Thursday, 18 May 2017

My Self-Imposed Spending Ban

So a personal and random post tonight as I decide to share the reasons and results of my self-imposed spending ban. Before I start, I’d like to point that I’m by no means a Rebecca Bloomwood (I most definitely don’t have a Derek Smeath on my case!), but there have been occasions where I’ve had no self-control (Mulberry purse post-Christmas, I’m looking at you!) and I do love an impulse purchase.

I think I can vouch for everyone when I say December is one of the worst months – all of those outfits and accessories for social occasions, pre-Christmas meals out and of course, Christmas presents. For me, January continues in the same vein: my birthday is the 16th and Ashley’s is the 31st. Which is why I decided, as of February, I’d try and cut back. I’m putting money away each month into an ISA for a mortgage – which can prove difficult after outgoings, credit card bills etc.

Add to this the Mulberry bag I have lusted over for SO long. At the start of my ban, I set myself a target to save that little bit more in my account, so after four months (May payday) I would be able to treat myself. I would be lying if I said I was anywhere close to buying the bag – but it’s something else to now aim for by the end of the year... wish me luck!

So how did I get on?

Monthly outgoings - £398.44
Splurges - £288.48
Money saved - £500.00

To calculate my monthly outgoings, I include my phone bill, my car’s service plan, money I give to mum and petrol (I drive 400 miles a week for work alone, so you imagine how often I need to fill up and how much I spend!). I didn’t save that much in February, as I had January’s credit card bill to pay off!

My splurges included a number of meals out, afternoon tea at Malmaison and a couple of hotels I booked for our trip to Ireland in August.
Monthly outgoings - £448.40 (I had to also pay for my Spotify subscription this month)
Splurges - £470.98
Money saved - £1,500.00

In March, my splurges included Poppy and Mariah’s birthday celebrations, yet more meals out, the deposit for Palermo, car parking at Stansted for when we go to Ireland and I got my hair cut.
Monthly outgoings - £633.45 (I had to also pay for my car’s service, as it was a few months early and the plan didn’t cover the cost)
Splurges - £808.98
Money saved - £900.00

Splurges this time around included afternoon tea at the Sanderson, the balance for Palermo and also the parking at Stansted, Euros for holiday and you guessed it, more meals out!
In three months, I’ve not bought any clothes, shoes or bags, which for me is an achievement – especially considering I’ve already done my wardrobe/shoe rack overhaul. With the first of my holidays around the corner, there are a few bits I need to get, so will definitely be treating myself in May. I deserve it, no? I’m also getting my hair dyed next week and hoping to get my brows tinted and waxed before I go away.

I managed two Boots hauls in this time and I’m so excited to say that both went on the points I had accumulated – is there seriously a better feeling?! I think I must have had over £40 worth of points... It probably sits at about 60p now!

On average, I go out for food four to six times a month – that includes the occasional work pub lunch or trip to Costa – and although it’s an area I could cut back on if I really wanted to save more, it’s one of my favourite things to do! On the whole, I make my lunches for work at home, so I think it could be a lot worse. That said, in three months, I have probably spent £400 on meals out!

I would love to try and go on this kind of ban again and feel that February onwards is the best time to do this. Maybe next year I will try and better my efforts. Have you ever self-imposed a spending ban? I’d love to hear how you got on in the comments.

Love, Lucy xx

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Degustabox | April Box

Degustabox, Food, Drink, Monthly Subscription, Fdbloggers, Unboxing
If youve not heard of Degustabox, then where have you been? Its a food & drink monthly subscription box bringing you 10-15 surprise products, many of 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 April’s box?

