grilled bread (the waiters pointed out that the leaves and stalk were just for decoration, and not to eat them. Ok then!). It was literally one of the tastiest things I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat! I wanted to gobble it down so fast because it was so tasty, but equally I wanted to take tiny, slow bites to make it last forever. In the end I was spreading it so thinly, in order to make it last longer, I had to request a second slice of bread (after declining the first offer), which, incidentally arrived so quickly they were either watching and waiting for the request (I’m clearly not the only one who employed this tactic), or they swiped it off someone else’s plate!

Meat Fruit!
Eventually I finished it and whilst we waited for our mains to arrive we perused the wine list, opting for a two different reds by the glass. A Rioja for Mr G to accompany his Spiced Pigeon (dating from 1780) served in ale and with artichokes and a Malbec for yours truly to wash down the Powdered Duck Breast. Which also deserves a special mention. It was served with Umbles (apparently duck, erm, offal) which I tried not to think about as I ate them (but damn they were tasty) and chard. But on further investigation I discovered that Umbles are where the term “Humble Pie” originates. Apparently, these animal leftovers were made in to pies and served to the lower classes, and so represented an inferior food. How times have changed? Now, Michelin starred restaurants serve them to people at £30 a plate! Good old Heston… I love that there’s always a story!
Anyway, back to the actual food. It was amazing. A.Mazing. My knife sliced through that duck breast like it was butter. I now truly get what people mean when they say “melt in the mouth”. To accompany our mains we ordered some buttered carrots (delicious) and some mashed potato. Well, I call it mashed potato, it was more like liquid potato. I spooned it on to my plate with the texture of whipped cream. Not normally a mashed potato lover, this stuff made me want to ram my face in the bowl and not come up for air until it was gone!

By the time I had finished my main course I was starting to salivate about the dessert. I mean, if you have to order it in advance of your first two courses, it has to be something special, right?

I waited patiently, and to tide me over, ordered a cocktail (a Chelsea Gardener) in THE most amazing coupe I’ve ever laid my eyes and hands on, whilst Mr G perused the dessert menu.

Most amazing cocktail coupe, ever!

He’s not a dessert person (UNLUCKY!), so he declined the offer of pre-ordering this fabled dessert but I pushed him to pick one, because I think it would have been silly not to. And I was right. He chose Poached rhubarb with rosehip jam and rhubarb sorbet (a recipe from c.1590) it was like a work of art. Culinary art. It was divine. But it didn’t even get close to mine.
The waiter placed my Tipsy Cake and spit-roasted pineapple (c.1810) in front of me with the words “this is my favourite, it’s is simple, but… amazing”.

Oh my days. It was amazing. It was briochey, gooey, caramelly, tipsy, pineappley amazingness on a plate. Or, in fact, on a slate. I’m not even going to try and describe it. It’s clearly a very special dish as there is a glowing pineapple hovering over the reception desk and every staff member I spoke to (at the cloakroom, in reception, en route to the ladies, in the bar) asked if I’d tried it. They all told me it was their favourite. If they get to eat it that often, maybe I should apply for a job there…
You remember that scene in Curly Sue where she enjoys the pizza so much that she does that cute, but slightly uncouth, all-ten-finger-licking-thing? Well, that was what I felt like doing after every course.

We asked for the bill (with fear and trepidation) and, when it arrived with two little chocolate and orange blossom mousse pots (to sweeten the blow, I suspect), I was rather surprised at how much it didn’t amount to. Clearly the chocolate offering worked on me! Don’t get me wrong, it was in no way cheap, but for the level of service, the ambience, the food and the taste, I think it was well worth it for a special occasion.

The bill-sweetener!

We finished off the evening with some drinks in the Mandarin Bar, and then a white cosmopolitan n Bar Boulud (in the basement of the Mandarin Oriental). I was offered one on a work show-round back in September but had to decline, so being so close it was rude not to step in and sample it! I was not disappointed.
Long awaited White Cosmo in Bar Boulud
In fact I was far from not disappointed with the whole night. I was in fact elated. It was a fabulous night in a fabulous location filled with fabulous food and drink. It also turns out that the three dishes I chose are the three main dishes the food critics have been writing about. I’m glad I didn’t read up about the menu before we went as i picked these dishes off my own back, and made my own decisions about them.
When I am once again solvent/sober enough to return I shall do so with excitement!
The floating pineapple in reception!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Sofa surfing, afternoon tea and a Sunday session!

Friday nails!

This weekend kicked off with a quick trip to H&M on Friday evening to check out their Conscious Collection, from which I purchased this neon yellow maxi dress, hoping it would form wedding outfit number three (number one and two already sorted!), followed by some advanced sofa surfing with Caroline, Liz, left over Easter chocolates and a cartoon-sized bag of cinema sweet popcorn.

