30 December 2015

So long, 2015

It's been a while, hasn't it? I attribute the radio silence to some of the craziest weeks at work which meant that spending downtime in front of the laptop afterwards wasn't particularly appealing. But a pretty quiet Christmas away from technology coupled with some important conversations has meant some much needed respite and it being finally time to say goodbye to 2015.

I'm actually pretty glad. A break up mid-year and a bad run with guys since has me raring for a whole new 2016, but of course, they're only a teeny tiny part of anyone's story and there are some fabulous memories to recount before I close this year's diary pages. So here's to a highlight reel (in no particular order)...

- The first time skiing. Five glorious days in the Alps learning how to snowplough, disembark chair lifts without falling over and teaching a tiny village the true meaning of apres-ski. We'll just gloss over my final day freak out which resulted in a long, 3.5km walk down a ski run.
- A whistle-stop two days in Philadelphia and New York with work. A stay at beautiful Hotel Americano, drinks at staggering Baccarat and a wild night after.
- Five gorgeous days on the Amalfi Coast for my birthday with my mum. We explored Positano and Amalfi, bathed in 38 degree volcanic pools and ate as much fresh fish as we could get our hands on. A fine way to see in 26.
- And then a spontaneous trip to Dubai to visit an old friend. It was five days of all-you-can-eat buffets and boozing, sundowners by the Burj Al Arab and cocktails in the world's tallest building.

Eating and drinking
As usual, I spent an inordinate amount of time eating and drinking. Being editor of a food website and someone that enjoys a cocktail or two, I managed to get out to a fair few places. Here's my favourite few to eat at:
- Duck & Waffle. A place that needs no introduction really; the spectacular 24 hour bar and restaurant 36 floors above the city. Whilst famed for the eponymous duck and waffle dish, my go-tos (when on the menu) are the roasted octopus, foie gras creme brulee and the carpaccio. Cocktails? Oh, all of them.
- Rex & Mariano. Part of the Goodman family, it's currently searching for a new home but we made good use of it when it was open in Soho. An achingly affordable fresh fish restaurant, this place answered all my prayers. Best were those prawns and the lobster ceviche.
- Hawksmoor. Everyone's favourite steak place for a reason. From the gorgeous decor (all dark wood panelling and art deco lighting) to the food itself (to die for steak tartare and truffled mac & cheese), Hawksmoor will forever top my lists.
- Polpo. Another predictable addition but it would be a crime to omit from my favourites. This Venetian bacaro serves up small Italian plates meaning I get to dip into lots of different dishes and noone can say anything about it. Dad and I sat in the sunny window with Aperol Spritzes and pizzetta and polpette; the perfect afternoon.
- Morden & Lea. Onto Modern British now and Piccadilly's Morden & Lea left Emma and I rolling ourselves home, stuffed to the brim after delicious rabbit ravioli and cod. We sat upstairs in the elegant dining room and caught up on years worth of gossip but the downstairs bistro is just as good for a quick eat.
- Senor Ceviche. The one that almost got away. We finally made it round to Soho's Senor Ceviche where I discovered their divine Mamacitas and cool, fresh ceviche that I could eat everyday if I was allowed. The pork belly bites are also far too good to keep to yourself too.

And to drink:
The great thing about a lot of my favourite restaurants these days is that they've got a killer bar as well as kitchen. But when you're looking for 'cocktails done good', make no mistakes about these:
- Dandelyan. The beautiful bar in the Mondrian hotel; all sexy curves and bright banquettes. The drinks are themed by 'botanicals' and change every season but my firm favourites have to be the concrete sazerac for that smooth, sweet and bitter spike of spirit and the Crimson Waxwork, served in a beeswax cup. Looking to impress? This is your place.
- Original Sin. Blink and you'll miss it. This basement bar is in my part of town and for that I love it. A short walk from my flat, a few steps and you'll find yourself at a very sexy bar with some seriously talented bar staff. We went off menu and they rustled up a chocolate rosemary negroni and a coffee tequila concoction that was right up my street.
- Loves Company. A tiny corner of a bar that never disappoints. This was an Ella & Matt find that I've since adopted because who can turn down cocktails and cheese toasties? The bar staff here are the friendliest chaps and always up for a challenge, particularly involving mescal.
- Nightjar. Nightjar is bittersweet for me - the week before my relationship ended, we went on a fantastic double date here where we consumed thirty two (count 'em) cocktails between four of us and declared it our new favourite place. A beautiful speakeasy bar with the most creative cocktails I have ever seen and tasted. Top of my list, let's just keep the good memories, huh?
Need more inspiration? Read all my reviews here.

And what else?
- I spent Christmas in Scotland again.
- I hosted a client dinner at SkyGarden.
- I went to not one but two rugby matches this year. The first was a friendly between Samoans and Barbarians as a warm up for the Rugby World Cup while the second was the Twickenham double header. We drank copious pints of Guinness, made plenty of friends and stymied the Mexican waves.
- I took up horseriding again after a six year gap. Having ridden almost everyday in my teens, it's slightly different after a hiatus. We're working on getting me back to 'riding school ready' which means reversing all the years spent riding polo and being all disciplined again.
- I saw Cats (Christmas present from my ex), Book of Mormon (anniversary present to my ex that instead went to my dad) and the annual Shakespeare pilgrimage to see As You Like It.
- And I continued the monochromatic wardrobe.

So 2015, you have been a good year after all. Forget the heartbreak, there's all of 2016 to play for.

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