·         A bag of Seabrook lattice sea salt & black pepper crisps
·         A pot of sugar-free Polos
·         A bottle of Celia organic lager
·         A packet of Garofolo whole wheat penne pasta
·         A packet of Good Hemp hemp seed hearts
·         A box of Dorset Cereals Machu Picchu muesli
·         A bar of Doisy & Dam’s quinoa, smoked tea & vanilla chocolate
·         Two packets of Nothing But freeze-dried fruit
·         A packet of Whitworths Full of Super macaroons
·         A packet of VIPNuts hot chilli nuts
Degustabox, Food, Drink, Monthly Subscription, Fdbloggers, Unboxing
Starting with the snacks this month and there was only one new brand in VIPNuts. The hot chilli peanuts were certainly spicy and actually too over-whelming for my palate. I was also expecting them to have that nice crispy shell coating, so was disappointed to find peanuts coated in chilli powder. Give me Nobby’s any day! Seabrooks have appeared in previous boxes and the lattice cut crisps were lush and too good to share – despite the resealable pouch bag that so many brands have adopted recently. The crisps were flavoursome, crunchy and just perfect! Nothing But have also appeared in previous boxes and it’s a shame I’ve never seen their products on the shelves of the supermarket – their freeze-dried fruit combinations are great for snacking on. There were two varieties in this month’s box: banana & strawberry and grape & pineapple – and I loved both in equal measure!
Degustabox, Food, Drink, Monthly Subscription, Fdbloggers, Unboxing
We often buy Dorset Cereals muesli and at one point, we had about three boxes of their Bircher in our kitchen cupboard... I haven’t seen or tried this Machu Picchu muesli yet, but am intrigued by the mix of flavours: golden fruit, brazil nut and coffee. Needless to say, I’ll be eating this with milk or yogurt – I don’t think I could mix it with fruit juice! Similarly, I’ve not tried the Good Hemp hemp seed hearts yet, as I’ve got a large packet of chia seeds to use up before I open anything else. I’m not sure how I will incorporate this product into my breakfast, so please let me know your suggestions below! However, something I loved from April’s box was the vanilla macaroons by Whitworths – and I would go as far as saying they were better than the traditional cake! They weren’t overly sweet, but had that lovely vanilla-y taste, as well as plenty of texture from the coconut and seeds. I definitely need to try the cacao version, too!
Degustabox, Food, Drink, Monthly Subscription, Fdbloggers, Unboxing
After receiving lots of rice and noodle products recently, I was pleased to finally see a packet of whole wheat pasta in this box – especially as I don’t eat refined carbohydrates, so these products usually go to my mum and brother. Whole wheat pasta is a staple in our cupboard, so this penne will certainly go to good use. The recipe card this month also had a suggestion to use with the Garafalo pasta, so I’ll be sure to give it a try, when I’m lacking inspiration.
Degustabox, Food, Drink, Monthly Subscription, Fdbloggers, Unboxing
There was only one drink this month with an organic lager from Czech brand, Celia. It’s not my cup of tea at all, but I’m sure will go down well when it’s finally barbecue season... if all else fails, I could mix it with lemonade!
Degustabox, Food, Drink, Monthly Subscription, Fdbloggers, Unboxing
And finally, to the treats – the most exciting part, of course! The travel pot of sugar free Polos were handy to keep in the car and lasted for a couple of weeks. I’d buy these again. Doisy & Dam are known for their ‘superfood’ chocolate bars, which contain unusual flavour combinations and ingredients... I received the quinoa, smoked tea & vanilla variety in my box and I’m not sure what to make of it. The quinoa added a texture, almost like rice krispies and there was definitely a vanilla after taste – I don’t know if I enjoyed it or not. Having looked at their website, there are a few alternatives I would love to try!

Try your first box, with a £7 discount. Either follow this link. Or go to the website and enter my special reference code: LUCYW-2B19. Enjoy!

What were your thoughts on April’s box?

Love, Lucy xx

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Review | Iris de Mouy pour L’Occitane

Bath, Beauty, Christmas, L'Occitane, Skin, Iris de Mouy, Luxury
Bath, Beauty, Christmas, L'Occitane, Skin, Iris de Mouy, Luxury
Okay, so we are nearly halfway through May and tonight on the blog I am reviewing a CHRISTMAS present... I should be ashamed, but to be totally honest, a lot of these products are spring-scented and I still have a thousand Limited Edition Lush Christmas products to also use. I’m talking about the L’Occitane Christmas 2016 box – gorgeously illustrated by Iris de Mouy. Containing six L’Occitane best-sellers, this box consisted of:

·         Extra gentle soap with Shea butter (25g)
·         Almond shower oil (35ml)
·         Neroli & Orchid body milk (50ml)
·         Delightful Rose hand cream (10ml)
·         Precious Cream (8ml)
·         Peony Eau de Toilette (5ml)

With the exception of the body milk – a full-size product – the rest are all sample sizes. However, these would all be perfect for travel luggage. Don’t be fooled by the smaller size though, these will all last a while and I’ve been using mine over the past month or so.
Bath, Beauty, Christmas, L'Occitane, Skin, Iris de Mouy, Luxury
Extra gentle soap with Shea butter
This was exactly what it said on the packet; it was so gentle on the skin and unlike other soaps, didn’t irritate or leave the palms dry. Shea butter has nourishing qualities, which were effective

Almond shower oil
Although I’ve used oil-based products before, I didn’t know how I felt about directly applying this to my skin in the shower. Instead, I used it as a bath oil and it still worked just as well. A few drops under running water created small bubbles and it left my skin feeling nicely moisturised, instead of overly greasy. The almond scent was subtle, but still lingered on the skin for hours afterwards

