Thursday, 28 July 2016

Restaurant | Fish, Fizz and Frustration at Northbank


Dining, London, Northbank, Review,
Dining, London, Northbank, Review,
It’s not often I have a disappointing dining experience and the only other time I blogged one was that infamous work Christmas party, but I’m about to share another one of those times. Not because I’m angry or annoyed, but because it had been hyped up and it was a special occasion – and quite frankly, I feel let down.

I booked lunch at Northbank for my mum’s birthday. I didn't mention this in my booking maybe I should have. We were having a day in London and were going to the Tate afterwards, to the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition. I booked a table for 1pm, thinking an hour and a half would be plenty of time for lunch. In my reservation, I asked for a bar table, as there’s were delicious sharing platters on the bar ‘menu’. The day before when I confirmed my reservation, I was told the bar didn’t serve food and we’d have to sit in the restaurant. Not a problem.

The restaurant itself is beautiful, as the name suggests, it’s on Northbank and very close to the Millennium Bridge. There’s an outside terrace, which was packed on the Friday afternoon, but also plenty of seating inside. The decor is modern and quite quirky; the wallpaper matches the menu covers; the room itself is light and airy, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. We were fortunate enough to have the breeze come in from the open French doors, too.
Dining, London, Northbank, Review,
We ordered drinks straight away: a large glass of sauvignon blanc for mum (it was her birthday, after all) and a lovely flute of prosecco for me. It was beautifully chilled and went down far too easily. We quickly decided upon our chosen dishes, but had to wait 40 minutes for the waitress to come over to take our order – Northbank is certainly not a place you go to when you have plans. And even then, mum was served something she didn’t even ask for.
Dining, London, Northbank, Review,
I had the monkfish Thai green curry, because I don’t often that kind of fish and really love Thai curries. Served with sticky rice and a peapod, it was utterly gorgeous. The sauce was the perfect consistency and stuck to the rice – it wasn’t too hot, but the freshly sliced chilli more than made up for that. The fish was well cooked and the pieces were generous and meaty. I could have happily eaten another couple of plates, it was divine.

When mum’s food arrived, she was impressed. She ordered the Dorset crab and chilli linguini with seafood bisque (from the starters section). For a first course, the portion size was more than adequate and it looked beautiful. The food in terms of its presentation and taste was first-class.

We didn’t have time for dessert and instead just got the bill straight away. Our original waitress never returned to our table. I would like to return to Northbank to see if it was just an ‘off day’. The food really was superb, simple but well-executed; the quality and freshness just shone through. The location is ideal and given where it’s positioned, the prices were totally reasonable.

Love, Lucy xx

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Afternoon Tea | A Unique Experience at Mr Fogg’s Residence

Afternoon Tea, Review, London, Mr Fogg's, Mayfair, Tipsy Tea, Bottomless,
Mr Fogg’s Residence is one of those places I’ve had my eye on for a while now and I eventually got to visit, as my good friend Vicky booked the Tipsy Tea for two, last Sunday afternoon. Situated down one of the side streets, not far from Green Park station, you’d be forgiven for missing this little gem: the signage is minimal and from its black exterior, it doesn’t look the most inviting of buildings. But once you step inside, wow!

