Friday, 2 November 2018

Afternoon Tea at Corinthia Hotel, London

My experience was gifted by Hotels. com, but all views are my own.


One of my favourite things about living in London is afternoon tea. There is something deliciously indulgent about spending an entire afternoon nibbling on little finger sandwiches, scones and cakes while sipping a beautiful tea. And last Sunday, I did just that at Corinthia Hotel, one of the most beautiful hotels in Westminster.

The setting

Situated in Westminster, Corinthia Hotel is just a hop and a skip away from Trafalgar Square and Embankment. The Afternoon Tea is held in the aptly-named Crystal Moon Lounge, complete with an exquisite Baccarat chandelier illuminating the room. The atmosphere feels chilled and intimate. I loved the mellow music being played on a Steinway piano.

The Tea

As a non-coffee drinker, I feel like I'm somewhat of a tea connoisseur so I was pleased to see an extensive tea menu, ranging from exclusive blends and classic black teas through to green and white teas. I opted for the Formosa oolong, which has a rich flavour and a soft orchid scent.

The Sandwiches

Although I have a huge sweet tooth, I absolutely adore the savoury segment of afternoon tea. There is something incredibly British about cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off! Alongside cucumber, radish and cream cheese and the egg mayo with truffle and watercress, alongside two additional vegetarian sandwiches especially for me.

The Sweets

Next up were the scones. Both plain and sultana scones were served in smart, white boxes to keep them toasty warm. They were accompanied by Cornish clotted cream, strawberry jam and rhubarb and tonka bean jam, which had a delicate cinnamon flavour.

Just as I was starting to feel a little full, a stunning antique champagne trolley pulled up to our table, laden with the prettiest pastries and cakes. I felt it was my duty to try as many as possible, my favourites were the lemon yuzu and coconut eclair and the 72% Araguani chocolate cassis & fig pot. Oh and the lemon drizzle cake. And the raspberry and elderflower tartlet. Ok, fine, it was all delicious!

The Verdict

This is definitely one of my favourite afternoon teas in London. The Crystal Moon Lounge is the perfect spot to while away a couple of hours underneath a twinkling Baccarat chandelier, feasting on a delectable spread.


The afternoon tea at Corinthia Hotel is priced at £45 per person (or £55 with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Brut Champagne, and £65 with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Rosé Champagne). 
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Monday, 25 September 2017

The Perfect London Weekend

London blogger Reena Rai enjoying a Hojicha latte at Kova Patisserie in Soho

Last weekend was glorious. After spending the previous weekend missing the shows and recuperating at home, I was itching to get out and make the most of living in London. The FOMO was real! In a city like London, there are new restaurant openings, events, exhibitions and parties every single night and it can feel like you're missing out. I don't regret prioritising my needs and self-care but I always feel a little guilty for hibernating for a weekend. I'm so fortunate to live in a brilliant, culturally-rich city I really ought to make the most of it. The challenge is to do this while having enough downtime to remain sane! 

This weekend, I found the middle ground between enjoying the city and prioritising my health. I had a lowkey weekend of exploring the city as well as making sure I had enough time to rest; it was the perfect balance of doing things and doing nothing. Admittedly, one of the reasons I wanted to have a more active weekend was a rather large delivery from the team at LOTD, there's nothing like a mini wardrobe update to get you out of the house! I wanted to share my weekend and wardrobe with you in a post that feels like a throwback to blogging in back in 2011 - less editorial shoots and more candid snaps.    


Friday


On Friday, I headed to the Barbican for the newly opened Basquiat retrospective, Boom for Real. It's the largest exhibition celebrating the famed artist's life and work in the UK - which seems insane considering Basquiat's influence across the arts. The vast exhibition spanned two floors and was brilliantly curated, covering Basquiat's early work as part of SAMO to his friendship with Andy Warhol and personal journals. It was brilliantly curated, giving a real in-depth look into Basquiat's work as well as his life and creative process. 



Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition at The Barbican

After the exhibition, I headed to one of my favourite low-key bars in London, The Gilbert Scott at the St Pancras Renaissance hotel. The grand, ornate bar was restored to its gothic glory after years of neglect. From the grand pillars, gilt detailing and huge windows, it's a beautiful space. The best part is it's often quiet, so no queues or shouting at your companion to be heard. It's a place for intimate conversations and whispered secrets, washed down with expertly mixed cocktails and a side of triple cooked chips or truffle mac 'n' cheese. 

