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.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Degustabox | Easter 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 March’s box – themed an Easter box?

·         A pot of Heinz Seriously Good sauce
·         A bag of Pipers crisps
·         A pouch of Naturelly jelly juice
·         Two bars of Cadbury Dairy Milk Oreo
·         A box of The Jelly Bean Factory jelly beans
·         Two bottles of Weetabix On the Go
·         A Whitworths Full of Super bar
·         Two cans of Weston’s cider
·         A box of Maldon smoked sea salt flakes
·         A bag of £OnePounders chocolate éclairs

This month’s box had plenty of promise; unfortunately mine didn’t arrive in the best condition... the cans were dented, the boxes bashed and soggy as the Naturelly jelly juice had split and leaked everywhere. I wasn’t too fussed about not sampling that product, as it’s aimed at children – but it was still disappointing, especially as Degustabox had recently been better with packaging fragile items to prevent breakages and spoilages from happening.
Degustabox, Food, Drink, Monthly Subscription, Fdbloggers, Unboxing
Starting with the drinks again this month – and the Weetabix On the Go bottles have featured in previous boxes and they’re something my mum occasionally buys, as she knows we don’t always have time for breakfast in the mornings. Containing the same amount of energy, fibre and protein as the popular breakfast cereal, these are a good alternative for those who have a busy working lifestyle. I’m yet to try either variety of the Weston’s cider that featured in the box, but I’m not usually a fan of original/apple ciders, so not sure if I’ll like these. I guess alternatively, they could always be used in cooking.
Degustabox, Food, Drink, Monthly Subscription, Fdbloggers, Unboxing
There were plenty of sweet treats this month, with two different varieties of Cadbury Dairy Milk Oreo bars: peanut butter and mint. I really wanted to like the former, as I love peanut butter and I love Oreos, but I found the flavour too savoury and almost like it didn’t go in chocolate form. Even my brother wasn’t keen and he gave me the bar back! The mint on the other hand was lush and I would definitely buy it again. Similarly, I love jelly beans and always have a jar of Jelly Belly’s in my room – so the jelly beans by The Jelly Bean Factory were much welcomed. Some of the flavours were quite unusual, but I liked them all... with the exception of cinnamon... seriously, why would you even make that a flavour?!  And the chocolate éclairs by £OnePounder were nice enough. Okay, they weren’t as good as Cadbury, but they didn’t taste ‘cheap’ either. I’ve never seen the brand in supermarkets or corner shops, so I have no idea where you buy their products, but the range is large and as a sweet lover, I’ll be keeping an eye out.
Degustabox, Food, Drink, Monthly Subscription, Fdbloggers, Unboxing
I really enjoyed the Whitworths Full of Super raw cacao bar and with two individual squares in a packet, I managed to make this last two afternoons at work. Packed full of goodness from natural ingredients including chia seeds, coconut, flax seeds and quinoa, these kept me full all afternoon and stopped me reaching for the snack desk. They had quite a grainy texture, but that’s due to the nature of the ingredients. The chocolate definitely helped make the taste better!
Degustabox, Food, Drink, Monthly Subscription, Fdbloggers, Unboxing
Finally to the savoury items and another brand to feature in previous Degustaboxes, Pipers. I absolutely love their crisps: they’re crunchy, so flavoursome and incredibly moreish. Salt & vinegar is such a classic (and winning!) combo and these were so tangy, I loved them. I am one of those people that loves strong salt & vinegar which basically makes your mouth go numb, so in that respect, they did the job! They were also too good to share. I’m yet to try the Maldon smoked sea salt flakes, but I honestly have no idea what to do with them. And we had the Heinz tomato & garlic creamy sauce for dinner tonight, with chicken sausages and pasta. I found the flavour quite tangy to begin with – and it was incredibly garlicky. I don’t think I’d buy this particular flavour again, as it was also too salty for my palate.

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 March’s box?

Love, Lucy xx

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Barbecue and Boozy Birthday Celebrations at Hotbox

London, Dining, Hotbox, Review, FdBloggers
Last weekend, I was in London for my workie friend, Poppy’s 30th birthday celebrations – you may have seen some of the photos on Instagram. We had a table at Hotbox booked well in advance, which was a total surprise – as it’s one of the restaurants on my list! Unfortunately we were unable to get a table for brunch, which means I have to return, and instead, we had a reservation for 6pm. It was just as good as I was expecting.