The doorman took our reservation before ringing the old-fashioned doorbell and knocking on the door – and then we were inside! I felt as though I was a character from a bygone era, setting foot into an old Victorian living room. The decor is quirky, with portraits, tapestries and stuffed animals adorning the walls. The seating is a mix of padded booths and stools, with low tables. The lighting is minimal, but atmospheric and in the corner, the resident pianist treats you to a live performance. I have to add, he’s very talented.
Afternoon Tea, Review, London, Mr Fogg's, Mayfair, Tipsy Tea, Bottomless,
To the tea, although there’s no tea here. Instead, the teapots are filled with gin and/or champagne cocktails – and you are welcome to try as many as you like. Vicky and I liked the sound of a few of the cocktails on offer, so chose a one pot of gin tea and another of the champagne. We sampled Catherine of Braganza, which was a citrusy gin pot containing lemon, orange and apricot, and Belvoir Castle: a deep pink gin and champagne cocktail, containing cherry puree, rose liqueur and pomegranate juice. We then decided we would go bottomless, upgrading to the Belvoir Castle pot – which I think we had an additional three of. I found the bottomless options contained a lot less ice than the single pots and each pot contained around four servings. We were by no means tipsy, though.
Afternoon Tea, Review, London, Mr Fogg's, Mayfair, Tipsy Tea, Bottomless,
The finger food was dainty and elegantly presented. Vicky had notified the staff prior to our visit that she doesn’t like fish, so my salmon and cream cheese-filled mini brioche buns arrived on a separate saucer and the bottom tier of our cake stand was piled with additional sandwiches. The tandoori chicken flatbread was unusual, but delicious, if a little spicy; while the speck and rocket filling were equally as tasty and so flavoursome. I didn’t sample any of the cucumber sandwiches, but you can’t really go wrong with a simple, yet classic combination!

We each had a scone, with clotted cream and blackcurrant jam, before moving on to the smaller desserts on the middle tier. These were all beautiful and small enough to enjoy without feeling sick or getting a sugar headache. We tried two varieties of mille-feuille: vanilla and chocolate, a butter cream sponge sandwich and a rich chocolate truffle. The layered pastries were simply divine and I could have eaten tray after tray of them; they were just light.

We continued to catch up, listen to the pianist and sip our cocktails from our tea cups long after we finished and even though each table has a two hour slot, we didn’t drink for the whole two hours and we didn’t feel any pressure into getting the bill or leaving. It was just so relaxing and the perfect way to while away the hours on a Sunday afternoon.

It isn’t often I find myself wanting to return to the same spot for afternoon tea, but Mr Fogg’s Residence is certainly one of those places – not only have I got four other varieties of cocktail to try, I loved how wonderfully unique and special the setting was. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the cocktail menu as well, so maybe I’ll have to return for drinks first?

Love, Lucy xx

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Start the day with a Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

My Breville Blend Active is pretty much my best friend. When I’m not using it to blitz my own tomato sauces, I love to start the day with a smoothie. I know you’re not supposed to have them every morning because you aren’t getting the ‘true goodness’ of fruit and veg – but this recipe is a delight. And it contains very little sugar!

I have already posted this recipe on my Instagram feed – I had a few people ask me to share the different recipes I try – but in case you missed it, here is my super easy, super tasty, peanut butter banana smoothie.

Serves: 1

Ingredients
·         200ml unsweetened almond milk (I always use Alpro)
·         1 medium-sized banana
·         1 tsp crunchy peanut butter (we have Meridian in the cupboard)
·         20g oats (or a small handful, if you’re being lazy)
·         1 scoop banana protein powder (link)
·         Water to mix

Method
·         Simple, put everything in the blender and blitz
Each serving contains 314kcal, but only 1.1g of saturated fat. The combination of banana and oats makes the texture thick and creamy, which I love in a smoothie. Because of this, it’s filling and I find that it keeps me full all morning. Thanks to the powder, it has a high protein count – making it a great post-workout ‘meal’ as well. I just love the combination of banana and peanut butter.
Will you be trying this recipe? Let me know your favourites in the comments.

Love, Lucy xx


 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

OOTD | Summer Lovin’ & a Birthday Lunch

OOTD, Outfit, Summer, In Love With Fashion, Accessorize, Cherry Diva, Playsuit
OOTD, Outfit, Summer, In Love With Fashion, Accessorize, Cherry Diva, Playsuit
OOTD, Outfit, Summer, In Love With Fashion, Accessorize, Cherry Diva, Playsuit
OOTD, Outfit, Summer, In Love With Fashion, Accessorize, Cherry Diva, Playsuit
Playsuit – In Love With Fashion
Sandals – Accessorize
Clutch – Cherry Diva

Last Saturday marked what would have been my dad’s birthday and we were always planning on going out for lunch. Luckily the weather was absolutely gorgeous and we even got to sit outside. The three of us (me, mum and my brother) went to The Bell at Horndon-on-the-Hill, one of his favourite places (we went there for my birthday) and had a really lovely meal. I won’t be blogging that, but will leave some pictures at the end – because the food was so damn tasty and always looks just as guuurd.

