Saturday, 28 March 2015

Afternoon tea | The Terrace @ Amba

As I mentioned in my last post, Emerald Street are re-running their 2-for-1 afternoon tea offer, in partnership with a number of London hotels. I treated my brother last Saturday, as we never do anything together and I love spending time with him – and he chose The Terrace at the Amba Hotel, Charing Cross. It’s right next to the tube station and about 100 yards from Embankment on the Circle Line, so we went there and walked down.
The main entrance is the hotel foyer, so you’re met by the receptionists and concierge. The Terrace restaurant is on the second floor and we had to make our own way up – luckily it was well signed and we were met at the entrance by a waitress who took our coats and showed us to the table. Luckily we were on the ‘terrace’ as opposed to the main dining room which was so light and airy – and the windows provided great views. The architecture was so pretty too, think chandeliers, marble pillars and ornate ceilings. The china was also gorgeous and I wanted to take it home with me – everything matched, in bright floral print.
We booked the sparkling afternoon tea so began with a glass of sparkling wine, while we perused the five page tea menu. Robert decided on Persian Pomegranate, a richly fruity tea, while I opted for the more delicate White tea with ginger and pear – delicate, but refreshing.
One our tea was served, we had a five minute wait before the cake stand was presented to the table – although I’d already had a look around to see what kind of treats we would be expecting. Unlike last week, everything came at once.
We had three kinds of sandwich – egg mayo & cucumber on white, ham & tomato chutney on white and double cheese & pickle on wholemeal – and a salmon & cream cheese roll, which was in a giant brioche bun. That was definitely my favourite and Rob’s too – the soft bun was just so lovely.
We had two fruit scones each, served with clotted cream and strawberry jam. The jam was a bit too runny for my liking but the cream was really thick and the scones were amazing. The outsides were so crunchy, but once I’d sliced them in half, the middles were warm and soft. Luckily they weren’t too filling, so I still had room for the cakes on the top tier. We weren’t talked through the variety of cakes but we had a cherry & almond friande (slice), a white chocolate & raspberry layered sponge slice and a chocolate layered sponge slice. Aesthetically, the cakes looked lush – and they tasted just as good. I struggled to finish them as the chocolate one was quite rich, with a thick layer of ganache topping.

The service was good throughout, although it took a while to get the bill. I do like that the staff are never obtrusive, or keen to get rid of you, as is the case with so many restaurants these days. Everything was just so relaxed and it was perfect location to enjoy a lovely, civilised afternoon.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Restaurant review | Bistro on the Quay

Last Friday I went for dinner at Bistro on the Quay, on Ipswich docks. I’d been before last year and thoroughly enjoyed the meal, so I was really looking forward to returning. We booked a table but upon arrival, were seated next to a rather large raucous party of 12. Thankfully, the waitress was keen to move us to a quieter spot, which was great – I didn’t really want to make a fuss so it was good they were so accommodating. Especially given how busy the restaurant ended up being.

Bistro on the Quay have a set menu, even on a Friday, with a main course priced at £10.95 and additional courses for £4 each. Before I even sat down, I knew what I was having – the bang bang chicken caught my eye last time round; I ordered the light main size portion, which was actually huge when it arrived. Someone on the next table ordered the starter portion which looked tiny, so I made the right decision.
The strips of chicken were in the most beautiful peanut sauce, with sweet chilli drizzled around the plate and a large salad of mixed leaves, tomatoes, cucumber and spring onion. It was so filling and the sauce was really moreish. It was such a simple dish that I could easily make at home, but sometimes the simple dishes are the nicest. It was just the mixture of textures and flavours that made it so scrummy.
Last time for dessert I had the most incredible tropical taster platter and was pleased to see something similar on the menu this time round. The trio tasting plate consisted of mango pannacotta, pineapple meringue and passion fruit sorbet. The sorbet was so lush and it was served in a homemade brandy snap basket – my favourites. The mini pannacotta was also lovely, not too rich or sickly. Little platters like that are perfect for me – I’m so bad at making decisions, so a bit of everything suits me fine. It’s the first time I’d actually had a proper dessert since finishing the IQS programme so I struggled a bit, but I’m no longer a dessert person *sad face*.

Once again, it was a great evening with wonderful food, service, a decent atmosphere and lovely company – I know for sure I’ll be back.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Latest in Beauty | Build your Box

I think everyone knows my love for Latest in Beauty boxes by now – I’m now into double figures. When their ready-made boxes don’t catch my fancy (a rare occurrence, I have to admit), I love to treat myself with a selection of goodies I’ve picked. The ‘build a box’ option is great, as you can buy as much or little as you like. My last box arrived a couple of weeks ago and I’ve finally got round to trying all (bar one) of the products.

Original Carmex is a complete lifesaver at the moment, my lips are constantly dry. This is a necessity in my handbag, while I still use the Lush lip scrub at night. This may not be as lush as the cherry variety, but it does the job and last for ages.

