The Blondoner’s April (Birthday) Playlist

I love April.

Just because its generally the month when the weather begins to warm up, the flowers begin to blossom, Easter time is just around the corner and of course the all important – my birthday 🙂

Sooooo for this month I thought about doing a playlist which is upbeat, a little risqué, gets you up on your feet and generally makes you feel happy! (well it does for me anyway) Some of the tracks I have picked are those that I either heard at an after party, raved to at a club or a day festival back in the early 00’s and every time I hear them, the good memories always come flooding back in. Awwww

One of my all time favourites is Loneliness from a very cool German producer called Tomcraft. I used to make the DJ play this track almost every Saturday night at a club called Quest on the Gold Coast – of course, he wouldn’t play it until right at the end which I didn’t mind as it was the best way to end the night! 

And how could you forget Max Linen’s mega summer anthem – Flashback. The lyrics in this track are top notch – ‘I went to the DJ, some guy named knuckles. Something like that, I don’t know; And I said to him “Hey! Wheres my wife? Where is my wife?” 

You can find a list of the tracks below or in the right hand side bar which are found on Spotify. 

Enjoy!

 

Evans & Peel – reporting back, over & out!

 

When I was asked to review a ‘hidden’ bar, I really had to think about how I was going to approach this one…

Of course, I want to tell the world about just how awesome this place is without trying to give too much away, as after all it is an underground speakeasy nightspot and its all a bit hush hush. 😉

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ANYWAY all of this aside, I guess I should crack on and tell you about ‘my’ experience at this mysterious Earls Court location.

One of the biggest drawcard here for me, is that it is very rare to find such a unique place over this side of town. Im talking about the West in particular. Shoreditch seems to have taken most of the quirky ones and I should mention that Barts are pretty exceptional over in Sloane Avenue but thats about as good as it gets over this side of town.

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The name for a start is brilliant. They call it Evans & Peel Detective Agency.

No I’m not kidding but its not what you think..

OR IS IT. 

I can tell you that there is a ‘detective’ theme around this so be prepared once you’ve rung that little door bell and told to come down those low lit stairs. When I mean prepared, I’m meaning that its all about having an open mind. Remember this does have an immersive side to it but DONT be caught off guard because its all just a bit of fun and having a laugh at the end of the day 🙂

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Inside, my first impressions were how much bigger it was as to what I had actually imagined in my head.  Its pretty deceiving from the outside which is probably why its called a speakeasy in the first place but when you are underground, you cant help but feel like everything is so much smaller and cosier. That intimate kind of feeling which I will mention now before I forget – its a great place to take someone on a date. Its fairly dark inside, with mood lit candles, wooden mismatched furniture and a long bar to perch on in case your intrigued by how they make their ‘potions’.

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We were lucky enough to be nestled into a snug little area – like a cubby hole…. but not really. I invited my friend Emma along who doesn’t mind a cocktail or 5 and the good thing about bringing a friend is that its likely they are going to have different tastes to you. In Emma’s case she loves whiskey – me not so much. I prefer vodka or gin based cocktails, nothing overly sweet and please no Cosmos or Pornstar martinis on the menu. It’s been done to death 🙂

We decided to get some snacks in as there is nothing worse than drinking on an empty stomach (lets be responsible adults for once!)

I started off with the usual suspects which contains egg white – I’m a big fan of it. I know it sounds a little weird but it really does make the cocktail that much fluffier in texture and I loved the combined raspberry fruity flavours with that went with it. 

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Surprisingly the bar nibbles were absolute class. Definitely not so great for the waste line but lets be real, I’m not about to sweat it out in a spin class. (mental note to go to the gym at some point).

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We grabbed the shotgun strippers which consisted of moorish crumbed chicken bites and came with shots of hot sauce. Always a favourite while on the turps. (thats slang for drinking)

The Nacho average which I can assure you was not average, one little bit. In fact it came out in a very large vintage cooking tray and was loaded with all the goodies – topped with pulled chilli pork, sour cream, jalapeno’s and plenty of spunky salsa.  

And lastly which I almost regretted ordering was the M&C on steroids. Yes, you read this right. Basically a mountain of sublime creamy macaroni cheese, bacon bits and truffle oil. Now you cant argue this one. Its heaven in a bowl. 

 

Now back to reporting of the nights sipping’s (there are a few) 

Simple Sanguine – a lot of citrus and very sharp, mixed with blood orange, elderflower, mezcal I found this quite intense and one of the drinks that gets better the more you drink it.

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Michael Corleone says hello – I quite liked this one. An Italian biscuit infused bourbon – a serious take on the old fashioned and the fact that you get a yummy biccie to go with it, is a double win! 

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Time coord negroni – decorated with a piece or orange peel hanging on the glass with a peg. Quite the touch and Emma tells me its pretty good.  Vermouth, Campari, bitters – you know the score. Not my thing but we all have preferences!

