Monday, 30 November 2015

Degustabox | October box

Degustabox, Subscription, Monthly, Food, Drink
If youve not heard of Degustabox, then where have you been? Its a food & drink monthly subscription box bringing you 9-14 surprise products, many which are new to the market. When you sign up, you get to fill in your very own profile, meaning a couple of the products may differ. Its actually the highlight of my week when this little beauty arrives on my doorstep – so what was in October’s box?

·         A pouch of Geeta’s curry paste
·         A jar of Geeta’s lime chutney
·         A bottle of Lonna carbonated drink
·         A pouch of The Snack Organisation freeze-dried fruit
·         A packet of The Snack Organisation rice crackers
·         A packet of 9-Bar original bars
·         A bottle of Cirio classic passata
·         A tin of Cirio chopped tomatoes
·         A packet of Liberation Foods nuts & corn
·         Two packets of Nudie coconut chips
·         A cup of Kabuto noodles
·         Two packets of Chip Sticks
·         A voucher for President butter
Degustabox, Subscription, Monthly, Food, Drink
Cirio is a brand that has appeared in Degustabox before (read my International Box post from April here) and their products then were a hit with my family. The passata was rich in flavour and made a great (and quick) bolognaise sauce; while the chopped tomatoes are a staple in our cupboard.
Degustabox, Subscription, Monthly, Food, Drink
The Geeta’s products were part of the Degustabox Discoveries, a new concept they’ve introduced. I can’t comment on either product yet as I’m yet to use the Korma paste and I don’t like lime pickle – it’s far too hot for me! The pouch of sauce serves two and looks easy to use, so I’m sure I’ll use it for a quick midweek meal soon.
Degustabox, Subscription, Monthly, Food, Drink
The Chip Strips were my favourite products of the month and I received the sweet paprika and sour cream & onion flavours. They were both incredibly moreish and reminded me a lot of Pringles – they’re also a light potato snack, in a different shape. These too were a hit with the family, but I cannot believe I shared. Another winner were the rice cracker by a company I’d not heard of, The Snack Organisation. Although these were lightly salted, they had a really nice sweet and soy flavour, which I can’t quite put my finger on. They make a great alternative to crisps because they’re light and crunchy – I’d certainly purchase these again.
Degustabox, Subscription, Monthly, Food, Drink
Nudie Snacks coconut chips are a product I’ve seen before (we received them in our Suffolk Blogger Meet goodie bags), but still yet to try. I have to admit, I feel pretty sceptical about them. I like coconut but I’m unsure what to expect of these, or if I’ll even like them – can anyone share any light? A product I didn’t need to look twice at to demolish was the nut & corn mix by Liberation. This product is very similar to some of the savoury snack mixes available in Graze boxes and the chilli & lime flavour was potent. I liked the mix of peanuts, cashew and roasted corn for a naughty evening snack.
Degustabox, Subscription, Monthly, Food, Drink
There’s been a lot of brand repetition recently by Degustabox and the 9-Bar health bars are back, after being included in the May box. I wasn’t a fan then – and I’m still not a fan now. There really needs to be an option so you don’t receive previous products you don’t like, I mean there are the questionnaires every month, but clearly those opinions aren’t considered. I just find them such a chore to chew on, boring, bland and dry. On the other end of spectrum, I absolutely loved the freeze-dried strawberries by The Snack Organisation and destroyed the pouch in one sitting at work. I imagine they’d be even better dipped in chocolate, but less healthy of course.
Degustabox, Subscription, Monthly, Food, Drink
*sigh* Another repeated product is the Kabuto noodle cup (found in the Healthy Box – January). The chicken ramen flavour was better than the one in my previous box, although the sauce mix contained far too much coriander for my liking, and I love coriander! The pot is easy to make and is great for a quick working lunch or dinner when you’re short on time. I bulked mine out with chicken and mixed leaves and ate it as a broth. And finally the carbonated drink by Lorina was beautiful. It made other sparkling drinks on the market taste and look boring. I loved the coconut & lime flavour, as well as how typically French the bottle was. It went well with the noodles too. I would definitely buy this in shops.

What were your thoughts on the October box?

Love, Lucy xx

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Restaurant review | George Prime Steak, Prague

George, Prime Steak, Prague, Fine Dining, Food Bloggers,
George, Prime Steak, Prague, Fine Dining, Food Bloggers,
You may have read about Buddha-Bar in my previous post, but on our second – and final – night in Prague, we had a table booked at George Prime Steak. I’m not even gonna lie, steak and wine is the way to my heart, so this was ideal. However, I didn’t actually research before we went and so, felt totally underdressed in a jumper dress – thankfully there were people at the restaurant dressed worse than me. Think an upmarket Hawksmoor, with the prices to match – it’s definitely fine dining, so any excuse to glam up!

