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! 

View 94 – Riverside.

As Putney is an area I like to call ‘my side of town’ it seemed most appropriate to say yes to a review of View 94 and their brand spanking new autumn menu…. located on a very tranquil spot of the jetty, at Wandsworth riverside Quarter pier.

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Rewinding back about 8 months ago, one chilly Sunday morning, I was strolling past and spotted what I thought was a new restaurant and remember peeping into the windows for a nosey and thinking, this place actually looks pretty alright, I must make a point of keeping a look out for when it is all finalised – I’m oh so keen to check it out.

So there you go – it finally happened. 

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The restaurant is divided into two different areas. Firstly you will step inside the lounge bar with ceiling glass doors, exposing plenty of natural sun light. The large bi-folding doors are opened during the summer months, with the option of having heaters on and blankets supplied during the more chillier times if you dare to dine outdoors.  The bar itself serves a whole range of wines, cocktails and beers and while I sipped away on my lime caprioska cocktail, I got a really good sense of the place and an overall relaxed vibe to it. 

………..Which of course is just what you want after a hard day of work! 

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After all the peeps had arrived, we were ushered up the spiraling staircase, to the top level where we were greeted by polished timber floors, a sprawling open plan floor and wrap around windows displaying panoramic views of the Thames and adjacent leafy Hurlingham Park.

The space had a lovely fresh feeling to it – just like being near the seaside! 

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The menu for the evening was a choice of three delightful courses from the a la carte menu and I will quickly mention that there is also a tasting course option if you;re feeling extra hungry.  Antonio Sanzone, who is the award winning mastermind behind all the dishes incorporates his Italian roots and I’m told that every dish has a story behind it. If I could describe the menu, it would be a mixed fusion of modern European cuisines. 

Right, tets tuck in!

So firstly the red and white wines were poured around the table and what I must add here is that almost all of the wines on the premises were entirely organic, biodynamic and hand-selected by the lovely Maitre D’ Cristiano Morini. Well done on that front. 

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An apéritif of Antoni’s take on ‘fish & chips’ was served up first and accompanied with a very flavoured mushy pea and mint foam on a crystal blue coloured plate which seemed rather fitting with the theme. And basically what I was eating was a batter of chips covered in scrumptious batter (yes looks can be very deceiving) which was down the hatch in a matter of seconds. Goodo.

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My dish of choice and no surprises here at all – the beef tartare with cured egg yolk and centred in a delicate Reggiano crown, was slightly different to the traditional tartare but I am always always up for trying experimental dishes. Life would be ridiculously boring if you didn’t! 

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For the main, it was all eyes on the lobster moka risotto with spring onion puree and finished off with a drizzling of shellfish cappuccino in a cute miniature coffee cup blender. Now me being extremely caffeine sensitive and all, I did have a mild moment of panic but I was rest assured that it was more the flavours described than the actual strength of it. Again another avant-garde dish, which I loved because I could really see how much effort and passion had been used to create something that was really significant to the chef. 

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Finishing off with the desserts, I decided to go for something I wouldn’t otherwise choose and that was the mince pie with pear with cinnamon sorbet and a unique Jamaican rum scent. Sounds rather festive doesn’t it and might I add, completely lush and very presentation plus! 

Not only was this dish a stand out for me, the plate it was displayed on was actually quite amazing and the Jamaican scent was rather extraordinary and nothing quite like I had seen before. It was in an actual perfume bottle and with a few quick sprays, the cameras were clicking as we were all pretty impressed with the creativity behind this one. 

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All I can say is that I’m definitely lucky enough to have experienced a tip top evening such as this, filled with fresh, original dishes, gorgeous first class surroundings and lastly, some terrific company.  

Anyway the photo evidence is clear, so you be the judge. 🙂

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Riverside Quarter Pier, Prospect Quay, 94 Point Pleasant, London SW18 1PP

Bookings: 020 8425 9870

www.view94.com

Brunching at Bronte – new kid on the block!

Introducing……

Bronte, located on the Strand, is a hop, skip and a jump from the very famous landmark known as Trafalgar Square and right in the heart and soul of the city. Only recently opened, its pacific style menu and beautiful interior decor by British designer, Tom Dixon, quickly drew my attention and I was most thrilled about having the chance to review their eye catching brunch menu. 