I chose to wear this playsuit, because I had bought it two years ago for my autumn holiday to Portugal and I hadn’t worn it since then (okay, so it had got a little tight!). I was so pleased it fit again, because I love the print and style. It has this slight overlap on the short – not to the extent of being a skort, but it does flap in the wind. The bold Hawaiian print is perfect for summer and I love the brightness of the pink. It’s a simple zip at the back, so no worries with messing around with buttons or poppers. I’m definitely going to be packing this playsuit for my holiday to Madrid and I really need to invest in more playsuits and co-ords... they’re just the easiest items to pack, aren’t they?

The walk from the car park to the pub can be a bit of a mish, so I decided on flats and just some simple sandals, to show off my tan and pedi. I buy all of my sandals at Accessorize and usually when I’m at the airport. These ones have lasted a year and I just find them so comfortable.

As we were going to the garden centre and burial ground after, I went with the little clutch as all I needed was my phone and debit card. I’ve featured this little number in outfit posts before and while some of the sequins are starting to fall off, it’s just the perfect size for ‘essentials’. I didn’t really need a bag, but I’m not a fan of going out carrying my phone!

So, to the food. I had the rocket pesto chicken salad, which came with roasted peppers, chickpeas and a cheese similar to mozzarella. It was truly divine and a perfect summer salad. It was so filling, but I still managed to save room for dessert – the dessert menus are always impressive. I lucked out with a coffee baked Alaska on chocolate brownie base, with raspberries and chocolate ‘soil’. Very rich and sickly, but good nonetheless! It was a good job I’d only had a salad!
The Bell, Horndon on the Hill, Essex, Pub, Lunch, Rural
The Bell, Horndon on the Hill, Essex, Pub, Lunch, Rural
Where do you shop your summer style?

Love, Lucy xx

Thursday, 14 July 2016

YooHoo Mail Subscription | May box

Stationery, Subscription, Yoohoo,
Tonight, Ill be blogging the contents of the May YooHoo box (better late than never!). The theme last month was Wanderlust, which I instantly fell in love with. I have obsession with travel and bucket lists and working in the industry, I am in a constant state of wanderlust.
If you arent familiar, Yoohoo is a monthly subscription box for the stationery geeks amongst us. Each one comes beautifully wrapped and fits through your letter box. Containing items like greetings cards, to do lists, prints, stickers and postcards, they also make the most perfect gifts.
Stationery, Subscription, Yoohoo,
The prints in last month’s box were super cute – I particularly loved the ‘Oh the places you’ll go’ one with the gorgeous floral header/footer. I loved the font as well and just found it really inspiring. I’ve decided to get it framed and put next to my scratch map (available here), to get my wanderlust going. The hot air balloon one was also lovely and reminded me of the film, Up. I haven’t yet decided what I’ll do with it, but the prints are always good quality and striking.
Stationery, Subscription, Yoohoo,
The greetings cards were fairly blank, with a couple with messages to fit the theme – Bon Voyage being one of them. The icons of London card is utterly gorgeous and would be perfect for a city hopper or LDN fan. The ‘good luck’ and ‘good journey’ cards are a lovely idea and I’ll bear these in mind for friends travelling or embarking on a new adventure. I particularly liked the pastel colours used on the cards and one of the appeals of the subscription boxes is all the colours, patterns and bold designs! This box did not disappoint.
Stationery, Subscription, Yoohoo,
My favourite item from the May box was the packing checklist, because I’m a total nightmare when it comes to it and often end up in a state of panic. Anyone else get like this? I always feel like I’ve forgotten something and my case coming home is always heavier. The list will come in handy for my upcoming holiday at the end of August. The mini shortlist cards are also a great idea for an OCD list maker like me. I laminated the ‘to do’ list from the October box and use that on a weekly basis – keeping it next to my head so I’m constantly reminded of what needs to be done. The lovely note paper is so pretty too and another piece I fell in love with. Each sheet comes with its own envelope and of course, the pink is lush.
Stationery, Subscription, Yoohoo,
Completing the wanderlust theme were the three postcards in complementing colours and contrasting prints. They look lush together in a row and would be perfect next to a holiday montage, or just in an album. The Aloha one just makes me want to watch Lilo & Stitch – anyone else feel that way?
As always, the quality and variety of items was excellent and the boxes are such a clever idea and probably my favourite subscription I have. Like I say, they make an ideal gift because theyre wrapped and packaged so wonderfully; alternatively, they make a great self-purchase. The April box is now sold out but you can order July’s box still.
Love, Lucy xx

