Tuesday, 31 December 2013

A taste of the exotic: teriyaki beef udon

I’ve been meaning to blog this recipe for absolute ages and it’s well worth trying out. My dad first saw it online and changed a few bits to add his own touch, and it’s become a family favourite since. The two things he added to the original recipe were the spring onions, which he says “add a fresh crunch” and the pak choi, because “it works well and is a favourite oriental vegetable of mine”.
Noodle soup with teriyaki beef
and toasted cashews
Serves 2
For the noodle soup
• 2 tbsp soy sauce
• 5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
• pinch chilli flakes
• 300ml hot vegetable stock
• 200g ready-cooked udon noodles, heated
• 1 pak choi, divided into leaves and washed

For the teriyaki beef
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 200g beef fillet
• salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 tbsp soy sauce
• 2 tbsp clear honey

To serve
• 2 tbsp cashew nuts, lightly toasted
• 2 spring onions sliced into rings

Preparation method
1. For the noodle soup, place all the noodle soup ingredients except for the noodles into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for three minutes. Add the pak choi and simmer for a further three minutes.
2. For the teriyaki beef, rub the beef all over with olive oil and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
3. Heat a frying pan until hot and fry the beef for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until cooked to your liking. Remove the beef from the pan and set aside to rest in a warm place. Add the soy sauce and honey to the pan and stir, then remove the pan from the heat.
4. Cut the beef into thin slices and stir around in the pan of soy mixture to coat all over in the pan juices.
5. To serve, place the noodles into a bowl and pour over the soup. Top with the sliced beef and sprinkle over the cashew nuts and sliced spring onion.


Sunday, 29 December 2013

Sunday Snapshots: Christmas 2013

I hope all my lovely readers had a great Christmas, spending time with your loved ones and of course, eating and drinking copious amounts! Here’s what I got up to this week.
I worked Christmas Eve and came into the office to find this lovely gift from my manager sitting on my desk. She obviously knows me very well – rosé and chocolates are my favourites! I had the wine when I got home, what a lovely way to begin Christmas and my two days off.
Christmas Eve was reasonably quiet and was spent with family. We had the traditional ham, egg and chips for dinner before playing games and watching TV. I decided to wear my new AX Paris jumper and had to have a very festive red lip.
Christmas morning – doesn’t the tree look so much better with presents underneath? My brother and I woke up at 9am and opened our stockings in my room (another tradition!), before having breakfast and Skyping relatives in Australia. No matter how old I am, Christmas Day always excites – until about 4pm when I’m nursing a food baby and feeling sluggish!
My brother bought, assembled and decorated this gingerbread house – isn’t it cute! I’d never actually eaten one before and it did taste amazing! I couldn’t help but pick at all the sweets and chocolates as well (crispy m&ms... mmm!). Next year I would love to make my own – gingerbread and all. I think I’ll be browsing the Lakeland website soon...
Yet another selfie! My parents bought me this jumper for Christmas and it’s adorable; I’m such a big kid at heart. I think I love Minnie Mouse almost as much as I love the Disney Princesses (Aurora is my favourite, what about you?) and Christmas isn’t the same without a jumper like this. It’s so baggy and snug – I didn’t even need a coat when I went outside!
On Boxing Day we were at my Grandparents’ house and nobody does a better buffet spread than my Nan. It isn’t only Christmas she goes all out like this, it’s the same every time we visit for lunch – what a treat! Of course, I went up more than one, you have to really. And we drank dandelion & burdock!