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I invited my friend Emma along, who is a fellow foodie, born and bread Australian and knows a good thing when she’s seen one (hence why I asked her to join me). And without sounding too obvious here, this was reviewed on a Saturday since brunch is purely designed for the weekends.. but hey its good to point these things out in the beginning.  

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When I first arrived to the restaurant, my first impression went a bit like “wow wee, this is very upscale” followed by a lot of gazing… lets just say it was most pleasing to the eye.

The interior was 100 % me all over. With pretty pale pinks, deep forest green leather booths, custom made chairs of tweed and valiant lighting, it almost was a little on the retro side and channelling the 1970’s look if you like. 

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On top of this, it’s a very sizeable venue ,that seats up to 250 people. This includes the outdoor covered in patio, the front chic cocktail bar and the downstairs which is where we were seated. (and also has another long bar). There is even room upstairs which can be hired out for private events. 

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Now on to the best part – the menu! I was ready to eat a horse at this point so being able to squeeze a couple of dishes in was looking pretty realistic. 

One thing to notice about this menu is that there are a fair few items that have a lot of healthy elements to them. For example, I order the chia and quinoa porridge – big fan of both of these ingredients and with the berry compote on top, followed by a dash of almond milk, it was so much better than I had imagined. I dont mind porridge but it can be very dull and stodgy, unless of course you get creative with it. I’d have to say that this was a cracker. I loved every mouth full and it was extremely filling plus very healthy on the hips. (I probably didn’t need that second dish)

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They also have a very fine looking smoothie and juice menu and since I was being a good little girl, I was keen to try something non-alcoholic, with nutritional benefits, so the Kiki Ping was chosen (love the name). 

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Accompanied with that, was the banana French toast. THIS. WAS. MIND BLOWING. Have you ever had thick slices of banana loaf, topped with sugar cured bacon, ginger jam, rhubarb and greek yoghurt?! I didn’t think so 🙂 I actually cant even describe just how scrumptious this really was. In fact my pictures don’t do it any justice. We are definitely talking top 10 here. 

Emma went for a slightly different taste on the palate –  savoury and perhaps more traditional for a brunch. 

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Opting for the smashed avocado, creamy poached eggs with wilted baby spinach, heritage tommies on crusty sourdough; she told me that everything on the plate was perfectly cooked and would be an extremely likeable dish for most. 

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I was fairly intrigued with the truffled wild mushroom which was dressed in white miso and and plated with some more sourdough bread. Definitely moorish in my opinion, but you cant really go wrong when it comes to truffles. The strong intense flavours are just so enticing, its a bit like my love for chilli. I just don’t know how I could cook without it! Or is that life without it…

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Feeling ridiculously full to the brim, the only thing I could possibly fit in was a flat white coffee, while sitting back and realising just how pleasant that experience really was. 

 

 

 

Now before I go, you’re probably thinking that this place sounds mega pricey but you would actually be very wrong. The prices are seriously so reasonable and equally justifiable to the quality of every dish. Head Chef Andrew Lassetter has done an outstanding job creating a wholesome yet creative menu and for that, I would willingly come back here and eat again. 

 

Bronte – gladly serving you for Brunch, Lunch, Dinner & Cocktails

 

 

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The Grand Building
1–3 Strand

London, WC2N 5EJ

020 7930 8855

A rather ravishing rosé evening @ Franco’s

 

Well, you couldn’t have picked a more sweltering evening to do some wine tasting even if you tried! Especially when it involves a glass or five of rosé – the perfect summer go to drink!

How nicely timed 🙂

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The event was held in the lower downstairs mirror room at Franco’s, which is a high end Italian restaurant located in Jermyn Street and only a few streets shy of the Ritz and the flashing lights of Piccadilly Circus. I am yet to try out their menu, which I hear is superb but until then, let us start off with the lovely pink liquid. 

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Greeted with the usual bubbles and a smiling face from the Golden Network lady herself, Victoria Salem, the room quickly filled with up to 50 professionals and after a welcome introduction from the manager, it was onto the most important bit of the night – wine sipping of course! 

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The room was dotted with crystal clean white clothed tables and large ice buckets filled with bottles of over 15 different wines. We were also given a booklet for a bit of light reading and me trying to take it oh so seriously, whipped out the pen and began to make my way around the beautiful swirls of pink that had taken over the room. 

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Now, when it comes to wine, I prefer it fruity with a touch of sweetness. Ive never been into the dry or oaky-ness of a chardonnay, perhaps thats the kiwi in me but I’ve always favoured a Sav Blanc to anything else.

