14 July 2015

Try This For: best blowouts on a budget

When someone suggests lunch, you probably don't consider Heston Blumenthal's Dinner or Alain Ducasse's three Michelin starred restaurant at The Dorchester unless you're planning on taking out a serious loan. Until now. I've done some serious legwork over at Try This For to find you the best Michelin menus that really won't break the bank. Book in at Sketch and thank me later.

Part one here and part two there.

8 July 2015

Three shows to see in London

Between London's West End and Broadway, theatregoers are spoiled for choice but it's only in the last couple of years that I've actually invested any real time in going. Over the last couple of years, I've been to Shakespeare's Globe twice to see A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Comedy of Errors, Sadler's Wells to see Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake and Soho to see Les Miserables, Miss Saigon and Shakespeare In Love

This year's been better than ever and I've been so lucky to see another Shakespeare play and two of the biggest shows to hit the stage. Back in December, my then boyfriend S bought me tickets to see the limited run of Cats on Valentine's Day eve. I grew up reading the original playbill back to back and TS Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats until I knew the poems and the costumes off by heart. Having waited 25 years to watch it, seeing the stage explode with dancing and singing cats was amazing and whether it was me or the elderly gentleman gleefully knowing all the words, it was one of the best shows I've ever seen. The run's now finished but make sure you catch it when it comes back!

Two months later to the day, I'd booked tickets for S and I to see The Book of Mormon to celebrate an anniversary. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be and I took the other man in my life, my dad, to the acclaimed show, not knowing whether I'd be cringing into my hands and watching a disgruntled father disappear to the bar at the first sign of poor taste. I had nothing to fear though as it was absolutely amazing and we both loved every second. It's quite possibly some of the least politically correct writing in the mainstream today but it is so self-aware and gloriously brilliant that you can't help but we swept up in the whole spectacle. It's a musical about two Mormon Elders being sent on a mission to Africa and every scene has an unexpected twist. Watch out for the stupidly catchy songs - my faves are Spooky Mormon Hell Dream and Turn It Off - and some really touching scenes in the middle. Tickets are always in demand but well worth the hype and wait.

And then last month, Mum and I made it a hat-trick with a third show at Shakespeare's Globe. We'd booked As You Like It, a pastoral comedy with lots of dukes, women disguised as men, and even some prime bit of comedic dancing thrown in for good measure. My love for Shakespeare was rekindled all over again as the beautiful language was brought to life by the talented players, and the satirical observations as modern as ever. Seeing Jacques deliver the famous 'All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players' in The Globe was one of the most memorable experiences and deserving of the rapturous applause at the end. Whilst reading Shakespeare might be a challenge for some, seeing it performed live brings its beauty to the fore and casts aside any of those torturous schoolbook sessions. As You Like It's on til September so check it out before the season closes and the run changes next year.

So three shows in six months - what's next?

1 July 2015

The Amalfi Coast

I turned 26 last week and spent a glorious week on the Amalfi Coast. From bathing in 38 degree volcanic rock pools to climbing to the top of Positano, dining at the foot of a castle to sampling authentic Napoli pizza, I think we did it right.

I now have a killer tan and another perfect destination crossed off my list.

13 June 2015

Juma Kitchen

I've now been to Clapham a grand total of three times in my life. The first was to Chicago Rib Shack, the second and third trips The Jam Tree. Whilst I can't stop thinking about their Confiture cocktail (deliciously, wickedly sweet), it wasn't that that brought me back but instead a 50-strong supper club with a difference. I'd interviewed Phil Juma of Juma Kitchen a couple of months back for TryThisFor and he invited me down for an evening like no other. 

I wrote about my introduction to Iraqi cuisine over at TryThisFor - head this way for a crash course in five courses of incredible Middle Eastern fayre.

11 June 2015

Vintage Salt, Selfridges

A few seasons ago, Selfridges had the bright idea of opening up their prime real estate rooftop and introducing themed bars and restaurants for shoppers, tourists and locals alike. Last winter it was Le Chalet with Alpine wooden panelling, blankets and more hot chocolate than bloggers could shake a stick at. This summer, it's Vintage Salt and inspired by Cornish fishing villages all decked out in blues and Breton striped servers.

After a brilliantly boozy brunch one Saturday at Pachamama (read about it here) and some attempts at shopping, Soph and I ventured up for a drink. An unsuccessful and frustrating 30 minutes later, we left empty-handed as four attempts to order drinks had been ignored. Ouch. We managed to catch Simon, the manager, on our way out and he later invited us back for a bottle of sparkling wine.

With that in mind, we returned last Thursday on a warmish, sunny evening just perfect for catch ups. Soph had just celebrated her one year anniversary with her boyfriend so the English sparkling wine was a nice little treat (whilst I, on the other hand, recently celebrated a six month anniversary with mine and now it is no more, so slightly less of a celebration there).

The weekly printed menu tells you the weather forecast and the food is heavily fishy, which is right up my winding little Cornish alley. We decided to kick off with the London particulars fritters, made from pea and ham hock and served with a light mustard mayonnaise. The batter was light, the seasoning was good and the mayo had the right amount of kick to complement.

Mains next and Sophie went for the Josper grilled spring chicken. A huge portion (it has to be at £18.50), it's smothered with a tangy barbecue marinade and finished on the grill du jour to combine that charcoal taste with the surety of an actually cooked piece of chicken. It came served with a spicy slaw which lifted the entire dish completely and was eagerly mopped up by both of us.

I chose the sea bass a la plancha which came with surf clams and wilted beach greens - in my case, samphire. It was well pan-fried with a lovely colour but a little underseasoned and a little dry on the whole. Swiping some of the slaw from the chicken was a brilliant idea and those truffle chips? To absolutely die for and hugely worth ordering.

We finished on the brownie sundae dip (although were very tempted by the chocolate burger) and a deliberately upturned ice cream cone spilling with marshmallow, brownie pieces and chocolate crumb arrived at the table. Scooped up with plenty of chocolate ice cream and the obligatory cone, this was a finale that wasn't overkill. It was also, perhaps, the most authentic Cornish village dish of the day.

All in all Vintage Salt was great, but a little underwhelming ultimately. The staff are friendly and attentive when you need them but the food didn't blow me away. It's busy and popular and the ideal place for people-watching but if you're after the fishy wow factor, I'd suggest trying one of these fine fisheries.

Top photo via
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