Fashion blogger Reena Rai on the Spice Girls staircase at St Pancras Renaissance hotel

Army jacket - vintage
Jumper dress - LOTD
Boots - ASOS

Saturday


I eased into Saturday with a lie in, Ashtanga yoga and breakfast in bed. Is there any better way to spend your morning?! After this, I hopped over to Soho to explore one of my favourite areas of the city. Soho is ever-changing thanks to the omnipresent threat of gentrification in London. It's a little different every time I head over there, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.



Matcha millecrepes at Kova Patisserie in Soho

One of my favourite new entrants to the Soho scene is Kova Patisserie, a Japanese patisserie just off Wardour Street. They have an excellent selection of Japanese tea, from hoji cha to genmai cha, but the real reason I visit so often is the incredible Mille crepes. French for "thousand crepe cake", Kova's version has multiple layers of crepes with a light custard cream - matcha, chocolate, vanilla or coconut flavour - in between each layer. They are utterly irresistible and the perfect pick-me-up or treat. 


Fashion Blogger Reena Rai wearing Zara and Mango in Soho


Jumper dress - Zara
Sequin skirt - Zara (similar)
Silver boots - LOTD
Houndstooth coat - Mango (similar)

Sunday


Sunday is usually a day for editing and writing for me. I also managed to squeeze in a nap and pour over the Basquiat book I picked up at the Barbican on Friday night. Blissful. 



Jean-Michel Basquiat book

*Sponsored*
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Sunday, 23 October 2016

Phobophobia at the London Bridge Experience

 
There are two types of people in the world: those who absolutely love Halloween and those who are completely indifferent. I’m team captain of the former; Halloween is one of my favourite holidays of the year. As much as I love Christmas it always comes with so much pressure, from agonising over what presents to buy to being totally partied out by the time the big day actually arrives. Halloween is full of festive merriment but without the expectations. It’s all just fun parties, cute outfits and scary movies. What’s not to love?
 
This year, as Halloween falls on a Monday, I’m planning a bumper celebration of scary film screenings and fun nights out to get dressed up. Much like Christmas, Halloween can be exactly what you want it to be. I love the opportunity to get dressed up so I like having one night out but I’m also a huge horror movie fanatic so I love all the spooky film screenings too. There are also tons of attractions and events going on too, from London Dungeons to the Ghost Tours.
 
Being such a huge Halloween fan, I was absolutely thrilled when Attraction Tix recently got in touch to ask if I wanted to preview the new Halloween experience at the London Tombs. Despite going to London Dungeons about half a dozen times (and being pretty underwhelmed by the scare factor), I have never been to London Tombs so this was the perfect opportunity to check it out. London Tombs is located at London Bridge too, practically across the road from London Dungeons but unlike the tame dungeons it has a reputation for being super scary – it’s been voted the UK’s scariest attraction for the 8th year running!
 
Each year, London Tombs holds their annual adults-only Phobophobia event. The 10-day fear-provoking extravaganza sees the Tombs transformed into a brand new themed house of horrors. This year, the theme is The Nightmare of the Ventriloquist, think crazed ventriloquist maniac and tons of very freaky puppets and dolls. It sounded horrific, in the best way possible!
 
On Tuesday, I popped down to the Tombs for what promised to be a terrifying night of frights. The night started with the obligatory drinks and nibbles…and some snakes! Real live snakes. The closest I’ve come to a snake is wearing them on my feet and while I’m not scared of snakes, I was a little hesitant to get up close with one. After some prompting by Sherin, my date for the night, I picked up a baby snake and…it wasn’t that bad! After another glass of wine, I plucked up the courage to handle the largest snake. I feel like I’m a pro now!
 
The actual experience was petrifying. We started off with an introduction with the ventriloquist, complete with blood-splattered apron and studio with body parts strewn everywhere. We then had to make our way through a scary maze-like route starting with disorientating strobe-lit rooms and mannequins who may or may not be alive. As you progress deeper into the depths of the ventriloquist’s lair, the shadows get darker and the discarded marionettes get more and more twisted. For the last stretch, our group was advised to hold onto the shoulders of the person in front as we weaved our way through the house of horrors. I screamed so much I practically lost my voice.
 