Winter Warmers II

With the fog, frost and freezing temperatures the last couple of weeks, what better reason to buy a few bits for the winter wardrobe?
I recently bought a faux fur coat from Boohoo, but when it arrived it was too small (I couldn’t do it up) and as they don’t do exchanges, only refunds, I had to think of a plan b. After several searches on Google and various websites, I went back to trusty New Look – and with my brother’s student ID, even managed to get a cheeky 10% off.
Nude faux fur jacket – £34.99 (I paid £31.49)
After the previous coat disaster, I decided to buy this in a size bigger than I usually buy clothes and I’m so glad I did. It’s really snug and will be just perfect for a winter walk. I wore it for my work Christmas party and it was brilliant as I stood on the cold platform, waiting for the train in the morning – and staggering from bar to bar in the evening! I love the button and clasp fastening, which ensure the cold doesn’t get in. I love it – and feel like a teddy bear in it!
Leopard print fleece onesie – was £15.99, now £7.00 (I paid £10.00)
With up to £10.00 off all onesies on the New Look website, I could not resist this bargain – leopard print, fleecy and with a hood = perfect. For some reason a lot of the onesies I’d been looking at before were footless, which I couldn’t be doing with – hate having cold feet! Lovely and snug and the pompoms are very cute; slobby Sundays have never been so good.
Blue acid wash jeggings – £14.99 (I paid £13.49)
You can never have too many pairs of leggings and I chose these just so I could secure free delivery. I have so many pairs of darker jeggings, I really need some lighter pairs – and there was a beautiful bleach wash style, but they weren’t available in a 10 (shock, they are now – here!). A wardrobe staple and a very good fit, I can’t have too many complaints.
With the sales now on, what steals are you most pleased with? I’d love to hear and see what you’ve bought.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Winter Warmers I

With the fog, frost and freezing temperatures the last couple of weeks, what better reason to buy a few bits for the winter wardrobe?
I took advantage of the £5 off knitwear on AX Paris, thank to an email I received and bought these three lovely bits:

GEEK jumper – £14.99 (now £9.99)
I always said I would never buy an item of clothing with something like this written on – I often see people out in ‘geek’ jumpers wearing those awful glasses without lenses in and can’t help but cringe. This was in the sale (originally £25) so I thought I’d just get it. It’s cropped with three quarter length sleeves, so not ideal for winter – but good for chilling out at home in.
Christmas Penguin jumper – £22.00
What is Christmas without a cheesy novelty jumper? And let’s be honest, you can’t get more festive than a penguin in a bobble hat! I bought this to wear on Christmas Day – and ended up wearing for the pre-drinks of my work Christmas party (as most of the office also wore theirs). I love the oversized feel of the jumper, the length of the sleeves and cosiness of the thick knit. It can be dressed up with heels and leather leggings, or dressed down with jeans. I don’t usually wear red, but you have to make an exception at this time of year!
Knitted multi heart jumper – £25.00* (now £19.99)
* Was £30 (saved £5)
I love pink and I love hearts, so obviously had to buy this! It’s almost like a jumper dress, it’s baggy in length and the body, but has quite tight sleeves – almost batwing-esque. I could just wear this (no leggings!) and chill out, with film after film. The mohair heart jumpers are next on my jumper, but aren’t in the sale (yet!) – do I go black with white hearts or nude with black hearts?
What do you think to Christmas jumpers? And what did you wear for Christmas parties this season?

Monday, 23 December 2013

Tag: Christmas

I seriously can’t believe tomorrow is Christmas Eve, where has the time gone? My shopping was all done last week and the last of the gifts were wrapped over the weekend. I’m working tomorrow, but already looking forward to getting home and spending some time with the family – over a game of Monopoly and glass of disaronno and coke! I saw this tagged post on Vicky’s blog and just had to embrace the Christmas spirit. Make sure you check out Vicky’s answers too!

1. What's your favourite Christmas movie?

I think I’ll have to say Miracle on 34th street – the original, not the remake. I love Christmassy chick flicks like Love Actually and The Holiday as well – how hot is Jude Law? I realise this sounds really bad, but I’ve never actually seen Elf. Am I really missing out?

