Eating My Way Around – Cape Town Fish Market, London

30 Jan

This week, I met with one of my best gal pals, and we visited our meet up haunt, Cape Town Fish Market (Oxford Street, London). It’s a restaurant just off Oxford Street, and it does the most amazing seafood. It even has the tag line “any fresher and you would need a fishing rod”, and the fish swim around in massive tanks, which adds to the whole drama of the place. It’s lovely.

They have a great offer for card holders, so we often meet up on a Tuesday and gorge on the most delicious sushi; California rolls with tempura prawns and a mango wrap, melt in your mouth sashimi and all different types of nigiri, plus wasabi mayonnaise, kohlrabi sauce and of course, soy glaze. It’s a bit pricey, but with the deal card it makes it really reasonable for good sushi (and I am a massive sushi snob) and honestly, I would go on a non deal night, it’s that good.

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Sushi, it makes miso happy

They also have a fairly extensive menu, including my personal favourite, the surf and turf. You think you know surf and turf, right? Hunk of steak covered in prawns?

You can’t even begin to imagine.

This surf and turf is out of this world, and features a real twist on the classic. Instead of steak they present you with twice cooked pork belly, and replacing the prawns are some dainty little scallops. The whole thing comes with wilted spinach, and is by far my favourite meal out. in fact, I love to try different things if I go to the same place twice, but on this occasion, I JUST CAN’T. I fear that I might get food envy if anyone else chooses it and I don’t, so I hedge safely and choose my favourite. And I am never disappointed.

This is my local go to when guests from out of town visit as it’s a bit of a crowd pleaser, and although its busy if you book you are generally guaranteed a table. The staff don’t rush you (I was there 20 mins before my friend this week and they happily let me sit with my wine and browse Facebook) and the general feel of the restaurant is happy and chilled. Just my jam.

Have you been? What is your favourite place to take guests when they are in your town?

Whats The Deal??

29 Jan

Deal sites.

I’m obsessed with them. There, I said it.

On an almost daily basis, I will go through said deal sites and look at what they have to offer me. And on the whole, I find some fantastic bargains. I have had discount contact lenses, dinners out for 2 and even a holiday through these sites, and on the most part I am fairly happy with them. Granted, we did bring the average age on the holiday down by 50 years, and enjoyed some rather eclectic cabaret singing, but there was 40 degree heat, a pool and a beach, and some relaxing memory building with my best friend. Which is all you really need in life, right?images

But recently I have been left a little disappointed by the deals they offer. I recently booked a deal for me and the boy to go and have a seafood platter dinner (with lobster, what more could you ask for) and when I called to book they never picked up. Eventually I got the cleaner, who wouldn’t pass me over to anyone else or take a message for me. Right. I called Groupon and complained and they returned the money. All good.

Then last week I excitedly found a deal to Reykjavik (a place I have always wanted to go) and a friend who would go with me, and excitedly booked. For days after I emailed to reserve our spot no one responded, and calls were often met with the engaged tone. Again, when I finally got through, they tried to charge me extra (“The time you have booked for is VERY busy”) and also tried to send us out on days different to those we had booked, and from an airport miles away. it culminated in me very calmly stating that it was false advertising, and the lady at the company (I’m too much of a lady to name names) hanging up the phone on me. Perfect customer service, right there.

I’m kinda gutted. I had my heart set on exploring the wintry tundra of Iceland in my ski gear (because I don’t use it for skiing, do I?) with my BFF. And now, if I want to, I will have to organise it myself for a higher cost. I don’t mind doing that, don’t get me wrong, but when it’s a flippin good deal, it’s all a bit disappointing when it’s too good to be true.

What are your thoughts on deal sites like Groupon? Would love to hear about your experiences.

Eating My Way Around: Burger Lobster, London

28 Jan

I’m a foodie. When I say that, I would like to caveat that I am not one of those foodies who thinks that there should be a big plate and not a lot of dinner on it, nor am I the type of person that eats things like ‘seafood foams’ or ‘chicken basket’ (the latter sounds slightly more like the fare you would expect in KFC rather than a Michelin star restaurant, but I digress :) ) I simply love food.

Doesn’t matter what food. There is very little I don’t like. Living in a city like London, I am like a child in a sweetshop. Spoilt for choice on interesting cuisines to nibble on or places to visit. I have a list as long as my arm of restaurants I have heard about on the grapevine, and I like to go and see as much as I can.

In 2013, I crossed off some really good ones, including Shaka Zulu (Camden, London – read my review here) and Balthazar (Covent Garden, London) but this year I am upping the ante and eating my way through London, one mouth-watering morsel at a time.