As a huge Halloween lover, I had an absolute ball! It was genuinely terrifying and I was secretly glad to have someone to hold onto for the latter stretch! I thoroughly recommend it to everyone except the most sensitive of souls; you’re guaranteed to have a horrific time in the best way possible! Just make sure you take someone you’re comfortable cosying up with!
 
Thanks to the team at Attraction Tix for an incredible evening. To book tickets, please visit the Attraction Tix website and save up to 73% compared to booking directly.  
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Thursday, 16 June 2016

Taste of London 2016


As a Londoner and a foodie, I’m ashamed to admit that I have never been to Taste of London. The first Taste festival took place back in 2004 and since then, it’s gone from Somerset House to Regent’s Park and grown into one of the highlights of the foodie calendar along the way. For the last 3 or 4 years, it’s been a must-visit so it’s pretty poor form that I haven’t found an excuse to head down. This year I righted that wrong and had the time of my life so I wanted to share my experience.
 
Taste of London is kind of like a festival. Except it’s a celebration of the finest food London has to offer rather than music and the inevitable mud. This year, over 40 of London’s finest restaurants are taking part, including Duck & Waffle, Roka and Cinnamon Club. There is also a huge gourmet food market, interactive masterclasses, events and activities. Sounds like a dream.


 
I visited Taste on Wednesday armed with a list and a ton of recommendations...well with that much food available, I had to be prepared! We eased into the evening at the Laurent-Perrier Club House with a glass of champagne to devise a plan of action in pretty boutique chalet decorated with soft white furnishings, vintage furniture and lots of greenery. We opted to chill on one of the coveted daybeds.
 
After working out a brief plan, we headed straight to Ember Yard to try the summer truffle, wild mushroom and pecorino croquettes with truffled aioli. I was a bit apprehensive as I’m not the biggest mushroom fan, but with that much truffle in one dish, I was confident that I would love it. The croquettes were golden and crispy on the outside and deliciously melty on the inside with just the right amount of aioli. Delicious.


 
After Ember Yard, we headed to Trishna. I’ve never been to Trishna before but I’ve heard great things. The thing is, my bar for Indian food is very high – think high then raise it a little bit! My mum is Indian and a brilliant cook so more often than not, Indian restaurants always fall short. One of my favourite snacks is aloo chat; at home I’ll usually have three helpings…then maybe a little bit more later on. For those who have never tried aloo chat, it’s a lip-smacking mash up of potato, chickpeas, Marsala spice, tamarind and yoghurt. The flavours really contrast but also complement each other. Trishna’s version was utter perfection. It was so good I went back twice and I’m booked in to go to the restaurant next week, on the strength of one dish. I can’t wait to try the rest of the menu.
 

From Trishna, we headed to my old favourite Duck & Waffle where I spotted none other than Executive Chef Dan Doherty working in the kitchen. I’ve never seen him work this hard! While the majority of people were using this opportunity to sample the famed signature dish, I opted for the Crispy Polenta, parmesan and polenta croquettes with black truffle. Truffle and croquettes seemed to be a mini food trend at Taste. The croquettes were lovely but I actually preferred the ones at Ember Yard by a whisker.


 The final dish I tried was the daily special – hand-picked each day by Joe Warwick. Butchies were the first restaurant to be picked and I opted for the Butchies halloumi slider with guacamole and smoked chilli mayo. It seemed that everyone else had the same idea as we had a 35 minute wait for the sliders after placing our order, by which point expectations were sky high. I’m pleased, and surprised, to say that the slider was phenomenal. Probably the best vegetarian slider I have ever tasted and more than worth the wait. They currently at Broadway market so keep an eye out if you’re around the area at the weekend…or go out of your way to visit them. You won’t be disappointed.
 