This applies to rosé wine.

The growing popularity of the wine has really shown over the past few years and I only really became a massive fan after discovering and trying a number of Croatian wines back in 2013. Now its safe to say – I’m hooked! 

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Im not sure what it is about rosé wine, but it just pairs so divinely with fresh bowl of seafood or even a pasta and a chicken dish. Its very easy on the palate which in some instances can be a little dangerous, but so fitting over the summer months – I just cant get enough of it. 

 

So because of my particular tastes, I only got around to trying about 6 wines before deciding what was my favourite of the night. Surprisingly this was the 2015 Rosa di Rosa from Piedmont, Italy. Absolutely perfect on the palate and so much so, I just had to ask for a second glass. 

Others that were a standout for me were – 

Rosato, Castello di Ana from Tuscany, Italy  

Rosado Finca Nueva from Rioja, Spain

I decided to get out of my comfort zone for about 5 minutes and attempt the Rose kenton from Devon and since it was a local wine, I thought I had the obligation to do so.  Unfortunately my opinion should not be taken into account as I just cant seem to enjoy a dry wine. But I tried and that’s what counts. 

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www.francoslondon.com

www.thegoldennetwork.co.uk

Another huge thanks to the Golden Network for giving me the opportunity to come along to a very special event and one that I was looking forward to for months! Also the awesome staff at Franco’s – super friendly and on the ball. 

 

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Bunga Bunga Birthday bash & club launch!

Bunga Bunga = crazy, wacky, obscene, loud, intense, bonkers… SO MUCH FUN!

There isn’t a place quite like it. Well, in London we all know there are a number of quirky spots hidden around town but when it comes to the Inception groups venues, plenty of thought and imagine HAS been spared.

Bunga Bunga was launched in 2011 by dynamic duo Duncan Stirling and Charlie Gilkes. Deriving its name from Italy’s most titillating joke, this tongue-in-cheek bar and pizzeria serves authentic cocktails and cuisine in a vibrant space dedicated to Italy’s finest icons.

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Circle 5 years later and taking over the two top floors of the venue, you now have Club Bunga.  Inspired by the glamour of old school Italy it features the statue of David drinking vessels, large Roman statues, inscribed wall murals and decked out in the iconic bright stripes in true Italian style.

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On Thursday 8th September, I was I was invited to come along to the club launch and birthday extravaganza and boy oh boy I did not walk away disappointed! 

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I invited my boyfriend and my friend, Charlotte, knowing fully well that they would be up for lets say, a night not for the faint hearted 🙂 As we entered, we were greeted with two types of cocktails – From Italy with love and Martini Sbagliato plus of course, loads of flowing prosecco. Placed around the floors were buckets of Peroni, a prosciutto carving station (which BTW was incredible!) and the biggest block of parmesan cheese cut into little pieces and covered in mini Italian flags. Lovely.

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The place was absolutely rammed, my guess it was mostly locals from Chelsea and Battersea, and the usual press followed by a handful of celebrities. Which by the way have frequented this place on a number of occasions, including fellow Gold Coaster and beauty Margot Robbie and Prince party Harry.

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Bunga’s signature canapés were served downstairs throughout the evening and included the traditional bruschetta, mini pizzas and these delicious fried cheese filled balls which I had to gently remove myself away from (post holiday diet not going so well).

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Upstairs, we were intrigued to check out the L’Osservatorio (thats a conservatory if you’re English) which had the Peroni cocktail making masterclass going on being by Bunga’s leading bar tenders. Of course, we wanted in and managed to squeeze in the last spot of the evening. I always enjoy a cocktail class and if there is something I have learned, it is to always listen and follow the instructions put in front of you…well you would think that this would be easy enough to follow for most but there is always one in the group that likes to break the rules (Nick Coles) 🙂

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After a fairly useless attempt at making two cocktails, we stumbled across a a very old school photo booth hidden to the right of the top of the stairs and adjacent to the club, which was heaving with party goers. I wasn’t too keen to try my luck and push my way in, so we decided to head back downstairs to the prosecco bar to order another round of drinks and watch a singing nun strip down to something rather erotic (I told you this place wasn’t for the faint hearted). 

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We ordered one of my favourite poisons – the pornstar martini and finally found a place to perch while appreciating the light entertainment and crazy vibe surrounding us…..