Neroli & Orchid body milk
My pick of the box – a really lovely body cream, with light consistency and gorgeous scent. It absorbed into the skin quickly but also kept it supple. Both my brother and mum commented on the fragrance and I’d certainly buy this again – I definitely prefer a moisturiser with a milky formula during the summer months

Delightful Rose hand cream
A little goes a long way with this cream and while overwhelming at first, the rose scent eases off quite quickly. The consistency is thick and formula rich, making it deeply moisturising and perfect after washing up or other harsh elements

Precious Cream
Described as a day/night cream, I’ve only used this in the morning as I love my current night cream. It’s supposed to increase firmness and reduce the sign of wrinkles. Again, it’s light on the skin and although I’ve not noticed a difference to my complexion, I’ll stick with it

Peony Eau de Toilette
I’ve got a bit of an obsession with peonies and while I don’t go for a predominantly floral fragrance usually (with the exception of Marc Jacobs’ Daisy), I’m absolutely in love with this Eau de Toilette! It’s in a really cute little pink bottle and just screams spring. It’s a long-lasting scent and one I’ll be wearing loads in the coming weeks

All in all, I’m really pleased with the contents of the box and while it is marketed as a Christmas product, the perfume in particular doesn’t say winter to me. I’m fairly familiar with L’Occitane as a brand, having sampled products in beauty boxes in the past, as well as visiting their stores – however, this would be a perfect gift for introducing someone to the brand. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2017’s offering is like!

Love, Lucy xx

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Two-for-One Saturday night fun at Brickyard, Romford

I last went to Brickyard with Vicky in August 2014 (post - Restaurant Review: Brickyard) and it has changed since then, which is one of the reasons we prolonged our visit. This time, Callum and Ash joined us and the four of us caught up last Saturday night.

While the menu has changed quite dramatically, everything else remained very much the same. It’s still two-for-one on selected cocktails until 9pm – something I immediately took advantage of, as we met Vicky and Callum at the bar. The strawberry daiquiris are honestly to die for: they’re full of rum, frozen and blitzed to perfection – ideal for soothing my sore throat, but also meant I drank them far too quickly! After a quick catch-up, we were shown to our table, which was in the main restaurant (where we sat before), as opposed to the more private and exclusive booths at the back of the building.

The decor and ambience was also the same – the restaurant is so modern and luxe and the music playing in the bar extends to the restaurant too. It does make conversation quite difficult, especially when the restaurant is busy – and there were a couple of larger parties on Saturday night: a lad’s birthday knees up and a Hen Do. Thankfully, this didn’t deter the evening and again, the service was good.

On Saturday nights, there’s a set menu as opposed to the usual a la carte – three courses for just under £35. It is very similar to the usual menu but something all the diners must have. I admit I was a little daunted by the concept of having three courses, especially when I can barely manage one – but there’s plenty of choice, including a specials board. I spent far too long chatting and drinking, that I completely forgot to look at the menu so I did make a very quick decision when the waitress arrived at our table.
Dining, Review, Brickyard, Romford, Essex, Fdbloggers
We actually all opted for different starters: Soup of the Day (a herb based tomato one) for Ash; chicken wings for Callum (following Vicky’s recommendation); the beetroot and goats cheese salad (which looked colourful and incredibly tasty) for Vicky and I went for the tempura prawns. The batter was light, crisp and well-seasoned and I loved the fresh flavours of the carrot & coriander salad. The sweet chilli sauce wasn’t too overwhelming and there was even a dash of garlic mayo. I don’t usually order starters, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one!
Dining, Review, Brickyard, Romford, Essex, Fdbloggers
Dining, Review, Brickyard, Romford, Essex, Fdbloggers
In terms of main courses, I feel as though I lucked out with my choice: the chilli & lime rump steak from the specials board. It came with a side of skin-on fries, a mixed dressed salad, grilled tomato and Portobello mushroom – there was just so much food! The marinade on the steak was lush and not too spicy and the meat itself was so tender and grilled to perfection. I had asked for mine to be rare (as I always do with steak), but the waitress recommended medium – I decided to go with this and when the steak arrived, it was definitely still rare and cooked to my liking. I wasn’t a fan of the chips last time and they’ve certainly improved – I just could not manage any of the other sides. Callum also chose the steak – also cooked medium – while Vicky kept it simple with the grilled chicken breast and Ash went for the honey roast duck breast. It looked delicious and was presented beautifully – if I wasn’t so full and could handle more red meat, I would have tried some.