I am absolutely kicking myself for not getting down to Taste of London sooner. I can’t think of a better way to spend my evening than tasting dishes from the best restaurants in London while soaking up the sunshine. I will say though, as a vegetarian I was slightly disappointed that not all restaurants had veggie dishes. Props to the guys I visited for their scrumptious creations but it’s a shame that Cinnamon Club, Sushi Samba, Jose Pizarro and Roka among others didn’t cater for vegetarians. Despite that, I’m already looking forward to visiting Taste of London next year. 
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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Introducing Kusmi's new Tsarevna tea


A couple of days ago, on a particularly rainy autumn day in London, I popped to Marylebone for some tea. There’s something very British about being out in cold, blustery weather and warming up with a nice, warm cuppa. I pride myself on being somewhat of a tea connoisseur, I have a shelf full of various loose leaf tea and teabags and I’ve very particular with how my tea is brewed; so when the lovely team at Kusmi tea invited me to their flagship store to learn more about their tea, not even the rain could keep me away.
 
I’m no stranger to Kusmi tea, their Euphoria tea gets me through the mid-afternoon slump while their BB Detox tea definitely gives me a bit of a glow. Although I’m familiar with the teas, I knew nothing about the brand behind them and I was very surprised to learn that they were Russian. Founded in 1867 by Pavel Michailovitch Kousmichoff, Kusmi relocated to Paris just before the revolution – which explains why I had assumed it was a French company. Learning more about the history of the company gave me a better understanding of their history and their teas, many of which have Russian names.

 
While learning about their fascinating history, I indulged in a cup of Kusmi’s special limited edition Tsarevna tea. Named after the daughters of the Tsars, the tea is a wonderfully festive black tea subtly blended with spices and orange giving it a slight Christmas scent and a refreshing taste. The tea inspired by the Tsarevnas journey to the heart of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg for Christmas celebrations, complete with an gigantic tree bejewelled with pretty decorations. It’s only fitting that the Tsarevna tea is housed in a beautiful limited edition imperial blue tin adorned with silver glitter.
 
In addition to the lovely Tsarevna tea, Kusmi have a wider selection of Russian-inspired teas as well as classic, rooibos, flavoured, herbal and wellness teas. My favourites are the BB Detox, which is made with green tea, maté, rooibos, guarana, dandelion and a hint of grapefruit, and the Euphoria tea, which is made with maté, chocolate and orange for a natural boost. If you fancy trying one of their lovely teas, they’re available everywhere from Harrods to John Lewis but I would recommend popping into their store as the staff are so knowledgeable. 
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Saturday, 1 August 2015

London Life: Top Dog, Soho


I like burgers as much as the next person. Actually, I probably like burgers a lot more than the next person; I’d say I’m a bit of a connoisseur. I turn my nose up at a lot of popular burger places and definitely have my favourite haunts (Honest, Patty & Bun, Chosen Bun and Five Guys, since you asked). But there comes a point where even a certified burger fiend needs something a little different. I mean, it’s been three years since Meat Liquor graduated from burger van to an actual restaurant behind Oxford Street, opening the door for hundreds of new burger joints to spring up across the capital to satiate London’s desire for fancy burgers. Surely we’re at the saturation point for ground beef slapped between two buns?!
 
Gourmet hotdogs have been bubbling away under the surface for a while, with Bubbledogs being the most buzzed about hotdog place since it opened in 2013. Sure, champagne and hotdogs sounds like a fun idea but to be quite frank (pun intended), I’ve only ever been disappointed in the weeny, shrivelled-looking hotdogs. They just weren’t tasty or satisfying. But they were onto something; hotdogs are due a haute cuisine revival. Enter Top Dog. The brainchild of Matt Hermer (the man behind Boujis), his wife Melissa and uber-foodie Ewan Venters (CEO of Fortnum & Mason, Top Dog is pretty much destined for success.
 
For me, the beauty of Top Dog is that it’s actually a responsible foodie haven. Both the pork and beef dogs are from UK Freedom Food-awarded farms where the farmers are devoted to animal welfare while the vegan dogs are made from organic tofu. The buns are baked in a 23-year old Artisan bakery in London with flour from Essex and free-range eggs. Naturally, there are gluten-free buns available and even romaine lettuce if you’re on a real health kick.

 
 So far so saintly, right? Top Dog offer nine different types of hotdog, including the Lettuce Dog (beef dog with tomatoes, onion and cheddar in a romaine lettuce bun) and the Corn ‘N’ Guac Dog (tofu dog with corn salsa guacamole, shallots, radish and spicy mayo dressing). I politely sidestepped the healthy options in favour of the BBQ Dog (pork dog, BBQ sauce, caramelised onions and cheddar) and Chicago Dog (beef dog with tomatoes, pickle, onions, pepper, chilli sauce and celery salt), both of which were divine. The dogs are tasty, the buns are soft and the inventive menu merges different flavours beautifully, from the more classic dogs to the more inventive. Top Dog also do some great sides including sweet potato fries but the hotdogs are where it’s at for me.
 