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Balsamic fix – bacon beef salt and celery bacon? Sounds weird I know but I did quite like the flavours going on here especially when your mouth hits the salty bit on the rim of the glass. 

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G Minus 6 – Gin, lemon, pisco and soda but without the tonic! Another easy one on the palate – a good one to end the night. 

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Clover breakfast club – a beautiful fruity concoction of english breakfast tea infused, gin, raspberry jam, lime and topped with some type of dried petals. A very pretty drink. 

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Scandinavian leather – came in a huge glass, filled with passionfruit, vodka, lemon, Swedish liquor and topped with an open passionfruit. A very easy tipple to drink!

 

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Well now that I’ve given away a little too much, it really goes without saying, this place is wicked and a must to check out. A cool set up, pleasantly welcoming, with staff who are super friendly and take their cocktail making deadly seriously.

www.evansandpeel.com

 

 

“I offer you this challenge here and now to accept this undercover case and report back with all the findings”. 

Yours truly,

Detective Steph 

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Flamingo Yoga Brunch – A very unique Supper club experience!

A short time ago back in January, I was invited along by Tabl to a very exciting supper club combining yang and yin style yoga and the most gorgeous vegan food I have ever laid eyes on. Hosted at a very homely location in Hackney called Reva Studios, with the lovely Emmy as our yoga instructor and Kali cooking using her magical plant based ingredients to serve up a magnificent feast for us all! 

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I arrived early on location to get in a few snaps before everyone else arrived and I have to say the place was totally admirable. Set in an East London type warehouse, the open plan home was decked out with sleek white floors, gigantic sturdy wooden posts and fairy lights displayed with yoga mats positioned neatly all over the floor. There was plenty of natural light where the communal eating table was placed for brunch and tastefully decorated in generous greenery.

It certainly felt like a very relaxing environment to let go of all those stresses and a very fitting setting for a yoga class. 

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Once all had been welcomed, Emmy started of the 75minute class of Yang and Yin yoga with some breathing techniques followed by nourishing yin poses to release and unwind. This type of yoga is especially designed to energise and refresh. Ending with some guided meditation and leaving you feeling in a blissful mind set. I sadly didn’t get a chance to take any photos due to being so in the zone at the time to even think about picking up a camera! But for anyone who enjoys practising yoga, you should definitely try one of Emmy’s classes. I felt very calm and collective by the end of the session and had managed to work up my usual appetite – now wheres the food? 🙂 

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Once seated around the table, we were all ready to tuck in to the 5 courses on offering. I am not a vegan nor a vegetarian but I still enjoy eating it from time to time, especially if its as tasty as what I was about to get stuck into! Its actually quite amazing what can be made with meat and diary free ingredients! 

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Firstly, we were served green Mimosa or coconut water for those being extra healthy, followed by small plates of chick pea tortilla chips, salsa and the most incredible guacamole dip I have tried to date.  The chips were also highly rateable, so much so, that we asked for seconds just so we could finish off that classic avocado based dip of goodness. 

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Following from this was a very interesting dish consisting of charred cauliflower and sesame tostadas. I feel a theme coming on here..! But in all seriousness, this was extremely tasty, bursting with loads of lovely flavours topped with spring onions and a touch of chilli oil. Oh stop it!

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The next course, which I thought had to be the main due to its well portioned size, was called the Corn Congee and this was my favourite of the lot. I loved the texture of the aubergine, combined with seaweed, peanut chilli oil and toasted tempeh. I’ve never had this before and I couldn’t get enough of it. Absolutely scrumptious and very nicely presented on the plate. 

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Next it was bowls of fresh, vibrant slow roast beet and Pepita salad. Plenty of lush green and deep purple colours swirled around the ceramic bowls, were a delightful touch to the end of the meal as well as being light on the tummy. 

And last but not least, the all important dessert!

Chocolate, pistachio cream and brittle. Say. No. More. If you have ever tried a vegan chocolate cake or cheesecake, you know exactly what I’m talking about here. Absolute on point, heavenly, moorish, get in my mouth kind of dessert. The pistachio cream was DIVINE and I’m not afraid to say that I could have gone for seconds. Oops. 

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I have to say, I was blown away by the quality of this brunch. You can tell that a lot of thought and passion as well as creativity has gone into the planning of each dish and one thing is for sure – you can tell the ingredients are mega fresh and everything is made right from scratch. It was also great to meet a friendly bunch of people and an ideal activity whilst being on a bit of a health kick. (and fun of course!!!)

Thank you to Tabl for giving me this opportunity to participate, I always love and look forward to unique experiences in London and this is certainly one of them worth doing. 🙂 

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If this is well up your street then you are in luck! They have another brunch event happening on the 14th May and this will sell out quickly. Click below for more details – 

https://emmyyoga.com/yoga-brunch/ 

Also check out some pretty wicked events on Tabl – they have some of the best supper clubs going on in London right now & that is a fact! 