As Happy Hour was coming to an end, we ordered some final cocktails for the table. Somehow there was a bit of a mix-up and instead of ordering two daiquiris (one each), we ended up with four! There was further confusion with the dessert menu. We were all feeling suitably full and the waitress said to leave the menus face down until we were ready to order – giving us time to talk and to get our appetites back. However, she came back to the table almost instantly, much to Vicky’s amusement.
Dining, Review, Brickyard, Romford, Essex, Fdbloggers
I panicked when I came to ordering dessert, as I really couldn’t manage anything else – but I chose the same as Vicky: the cookies & cream parfait with chocolate chip cookie and chocolate shot. It was quite sweet and rich, but the parfait was a lovely consistency. The homemade cookie was gooey and complemented the parfait well, while I didn’t think the shot of chocolate sauce was needed. I couldn’t finish that, or my two frozen drinks.

Brickyard was just as good as I remembered and on the whole, I don’t think it had changed that much. Although the music can be quite loud, making it difficult to converse, it’s great for the bar scene. The restaurant is perfect for larger parties and it’s also a good place to begin the night, before moving on to somewhere else.

Love, Lucy xx

Sunday, 7 May 2017

April Favourites

April, Favourites, BBloggers, LBloggers, FBloggers, Silk Fred, Pink Boutique, Yankee Candle, Maddi Alexander
I’m loving that spring is in full swing and my monthly favourites definitely reflects that. I’m already on holiday countdown – just under four weeks away – which means summer is on its way, even if it doesn’t feel like that yet!

Spring/Summer scented Yankee Candles are my go-to in the evenings and I’m constantly burning candles – whether they are Yankee votives, or my larger Prosecco jars. There’s nothing more relaxing than lighting a candle and blogging or reading in bed. My current favourites are Peony (such a delicate floral fragrance), Sicilian Lemon (which makes me excited to go to Italy) and Cassis (vibrant in colour and smell, it’s lush).

I’ve got two favourite items of clothing that I cannot stop wearing – obviously not together, though! The chiffon blouse with floaty shoulders is from Silk Fred and I actually first saw it on a Facebook advert. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to have it – the material looked so light and I loved the colourful teardrop print. I’ve been dressing it down with jeans quite a lot, but also have some blue cigarette trousers which I can wear for work... I just need to get a pair of shoes to complete the outfit. I also love the white floral print trousers, which I think are from Pink Boutique (last year). They are so comfortable to wear and are perfect for day-to-night. I wore these most recently for Poppy’s birthday celebrations but I’ll definitely be wearing them to work once the weather gets better, with sandals.

As you can see by the empty bottle, I’ve been using the Maddi Alexander Frivolous bath oil a lot – my mum gave me this sample size, but I’ll definitely be purchasing the full-size product. I find it perfect for a long, relaxing soak and only a few drops are needed. It soaks well into the skin, keeping it moisturised, rather than greasy. The scent is a lovely combination of citrus fruits and bergamot oils – which are massively invigorating, while also soothing the body and mind, so perfect for de-stressing.

Still on the subject of de-stressing, I’ve got a bit of an obsession with adult colouring at the moment and try and complete three hours a week to help me unwind in the evenings. I alternate the nights that I blog or use my computer and then go technology-free, so colour or read! It’s great for whiling away the time in the evening. There must also be some kind of correlation between how you are feeling and the colours you use/patterns you choose the colour. This book has over120 pages and will last me absolutely ages!

What were your April favourites?

Love, Lucy xx

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Instagram #15

Instagram, Life, Update, Personal, Social Media, Lucylocket_x
Enjoying the sunshine at St. Paul’s – Last one from Poppy’s birthday celebrations – The first time in AGES I’ve ordered dessert – A round of Mrs Kensingtons with the #RoyalBloggers – Easter Sunday selfie – Nibbles & Cocktails at The Royal Hotel – Pre-afternoon tea cocktails at Aqua Nueva’s rooftop bar – Afternoon tea at The Sanderson – Drink Me Potions with one of the besties – Throwback Thursday: Uni Memories – Bank Holiday weekend Snapchat selfie – Actually watching rugby(!)

My last Insta update was just under three-and-a-half weeks ago and I feel like I’ve crammed so much in, at the weekends mainly. I have honestly been that busy – and I have like two free weekends between now and the end of June, which is just crazy! In the last post, I mentioned my lovely friend Poppy’s 30th birthday celebrations in London and of course, that continued to feature on my feed. But what else have I been up to?