Located on Frith Street, Top Dog is a very welcome addition to the bustling restaurant scene in Soho. The subtle 50s-inspired interior is cute without being gimmicky and the window seats are perfect for people watching. This is my favourite hotdog joint in London, in fact all other hotdogs pale into insignificance. Everything from the location, décor, staff and of course the food is spot on. My aim in life is to eat my way through the menu, which is the highest praise for any restaurant.

 
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Friday, 24 July 2015

London life: Santander Summer of Cycle


A while ago, I made the decision to stop going to blogger events. On the whole, while they're super fun, I felt like they don't add much to the editorial content of Fashion Daydreams. I would much rather share something super cool rather than write about an event with little substance that dozens of other bloggers would also be writing about.

However, every so often an amazingly cool event comes along and I simply can't pass up the offer to attend. This is how I found myself at the Science Museum after hours for a private tour on a brand new Santander Cycle. You can't blame a girl for not passing up a once in a lifetime opportunity! 


I met up with my blogger pals Danielle and Sherin to collect our bikes and meet our tour guide before departing on our private tour. We started at the waterwheel before taking a trip through space via rocket launchers, Apollo 11 and an actual piece of the moon! We cycled across to the broadcasting section and took in a working digestion system.


Our taster tour of the Science Museum has be itching to go back and explore the rest of the museum at leisure after an incredible cycle around some of the main attractions. I've been to the Science Museum dozens of times but experiencing it on a Santander Cycle made me see it through new eyes. Santander have a whole host of once in a lifetime bike tours planned as part of their Summer of Cycle, including London Zoo and Somerset House.
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Saturday, 18 July 2015

Patisserie Party at Le Meridien, Piccadilly


Call me old fashioned, but I feel like Sundays are a sacred day; the day of rest and indulgence. They aren’t days for errands or stress but breakfast in bed, spa days and the ultimate Sunday treat – afternoon tea. Last Sunday I popped over to the beautiful Le Meridien Piccadilly to try their new decadent French-inspired afternoon tea extravagance - Patisserie Party.

 Each Sunday, the Patisserie Party takes place in the magnificent Oak Room, a beautiful space which retains a regal air thanks to its original oak paneling and high ceilings adorned with sparkling chandeliers. The centerpiece of the room is a pretty table laden with the most delicious cakes you’ve ever laid eyes on – more on those a little later.

 
 The party kicks off in style with a glass of Prosecco to ease you into the most indulgent Sunday ever. I opted for a light and fragrant jasmine tea to accompany my feast, which began with classic afternoon tea sandwiches such as cucumber and cream cheese and smoked salmon with citrus crème fraiche, created by Chef de Cuisine Michael Dutnall. The sandwiches were accompanied by scones which were surprisingly light, often afternoon tea scones feel so dense I can only manage one. I indulged in a couple of scones overloaded with clotted cream and jam while watching a group of women delving into the super fun dress up box of treats, wigs, masquerade masks and elbow length gloves are on hand to enhance the regal French vibe.


 Now, the piece de resistance of Le Meridien Piccadilly’s Patisserie Party is the dessert table. Mr Dutnall has really outdone himself with the most delectable treats to finish off an outstanding afternoon tea party. From the classic Red Velvet cake and chocolate fudge cake to the rainbow cake, cake pops and macaroons, I was in heaven. I actually circled the table a couple of times before digging in, partially in awe and partially to figure out where to start! Like the scrumptious scones, the cakes were surprisingly light and thus very moreish – so it’s a good thing that you’re free to help yourself to as much cake as you can manage.

 
 In keeping with the regal theme, every member of staff at the Patisserie Party was so sweet and attentive from the moment we walked in. Nothing was too much trouble, from fetching an extra chair for our bags to refilling our tea as soon as the last drop was poured and bringing out extra sandwiches, I felt so pampered and indulged. As well as knowing all of the specially created dishes for that week, the staff were also really knowledgeable when it came to the tea menu too which always impresses me.
 