2. Do you stay in your PJs or get dressed on Christmas Day?

I always get dressed. I don’t dress up as such – I don’t see the point of going all out when you’re just gonna be slobbed out on the sofa nursing the most horrendous food baby. I think this year I’ll wear my leather leggings and Christmas jumper! I always make sure I’m dressed before I go downstairs for breakfast and presents, with hair and make up done, just in case of any potential photo opportunities.

3. Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?

I always wait until Christmas Day! We were never allowed to open anything on Christmas Eve. Growing up, my brother and I were always bought ‘Christmas pyjamas’ which we could wear on Christmas Eve and then overnight, we’d get a ‘Christmas outfit’ to wear on Christmas Day. Even now, I still wait until the morning to open my stocking – yep, I still get one and I’m 24 next month!

4. Favourite Christmas smell?

I love the smell of mulled wine, or just Christmas spices in general – cinnamon, nutmeg and the like.

5. What is your favourite Christmas song?

Like Vicky, mine is Fairytale of New York – and I agree with her answer: it's guaranteed to get everyone singing along. I do love a bit of Mariah as well and that video always makes me get in the Christmas spirit.

6. What's your favourite Christmas drink?

It has to be mulled wine, it’s the only time of year we drink it. Baileys is a typically Christmassy drink as well though. Baileys hot chocolate with marshmallows is a winner in my eyes – a proper winter warmer.

7. Favourite Christmas meal?

I actually love all the buffet food, on Boxing Day and the days after that – just snacking throughout the day on nibbles. My nan does the best spread, and not only at Christmas! Otherwise, we always have ham, egg and chips on Christmas Eve – it’s like a tradition. Oddly, over Christmas I’m really into savoury snacks, rather than sweet!

8. Wrapping presents - love or loathe?

Loathe. I am awful at it. I don’t think I have a creative bone in my body and don’t have time (or the patience) to bother with ribbons and bows etc. If the gift I’m giving isn’t a box-shape, I have no hope. And even when it is, it looks like a child has wrapped it. My mum wrapped my work secret santa present because I wanted it to look pretty!

9. What's your favourite thing about Christmas?

FAMILY! It’s really difficult because there aren’t many of us: my mum’s sister is in Madrid and my dad’s sister is in Australia and I only have one nan and granddad left. It’s lovely seeing my grandparents on Boxing Day and we usually skype the family in Aus. Last year my auntie and uncle in Madrid came to England and it was lovely celebrating with them as we usually only see them in the summer.

10. Christmas tree - real or fake?

It has to be real! The choosing of the tree, the dropping of the pines, the beautiful smell – I love it! I find fake trees usually over the top and tacky. My mum always decorates our tree, red and gold to match our living room. We have to re-arrange the living room furniture as well – the lounge door is blocked by one of the armchairs and we have to enter the room via the French doors in the dining room. You know it’s Christmas at that point.

11. Homemade cards or shop bought ones?

I would love to have the time, patience and energy to hand make cards but the shops are often my saviour. Not on the high street is possibly my favourite website – some of the sellers’ designs are gorgeous. I don’t mind spending a bit more, when I know it’s someone’s living and they’ve gone to a lot of trouble.

12. What do you do on Christmas Eve?

Well I am working until 3pm tomorrow, for the first year ever. We normally just have a family afternoon/evening. Mum cooks the ham (with honey glaze and scored with cloves) and we have that for dinner with fried eggs and chips. We often play Monopoly, which lasts hours and ends when the arguments begin. Then I get over-excited and can’t sleep – mum often brings my stocking in my room, although when I was younger, she’d wait for me to fall asleep... She says she can’t be staying up ‘til gone 3am! I’m not one for going out and getting drunk – it’s just a waste of time and money.

13. Favourite Christmas memory?

I don’t think I could pin point one single memory, there have been so many. When I fancy a reminisce, we flick through old photo albums or watch family videos – the memories soon come flooding back. I was very lucky to have such a good childhood!

14. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?