I wish I was a model so I could wear this dress
As they say on the adverts, it’s good to talk! A good few hours of putting the world to rights and generally catching up with the girls, whilst stuffing my face with naughty treats, was the perfect end to the week.  But it just flew by and before I knew it I was snuggled up in bed playing Draw Something until dozing off.
late night Draw Something skills!
Saturday started with the longest lie in I’ve had this year (go me!) followed, sadly, by a fleeting trip back to H&M to return the yellow maxi dress. What looks great on a stick-thin six foot model, does not necessarily look great on me. In fact, it DEFINITELY doesn’t look great on me.
Back to the wedding outfit drawing board!


Mr G was working (again) so Saturday night saw me snuggled up on the Humpriani Sofa with Katy, Riccardo (nothing like crashing a coupley night in!), curry, Jubilee-themed metallic macaroons, pink prosecco and My Week With Marilyn (hello Eddie Redmayne!) before a reasonably early night so we could recharge our batteries before an epic journey in to our capital city.

We set off at 11.30am for what would normally be a 60 minute journey, arriving a little before 2pm. Two and a half hours? Come on! I’m excited about the Olympics, but please, PLEASE let these rail engineering works come to an end!

Anyway, after a mammoth journey to reach The Sanderson Hotel we certainly deserved our Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea for Katy's birthday.

How excited could I be? Alice in Wonderland and afternoon tea? Two of my fave things ever! Not to mention the coolest barstools I've ever seen! We stuffed our faces with Wonderland themed patisserie, rainbow sandwiches and sampled more than our fair share of the cocktail list. The perfect Sunday afternoon.

We completed our day with a final round of cocktails (thank you Nicola) and an impromptu photo shoot in the funky hotel lobby.
We actually have no shame!
The Birthday Girl!
My wonderful boy then came to collect us from the end of the tube line, to save us the trauma of another two and a half hours of public transport hell, and my weekend finished as it started – on the sofa, with some trashy/tearful telly (welcome back TOWIE, sad to see you go Titanic) and belly full of naughty carbs!
Another big week ahead… which requires new nails!

DIY glitter tips!

Out and about: Mad Hatter's afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel

On Sunday we spent the afternoon doing one of my favourite things - eating cake and drinking cocktails, in a fabulous Alice in Wonderland themed (we know I love a theme) afternoon tea for Katy's birthday at The Sanderson Hotel.

Getting a Saturday atfernoon reservation was  very tricky so we resorted to a Sunday, which wasn't ideal, and even then we only had a two hour slot on the table. Also, it definitely wasn't cheap, but it was worth it for a once-in-a-while treat, if just for the themed menu!

Rainbow sandwiches
We kicked off with cocktails (one of each, so we could try them all), and then got started on our rainbow sandwiches whilst the waitress gave us the (rather strict) instructions on how best to work our way through the sweet delicacies!

First we were told to try the exploding hazelnut ice cream lollipop, a chocolate-covered dollop of ice cream on a stick! Ouchie on my sensitive teeth, but creamy and yummy!
hot and cold lollies
Next up, the hot and cold blueberry lolly. The instructions were to hold the sugar side against our tongues, for the “cold” sensation and then flip it over for the “warmth” of the blueberry side. I’m not quite sure how, but the temperature changes actually work!

Curiouser and curiouser!

After the rush to get to the lollies, we slowed down and took our time stuffing our faces with miniature scones, plain and fruit, slathered in delicious preserves and spoonfuls of clotted cream.
Mini scones
At this stage we felt that we had a bit more room for more rainbow sandwiches and so ordered another round (diet starts Monday, right?) and it was rude not to have a glass of bubbly to accompany them. I’m pretty sure it’s the law that if there’s smoked salmon on my plate, there needs to be bubbly in my glass!
Drink Me dessert mixture
After finishing our sandwiches, we tried out the “Drink me” bottle, which was filled with Passionfruit Jelly, Coconut pannacotta and Exotic Foam (basically exotic fruit mushed up!). The rules are (and they’re quite strict about the rules!), you drink it through the straw so that the flavours and textures don’t mix. Unusual but delicious!

Eat me Queen of Hearts mousse

After that we devoured the “Eat me” Queen of Hearts strawberries and cream mousse and finished with the “I’m late, for a very important date” chocolate and coffee layered clock, oh and maybe a round of lychee martinis to wash it down!
Chocolate and coffee Rabbit Clock

We completed our day with another round of cocktails (thank you Nicola) and an impromptu photo shoot in the funky hotel lobby.
Probably the most expensive afternoon tea I've ever eaten, in the shortest time, but to have a catch up with the girls, and some much needed chat and chill time, in cute little outfits, it was worth every penny!

Next up? Perhaps the Stephen Webster Bijoux Afternoon Tea at the Langham (a.k.a the girliest hotel ever)... but maybe I need to give my plastic a rest first!
The coolest bar stools, ever. Fact.