This weekend, we visited Burger Lobster in the City, one of the 5 of this chain in London. The premise is simple, there are no menus, you simply have the choice of burger, or lobster (with the added bonus of a lobster roll). You can have the lobster grilled or steamed, but they are the only choices (the cocktails menu however, is pretty extensive!).

Simple. Perfect. Having heard great things about the lobster roll; a brioche bun stuffed to the brim with dressed lobster, complete with fries, side salad and an amazing lemon and garlic butter sauce, I plumped for that. And I wasn’t disappointed. If you ever come to London then you need to get yourself there and try it out. its by far the best lobster I’ve had in a while, plus its nice to have it all de-shelled before its plonked in front of you (I know I’m a heathen but it prevents me from getting covered in it).

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The dessert is pretty simple too. There are 2 options, and they change regularly. The white and dark chocolate parfait was AMAZING – all in all, a fantastic lunch.

For an additional secret tip, I recommend visiting the City location on the weekend. Soho always has a line right round the block during lunch and dinner sittings, but with the weekend being mostly closed in the city, the tables are a lot easier to get and there isn’t much need for a reservation.

Where are your recommendations for fantastic places to eat out?

People Are The Biggest Problem Faced

27 Jan

Customer service. Its something that we love and hate in equal measure, and flip on a hairpin at the slightest notice. If done well, someone going above and beyond their job role to help you out and deal with your grievances quickly can brighten your mood and give you renewed belief in humanity.

Done wrong, and it’s a right nightmare.

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We have a local supermarket that is much cheaper than the others, and for this reason, they do things a little differently. At the till point, you are sped through like you are part of a competitive trolley dash, and the staff are rude to the point of you actually inconveniencing their lives.

The funniest was the other day when I was in there buying a few bits, and the guy on the till, who sported a “duty manager” badge, spent the whole time distractedly talking on the phone. He was so distracted that once he had put my items through, he forgot to ask me to pay, and started ringing in all the groceries from the man behind. I can be charitable, but there is no way I’m paying for a complete stranger’s weekly shop.

Grumpy Cat customer

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get customer service for your life? Some of the most difficult things that we experience in life are often made better on the advice of others, os wouldn’t it be great if you had a dedicated line you could call up to put you back on the straight and narrow, and help you stay motivated / achieve your dreams?

Just imagine. Your New Year’s resolution is to cut out something, and make your diet far healthier. You know what you should be doing in theory, but wouldn’t it be perfect if you could jump on Skype and talk through with someone to give you hints and tips that you hadn’t thought of? Or maybe your dream is to travel the world. If you could drop an email to someone with your hopes and dreams, and them come back to you with realistic ways to achieve your goals, wouldn’t your life be so much easier?

Just a thought.

What would you get life customer service help with?

Required: Motivation

26 Jan

I’ve never been one of those girls that knows about calories. Or, for that matter, cares about calories. The most health conscious I have ever been is being able to hold a straight face when insisting that orange flavoured chocolate is one of your five a day, and that if you eat loads on a plane it doesn’t count because you are in the air.

Exactly.

So I was slightly horrified when my clothes started to feel a little tight at the seams, and I started to look a little, well, doughy. WTF? I’ve always eaten what I liked and the only exercise I can admit to regularly doing is walking (at speed) to the fridge. It dawned on me. I will be 30 soon. Is this what my cousins forebode when they tried to tell me that when you hit 30 you can’t metabolise one brie a day? Good Lord, it could all be coming true.

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Don’t get me wrong, I had achieved my goal of eating nearly an entire cheeseboard each day between Christmas and New Year, and I had bloody enjoyed it. It’s not like I am disillusioned as to why calories are sticking to me like I am the worlds biggest magnet, when all I’ve been eating is dust. :)

Teamed with the fact that my sister is on a health kick and my best friend has deemed her back too fat to fit in a bridesmaids dress in the summer, I realised I had to get my shit together.

In my opinion, the people who insist exercise is fun, being sweaty is achieving something and salad is delicious, are on crack. But I’ve embraced it – I’ve been swimming, am doing exercise videos and eating like a rabbit for the past few weeks. Wine has become the enemy (but I looooooooooove you) and there is an ultimate ban on cheese, which in my opinion, is like losing a limb.

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Its working.

However, the one thing that I really cannot stand, is the one thing that so many gym bunnies swear by.

The 30 Day Shred. People say that Jillian is motivational, and her shouting spurs you on. She often screams “if 400 pound people can do a jumping jack, you can too!!!!” But I am stubborn. She makes me want to face plant a carton of ice cream and chase it down with maple syrup. Which wouldn’t be a pretty sight for anyone.