I don’t know how old I was, but I found out the truth because I was a naughty kid. On Christmas Eve, I’d always do as much as possible to ensure I stayed up to see ‘him’ – playing games, reading books, eating and drinking. My mum would always make sure we were asleep before she brought our stockings in our rooms. I think one year I stayed up til 1am and when my mum finally brought the stocking in, I woke up and saw her. She wasn’t happy and I’m sure I had to keep quiet for my brother’s sake.

15. Snow - love it or hate it?

This is a tough one. I love it when I’m inside and looking out the window. Watching it fall and settle while on the sofa in front of the fire is just beautiful. As soon as I’m out in it, I hate it. I hate the coldness, the wetness and the mayhem it causes. We had a proper snowball fight when I was in halls at Uni and it was horrendous – the boys were chucking snow in our faces and down our jumpers and all sorts; I think I actually cried before giving up and going inside. When it turns to slush, it’s so ugly as well. And don’t get me started on the ice...

Thank you all for reading my posts this year and I hope you all have a really lovely Christmas!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Graze: 02.09.13

In this box, I got:
·         Sticky toffee pudding
·         Very nori-ish
·         Piña colada
·         Bounty hunter
I’ve been making my way through the Graze ‘mini puds’ and they really don’t get much better than the sticky toffee variety I had in this box. Sticky toffee pudding is one of my favourite sponge desserts and this one is a real winter warmer. A light sponge with sweet sticky dates and a gorgeous toffee sauce which isn’t overly sickly. I’ve never had the puds cold (although you can), and always go for 20 seconds in the microwave – perfection. At 147 calories, snacking really hasn’t tasted so good!
Everything else in the box I’ve had before, so click on the links above to see my previous thoughts!
Why not choose the mini pud, or opt for any other treats – for free! Sign up to graze.com and enter code: LUCYW5XXP and receive three complimentary boxes – and remember you can cancel at any time.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Restaurant review: Arlingtons

Where I ate:
Arlingtons, Museum Street, Ipswich
Situated in Museum Street, Arlingtons used to be just that – with an upstairs gallery. These days it’s a buzzing French bistro, with seating both up and downstairs. I had never been before, but after a quick investigation on the website, knew it would be a very good meal and evening in general.
The brasserie is certainly unique and the layout is excellent – the downstairs is pretty much open plan. The seating up in the gallery is just for tables of two, which is where we sat, while the downstairs accommodates for larger parties with a mix of chairs and booths.
The history is well worth looking into and there’s even a market on Sundays – how many restaurants can boast that?
What I drank:
Large glass of pinot grigio
What I ate:
Steak frites, followed by crème caramel
From the brasserie classics menu, I opted for the steak frites (with peppercorn sauce, as opposed to the blue cheese option). I’d previously had steak in Paris and it wasn’t anything special really, so was looking forward to something good quality and cooked to perfection. This is exactly what I received – the sauce had permeated well and even covered the chips; bonus! The side salad was also very good, although a little warm on the leaves nearest the steak. It also contained a lot of interesting vegetables chopped julienne style, I even think there was celeriac in there.
Crème caramel is one of my favourite desserts and hand on heart, this was better than the one I had in Paris – and better than some flans I’ve also had in Spain; high praise indeed! I was really full from the steak as well, but just could not resist.
The staff were excellent and very friendly. The woman who seated us asked us if we’d been before and when we said we hadn’t, was keen to hear our thoughts when leaving. It was refreshing to see people in that sector feel so passionate about their place of work and enjoy their job – waiting staff really need to take note. Although I can fully understand why they feel that way, Arlingtons was lovely and I’m sure I’ll return!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Sunday Snapshots #20

I can’t believe it’s only a couple of weeks until Christmas and I still haven’t done my shopping – eek. Have you done yours yet?