Going back to three weekends ago – and the first of the Bank Holidays... I booked the Thursday off work (totally oblivious we had the Friday and Monday off!), so mum and I went to visit my nan. We took her out for a pub lunch, to The Bull at Hockley. I have honestly never eaten so much food – buttermilk chicken burger with chips and coleslaw, followed by the most gorgeous (and summery!) Eton mess ice cream sundae. It was just a lovely chilled afternoon and I certainly need to make more effort to visit her.

On the Saturday, I was invited to The Royal Hotel in Southend for a couple of hours sampling the food and cocktails, as well as mingling with some Essex bloggers (post: #RoyalBloggers Nibbles & Cocktails at The Royal Hotel, Southend). Ash and I also walked along the seafront and went to the original Rossi’s shop for treats!

Easter Sunday was spent visiting Ash’s family, so we spent most of the day in the car – hence the selfie. I loved my outfit and I’ll be featuring the blouse in my monthly favourites. I teamed it up with jeggings to dress it down and I also wore my favourite Jimmy Choo sunglasses. It was so nice to see his mum and Granny, as we hadn’t seen either for a while!

The following weekend I was back in London, again with Poppy, as I had promised I would take her for afternoon tea. I decided on The Sanderson as it’s possibly my favourite place in London – mainly because of the Alice in Wonderland theme. The table was booked for 3pm so we headed up early and after a mooch around Westfield, went for cocktails at the rooftop bar at Aqua Nueva. We were hoping for snacks to accompany our drinks, but there was a Japanese-themed brunch on in the restaurant. That was definitely for the best though, as we certainly over-indulged later on (post: Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea at The Sanderson, London).

And to last week, which was another extended one. I watched Ashley play rugby on Saturday afternoon – and even though I had no idea what was really happening, I had a really good time. It was quite cold, but luckily I had a Malibu to keep me warm – and I wasn’t left on my own either, which was something I was worried about. We went into London afterwards for a friend’s birthday drinks, but couldn’t stay long, due to the last train back. Dinerama is a cool place though, if you’ve not been before! Sunday was chilled, other than a hard gym sess and then I was back home on Monday, where I spent the day spring cleaning!

What have you been up to lately?

Love, Lucy xx

Monday, 1 May 2017

Cosy Pub Dinner at The Hoop, Stock

Dining, Review, The Hoop, Stock, Essex, Pub, Fdbloggers
The other week, we met up with our old next door neighbours, who had recently moved to Stock, for a lovely end-of-the-week pub dinner. There are so many pubs in Stock, Ingatestone and the surrounding villages and to be honest, they are all very good – but we decided upon The Hoop on this occasion. Growing up, it’s somewhere we’d sometimes go to for lunch in the summer, as there’s a beer garden. I think the last time I went, my dad took me for lunch – back in the post-uni/pre-job days. I couldn’t really remember it though.

The Hoop is such a traditional country pub with low ceilings, timber framework, brick fireplace (perfect in winter) and that typical ‘pub’ smell and atmosphere. There is a restaurant, with a la carte menu, where you can reserve a table; but we sat in the bar, where you can just turn up and hopefully grab a table! Luckily, Lettie and Karl arrived earlier and managed to secure a corner table for the five of us.

I’m not too sure how much the menu differs in the Oakroom Restaurant, although I know it is a la carte, as opposed to a ‘bar menu’. Where we sat, there was a specials board, but on the whole, it’s all traditional and hearty pub grub – think pies; grills; ham, egg & chips; scampi... you get the jist! Additionally, Monday night is ‘Curry Night’ and the website also promotes a ‘BYO Wine’ night and a Taster Menu... both of which are up my street, although I’m not sure about the former on a work night!

Despite being a Thursday, it was busy in the bar, with locals drinking, as well as plenty of couples and groups of friends sat, dining. That said, it wasn’t overly loud and we didn’t feel like our conversation was being interrupted – which was good, as we all had so much to catch up on: the house, Robert’s new job and my plans. We ordered drinks as soon as we arrived and were settled at the table. Mum, Lettie and I shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio, which was crisp, nicely chilled and went down far too easily – almost before the food even arrived!
Dining, Review, The Hoop, Stock, Essex, Pub, Fdbloggers
And on to the food... Lettie and Karl ordered the Pie of the Day, which was on the Specials board – I couldn’t tell you what was in it, as there were also pies on the main menu, but it was a reasonable size. Mum chose the beer battered cod, on a bed of mushy peas and served with a large side portion of chunky chips. I definitely think I’d order that next time – the fish looked of good quality and there was just the right amount of peas to accompany it. Following on from a recommendation from one of Robert’s friends (who also lives locally), we both opted for The Hoop’s take on a classic Toad in the Hole. The Toad in the Hoop was absolutely huge and I don’t think the photos of it really do it any justice at all! There were three large sausages in the mounds of cooked batter and the dish even came with a side of mashed potato (which I barely touched... although it was silky smooth and seasoned well). The onion gravy was beautifully rich and thick, but unfortunately there just wasn’t enough of it. Needless to say, we both struggled; however, Robert’s attempt was more valiant than mine! Understandably, none of us had room for dessert, which was a shame as there was plenty of choice.