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Restaurant review | Carriages, Wellington

Dining, Review, Carriages, Wellington, Telford, Breakfast, Brunch, Cocktails
Dining, Review, Carriages, Wellington, Telford, Breakfast, Brunch, Cocktails
Before we went on holiday, Gemma recommended we go to Carriages for breakfast and cocktails. As the name suggests, the hotel and restaurant/bar is situated next to the train station in Wellington – and as we were getting the train from there to Birmingham International, it was an excellent idea.

We sat in the bar area, which accommodates around 50 people. There were only two other couples sitting near us – and I assume they were having breakfast, after staying the night – so the atmosphere was really relaxed. We had a leisurely breakfast, which is exactly what we wanted and the staff were never in any hurry to get rid us. Instead, they were so welcome and accommodating, especially when it came to our food and drink requests. Carriages also has a restaurant area out the back, but this would have been far too formal for us. We were also able to leave our small suitcases at the table and they didn’t get in the way at all.

Breakfast was a Full English and included in the price were all hot drinks and juices. I began with an orange juice, while Gemma had apple and we waited for our breakfasts to be served. We were asked how we would like our eggs, whether we wanted brown or white toast, preserves or just butters and also if there’s anything we disliked. For ease, we both went for ‘the works’. Once the food arrived, we both opted for a hot drink: tea for Gemma and I had a cappuccino, which was lovely – the coffee is freshly ground and much better than all the chain places.
Dining, Review, Carriages, Wellington, Telford, Breakfast, Brunch, Cocktails
As you can see, the portion sizes are large and everything was cooked to perfection. I don’t like mushrooms, but tried them – because they were cooked in butter, they had a much nicer taste. I also tried the black pudding, having tried morcilla in Spain, but really wasn’t converted! My eggs, which were poached, were runny in the middle and weren’t cold when the plate was served – so bonus points to Carriages for getting them spot on. We both struggled to clear our plates, but it totally set us up for the day and we didn’t actually eat again until we were at the hotel that night.
Dining, Review, Carriages, Wellington, Telford, Breakfast, Brunch, Cocktails
Gemma had mentioned previously how good the cocktails were and while we were hoping to have one with breakfast, we had to wait until midday for the bartender to arrive. It was well worth the wait as James prepared the best Espresso Martini I’d ever had. One that rivalled Rum & Sugar and surpassed many from cocktail bars in Essex and London. After the cappuccino, it was much needed bearing in mind we had a long and tiring day ahead of us. Gemma went for a Pina Colada, getting into the holiday spirit right away! I will definitely have to return one evening for Happy Hour and work my way through the extensive menu. At £7 a cocktail, the prices were so reasonable, compared to the south.