Standard selfie before work. I bought this skirt ages ago from H&M – it was one of the featured items in the catalogue and only £2.99. It’s the first time I had worn it though, as I often wear black skirts with a colourful top. I love the brightness of the pink and teamed it up with a long-sleeved black top.
This week at work we did Secret Santa – and I had been looking forward to it all week, even though I’m rubbish with surprises. I bought for Jayne and she ended up getting me as well! I bought the Ciaté colourfoil nail kit (you can read my review, here) and a little gift box from Lush – I love their products too, especially at Christmas. Jayne bought me a really gorgeous Umberto Giannini set, which I’m sure I’ll blog about at some point!
Another little treat to myself this week were these goodies from Truffle Shuffle. I’ve wanted this collection from Lipsmackers for ages – consisting of old-skool/retro ice creams and lollies, I could not resist. I’ve only used a couple but my fave by far is the strawberry mini milk balm. I also bought this ‘My Little Pony’ vest top, which is very cute. I actually wanted a tee with the castle and pony on, but it had sold out so I went for this. Probably not ideal for winter, mind.
On Friday night, I had my work Christmas party. We went out in Colchester, having a meal at an Italian restaurant, before going to O’Neill’s and Slug & Lettuce for a few (or more than a few) drinks. It’s always buy one get one free on cocktails, so I went for strawberry mojitos. It was a really good evening and nice that everyone let their hair down. Even better, I was hangover-free on Saturday too.
We put our Christmas tree up this weekend; have you done yours yet? I stayed at home while my parents and brother went to local Calcott Farm to buy the tree and wreath for the front door. Our living room is red so we always go for a red and gold theme on the tree, which my mum always decorates. I can’t wait for all the presents to be underneath, but I’m definitely starting to feel more Christmassy now.
I hope you all had a good weekend.
This weekend you can get 20% off Truffle Shuffle by entering code: HOHOHO20 at the checkout.

Even better, Ciaté nail innovation kits are 3 for £30 (sets range from £14-£25 each). This offer ends at midnight tonight, so check it out now to avoid disappoint. They make the most perfect Christmas presents, or even a treat for yourself!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Restaurant review: Las Iguanas

Where I ate:
Las Iguanas, Westfield Stratford, London
I’ve wanted to go to Las Iguanas for years, I still remember when it opened at Lakeside and everyone at school used to go on about it. When I was in London for a gig last month, I decided to finally see what all the fuss was about – but on reflection, there are so many better restaurants at Westfield.
Our waiter wasn’t the best and considering the ratio of staff to customers at the time of eating, should have really been better. I went in my work clothes (black dress and blazer with pumps) and he asked if it was a special occasion, which it was – but with this in mind, he made no extra effort. Had it been a birthday, his attitude would most certainly have ruined it. Our drinks seemed to take forever to arrive and when the food finally came, I was given something different – he even had the nerve to say it was what I asked for, and he had read the order back and I agreed. Whatever happened to the customer being right? We may have caught him on a bad day, but there was no excuse for his rudeness.
What I drank:
Brazilian Bellini (Las Iguanas Magnifica cachaça, passion fruit syrup & mango juice, topped with Cava)
It was happy hour when we arrived (which incidentally runs from midday ‘til 7:30pm on Sundays to Wednesdays), meaning buy one get one free cocktails. As everyone knows, I cannot resist a cocktail, and it’d be rude now to order two! Bellinis are quite possibly my favourite but I knew none could compete with the beautiful passion fruit Bellini I had at Hakkasan), which you can read about here. There’s no way this competed either: the passion fruit and mango were sharp and with the dryness of the cava, didn’t work. I still polished both off, mind.
What I ate:
Chicken wings (honey piri piri) to start, followed by the Cuban Revolution with chicken (toasted ciabatta stuffed with tinga (Mexican smoked chipotle chicken) with sliced emmental, tomato, gherkin, mustard & aioli, served with slaw & fries)
We shared wings to start and ordering from the evening set menu meant we got a smaller portion for a fraction of the price – although we ended up ordering one each. Each portion had two chunky wings, coated in a sweet but spicy piri piri glaze. They were way too hot for me though – even hotter than Nando’s or authentic Portuguese dry rub.
For my main course, I opted for the Cuban Revolution, mainly because I’m not a fan of burritos, enchiladas and the like, but I was also craving pickles *hides*. It did sound amazing on the menu and once it finally arrived, didn’t disappoint. It was huge – certainly enough for two and I’d have been more than happy with half a sandwich. The chicken was spicy, not quite as bad as the starter but I could have done with extra aioli or some sour cream to soften the blow. There was definitely no need for fries either (talk about carbicide). On the early evening menu, this only cost £7 so you certainly get value for money, but I couldn’t do justice to the amount of food served.
Definitely not quite worth the hype, but it was an evening out and I left full.