For a midweek night out, The Hoop made a lovely change – the prices were reasonable, as well as the food and service (although we did have to go to the bar to order and pay, which is fairly normal for a pub). There’s no doubt I’ll be returning soon, even if it’s for a light lunch once it gets a bit warmer!

Love, Lucy xx

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea at The Sanderson, London

Afternoon Tea, London, Review, The Sanderson, FdBloggers, Dining, Hotel, Mad Hatters, Alice in Wonderland,
Afternoon Tea, London, Review, The Sanderson, FdBloggers, Dining, Hotel, Mad Hatters, Alice in Wonderland,
I last went to The Sanderson for afternoon tea in October 2014... No I can’t believe it was that long ago either! It remains the only place in London I would be more than happy to return to again and again – because it is that good! I took my lovely friend Poppy for her 30th birthday celebrations, which have been going on for weeks and thankfully, she loved it just as much as I do. I also need to return, because as of yesterday, the menu was revamped. There is also an evening Tipsy Tea which contains martini flights, so that will definitely be next on my list!

The menu differed quite dramatically from the last time I visited – but everything else remained the same – and it was just as whimsical and unique as I remembered. Although the tea and food selection is very good, it’s all about the Alice in Wonderland theme, which makes it so different from other hotels.

First though, we enjoyed a drink in the Long Bar, while we waited for our table to be prepared. You can upgrade to a cocktail afternoon tea, but the offerings on the menu didn’t really excite me – and although I was driving later on, a pre-feast drink was on the cards. Both Poppy and I chose the Love & Rockets (Beefeater 24, St Germain elderflower liqueur, rocket, strawberry, lemon and prosecco), which was vibrant, fruity and not too sweet. The fizz of the prosecco topped it off.

What I love most about afternoon tea at The Sanderson, after the theme of course, is that you’re sat in a beautiful terrace, in a lovely courtyard garden. For those cooler days, there are patio heaters and blankets – but we didn’t need those on Saturday. Because there is plenty of natural lighting, it means photos turn out decent too... there’s nothing worse than being stuck somewhere dingy, that doesn’t do justice to the food or table setting.

Like before, the afternoon tea menu was inserted in the middle of an old book – ours was a guide to DIY; the sugar cubes were housed in an old wind-up jewellery box; and the loose leaf teas were in the centre of the table, in little glass bottles, so you could smell them before you decided. They were labelled with coloured stickers and these matched up with playing cards, which explained the ingredients and notes in each.
Afternoon Tea, London, Review, The Sanderson, FdBloggers, Dining, Hotel, Mad Hatters, Alice in Wonderland,
We ordered our teas first: Mad Hatter (green tea, infused with passion fruit, guava and mango) for me and Queen of Hearts (red rose congu, infused with red rose petals, with a hint of chocolate and vanilla) for Pops. I loved both varieties – but found that the Mad Hatter tasted better when it had been infusing for longer. These arrived in large King of Hearts teapots, complete with paper crowns and of course, there was a tea strainer – which Pops forgot to use a couple of times (whoops!). I love the china, which can actually be purchased through Luna & Curious. It wasn’t long before the food arrived, but it gave us plenty of time to chat and get snap happy...
Afternoon Tea, London, Review, The Sanderson, FdBloggers, Dining, Hotel, Mad Hatters, Alice in Wonderland,
The savoury came separately on individual plates, although we were told with the new menu, everything will arrive at once. I personally prefer that as it looks more spectacular! I would never mix savoury and sweet, but know people that do like to pick between the different tiers. The savoury selection was also completely different to what I ate last time. There were mini scotch eggs, filled with quails egg and smoked salmon, topped with caviar; a savoury profiterole/éclair stuffed with fresh crab meat and dill, topped with paprika; and two different varieties of sandwich. The hot option were ham & smoked applewood croque-monsieurs and the cold, a cucumber & cream cheese filling between slices of pesto bread. Those were by far my favourites – and we enjoyed the savoury so much, we ordered an additional plate each (at no additional charge). Although I regretted that decision as soon as the epic three-tiered cake stand with the sweets arrived...
Afternoon Tea, London, Review, The Sanderson, FdBloggers, Dining, Hotel, Mad Hatters, Alice in Wonderland,
We worked our way from top to bottom, sampling no fewer than nine desserts and treats... and that’s before the extra surprise(s)! The orange carrot meringues in long grass were sweet, but incredibly light and were gone in a mouthful. The strawberry & cream magic marshmallow mushrooms were even better second time round, so light and fluffy; while the chocolate and pistachio blue caterpillar was richer – but still didn’t touch the sides! The blue dye did stain my fingers though.