The service throughout was good, our waitress was never intrusive and allowed us to enjoy our food and drinks, and chat away excitedly. The breakfast and cocktails came in at around £30 which I found so cheap. While getting to Carriages is a struggle, down an alleyway and it doesn’t look like much from the exterior; once inside, it’s beautiful and modern and quite frankly, a little gem.

Love, Lucy xx

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Instagram #6

Order of service – Wake drinks at home – Father’s Day – Work selfie – Blog’s monthly favourites – Jelly Belly obsession – Holiday claws – Pre-holiday breakfast – Airport selfie – First night selfie – Night out with my best friend – Second night selfie

Hey beauts, I’m back! This little life update will explain my absence from blogging and social media, but I feel like I can commit to two/three posts a week and I really want to get involved in more Twitter chats, too. When you feel alone, the blogging community is great, but I feel like I’ve distanced myself from it – but not only that, from my friends as well. I’m in a much better place now, I think.

Those that follow me on Twitter or Instagram will know that my dad died at the end of May. I mention it because he was my blog’s biggest fan – he thought up the name for my Barnet blog (Look Black n Amber) and loved this one (especially the restaurant reviews and posts about our theatre trips). It’s no secret that I was a daddy’s girl and understandably everything in my life, apart from my family, had to take a back seat.

This then meant we had our first Father’s Day without him. It was a day he never believed in, he wasn’t bothered about cards and presents, it was always about us being together and getting on. Thankfully, my auntie and uncle were still staying with us that weekend and we all went for lunch together – to one of dad’s favourite pubs: The Viper in Mill Green. Prior to lunch, I went to the Burial Ground to chat to him and it was good to see the flowers still all in tact.

And then more recently, I went on holiday with my childhood best friend, Gemma. We have three nights in Arenal, Mallorca and it was exactly what I needed. I went to her house in Telford the day before and we went for dinner. The day of our holiday, we had a lovely breakfast at a place called Carriages (post coming soon). While we had such a good time together, we were definitely in need of another day or two! The days were spent poolside, sunbathing and reading; while the nights were spent at cocktail bars and on the beach. Obviously on the Monday, England were playing Iceland, so went to a couple of English bars. The highlight was definitely the buckets – from 15, we got a bucket with ice, a bottle of Malibu and couple of cartons of pineapple juice – and we took them down to the beach and just chilled! I definitely feel back to reality now and no longer bummed out.

What have you been up to lately?

Love, Lucy xx

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

June favourites

Monthly Favourites, LBloggers, Rare London, Escada, Benefit, Mark Hill, Jojo Moyes, Me Before You, Floral, Summer, Holiday
Monthly Favourites, LBloggers, Rare London, Escada, Benefit, Mark Hill, Jojo Moyes, Me Before You, Floral, Summer, Holiday
With it being holiday season, it’s only right I begin with the gorgeous shampoo and conditioner I took to Mallorca with me. I bought the Mark Hill Holiday Hair Sunshine shampoo (£1.99 | 50ml) and Sunset conditioner (£1.99 | 50ml) miniatures as they were the perfect hand luggage size and enough for five nights. My hair isn’t in the best condition as it is, but with sun, sea and chlorine, it gets much worse. Thankfully, this protects it from the elements and it looked healthier – and not so dry. The scent is what I’d call ‘holiday in a bottle’ which is so lush and long-lasting. The conditioner is so nourishing and also helps lock my colour in.

The next product is one I didn’t think I’d like and one I’d heard so many mixed reviews about – and it’s the Benefit Goof Proof brow pencil (£18.50). I received mine in Elle magazine (in shade 2, which is the tiniest bit too dark for me). I’m not the biggest fan of Benefit make up and find it’s so over-priced for what it actually is, which is weird as I like their skincare products. I was so impressed with the ease of application and with one swipe, my brows were filled in. It’s also an easy product to blend, if needed – and stays put all day. I would buy this again, but probably opt for the lightest shade (1).