Shout out to Kali Cooking & Emmy – you can find them both on twitter @EmmyYoga @Kalicooking 

The Blondes boogie beats **March playlist**

Since I’m slightly crazy about music, I’ve decided to start a new segment on the blog each month with a playlist of new tracks I find, which I think are worthy of sharing to my fellow music lovers. Would love to have your feed back on this over the coming months and will try to keep it varied to as many genres as possible (and since I enjoy listening to a number of different styles!)

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I’m finding it hard to comprehend that it is MARCH already and after recently visiting Adelaide last week it seems like the term Mad March is the norm after witnessing just how much is going on in the city at present! While I was there, I recently went to a gig of my boyfriends which was a house & techno night so this month’s playlist will feature a few tracks inspired from that as well as some groovy electronic sounds. 

My favourite tune would have to be from Tiga –  I think he’s a musical genius and this cheeky new sound, is his latest offering after the ‘Blondes have more fun’ record (absolutely digging the name!)

 
                                                            1.0 Habischman - Moan

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           2.0 Dansson – Shake that 

                   3.0 Jamiroquai – Automaton

4.0 D Ramirez – La discotek (shakedown remix)

                    5.0 Mark Knight – Into my life

          6.0 Croatia Squad – Make your move 

7.0 Eelke Kleijn – Home 

8.0 Dub fire – Fuego (Julian Jeweil remix) 

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9.0 UMEK – Double the lust 

10.0 Adam Beyer & Ida Engberg – Unanswered question

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      11.0 Kaskade & Deadmau5 – Beneath with me 

12.0 HP Source – Leap of Faith (Carlos Beltran remix) 

 

13.0 Tiga – Eye luv U 

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14.0 Hot Since 82 – Damage 

 

*All tunes located on Spotify*

A festive treat at River Cottage Headquarters, Devon

So its Christmas, and you’ve already stuffed your face continuously for 4 days straight. Its only fair to say that one has had well over their quota for the festive period right? Ahh wrong!

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You know what I’m talking about here; sitting on the couch, slothing about while being surrounded by the aromas of cheese, biscuits, Quality Street sweets and decadent chocolates from Fortnum in Mason…. OK I’m guilty as charged! However it still didn’t mean I was missing out on an opportunity to visit the charming River Cottage and seeing as though I was in the area, it was only natural that I’d say yes. 

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Located in the beautiful Devonshire countryside just outside of Axminister, the only safe way of getting down to the farm house is by tractor and float which you are able to ride on the back of. This is not the most glamorous of entrances however I wouldn’t really recommend trying to walk down the uneven muddy hill unless you don’t mind the outdoor ruggedness or getting your favourite shoes ruined. 

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On our arrival we were taken to a cutest little yurt style tent that had large bundles of barn hay as seats to perch on and colourful bunting hanging from the trellises. We are given a small glass of Kingston warm apple brandy to sip on while our host spoke about the itinerary for the afternoon. Also being served some delicious canapés and one of which was battered parsnips – a first time for me and rather moreish! 

For those of you that aren’t too familiar with River Cottage, its very well known for being on the TV – particular with cooking! Its located near the village of Musbury in a provincial 17th century farmhouse, has a cookery school, restaurant, a huge organic veggie/herb patch worth mentioning and over 66 acres of beautiful lush green land. It has also been graced by many famous faces and is owned by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

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I was also lucky enough to have a quick tour of the site including the famous ‘kitchen’ with that gorgeous wooden table and dreamy old-school appliances on display. The decor is all very rustic and bodes well with the farmhouse theme. 

Once seated next to the floor to ceiling windows with the sun baking through, our drink orders were taken and we were treated to some homemade slices of oven warm bread and scrumptious pumpkin dip, topped with toasted pumpkin seeds. A small starter of delicious mini meatballs topped with tomato and melted cheese was delivered soon after. I choose to drink a glass of rose as I’m still not quite ready to leave this wine to the side just because it is winter! Although don’t get me wrong, I still love my red over the colder months! 

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For the two courses, we had a small introduction by the head chef, Gelf Anderson. Its always nice to know what you are putting into your body and since almost every ingredient is organic and from the farm, its knowing that the quality is there, that gets me excited for whats about to come!

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For main we were served a generous sized piece of ham glazed in honey and mustard with cabbage and leek, the creamiest of mashed potatoes and roasted tasty beetroot paired with apple. The ham of course, melted in your mouth and if I wasn’t so greedy, I could have gone for seconds! 

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And for my favourite course – orange and cinnamon steamed sponge with boozy custard. Now I’m not a huge fan of warm custard but when the flavours are this good, nothing is a problem – it was divine! 

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Finishing off with some chocolate ganache, it was fair to say that I was completely stuffed! 

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A thoroughly enjoyable experience – one that I highly recommend if staying out that way or even passing by (they have a canteen as well!) I want to thank Dave & Emma and my lovely boyfriend for organising this because I really didn’t think I would be able to manage with the amount of food binging over Christmas break…BUT it was possible and definitely one for the memory bank! 

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Latimer wine tasting at the Royal Academy of Arts

I love wine.