It wasn’t too busy as we arrived, but everything was so minimalist and chilled. The seating were stools, which were actually very comfortable, and the tables, large benches – perfect for large groups – but added to the casual vibe of the restaurant. The decor was very plain, with lots of dark woods. The service was good throughout – the menus arrived instantly and it wasn’t long before we were ordering the first round of cocktails.
Poppy and I had known in advance that we’d order the Basil Brush (Beefeater Gin, Mango Liqueur, Basil, Passionfruit) which was refreshingly fruity and surprisingly went well with barbecue.
London, Dining, Hotbox, Review, FdBloggers
Everyone was ordering starters and while I wouldn’t normally, I suggested Poppy and I share a couple. We chose the crispy smoked wings with sauce glaze, pickled chilli, sriracha buffalo sauce and truffle blue cheese. Yep, as you can imagine, they were incredibly spicy. As someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy hot or spicy food, they were a little unbearable. I wouldn’t usually opt for such ‘messy’ food, but at somewhere like Hotbox, it has to be done. Thankfully the blue cheese and celery sticks cooled the heat down. And the other starter helped too. We decided on the grilled jumbo prawn, which was beautiful. The meat was so juicy and it had this beautiful smoky taste. It certainly accommodated to my taste buds better.
London, Dining, Hotbox, Review, FdBloggers
For our main courses, again, Poppy and I knew as soon as the table was booked that we’d order the Hotbox Piggy Burger. It was massive and genuinely gave us the meat sweats. A large beef patty, topped with pulled pork, American cheese and caramelised onions. I couldn’t manage it all – but we still shared a couple of sides. The skin-on rosemary & garlic fries were wonderfully crisp and seasoned well. Burger and fries is such a winning combo. We also chose the jalapeno slaw, which was so fresh, vibrant and crunchy. It was dressed in lemon juice, as opposed to anything creamy like mayo, so was incredibly light. I could’ve eaten a portion of that alone!
London, Dining, Hotbox, Review, FdBloggers
Lucy had the short rib, which was on the bone and looked so impressive. There was plenty of meat to be devoured, although she said it was quite fatty. Jemma chose the pork short ribs, which looked equally as large. She definitely made the best decision and I got food envy as soon as the dish arrived to the table. I even managed to try some – the meat was so tender and had a lovely sticky barbecue glaze. Next time, I’d definitely order those!

We skipped desserts and had after-dinner cocktails instead. The photos suggest we all opted for espresso martinis, although I honestly don’t remember! After we got the bill, we went downstairs to the bar & lounge area, which was equally as relaxed. There were some really gorgeous chaise longue style chairs. Unfortunately, the atmosphere wasn’t the best – I think we stayed for a couple of hours and the whole time, we were the only ones drinking. It was a really nice end to such a lovely day, though. There’s no doubt that I’d return to Hotbox, although bottomless brunch is certainly a must before dinner again!

Love, Lucy xx

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Instagram #14

Instagram, Life, Update, Personal, LucyLocket_x
Poppy’s 30th: Fishbowls at Madison – Poppy’s 30th: Dinner & drinks at Hot Box – Poppy’s 30th: Junkyard Golf – Poppy’s 30th: Views from Madison – Poppy’s 30th: Surprise afternoon tea – Monthly favourites – Remembering this time last year – Much-needed chill out time – Sunday brunch: protein pancakes – Dinner at Hawksmoor – Seeing Lion King (again!) – Pre-dinner drinks at Hawksmoor

I’ve been such a busy bee recently, with so much planned over consecutive weekends and I am so glad it’s a three-day week this week with the Easter Bank Holidays looming! I honestly don’t know my next free weekend, so will be grateful for some time off work.

A few weekends ago now we were in London as I’d booked tickets to see The Lion King. To make more of an evening of it, I also booked a table at the Air Street branch of Hawksmoor – where we had a pre-theatre meal and drinks in the bar. It was such a lovely evening, although we were both so tired by the train journey home. Hawksmoor is definitely one of my favourite London restaurants.

Then a fortnight ago, I was invited to my workie friend Poppy’s surprise 30th. Her mum had arranged afternoon tea at her house, with family, friends and only two of us from work invited. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, so we managed to sit outside and enjoy finger sandwiches, cakes and small savouries. It was such a lovely occasion and good to have so many different people together.

Did anyone else watch the Rio Ferdinand documentary? It was so insightful and something I could completely relate to. I honestly felt fine until the closing credits and then I got really emotional and had an awful night’s sleep. It also marked a year to the day that I last went out with dad, as it was Easter Monday and we were at Barnet together. I was considering writing a post about how I’ve been feeling lately – would anyone be interested in reading it? I think it’s more a case of knowing someone else is in the same boat as you, so if anyone is, contact me on Twitter!

Last weekend, we had the workies get-together for Poppy’s 30th (her birthday was last Tuesday), which had been planned for months. Again, we were so lucky with the weather. I was considering blogging the day in its entirety, but I think I’ll just write a restaurant post. We began the day at noon for cocktails at Madison (one of my favourite places in London, with spectacular views of St. Paul’s), before venturing to Brick Lane for Junkyard Golf (which I won!). After more cocktails at Commercial Tavern, we had a dinner reservation at Hot Box (on my restaurant list), which of course involved more alcohol. It was such a great day – and well worth the hangover the following day (read: following two days). On the Sunday, I drove to Ash’s and we spent a couple of hours walking around Ashridge Estate, which was beaut – and certainly helped us both as we both felt shocking. He cooked a really yummy roast in the evening. The weekends certainly go too quickly!

What have you been up to lately?

Love, Lucy xx