Graze: 19.08.13

In this box, I got:
·         Apple & blackcurrant crumble with blackberry compote
·         Mississippi BBQ pistachios
·         Slightly sweet popcorn
·         Coffee & walnut cake
I had never had the apple & blackcurrant crumble before, but had been looking forward to trying that, as well as the other mini puds from Graze’s fairly new range. Like the other varieties, of which I’ve already tried a couple, it’s recommended to heat your pud before eating – although you can eat them cold too. I always exceed the 10 seconds suggested, so that the cake is really hot. At only 135 calories, it’s guilt-free snacking at its best and just as yummy as having a large portion of a homemade dessert – I dread to think how many calories are in a serving of my mum’s apple and blackberry crumble! The compote wasn’t too sharp either and just enough to cut through the sweetness of the crumble. A definite winner in my eyes.
Remember, you can get three boxes free by going to graze.com and entering code: LUCYW5XXP. You can choose which snacks you’d like to try by pressing ‘send soon’ and can also cancel your order at any time!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Walking in a winter wonderland...

I’m currently in desperate need of footwear, particularly something I can wear everyday for work. Uggs aren’t allowed and I’m so bored of just wearing ballet pumps daily, particularly in the winter months – my feet get too cold. With 25% off footwear for a limited time, I headed to Boohoo and managed to get two pairs of boots for under £35 – bargain! 
Gemma suedette all over studded ankle boot - £15*^
I am still loving studs, whether they’re on the shoulders of jumpers, the main focus of a clutch bag, or on slippers or this case, boots. They instantly add attitude to any outfit. These are perfect for work and I’ve already worn them a couple of times – and people have complimented me on them because they are different (basically most people wear ‘office’ shoes). They aren’t great for driving in, so I leave them in my car to change into. I generally wear flats on a daily basis, but don’t mind the little heel on these. I could never be one of those people that wear proper high heels around the office, I’m tall enough and I think my feet would hurt, come 5:30pm. The zip is a little annoying and flaps when I walk, but they’re comfortable, look good and go with anything!
Dawn shearling lined lace up ankle boot - £25^
I’ve wanted shearling/aviator boots (and a coat – still no luck) for as long as I can remember; they just look so perfect and snug for winter. When I’ve looked around, I’ve never been able to find anything suitable within my budget – there’s no way I’m spending more than £100 on coat! So when I saw these on Boohoo I jumped at the chance of having my own budget version. These certainly don’t disappoint. I love the heel on them, although having worn them for two days solid, I’m not too sure how long it’ll hold up for. They are cosy though and keep my feet as warm as my Uggs. I probably won’t wear these for work, but they’re great for weekends – I just need to head to a Christmas market or Winter Wonderland; any takers?
Boohoo are currently running a golden ticket promotion where everyone’s a winner. You basically get your ticket with your order, scratch the panel off and can win anything from a percentage discount to £1,000 to spend online. I have two 10% codes up for grabs if anyone wants them:
**One code per person, per transaction on full price items. Offer ends 31.01.14**
What’s your winter footwear of choice?
*Suedette boots have since been reduced to £15. Were previously £20
^I paid £15 for the suedette boots and £18.75 for the shearling boots