There is no denying that fact.  So when I was asked to join an exclusive wine tasting event through my lovely friends at the Golden Network, I could hardly resist. 

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Hosted at the prestigious Royal Academy of Arts inside Keepers House, there was a certain ooze of class and sophistication when I walked through the grand doors to a white open spaced room. Boasting an array of paintings by numerous artists and draped clothed tables topped with bottles of wine, waiting and ready to be judged by many. 

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More importantly, you must know that this was a portfolio of wines on showcase by Latimer Vinters and to give you a bit of back ground about this company, they were founded back in 2013 to offer private and trade clients access to the finest wines at the most competitive prices. They are based in London and specialise in a number of wines from regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, The Rhone Valley plus a number of sought after wines from around the globe. 

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I meet Chris, who works in sales and purchasing and I asked him what his favourite region of choice was. He advised that Burgundy was at the top of the list, although Bordeaux was not too far behind it. He also told me he admires the wines of the Northern Rhone and a fine German Riesling. I must say I massively agree on the Bordeaux wines – it was one of my most memorable wine tasting experiences to date. 

Now on to the wines. I bought my friend Clara along with me who is also a lover of wine. Shock horror 😉 we also were due for a much needed catch up so it was all about killing two birds with one stone. As they say. 

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The list we were given was lengthly – three pages to be exact. Yes thats right – ALOT of wines to get through. But this doesn’t give you an open invitation to get plastered and drink them all….does it 🙂

Well you could, if you can handle it, but for people like me, wine still goes to my head only after a few so its probably a good idea to sip that water in-between and not make an embarrassment of yourself, if you know what I mean.

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These days I don’t find myself drinking a huge amount of white wine. Over the years my palate has most certainly changed and I don’t mind a drop of the full bodied red, especially during the winter months or paired with some rich dark chocolate to nibble on.

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Since I am a born and breed Kiwi, it seemed rude not to try the Greywacke Sav blanc from New Zealand. As expected it was bursting with fruity notes and I gave it a generous 6/10 (without trying to be too biased in my decision making process). I was bold enough to try a couple of the chardonnay’s and one that stood out in this collection for me was the Chassange Montrachet 2013, Clos St Jean. Still a tad dry but bearable for a person who has never ever been a fan of this grape. 

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On to the selection of beautiful reds and I had my eye on a couple of good looking wines from Bordeaux – well of course darlings!!! A stand out was the Ch. Haut Mallet 2014 – smooth, easy to drink and extremely reasonable on price.  

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Clara discovered a delightful Pinot Noir called Nuits St Georges, Cru Les Murgers 2013 which made me twinkle. Twinkle?! I have to say, this is the type of wine that will drag you in and leave you longing for more.. 

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After enjoying the best part of the evening, we were then advised that in the room next door, there was also a small selection of champagnes to taste as well as sweet wines and some appetising cheeses.  Unfortunately we were a bit slow getting to the bubbles and I only got to try the Pol Roger 2014 which was most pleasant with some creamy blue cheese. 

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Before I knew it, it was almost 10pm and I couldn’t believe how much the time had just flown by (time flies when you’re having fun). A thoroughly lovely evening once again by the Golden Network and ten points to Latimer for putting on an elegant event with a fantastic choice of many types of wines. 

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If you’d like to know more details about Latimer and their services you can head over to their website:

http://www.latimervintners.com/ 

E: wine@latimervintners.com 

 

Golden Network

http://www.thegoldennetwork.co.uk/

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A new speakeasy arrives in the hood (SW6 I mean)

 

Only just recently have I noticed quite a few very cool entertainment venues popping up around the neighbourhood, in particular cocktail bars, with plenty of quirky-ness and originality. Im speaking about Fulham, which is in my part of town and a happening area for young people, possibly well off and most likely to be of Australian nationality (note that this is not the reason why I live here!).

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When I first heard about Hanger SW which is the latest steak house to arrive at the top of North End Road, I had no clue that, downstairs in the basement there was a secret hidden speakeasy bar called Below the Cut. Possibly why it is such a secret bar, is there is actually no way of knowing unless your eating in the restaurant Hanger and need to use the loo.

Now this can be tricky, especially if its brand new to the area and you don’t fancy being out hawking on the streets to drawing in too many large crowds of people  – I totally get this which is another reason to keep it nice and exclusive and hopefully by word of mouth, the locals will have it on their radar to check out.

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And this is where I come in, to tell you all about this charming retro venue, even though its kind of a bit hush hush but you get what I mean here.

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I had the opportunity to try out some of their impressive cocktail list. Fairly minimalistic but who needs a list 10 pages long – too much to choose from can sometimes be worse in my opinion. 

The bar food had a generous offering and we were able to tuck into a few bites of their menu while sipping away. 

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The pork fritters, which were highly recommended, weren’t actually featured on the menu but were incredibly fluffy with a nice crumbed texture and lovely spices. 