George wouldn’t be out of place in London: the decor was chic, the ambience sophisticated and the service absolutely spot on. As our coats were taken, I clocked the well-stocked bar and already started imagining the cocktails on the menu. The main dining area was extraordinary: a large table set for 14 dominating, while mood lighting and beautiful monochrome colour scheme created a precise aesthetic.

As I studied the a la carte and wine menus, I sipped a refreshing berry margarita. Fruity, perfectly mixed and cold, this really was a great start to the evening. Our waiter soon came round with the evening’s steaks on a trolley, explaining the different cuts. George only use prime black angus beef, which has been wet aged for at least 30 days. I always appreciate it when the staff have time to explain what is it you’ll be eating and felt he was knowledgeable, without being pushy.

To start, I chose the trio of caviar with smoked salmon – unfortunately no pictures, as I dived straight in. It tasted even better than it looked: the centre piece was smoked salmon intricately folded into a rose, accompanied by three varieties of caviar on blinis with crème fraîche and an asparagus salad. All the flavours went well together and it was a lovely, light dish. I never would have thought I’d like caviar, as it’s an acquired taste, but it’s something I always order in a restaurant when given the chance. Jake’s starter was a bone marrow dish – look at us being all fancy!

To follow, we shared the porterhouse steak, 950g in weight. The cuts of meat included New York strip and fillet mignon and the steak was carved at our table on a hot stone. I think we had it cooked rare, due to size, but it was cooked perfectly – the fillet mignon was so tender and melted in the mouth. We both chose the brandy peppercorn sauce, which was amazing. Unlike other sauces, this wasn’t creamy and was more like gravy – but it was definitely the best peppercorn sauce I’ve ever had. We also shared a portion of fries and some spinach au gratin (my new favourite accompaniment). The fries tasted like they’d been cooked in beef dripping, so crisp on the outside but fluffy in the middle – exactly how chips should be!

I was in charge of choosing the wine, and there were plenty to choose from. I opted for one of the cheaper bottles, I say cheaper, it was about £40 – something I would never spend on a bottle of wine in England. It was a lovely full bodied Spanish rioja and our sommelier talked us through the wine (‘cos let’s be honest, I didn’t have a clue!) before doing the whole tasting thing. It made me feel so posh, although I was embarrassed when he asked if it was similar to the wine I drunk at home.

If you’re looking for a fine dining experience in Prague and are unable to get into any of the Michelin-starred restaurants (like us), I’d thoroughly recommend George. Although you may need to book a week or so in advance, it’d be worth it. I know I’ll return when I’m next in the city – after all, I have a load more steak and wine to get through!

Love, Lucy xx

Monday, 23 November 2015

City hopping | Prague

Prague has to be one of the prettiest cities I’ve been to and two nights (read: one full day) just isn’t enough time to marvel the sights of this amazing place. We stayed at the Hilton, a 10 minute walk from the Old Town and we managed to see everything on foot – there are buses and trams of course. In fact, everything pictured above, we did on a cold and wet Saturday, where we managed to walk 15km!

Our first point of interest was in the Old Town centre: the Astronomical Clock and Town Hall Tower. Just before midday, everyone was congregated in the square, waiting for the chimes to ring – and watch intently as the clock moved. We obviously weren’t in prime position, as I saw nothing, despite filming it for a couple of minutes. After a bit of research, figures are supposed to march out – much like a cuckoo clock, but instead, it’s Jesus and his apostles. I was underwhelmed given the crowds and lack of movement, but it was a beautiful piece of architecture, with lots of intricate detailing.

We then made our way to the Town Hall Tower and after climbing what seemed like hundreds of steps for a good 15 minutes (maybe even longer?) we reached the top and the viewing platform. And wow, what a view we had! The platform offered 360-degree panoramas and made for some excellent photography. It was absolute chaos though, with people standing, rather than walking around the platform – and was also very windy. On the ground floor was a beautiful stone-walled room with the most amazing decorated ceiling.

One of the buildings we saw from the viewing platform (as well as on ground level), but didn’t go inside, was the Tyn church. Recognisable by the two gothic spires, which supposedly are not symmetrical, it reminded me of some the buildings we’d seen in Budapest. It definitely had that eerie feel, almost like a Disney villain castle.

You can’t go to Prague and not walk across the Charles Bridge – so we did that, and then walked across the Manesuv most bridge, so we could photograph the famous structure. The walk was half a kilometre, with several points to stop and take photos. Along the way were many baroque statues of religious figures – and unfortunately street vendors trying to flog tat. It was fairly crowded, which is to be expected, but it was so lovely just stopping and watching the stillness of the Vltava River – and imagine it’s even more spectacular during sunrise or sunset.