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Restaurant reviews: Paris

As followers of my Twitter and Instagram will know, I had four days in Paris last month, which were just lovely – despite the constant rain and poor choice of clothing I decided to pack! It was my first time in the beautiful city of culture, the arts and romance and I feel like I didn’t see nearly enough as I wanted – although I did pack a lot in. Here are my recommendations for eateries en Paris!
For breakfast
Au Bon Cafe – 2 Boulevard St. Martin, 75010
We visited this very traditional cafe/bar for breakfast before getting the metro to the Louvre. An old-fashioned typically French establishment, Au Bon Cafe looks very much like the place all the old men meet on a Friday night for brandy and cards. But the interior is beautiful and very charming. Breakfast is served from 7-11am and despite arriving after this time, we were still allowed to choose from ‘le menu petit-dejeuner’ with the warning “there are only three croissants left”. Ordering ‘le speed’ at €3.70, we had a croissant, glass of orange juice and coffee – exactly what I wanted. There were only a couple of other people seated the same time as us, so there was no real atmosphere, but the place was chic and a good introduction to Parisian life.
Ranked #8,804 of 10,146 restaurants in Paris

For brunch
Brooks Cafe – 8 Boulevard de Magenta, 75010
Breakfast at Brooks was by far the best I had while in Paris – and it was only two doors down from the hotel. Vibrant, lively and modern, Brooks hosts a wealth of treats – from healthy salads and paninis to naughty breakfast pastries and indulgent crepes. This is no chain either; everything is fresh, delicious and reasonably priced. I went for a pain aux raisins and latte and it seemed ludicrous paying less than £1.50 for a coffee! I wish I had gone to Brooks more – to sample lunch or crepe (with nutella and banana, of course), but there’s always next time!
Ranked #1,612 of 10,146 restaurants in Paris
For value
Castel Cafe – 5 Avenue de Suffren, 75007
After visiting the Eiffel Tower, we trekked around in the pouring rain for somewhere to stop for a spot of lunch. We came across the Castel Cafe, which looked like a typical French cafe from the outside and once inside, didn’t disappoint – dim lighting, pictures on the walls and just very Parisian. We ordered from the set menu, which came to €16 for three courses. The steak frites were very good and a must-have when in France and the crème caramel was amazing, my favourite dessert. Despite arriving in the middle of a busy lunch service, the waiters were attentive, although the language barrier proved a minor problem. Castel is situated in a perfect location and although drinks were on the pricy side, it was to be expected, being in a city. On the plus side, it wasn’t as touristy as I imagined, either.
Ranked #3,373 of 10,146 restaurants in Paris

For typical French food and surroundings
La Cooperative – 85 Rue de Rivoli, 75001
Another fabulous little gem in a fabulous location – La Cooperative is the place to go, when visiting the Louvre. The vin chaud was exactly what I needed to warm up on an autumnal day and the optional cinnamon and sugar was a bonus. Of course, being in Paris, I couldn’t help but have a baguette and opted for chicken salad. It was amazing and so big – the baguettes in supermarkets just do not compare! The staff were friendly and the service was very good until it got to the point of paying but we were in a hurry. It was busy though as well, with friends having drinks and families eating afternoon snacks, so the vibe inside was good. The atmosphere was so cosy and homely and it’s the kind of place you could return to, time and time again, without getting bored.
Ranked #1,322 of 10,152 restaurants in Paris
For steak and seafood
Taverne Karlsbraude de Paris Republique – 1 Boulevard Voltaire / 6 Place de la Republique, Paris
We went here for our final meal, having read reviews on Trip Advisor (which were a mixed bag, to be fair). The meal certainly didn’t disappoint, although the service left much to be desired. After waiting close to 40 minutes for a table (yes it was a Saturday, but still), despite empty tables which hadn’t been cleaned, we were actually nicely placed, with a view down the surrounding streets. I went for the moules frites – exactly what I wanted for my ‘last supper’ – which were perfect! As you can see, there were loads, but despite this I still had room for dessert. I finally got my waffle fix! The food and drink was just divine, although a glass of Chablis cost nearly £6 – the bottle costing £32. Our waiter wasn’t the best though and he had a very dry sense of humour. If you can’t speak fluent or even conversational French, you’ll struggle, as I did try to make an effort, but got nothing in return – and he actually mocked my pronunciations.
Ranked #4,604 of 10,152 restaurants in Paris