Summer and holidays aren’t complete with a cute floral get-up and I absolutely love this co-ord I bought from Rare London two years ago. When I bought it, I was a bit bigger than I am currently, so was really paranoid about wearing it – but now I’m close to target, I’m loving it. I wish I could wear it every day, because not only is it super cute, it’s also comfortable. Because of the print, it doesn’t need to be accessorised and it’s perfect for day or night.

This holiday edit continues with one of my favourite perfume brands, Escada. I am obsessed with their limited edition scents and the gorgeous bottles they come in. Rockin Rio will always be my favourite, but I’ve been using the 2013 release Cherry in the Air (£23.95 | 30ml) loads recently. Because it’s a 30ml bottle, I tend to only use it on holiday and pack it in my hand luggage – which is why it’s still half full. Like all other Escada fragrances, it’s fruity and fun – and despite the obvious cherry notes, the perfume also contains sandalwood and marshmallow.

Finally, I’ve been reading Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You (£3.85 or 3 for £10) and I cannot put it down! I started reading it months ago and then forgot about it. I’m desperate to see the film now it’s out, so decided to start reading it on holiday and I’m already halfway through. It’s such a beautifully written story, but also triggers every emotion. I’ve heard so many people say how sad it is in parts, although I haven’t actually been forced to tears yet. Please let me know if you preferred the book or film!

What were your June favourites?

Love, Lucy xx

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Pub review | The Boar’s Head, Brentwood

Brentwood, Dining, Essex, Review, The Boars Head, Chef & Brewer, Pub
Brentwood, Dining, Essex, Review, The Boars Head, Chef & Brewer, Pub
We’re so lucky as in the village we have three pubs. Over the years they’ve all changed and the ones that were good are now less so and vice versa. The Boar’s Head is now part of the Chef & Brewer chain, but on previous occasions, the food has been decent and reasonably priced. On Fridays, there’s a promotion on prosecco/sparkling wine, so mum and I decided to head down and see what the fuss is about.

When the weather is fine, the beer garden is the ideal place to relax. There’s a pond opposite with ducks and the pub is just around the corner from Button Common, where the annual bonfire and fireworks display takes place. Despite the sunshine, we sat inside in the bar area. There is also a restaurant, which seats about 20 people, but I much prefer the bar. It has that traditional and cosy pub feel and even when the bar is full, it’s not overly loud, retaining that intimate feel.
Brentwood, Dining, Essex, Review, The Boars Head, Chef & Brewer, Pub
Fizz Friday was the reason we went for dinner – with the cheapest bottle of prosecco priced at £9.99 and £5 off all other bottles. We only shared the one bottle between us, but it was more than enough, especially as we drank the majority before the food arrived. Although we had an ice bucket, it could have been cooler.
Brentwood, Dining, Essex, Review, The Boars Head, Chef & Brewer, Pub
To eat, I had the fillet steak (cooked rare). I don’t normally go for steak at pubs because I find they’re pretty sub-standard (or maybe it’s because I’ve been to Hawksmoor, or George’s in Prague), but I was really surprised. The steak was of good quality, was cooked to perfection and was definitely of restaurant standard. The steak was served with a pot of chunky chips and a lovely vegetable medley of red onion, mushrooms and asparagus. The highlight was definitely the buttermilk & peppercorn sauce, which was so creamy and flavoursome and went well with both the steak and chips. I’d definitely order it again.

Mum chose one of the burgers from the summer specials menu (which is no longer running): a large Hereford beef patty with bacon, salad and onion rings. It also came with chunky chips and a beautiful, but unusual, blueberry ketchup. When we go out for food, mum wouldn’t normally order a burger, but she enjoyed this – probably because it made a change.

The service was reasonable, especially given it was a Friday night and fairly busy. I often find the service is better when sitting in the bar as the staff are more attentive as they’re passing through from the restaurant to the bar/kitchen. We’ve been back to the Boar’s Head a couple of times since, but will definitely have to return for Fizz Friday – it made a change from a night in with a takeaway.

Love, Lucy xx