We also dug into some hand cut rosemary chips, and a good old favourite – salt and vinegar squid! 

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The cheese steak slider which was basically a massive burger, was cut in half and easily enough for one person as an evening meal so recommend to share with friends if you are wanting a small snack to munch on. All the bar food comes from their restaurant upstairs which is focuses on steak and chargrilled cooking.  

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Cocktails tried and tasted –

Moon river – gin, lemon, cointreau, peach, vanilla & egg white (love a good egg white cocktail)

Royal lady – vodka, infused with lush rhubhard and prosecco (definitely loving the rhubard flavours at the moment)

G&T Vesper – Birchalls earl grey infused Sipsmith London dry, Skyy vodka, martini bianco, BTW tonic syrup, grapefruit (not as strong as the original but just as bitter – very smooth on the palate) 

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The cocktail menu is designed with an edge, with plenty of creativity and flare, fitting in well to the speakeasy theme. The bar itself is lined wall to wall in old records, stacks of old library books, old fashioned lamps and my favourite, the bright cocktails and dreams neon sign to greet you in the stairwell. 

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Im very pleased that something like this has finally arrived into the area. A refreshing change from the pubs and sports bars that are featured in Fulham at present. Definitely a great place to come after work with friends or a great starting point for a night out on the town. 

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461 North End Rd, Fulham, London SW6 1NZ

B2B – Budapest/Balaton Part 2

Travelling by train seemed to be one of the quickest means of transport to Balaton Station however to put it lightly, this was no luxurious train journey by any means. There was no air-conditioning, no pull out tray tables or electricity plugs in sight. However, on the contrary to this I believe that you need to be put into these types of situations, to appreciate what you have and how much worse off you really could be. Thats what travelling is all about, so smile, suck it up and embrace it.

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On another note, Charlotte and I decided to splash out and book into a plush hotel just 5 minutes walk from the festival entrance. This hotel was called the Wellamarin and I really couldn’t have wished for anything better. Call me a diva, whatever but I’m at that age where camping in the heat doesn’t really tickle my fancy. I like to come home to a shower, fresh sheets and a comfy bed so if that meant spending a little extra, so be it. The hotel itself had some luxurious facilities, including a state out the art spa, outdoor pool with bar servicing fresh lemonades and included in our rate was half board. Thus meaning we were treated to breakfast and dinner every single day of our stay. Not bad I say, not bad.

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After settling in to a modern surroundings, we got ourselves festival ready, bellies filled with a couple of glasses of vino (or more like a bottle..) and made our way towards the beating sounds of Balaton…

For those of you who aren’t too familiar with this festival, its actually been running for 10 years and is one of eastern Europe’s largest. In fact over 180, 000 people graced through the gates over the five days which is mind blowing for something that is in a pretty remote spot in my opinion. Its situated on a glistening lake which means by day, you can relax, take a dip and lap up those gorgeous water views. By evening, you have the most perfect sunset back drops, the humid warmth against your skin and a nonstop rave marathon of wicked beats from an array of different dance genres.

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As I was lucky enough to bag myself a press pass for the event (plus I had VIP) it was a nice touch having an area you could go to with fresh clean toilets, chill out areas, a view of the main stage and even a wine bar. Now were talking 🙂 I also have to point out how super organised everything was. I’ve never been to a festival that was being cleaned up the minute the first stage was closed, it was nice to see that the organisers were on it and something that UK festival should seriously take note of!

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Another thing I really loved about this festival (and there are many!) was the paying system. As the event was sponsored by Mastercard, naturally the best thing to do was set up a debit card type system which was topped up with cash or card and tapped on each vendors machine as if it were contact-less. It also gave you a balance to check on the disgusting amount of  money spent and consumed on alcohol.

Kidding. But all jokes aside, this payment system is very much the way forward – no mucking about with silly tickets or cash which is easily lost under boozy influences (as we all know).

 

Now back to the music itself. The line up for me wasn’t too bad. There was quite a mixture of genres including EDM, hiphop, trance, house and techno. Artists this year ranged from Duke Dumont, Booka shade, Matador, Chocolate Puma, Sven Vath, Chris Brown and Steve Aoki. There were dozens of stages, including the main stage which was quite spectacular at night and very bright during the hours of the day. Plenty of beach bars which had tons of sand bought in plus a Heineken/local radio stage and not forgetting the massive Telekom arena, which was a definite favourite but will get into that a bit later on.

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There was a wide range of food stalls with a mixture of cuisines – mostly Hungarian but I didn’t mind because the quality was there. Something that festivals are definitely improving on and compared to years ago when it was all about the greasy pizza, hot dog and chips… yes we’ve all been there! I even managed to find somewhere that sold fresh watermelon and of course there were what seemed like a gillazion cocktail bars to keep the hydration at bay.

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On the Wednesday evening, being the first day and all, the excitement was amplified times a thousand and the anticipation of what to expect for the week was quite overwhelming,  I just couldn’t wait to shake my booty until the break of dawn and lap up load of sunshine.