A lot of people recommended visiting Prague Castle – but what I didn’t realise was that the castle grounds are vast and home to many other buildings. We didn’t actually visit the castle, but walked for ages, before reaching the St. Wenceslas' Vineyard. After a pitstop for some mulled wine for £1.30 (bargain!), we found the St. Vitus’ Cathedral: one of the most recognisable buildings in the city. It really dominates the town, with its imposing spires and it’s just as beautiful on the inside, as it is from the exterior. We went inside and admired the stained glass windows – although didn’t stay long as I’m not religious and always feel slightly awkward going into buildings such as this. It would have been amazing to stay for one of the concerts. I think a guided tour of this area would have been a good idea, too.

What are your Prague recommendations?

Love, Lucy xx

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Restaurant review | Buddha-Bar, Prague

Buddha-Bar, Prague, Czech Republic, Sushi, Fine Dining, Asian
Having stayed at the Buddha-Bar hotel, Budapest in March and eaten at the restaurant on our first night, I was excited to see a Buddha-Bar in Prague and high expectations when we had a table booked. I’m glad to say it did meet expectations – and I have since found out there’s one in London!

You could be forgiven for missing this gem, it’s down one of the side streets and placed on the corner – but for the sign hanging high in the sky, you’d immediately walk past, in your haste of heading to the Old Town Centre. I’m glad we found it okay.

Like the Budapest branch, and the others in the franchise, Buddha-Bar is a high-end Asian fusion restaurant, specialising in sushi. The interior focuses heavily on Asian motifs, such as dragons and lettering. The colour scheme is largely red and black, with dimmed lighting courtesy of fringed lanterns – and there’s always a strong scent of incense. On both visits, I’ve found the ambience to be warm and welcoming – but as a side note, we weren’t seated in the main dining room this time round and instead, were on our own (but for two other couples joining us later on). At the time, I wondered if it was because we were tourists, or because we weren’t staying at the hotel. It didn’t bother me, it just meant the atmosphere wasn't as good as it could have been.
Buddha-Bar, Prague, Czech Republic, Sushi, Fine Dining, Asian
Buddha-Bar, Prague, Czech Republic, Sushi, Fine Dining, Asian
The cocktails are always very good and I began with the Jounetsutini, served in a martini glass and garnished with floating passion fruit. It was really strong, but refreshing and the tropical notes screamed Asia. It went down far too easily and I found myself constantly studying the menu in readiness for my second drink. The Eclipse was my next choice: a tall drink flavoured with raspberries and cranberries and garnished with a real rose. I’m not a fan of bourbon, but this was palatable.
Buddha-Bar, Prague, Czech Republic, Sushi, Fine Dining, Asian
To eat, I began with the green papaya Thai salad, a beautiful light and fresh salad made up of julienne papaya, carrot and pepper, with a sweet and spicy tom yum style dressing, garnished with ground peanuts, chilli and coriander. It was honestly divine and a great way to begin the meal, without getting too full. The vinaigrette was exactly what I was expecting, with strong hints of lime and chilli kick.
Buddha-Bar, Prague, Czech Republic, Sushi, Fine Dining, Asian
I always knew I’d have sushi for my main course – and was pleased to see some different options on the menu. There was so much choice from maki, to sashimi and the mixed platters were a great option as I didn’t know what to order. I’d love to return with a sushi lover, as a lot of the dishes can be purchased per piece or as a plate of 3/4/5/8 pieces, ideal for sharing – and then you can have a little taste of everything. Instead, I went for the 10 piece platter: an assortment of maki rolls. There were two of each variety which included Special California, Salmon Avocado, Rainbow New Style, Spicy Tuna and Shrimp Tempura. Rainbow rolls are my new favourite and these were the best I’ve had so far, although the shrimp tempura was definitely my favourite – after all, I love sushi and love tempura!

There’s no way I could have managed dessert, so settled on a green tea, which arrived in the most beautiful traditional china – seriously it rivalled some of the cups and saucers I’ve been served in London hotels and restaurants for afternoon tea.

I have to admit, I much preferred Buddha-Bar Budapest as I found the staff there a lot more friendly and endearing. The sushi this time round was a lot better, but I think that’s down to what I chose – it wasn’t as heavy or filling and fresher. If you’re yet to visit a Buddha-Bar and love sushi like me, I’d highly recommend visiting and I’m now desperate to go to the Knightsbridge restaurant.

Love, Lucy xx