On the next level, the red velvet ladybirds were incredibly sweet; I found the coffee macarons a little too rich. I love coffee and I love macarons, so was a tad disappointed. These have since been replaced with a vanilla option. The Oreo cookie soldier with red fruit crème pâtissière was absolutely divine and also looked spectacular. However, my favourite was the banana bread-and-butterfly: a mini banana bread muffin, spiced with cinnamon, topped with cream frosting and rice paper butterfly. There was also the iconic Alice ‘Drink Me’ potion: a layered drink consisting of passion fruit, coconut and mango. Pops wasn’t keen on the consistency, but it was a good palate cleanser before the scones.

The scones were lovely and although I usually prefer fruit ones to plain, I found them just sweet enough and not dense or bread-like. They were still warm, even though we left them until last. The cream and jam were both good – and the right consistency.
Afternoon Tea, London, Review, The Sanderson, FdBloggers, Dining, Hotel, Mad Hatters, Alice in Wonderland,
There was one last surprise: a mini ice cream flower pot. I think it was lemon ice cream with raspberry swirl, resembling a cheesecake topped with chocolate biscuit ‘soil’ crumb, honeycomb and decorative flower. It was light enough to be enjoyed over a good hour-and-a-half of over-indulging – and was completely unexpected.
Afternoon Tea, London, Review, The Sanderson, FdBloggers, Dining, Hotel, Mad Hatters, Alice in Wonderland,
The service was excellent throughout and the staff were keen to ensure we were enjoying ourselves, as well having enough to eat or drink – without being intrusive or fussy. As well as unlimited tea, there’s also the option to have coffee or hot chocolate. We just stuck with tea. They were also good at turning the patio heater off when we were getting too hot; although, by the time we were finishing up, the sun had gone in and it had clouded over. They also get a special thank you for bringing a birthday cake with candle to the table – I had mentioned in my Open Table booking that it was Poppy’s 30th, but it meant the surprises continued and it was another lovely extra touch.

Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea is served daily and is priced from £48 per person, with the option to upgrade to Champagne packages, or add on cocktails. Mad Hatters Tipsy Evening Tea is served daily (7-9pm) and is priced at £58 per person. Service charge is discretionary, but is added to the bill at 15%.

Love, Lucy xx

Thursday, 20 April 2017

#RoyalBloggers Nibbles & Cocktails at The Royal Hotel, Southend

The Royal Hotel, Southend, Essex, Blogger Meet, Dining, Review,
The Royal Hotel, Southend, Essex, Blogger Meet, Dining, Review,
The Royal Hotel, Southend, Essex, Blogger Meet, Dining, Review,
Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to be invited to The Royal Hotel in Southend for a late morning/early afternoon of nibbles and cocktails – thanks to the lovely Penny. I had seen her mention the newly-refurbished bar and restaurant on her blog and social media and was really excited to see what the fuss was about. I was the last to arrive, but thankfully I met a couple of other fabulous Essex bloggers in Danielle and Donna, who were super friendly – and the conversation ended up flowing as well as the drinks!

I hadn’t been to Southend for years, which is mental considering it’s only 20 minutes by car or train. Gone are the days of driving down the promenade at Christmas to see the lights, before stopping for hot chocolate and hotter doughnuts – in fact, my last trip to the seaside town was to see Barnet play at Roots Hall! Needless to say, I had no idea where The Royal Hotel was situated, but now I do, there’s no doubt I will be back (and hopefully on a regular basis!).

The Building
The historic listed building has been wonderfully restored to its Georgian glory by Matt and his team – and it was a big refurbishment that took place – but it really is impressive, particularly once you step inside.

The upstairs houses the Ballroom Restaurant, which has beautiful high ceilings with ornate coving and period decor. There was a wedding reception later on in the day, so we heard a saxophonist playing and the tables were laid out so nicely, with some gorgeous flowers. The views out to the pier were also amazing and Matt pointed out the prime position for views – which ironically was not at the end of the window!