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One of the first big act that I wanted to see were Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – an American hip hop duo, who were scheduled to come on fairly early into the night and had certainly pulled a rather large crowd of people towards the colourful main stage. I can’t say I was overly amazed by their performance, particularly after watching them have a tea party and throwing cakes into the crowd but whatever works to stoke the party atmosphere into gear! Not really my cup of tea 😉

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The actual layout of the festival was very on point. Widely spread so big crowds of people could depart and arrive through the gates without a fuss, plenty of grassed areas for relaxing by the side of the water & stages placed accurately apart so the tunes weren’t overlapping. The beach bars in particular were awesome, built a few good metres above the waters edge and bought a real Ibiza type feel to the lake. After the disappointment of Macklemore it was a win stumbling across a rocking bar with a bucket load of sand, decked out with wicked house tunes… it was already looking like a winning start to the evening.

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The biggest and best find was the humongous Telekom arena, which was pure white and seemed to spread for miles. It was probably the only area we spent the most time in for the duration of the week, so you’re probably wondering if that was the stage that had the best artists and you might be dead right about that one.

Also to note was the outside chilling areas with beanbags which were a huge drawcard for our group, although it was some-what a struggle to pull myself  out of them a few times – comfort level was about a 10!

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We managed to catch most of Oliver Helden’s set in the arena and having not seen him play live before was not only incredible  but a very impressive way to stipulate my high expectations for the week ahead. He played so many classics, I just couldn’t stop dancing with a huge big grin on my face.

Its rare to find any top DJ pumping out so many old school tunes in one set. Loved every minute of it!! Hungarian duo, Muzzaik came on after and even though I had never heard of them before, they were equally as admirable and good enough to keep me going until about 4am. Early night of course 🙂

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As to be expected, I was feeling a little rusty around the edges the following Thursday morning. All I can say is, praise the lord for booking a hotel. Meanwhile, our poor friends were cooking back at the campsite and had barely slept a wink with the heat of their tent… but one things for sure, at least with this type of festival you have the luxury of sleeping beside a gorgeous clean lake, even if that means walking 20 metres to the more peaceful areas to keep away from the music.

We made use of the pool for most of the day, catching some rays and licking our way through ice creams! Definitely a perfect way to get rid of a nasty hangover, so once that was been and gone it was back to the festival for round 2.

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We thought it would probably be good idea to spend some time in the VIP area, since we did pay the extra to have the privilege, it made total sense to take advantage of it wherever possbile. Charlotte and I started on the vino and just in time for US DJ KSHMR’s set. I started to see a number of people flowing by the droves into the gates and running over to the main stage in a scurry, so I had a feeling it was not going to be a disappointing set especially when he belted out his top 1o track Secrets! The atmosphere literally changed within seconds and it even had me up off my chair bopping away (or maybe that was the wine starting to kick in). Later on into the night, Don Diablo and Nervo played their sets and sadly, I weakened and had to go back to the hotel for some shut eye… I’m afraid this is a sign of getting old kiddlies!

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Friday I woke up with a spring in my step. It really is quite astonishing how good you feel after after a well rested sleep, almost like a new person but whats even more funnier, is that I’ll no doubt go and do this all over again and basically never learn my lesson.

Which is exactly what happened….

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After another day of tanning by the pool (someone has to do it) I was revitalised, pumped and ready for another raving session. Also uber excited as the Trance lads were headlining aka Ferry Corsten,Paul Van Dyk and Aly & Fila. Again, all the legends were playing in the Telekom arena and I was so ready.

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To start the Friday evening off, Charlotte and I met with the rest of our friends for drinks just outside the festival area at a wicked shack looking bar and purely for a change of scenery. I loaded up on energy drinks which is a complete no no for someone with caffeine sensitivities and definitely not recommend but I needed the extra energy to last the night away and this was my only opinion. We headed straight for the long white cloud.. I mean tent and just in time for Mr Corsten’s set, which kicked off the balmy night with a mixture of uplifting & hard trance tunes.

Everyone was undoubtably looking forward to PVD’s set, only recently returning to the stage after his horrific fall, it was hard to know just what to expect but of course, it was completely flawless (as I had imagined). I don’t think I’ve danced that hard in quite sometime but with the laser lights beaming in all directions and the tunes banging,  the energy in the arena was really indescribable, I just knew I was going to be an early morning finish with atmosphere being so intense.

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Come Saturday lunchtime when I decided it would be an appropriate time to arise, I was feeling a little under the weather, drained and no where near on form but the beauty of being at a music festival means that you truly aren’t alone with these hideous feelings of wanting to curl up and die. Fortunately for me, I miraculously managed to bounce back come late evening as there was no way I was missing my very last night, even if it was for just a few hours – it was time to suck it up.

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Armin Van Buuren was the headliner for Saturday and as you would have guessed, it was completely rammed. A contrast to Wednesday and obviously one of the most popular nights out of the week, the vibe was buzzing and although AVB belted out a number of very commercial tracks, I surprisingly got into it and found myself dancing around with the last bit of energy I had – I think this is called second wind HA.