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So I’m adopting the Laura attitude to being a skinny Minnie – if occasionally I do eat a loaf of bread / a block of cheese /anything Jillian would disapprove of, at least ‘not eating it every day. In your face, America’s Biggest Shouter.

I’m sticking to Zumba and trying not to laugh in Yoga. That’s my jam.

What do you do to keep healthy? Any recipes that may save me from my personal salad hell?

Road Trippin

25 Jan

So I’ve been gone a while. And even when I was present for a bit, I kind of wasn’t, if you know what I mean. The kid in the corner with the vacant look and the wandering soul. That’s been me for a while.

Losing my grandfather was by far the hardest thing I have ever had to go through, but I feel like he would be so cross should he think that we were all moping around, mourning his life and chasing his shadow. So its time to pull my socks up, put clothes on other than pjs or joggers, and remember that there is a big world that hasn’t gone anywhere, and is waiting for me to explore it.

I suddenly realised that I have been hibernating and licking my wounds last week when my friend commented that we had to make some plans that involved leaving the house. It was true, and it dawned on me that I have been hiding from the world for far too long.

Behind the scenes, I have got back to living life with intention, a concept introduced to me last year that changed my outlook and caused me to think differently about the way I live my life.

So I have some things planned.

1) Road tripping round California.images

In 22 days (and counting) I leave for the other side of the world with the boy. We are, of course, headed for the place I love the most, San Diego, to visit my family. BUT, we have some fun plans. We intend to take a car and drive up the Route 101 to San Francisco, stopping all the way at fun little eateries and cool viewing points. We will spend a couple of days being tourists in San Fran (Return to Alcatraz and cycling the Golden Gate Bridge are on the list) and then take the south road inland down to Yosemite. I’m truly excited to be visiting such a natural wonder, and hoping that it will trip my mind more into thinking about what we are lucky to experience in this life, rather than the things that bring us down and try us.

2) Bergen, Norway.5767474-scenery-of-bryggen-in-bergen-norway

2 firsts for me. Norway has always seemed a little magical, so for a weekend in the end of March is dedicated to a trip to the gateway to the fjords, and a boat trip around them. It’s also the first time I will be using Air BnB (heard good things and bad) so I’ll keep you posted.

What do you have planned for 2014?

Biscuiteers Blogger Meet Up, Notting Hill

17 Dec

When Lauren from Aspiring Kennedy emailed me about a blogger meet up, I was dubious. I find these things really awkward, talking to people I don’t know and trying to find a common ground, when essentially we have all been grouped together over such an ambiguous love, words.

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Biscuiteers, physical location in London’s Notting Hill

But when she mentioned biscuits, I was there. I mean really Lauren, you should just lead with that!

I’m so glad I went. What I experienced was the cutest little shop, Biscuiteers, and a collection of really lovely girls all icing biccies to their heart’s content, and getting covered in sugar syrup in the process.

There were pre-iced ones so we didn’t feel like total idiots, and we iced bauble and Christmas tree shapes, trying desperately to make them look even a little like the ones the lovely ladies who work there had crafted. Not so lucky in my case, but I had fun all the same!

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DIY Gingerbread house. SHUT. UP

The shop is darling. They sell all sorts of iced cookies, from day of the dead masks, to Superman, to an entire nativity crafted out of buttery biscuitness. Sadly, my godforsaken iPhone has died since the event so I am having to borrow photos from the other girls there to give you a visual idea, but if you ever find yourself in Notting Hill, go forth and find them. You will be plunged into a biscuity heaven!

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Biscuitty montage courtesy of ruthlgarner.com, who is a whizz with a camera!

I also met some lovely girls there, including Ruth from The Planned Adventure, Becca from Urban Flipflops and Amber from Amber Nouveau not to mention the lovely-as-ever Lauren who writes over at Aspiring Kennedy, and orchestrated the whole event. Check them out, all well worth a read.

Happy Holidays!

Ice, Ice, Baby

10 Dec

I feel like I have been living in the capital long enough now to not consider myself a tourist. I tut when people come off the tube and stop on the platform right in front of me, and I have a serious sense of urgency when someone is standing on the wrong side of the escalator. It’s totally ridiculous and unquantified, but just like black bogeys, London changes a person.

Every now and then however, I like to jump on the tourist bandwagon, grab my camera, and go loco. Especially this time of year when the twinkly lights sparkle above the streets and the smell of winter is in the air. I develop a sense of camaraderie unseen through the rest of the year, and happily bump shoulder to shoulder with the ten million other people in Covent Garden wanting to experience the Christmas cheer.