And if that wasn’t enough for us, we decided to explore the restaurant downstairs again and the first thing I notice is a flamboyant drag queen singing karaoke on stage, followed by dozens of sparklers carried by the waitstaff, a huge birthday cake and wave of confetti which covered the flare tenders dancing on the bar in their blue and white stripped attire. 

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Madness I tell you!! 

Anyway for those who are up for a damn good night out or even if you love your brunches or foot long pizzas (worth mentioning as they are exceptional), then this vibrant Italian pizzeria has your name written all over it. 

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37 Battersea Bridge Road, SW11 3BA

Tel: 020 7095 0360

Club Bunga

Summer-time Supper club @ Fabulous698B

It’s Supper time…..!

I don’t know about you, but the idea of being invited into someones home to dine with complete strangers does sounds a little on the extravagant side of things…

Well yes and no. You see, this craze is hardly old news, in fact, supper clubs have been happening since I first arrived in London many years ago and the opportunity of experiencing it first hand at a brunch club which was organised through a friend in Dalston about 4 years ago, was actually far better than I had anticipated.

When the lovely people at Tabl asked me to review a recommendation of theirs called the Fabulous698B, it was a big fat yes all the way from me.

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Maja Pauling & Guillaume Jounoe are the creative masterminds behind this adorable supper club and with a vision to eventually turn it into a full time restaurant, I don’t think they are far off reaching this goal. 

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The location of the ‘Summer time’ taster course was located in the heart of the city, in a funky little pop up restaurant called the Patio. Funnily enough it happened to be smack bang in the middle of a bowling green and being a saturday evening in Bank meant it was typically quiet (apart from a few getting boozy and deciding to roll around on it) . I really do appreciate randomness. 

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Maja was very welcoming and once everyone had taken their seats, she guided us through the menu for the evening and I was very eager to see what was in store for us. I bought my boyfriend along with me but the beauty about these types of meet ups is that you do have the option of coming on your own – its very social and normally everyone speaks about food, which we all know is the best topic of conversation!

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The table was decked out in gorgeous blooms which boded well with the summer theme of the evening. We were also greeted with a PIMMS cocktail, before being served the amuse bouche – beautifully presented duck and smoked salmon.

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Starting from the top and working our way down the lush-worthy menu, up first was the Watermelon seeds, fresh cheese and basil. The plate was laid with some of the most delicate ingredients including mini watermelons that tasted like cucumbers. It was almost like being back at the Fat Duck again and being so confused about how things tasted but looked actually looked the complete opposite of what we were eating…. It really is the peculiar feeling. 

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Next up was the line caught cod, peas, bean and lemon. I actually removed myself from the table to observe the plate preparation and to see just how much work goes into preparing so many dishes in the one go. Its rather fascinating as well as being exhausting to watch.

I think I will stick to reviewing thanks 🙂  

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The dish itself was an array of beautiful shades of green and reminding me off a leafy garden in the countryside. The fish, was cooked to perfection and very light on the stomach which is what we prefer to enjoy over the summer months! 

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The third dish was slightly heavier (but I promise was as equally delicious) and consisted of Spring lamb, ratatouille, delectable juicy tomatoes and with a sprinkling of baby mint leaf. Honestly, whatever they put in that sauce was next level. Please don’t ever amend, adjust, nothing!!  Absolute perfection paired with the lamb 🙂

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And last but not least (and the most exciting part of every dinner) the more than 

Cherry bakewell tart!

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For me it was more like a theatrical performance! After sitting around and letting the food go down, the suspense was driving me crazy but then, all of a sudden the music came on and out came the trolley of goodies. I knew at that point, we were in for a real treat!

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The table was covered head to toe with whipped cream, an assortment of berries, burnt caramel, peaches, almond sponge cake, chocolate mousse, teacups filled with PIMMS, dazzling sparklers and the rest that I can barely remember due to being so wrapped up in the moment!

It was all rather dramatic and overwhelming… but in a good way of course.

 

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So there you go. Another awesome supper club to tick off the list (and a fabulous one at that!) To put into a few simple words, I would say its very stupendous, honest fun, with quality elements and so much individuality. I really could go on for days here otherwise!

ALSO, its BYO with no corkage fee – now you can’t argue with that. 

For more info and upcoming events you can check out their Facebook page – 

*** www.facebook.com/fabulous698b/ *** 

Smashing work guys! 

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