Benefit It’s Potent eye cream is my all-time favourite eye cream. It’s been in my monthly favourites before and I’m yet to find one better. Even these sample pots last a long time – there’s never any need to buy a full-size. This product doesn’t irritate the eye area and really works – I notice the difference when I don’t use it.

I've heard nothing but good things about Benefit the Porefessional, and I totally wasn't disappointed by this product. Although I love their skincare, I'm not a huge fan of the makeup but this stuff is amazing. It's so easy to apply and either before or after makeup, it works. 
I love Montagne Jeunesse face masks and the Dead Sea Mud Spa Mask is one I’ve tried before. I try and use face masks once a week and usually buy ones specific to how my skin is feeling. This variety is definitely one of my faves – I love the cooling effect, but also the way it dries. There’s nothing more satisfying than removing a mud or clay mask.

I love a bath, whether it’s luxurious salts or oils, or a beaut Lush product. The Abahna white grapefruit & may chang Bath Gel is so me! I’ve finally used all my Maddi Alexander products from previous boxes, so I’m looking forward to trying something new. The product smells amazing and from the packaging, oozes luxury – so I’m expecting big things.
I’m currently loving sprays, particularly the Boots and Body Shop vanilla ones as they double up as amazing room sprays. The Yardley Royal Diamond Body Spray is quite floral but not too overpowering, also containing pear. Again, it doubles up well as a room fragrance.

I love the Percy & Reed hair mousse, so it was only a matter of time before I bought the hair spray. I mainly use it after I curled my hair using the BaBylis Curl Secret and keeps my curls all day, without feeling sticky or crunchy. It’s the strongest hairspray I’ve tried with those results and I’ll definitely buy the full-size product. Expect to see this in my monthly favourites.

Which beauty products are you currently loving?

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Degustabox | February Box

I know what you’re thinking, it’s the end of March and nearly April and I’m writing about the February Box, which had the inspirational name... February Box! I’ve finally tried out all the products and it’s a week until the next arrives. So what did I get in this month’s delivery?

·         Jar of Peanut Hottie
·         Bottle of Laimon Fresh
·         Packet of Lily O’Brien’s Cocoa Cookie Crunch
·         Tub of America’s Muffin Co gluten-free cakes
·         Two Schwartz Flavour Shots
·         Jar of Whole Earth peanut butter
·         Packet of Original Melba Thins
·         Two Beet It Sport pro-elite bars
·         Packet of Jack Links Original beef snack
Peanut Hottie is a gorgeous peanut-based hot drink, which reminds me Horlicks, in the sense, it’s so calming and perfect before bed. It’s really silky smooth and you simply need to add 4tsp to hot water and you’ve got your drink. I love it and even better – there’s a chocolate variety too.

I’d never heard of Laimon Fresh but I’m so glad I have now – I’ll definitely be purchasing it again. This sparkling drink is basically a non-alcoholic mojito mix of lemon-lime and mint. I’m sure it’d be even better with some rum and crushed ice!
Degustabox never disappoint with their sweet treats and the Lily O Brien’s Cocoa Cookie Crunch were a huge hit with all my family. The re-sealable pouch was great, although they didn’t last long! If you like milk chocolate and oreo-style biscuits, you’ll love these giant buttons of indulgence.

With three varieties of American Muffin Co gluten-free cakes up for grabs, I was half hoping for the chocolate brownies, but I wasn’t disappointed with the chocolate chip muffins I received. They weren’t as sweet as traditional muffins but were a lot more crumbly. Each box contains six and each is individually wrapped for optimum freshness. I’d definitely buy these as they’re perfect with an afternoon cup of tea at work.
I love packet seasonings and flavourings – they’re such a simple way of adding a bold hit to boring midweek meal. With two pots of Schwartz Flavour Shots in the box, I was in charge of the family dinner for two nights. All you need to do is add the blend of oil, herbs and spices to handful of fresh ingredients and you have a super easy meal for a family of four. I had the masala curry pot and a paella mix. Both were so flavoursome and created hearty meals. There are cheaper equivalents on the market, but I enjoyed trying these out.

The Whole Earth peanut butter was definitely this month’s winner. I love peanut butter but have recently opted for almond butter, which actually is so much tastier. This jar claims to be all-natural with no added sugar, gluten-free and high in fibre/protein. Even though it’s a smooth peanut butter, it contains sunflower, pumpkin and flax seeds which give it a crunch and additional texture. It’s lush on toast with some banana.
For someone like me that likes to eat healthy and have light lunches, the Original Melba Toasts were great. Each pack is wrapped, so they’re great for working lunches. They are so versatile too. I had mine with philly & cucumber and pate, but you could have them with any topping – or even dip them in soup or accompany salads. I’ll definitely have these again.

The final two products were ones I knew I wouldn’t like and I didn’t – they both went to my dad. Beef jerky, imo, is the food of the devil so I didn’t enjoy the Jack Links Original beef snack and even though I like beetroot and flapjack, the Beet It Sport weren’t not my cup of tea at all.
Did you get February’s Box? Leave your links below so I can read your thoughts.