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Me hooded up and defended against the ice

The IceBar recently generated that kind of touristy wonder for me. I have heard people talking about it and visiting, but I have never made the time to go for a visit myself. After the skiing incident, I don’t particularly like the cold, but with London coming over all Christmassy I felt I should join in.

And what better way to do something you want to do than by buying it for someone else? (I joke, the boy did want to go, but I also had a vested interest myself :) ) So I booked tickets.

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Team Ice Bar

Below Zero, London is fun, I’m not going to lie. The experience of queuing to get hooded up in a midnight blue hood with fur round the edge and mittens makes you very excited about the prospect, although the space is a bit small for the amount of people they try to cram in. The entire bar is made of ice, including the glass you get your cocktail in, which is included in the price. As I am super clumsy I had to be very careful about frisbee-ing my ice glass off the bar and losing my drink (I paid for that, goddamnit!) but on the whole its a one-off experience which would be great if you had visitors in town.

Have you been to an IceBar?

Walking in A Winter Wonderland

5 Dec

I love Christmas. I used to say I didn’t, but I was a teenager and didn’t like anything. Now I love when October comes and the air starts to crisp up  in anticipation, waiting for the onset of the cold snap and the prospect of all the festive fun to come.

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This year, Christmas feels to me to be tinged with a bitter sweetness, the first year I will wake in the morning and not see my Grandfather, dressed in his brushed cotton shirt with a cable knit jumper over. The first year I won’t hear the air peppered with swears when he realises he has cooked the goose upside down in the pan for the fourth year on the bounce, and the first year I won’t see the glee in his face as he shakes the presents and throws the wrapping paper over his shoulder.

Nonetheless, Christmas is exciting. My goddaughters are 6 and 2 respectively and still believe in the magic of the season (and so do I for that matter) so we will try to seek out father Christmas in the days before the main event, and make mince pies just in case he hasn’t had his fill by the time he gets to their house.

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And it’s a time for new traditions. This year, the boy and I exchanged advent calendars and Christmas jumpers on the first, when we also listened to Michael Buble (I love him and I don’t care who knows) and made the first round of mince pies. He was very thoughtful, so rather than getting chocolate in my calendar I got a Yankee Candle one (spot the diabetic). Most people forget so I was very touched!

Last night I came home and my housemate was making gifts; windfall chutney in cute little glass jars, and so I wrapped all the gifts I had bought and drank cups of tea with her. as soon as the tree comes we will adorn it with little toadstools and gingerbread lights to make it the pretties (and also fairly gargantuan for the size of our flat) tree in all the land.

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I’ve bought some silly napkins that look like Father Christmas’s suit when you tuck them in to your collar, and my family will be made to wear reindeer antlers or other silly headgear at the table.

It’s a time for being with the ones you love and celebrating the fact that there is a day when you can throw away the rest of the world and all congregate.

And I think that’s the magic of Christmas.

What are your traditions and rituals of the season?

Sushi Making at Suzu

11 Nov

A few months ago I saw a deal on one of the discount sites, and in the spirit of living in the moment and treating each day like its your last, I decided to buy a sushi making course.

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When my Grandfather died on Sunday, I wanted to do nothing more than cancel it till further notice, curl up in my bed and delete the daylight. I think that’s expected when you lose someone close to you, so I closed the doors to the world apart from loved ones, boyfriend and housemate, and licked the emotional wounds.

You might not believe in signs, so on this occasion I will ignore you and plough on with my story. My Grandmother had handed me a pile of papers that she thought I might like to have, and I had stuffed them in my handbag, too sad to read them. But late last week I pulled out the envelope and flicked through the papers. One thing was a small promotional book about sushi made by a Japanese beer company, and in it was the different types of sushi and which beer went well. As I read, a small, folded piece of paper fluttered out the back from where it had been hidden, and landed on my lap.

I unfolded the paper, and there was a note from my Granddad in his jagged scrawl. Scribbled across this ripped page I read Japanese words plus their English translations; words and phrases designed to show politeness in another language.

That was my Granddad all over. We used to go to the Italian restaurant in my home town and he would speak to the waitresses in Italian. They were all born and bred in the UK and didn’t have a clue what he was saying, but he would attempt all the same. I had to keep the class. I felt like it was his way of telling me to pull my socks up and get on with my life. After all, I’m still living mine.

The class was amazing. Two and a half hours of being taught how to make sushi (accompanied by us scoffing our creations) and sipping plum wine. We got taught California rolls, hokosaki and nigiri, as well as getting a cookery book and a roll mat to take home with us.

If you are based in London and fancy checking it out, click here.

What have you done a little differently recently?

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