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Arctic Monkeys @ Le Zenith: 07.11.13 (2)

Mardy Bum

Before we went. Blouse/wet-look leggings/blazer combo
The Strypes - support act

Arctic Monkeys @ Le Zenith: 07.11.13

So I recently had four days in Paris, the city of romance, moules and plenty of vin. While I was there, I got to see the Arctic Monkeys (again – I’d seen them at Wembley back in 2009). I was looking forward to it though, as it’d been a while since I’d seen a band live and it was a new venue in a different country to also tick off. I hadn’t really got into the latest album though, so wasn’t too sure how much I’d know.
They played at Le Zenith, a fairly large arena with capacity of 6,300 – seats and standing. The show was a sell-out and leaving was horrendous – so many people and the metro platforms were also heaving. Le Zenith de Paris was the first of the franchise and this particular venue has staged a wealth of musical acts, other events and even the MTV Music Awards. We sat down while having a drink and something to eat but stood for the main event – although I would have much rather sat out the way, but more about that later.
Back to the gig and the support act were The Strypes – an indie four piece from Ireland. For some reason, I had heard of them before, but I still can’t think where from or why. The 16-year-old me would have loved them, but I wasn’t a fan – it was just too shouty for my liking. Their set lasted about 30 minutes, but I was really impressed by the numbers that turned up to watch them. I’ve never seen so many people stand and watch a support act before and the venue was close to capacity way before Alex Turner and Co took to the stage. As you’d expect, there was a group right at the very front – I dread to think what time some of those people arrived!

‘Cause there’s this tune I found that makes me think of you somehow, and I play it on repeat...
The set began with Do I wanna know, which was quite predictable, before they went on to play a couple of classics and older numbers like Dancing Shoes. The set differed a lot from the last time I saw them play and numbers not often played were performed – like Reckless Serenade. The crowd were left waiting until about halfway through for Why do you only call me when you’re high and it was funny watching the French try and sing along – it was obviously in most cases, the only words they knew were the titles of the songs. Talking of high, the doormen and security clearly did a good job of searching everyone as they went in.
What came first – the chicken or the dickhead?
My favourite ever line from an Arctic Monkeys song and another the locals were not familiar with – although they did stand and sway their arms along to the chorus (as well as lighters). I bet you look good on the dance floor followed and everyone went mental – trying to get that bit closer to the stage. This of course meant a lot of pushing and shoving, which was actually more unbearable than usual. Piledriver Waltz was another song not often performed and the set concluded with Fluorescent Adolescent from Favourite Worst Nightmare before ending with I wanna be yours.
I go crazy 'cause here isn't where I wanna be...
The encore consisted of three songs – the first of which I hadn’t heard before in Snap out of it – but they ended with two crackers in Mardy Bum (which I had been waiting for all night – and probably dedicated to me given the face I was pulling after being battered black and blue by French boys!) and RU Mine – the perfect finale.
There were a couple of songs I was expecting (A Certain Romance) and hoping to hear (505 and When the Sun Goes Down), but as always, the Arctics put on a good show – and who’d have thought Alex had laryngitis?! The food and drink was expensive, but of course that’s to be expected. All in all, it was a really enjoyable night – despite some of the people – and I’ve currently had AM in my car all week!