Meanwhile my crazy friend Jon decided that it was a good opportunity to have a go on the bungy jump directly next to the stage. He then later tells me, that it was very relaxing. No thanks.

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I forgot to mention that around 10pm every night, they set off spectacular fireworks to mark the closing of the main stage and these lasted for a good 5mins every time. Nice little touch don’t you think 😉

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Sunday morning, I was feeling 80% with it and after our last hearty breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and headed back to the festival to soak up the sun for the last few hours before having to catch a train and flight back to London. We could have had the option of staying until It finished on Monday morning but it was time to go home, back to work and face reality. Which I wasn’t ready for AT ALL!

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Balaton is probably one of the best and most promising music festivals I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of. Anyone that is looking to venture overseas next year and is wanting an experience which incorporates the glorious sounds of music as well as basking in some breathtaking scenery should add this to their list because if I could do it again, I would do so in a heartbeat!

 

Photo credit – Jon Self photography

https://www.facebook.com/jonselfphotography/

Italiano brunch weekends @ Theo’s Simple Italian

Who would have thought, that somewhere in the depths of Earls Court would be a Rustic Italian restaurant (located at the Hotel Indigo) associated with the well respected British chef, Mr. Theo Randall, also well known for his restaurant residency at the Intercontinental in Park Lane and his 17 mammoth years at Hammersmith’s, Riverside Cafe.

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When I was invited along to come along and preview the newly created weekend brunch menu with a group of other bloggers, I was beyond ecstatic. I know this is going to sound cheesy but its not everyday you have the opportunity of viewing a pasta masterclass (ravioli con cime di rapa to be precise) by the chef himself and on top being able catch up with plenty of blogger friends that I hadn’t seen in such a long time. Brilliant.

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The restaurants decor is certainly one to speak highly of, with beautiful open bay windows, leather booths, retro black and white floor tiling with funky chandeliers, make it a welcoming place for all the avid foodie or a nice family dinner. 

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With the masterclass, Theo was very clear and concise about the way to create ravioli using an Italian Imperial cutter machine (which is his fav I believe) and by quickly running it through, over and over again, then rolling it out until it was  thinner, elastic and had a texture very similar to that of play dough. He demonstrated on how to cut the ricotta filled ravioli into nice square yellow parcels and it was so obvious to see just how passionate he was when it comes to Italian cooking – he made it look so simple!

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After the glasses of bubbly were given out around the room, we were invited to sit down and enjoy the anticipated 4 courses on offer and by this point I was famished and ready to go in hard.

The menu was designed with sharing in mind, which I find it generates a social atmosphere amongst the dinner table, whether it be with friends or family I always believe this way is far more preferable for interaction.

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First out to the table was the alumi Mista e Burratina. a plate of deep red displayed Bresaola del Piemonte, Salame Napoli, Finocchiona Fiorentina, Speck del Piemonte and centred with delicate, fresh Burratina Pugliese. Served with rocket, roasted tomatoes and warm, salty focaccia bread. All a winning combo and undoubtably something you could just find yourself scoffing all day long.

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Next we had the Ravioli di Ricotta e Erbette which as spoken about earlier, is ricotta cheese wrapped in ravioli parcels. This dish was precision plus – cooked to al dente and nicely flavoured on the palate. Also bought out was the Pappardelle with Beef Ragout which took my fancy but as I am a big lover of all things cheese and without sounding too biased, the ricotta filling for me is always a winner. 

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Next on the agenda was the Taglierini Pescatore. This is a dish to appreciate if you love seafood and like me I am a massive fan of any dish bursting with gorgeous shellfish and especially if it is mixed with a light tomato, garlic based sauce. (Something I tend to favour over the rich and creamy)

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And just before I thought to myself, there surely cant be more.. well there was! 

 

Moving away from the pasta theme and out came the Tagliata di Manzo – a layered dish of chargrilled Bavette beef, cooked medium rare with borlotti beans and finished off with rocket and roasted tomatoes. I’m not the greatest fan of beans in a dish (unless it’s edamame) but the beef was so succulent, which had my golden seal of approval. 

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Lucky last was the Sea Bream with Grilled Vegetables. I. Love. Fish. I include it in my diet almost everyday. And why wouldn’t you. It’s not only low on calories but its full of vitamins, iron and calcium. This dish felt like it was prepared straight from the family home in Italy and was plated with loads of mediterranean yumminess – no complaints about that one! 

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At the last quarter of the brunch it was time for Dolci (Sweet and Luscious) and of course, one must not leave the table until desserts are consumed. 

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Plates of tiramisu, sultana cake with drooped pears and soft chocolate cake (with vanilla gelato) were placed around the table for everyone to share and taste. I certainly had a soft spot for the choccy cake and almost had the whole slice to myself (I’m hoping know one was paying attention to me being such a scoff bag!). 