Downstairs is the bar and lounge, where the ambience is a lot more casual, but still luxurious, in keeping with the decor and features. The seating, cosy and intimate. The bar was very well-stocked, but I loved our table in the lounge, which was perfect for just whiling away the hours. Despite the elegance, there certainly wasn’t that air of stuffiness that you can sometimes get – and luckily The Royal Hotel is the kind of place you could take your best friend, your mum or even your Nan!

It’s hard to believe that the building used to house local ‘raves’, as it really is beautiful – and I don’t think my photos really do it justice!

The Cocktails
The Royal Hotel pride themselves on their cocktail menu – and rightly so. With an extensive selection, despite featuring the classics you’d come to expect, the majority of the concoctions have been thoughtfully created in-house by incredible mixologist, Dave, so are unique. We were lucky enough to sample three of these – and boy, were they good! Numerous additional visits will be needed just to get through them all! In fact, it’s where The Royal Hotel excels – using ‘Molecular Mixology’ methods, which combines science and craziness. Think The Alchemist or Lab 22!
The Royal Hotel, Southend, Essex, Blogger Meet, Dining, Review,
First up, we tried the Earl of Grey : a mix of pear & gooseberry vodka, with earl grey infusion, lemon juice and basil, finished with basil leaves and cracked black pepper. It was ideal for the time of day (before midday!) and would be the perfect cocktail to sip while brunching, with the blend of fruit and tea. The sign of a good cocktail is one that doesn’t categorically taste like alcohol, so in that respect, this was a favourite.
The Royal Hotel, Southend, Essex, Blogger Meet, Dining, Review,
Next, we sampled Mrs Kensington : Hendricks gin, with elderflower liqueur, lemon juice and pressed apple juice, as well as cucumber and mint. This was served over crushed ice and decorated with cucumber and edible flowers. The sun was shining, so this was a winner and would also be suited to garden parties, picnics or barbecues during the summer months. It was so light and refreshing, with a really subtle floral taste.
The Royal Hotel, Southend, Essex, Blogger Meet, Dining, Review,
Finally, we got to see science in the form of a specially-created Easter cocktail – which resembled an egg and combined two of my all-time favourite cocktails. A pina colada foam represented the egg white; while the yolk was a pornstar martini jelly, which popped with the little stab of a straw. Like the perfect egg, it was runny and mixed to create the most summery, fruity cocktail. It was heaven – and apparently took Dave 48 hours to produce... well worth it, though!

The Food
The Royal Hotel caters to all palates and budgets, with a wide selection of food and the choice of dining upstairs or downstairs. From three course a la carte menus in the Ballroom, to bar snacks and platters or sandwiches in the lounge – there’s even afternoon tea.
The Royal Hotel, Southend, Essex, Blogger Meet, Dining, Review,
The Royal Hotel, Southend, Essex, Blogger Meet, Dining, Review,
We were treated to a couple of the savoury platters, before trying a sweet treats board, consisting of some of the afternoon tea delights. The platters were perfect for sharing and would be an ideal choice for groups of friends catching up over cocktails, as you can just graze and drink! A lot of the nibbles had been given an innovative twist: the Scotch egg had a smoked salmon filling, rather than sausage meat and was divine. There were also wild boar sausage rolls, filo prawns with chilli dipping sauce, gorgeous breaded chicken strips (which I’m adamant contained bacon or Parma ham), mixed olives and so much more. We were all in agreement that the vegetables crisps were lush and complemented the cocktails well.
The Royal Hotel, Southend, Essex, Blogger Meet, Dining, Review,
The Royal Hotel, Southend, Essex, Blogger Meet, Dining, Review,
Onto the sweet and wow – I need to return for afternoon tea. It’s reasonably priced by the way (£18pp, with upgrades to a glass of prosecco or bottomless fizz). The cakes were divine – and wouldn’t be out of place in a London hotel – from the classic cherry bakewell tart, to the carrot cake topped with frosting and the elegant macarons. We also had a pina colada-inspired shot glass treat, which was topped with toasted coconut and pineapple chutney. Everything was incredibly light, so we never felt as though we were really indulging! At this point, I was so glad I hadn’t had breakfast!

The Verdict
Amazing hospitality by Matt and Dave (thank you both, so much); wonderfully thought out cocktails; an impressive array of food; beautiful decor and perfect surrounds. Afternoon tea is definitely first on my list, followed by more cocktails and nibbles. And then maybe a date night dinner.

Thank you as well to Penny for organising such a fabulous and successful event. And of course, Danielle and Donna for being great company!

Love, Lucy xx

*The food and cocktails were complimentary, but thoughts and images are my own.