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So intrigued to know how much all of this costs? Would you be surprised if said for a cool £35.00?! This includes a glass of prosecco thrown in there as well. Absolute steal to the amount of food consumed. 

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It was really great to be a part of such a special afternoon and I would like to especially thank Theo for being ever so kind to invite us into his restaurant, as well as being so humble and to happily share his knowledge of cooking with us – it was a real treat! 

Address: 34-44 Barkston Gardens, Kensington, London SW5 0EW

B2B – Budapest/Balaton Part 1

FACT.

I am a massive fan of Budapest, having travelled there once before, I have a very soft spot for the city known for its hot baths, ruin bars, culinary scene and of course its fascinating history.

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Little did I know, that about 130 kilometres away was a picture perfect Lake centred in the middle of Hungary called Balaton, in which I’m advised, has been a popular destination for holiday makers over Europe to frequent this hot spot during the summer months.

It is also host to a music festival every July that runs for 5 days called Balaton Sound which I will be talking a lot of on the second part of this post. On top of this, Budapest also have a festival of their own which is held on 108 hectare island in the middle of the river called Sziget. This runs for slightly longer and is one of the biggest festivals in Europe so if you’re looking to go overseas, this would be my top preference. 

With all these facts in mind, it seemed crazy to pass on such an amazing location and at such a reasonable price. You see the decision was between that and Glasto and after weighing up the options, all arrows were pointing to a European festival excursion. A holiday and a festival in one is definitely the way forward and who can trust the English weather anyway. 

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I decided to go all out and book myself in business class (Club Europe class) on a BA flight and because I was doing this journey alone, I thought, why the hell not. The BA lounge at Heathrow was stock standard. It didn’t wow me but it was equipped with all the essentials. Examples would be the house wines, beer and spirits, newspapers to magazines and light food to keep your appetite at bay.

On the plane, it was a totally different story. Most people will say it is a waste of time travelling business class on a short haul flight but on this occasion I would strongly oppose plus its always nice to go all out, especially if you are going to do it as a solo ranger. 

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I had a very welcoming air hostess who bought me a few too many bottles of French champagne (yes this is another reason to upgrade) and her exceptional service really shone through. I can always tell when people are being genuine and truly love what they do – its just so obvious in my opinion. The food was also an improvement and so much of it this time around. I had a selection of fish with vegetables, cheese and chutneys, dessert with crackers and a fresh selection of bread rolls. Had to say, I was not expecting to be fed so much and with the extra champagne to take away in my bag, I was one happy little customer!!

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Once I had arrived in Budapest, it was baking hot so the quickest option to get across town was to catch an Uber over to my Airbnb apartment which was located right in the heart of the city. I had friends (who had already arrived) eagerly waiting for me so we could all go and hit a few of the famous ruin bars that this city is widely known for.

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One of my favourites is Szimpla Kert which is head to toe in vintage decor, has its own garden, market and live music. Inside it was completely rammed and although there was no music being pumped, the atmosphere certainly made up for it.

As did the wacky decor. 

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The following day it did take a little while to spring out of bed but who needs to get up early when you’re on holiday. Not this one! Since I had already been to Budapest before, I was pretty relaxed on the sightseeing part and really only interested in finding places to eat and cocktails to drink (only being upfront here!). Besides, we were in a prime spot within walking distance to a gazillion and one places so the choice was absolutely endless!

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There was one bar in particular that I had been recommended to visit which was called the 360 bar and boy these views well and truly lived up to the name. Although I was trying not to melt from the heat, it didn’t stop me from sitting directly in the sun and then opting for some shelter a little later on in the day.

My friends Jon and Charlotte also joined me for what seemed like a well deserved relaxing afternoon, basking in the sunshine while sipping on wine and fruity cocktails. The ultimate spot that provides views for days and a place you must go if you love to be snap happy. 

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That evening I wanted to roam around the cobbled streets and find a low key restaurant serving Hungarian wine and some tasty traditional schnitzel. The Red bistro had just that including welcome shots and some interesting murals on view! I was super keen to check out at least one more ruin bar before calling it a night and after wandering around we stumbled across a place called Kuplung which was a former repair shop – completely random I know, but the popularity of these bars is astounding. You are doing well to get a seat or even a table for that matter….and what I absolutely dig about this place as you can be walking for hours around these historical little streets and you wont even feel like you are lost in the slightest! 

Jolly good. 

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Early Wednesday morning, we decided to mission it across to one of the most delightful breakfast spots in Budapest called Villa Bagatelle. They have a bakery which is located on the ground floor and you have the option of eating in the lush garden or the restaurant which they have upstairs. A bit of an obscure location however a tremendous way to kick off a very invigorating day, travelling over to the Lake and experiencing a 5 day European festival. Oh yes oh yes.

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Although this time around it was a brief ‘in and out’ trip ‘, my love for Budapest never changes. A city that is straight forward, unique and so cosmopolitan – it always keeps me coming back for more! 

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