 
Between the decadent surroundings and irresistible cakes and treats, I think I’ve found my favourite way to while away a couple of hours on a Sunday. PatisserieParties take place on Sundays between 3pm-6pm now until 30th August at le Meridian Piccadilly. Tickets are £39 per person, which includes a glass of Prosecco on arrival plus unlimited tea, sandwiches and cakes.
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Wednesday, 15 July 2015

London Life: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time



Living in London, I know that I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to arts and culture. Dozens of incredible museums on my doorstep, beautiful architecture, hundreds of galleries and world-class theatre and ballet productions among many other fun ways to spend a few hours. I try to make the most of it and going to the theatre is one of my favourite treats. I have to say, I’ve never been disappointed by a theatre production I’ve seen in the West End. My favourites are The Lion King and Wicked – I’ve seen both twice – but I really enjoyed Singing In The Rain and The Twits recently too.

 Last Tuesday, I went to see The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-Time and was utterly blown away. Admittedly I haven’t read the award-winning novel by Mark Haddon, but I think a great adaptation should stand up on its own whether you’ve read the book or not. Intense, touching and humorous, the show really struck a chord – so much so that I’ve just ordered the novel.

For those who haven’t read the book, the story’s centers around a teenage boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. The play opens dramatically with the protagonist, Christopher Boone, wailing and moaning dramatically while standing over the body of his neighbour’s dog, which has been brutally killed. The unfolding story follows Christopher as he attempts to solve the mystery of who killed Mrs Shears’ dog Wellington. This follows the same premise as the book, although the play is narrated by Christopher’s endearing teacher at his special needs school. Christopher overcomes various obstacles; from never venturing further than the end of the street to hating physical contact and having difficulty communicating with strangers.

While the story sensitively and sympathetically sheds light on the reality of living with Asperger’s Syndrome, actor Luke Treadaway’s portrayal of Christopher really brings the character to life. Luke’s performance is astounding; from his mannerisms and body language to his facial expressions and tone of voice, I really believed he was Christopher Boone. His portrayal is humorous and heartbreaking at the same time; subtle touches like his twitchy nervousness, astute observations, brilliant maths mind quiet curiosity and painful awkwardness really add depth to his character.

Most of the shows I have seen are naturally theatrical and the characters are clearly playing a role, whereas every character in The Curious Incident feels so real. Each character really holds their own and is their character, whether they are playing the part of a character or a ‘prop’. One of the stand out scenes for me was when Christopher found himself travelling to London to find his mum on the train and underground. The tight cast somehow conveyed a bustling train station and overcrowded underground perfectly while Luke drew the audience in and the audience felt Christopher’s discomfort and panic.
 
The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time was absolutely brilliant, I’ve been talking about it non-stop since I saw the show and can’t wait to devour the book once it arrives. All of the actors play their parts brilliantly, particularly Christopher’s weary dad and his warm-hearted teacher though Luke Treadaway is the undeniable star of the show. It’s unsurprising that the show has won an impressive 13 Olivier awards to date. The show is on at the Gielgud Theatre at the West End until 14th February 2016, you can read more about the show and book tickets here.
 

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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Summer Solstice at Koppaberg Urban Forest


 
I’m pretty sure everyone has heard of Koppaberg’s super cool Urban Forest pop-up in East London, which has turned into one of the most anticipated summer events. This year, the team have taken over a really industrial, graffitied yard in Hackney and transformed it into a pretty Scandi-playground with a rough-and-ready urban London edge. Add to this a stellar line up of DJs and music acts and you have one of the must-have pop-ups of the summer.
 
Last weekend, I headed over to Hackney Wick to celebrate Summer Solstice in Scandi-style with Kopparberg and celebrity favourite The Braid Bar. On Saturday, the girls from The Braid Bar set up shop at the Urban Forest with floral stylist Lara Sanjar to create flower-adorned Koppabraids for the girls and incredible Koppabeards for the lads.


While flower-laden braids have been en vogue for a while, I’ve never, ever seen flowery beards before. Inspired by the Koppaberg summer advert with an elderflower-bearded gent, it makes for quite a striking juxtapose. Super cool! After having my braids done, I popped across to Le Bun to enjoy juicy burgers with a French twist. Have you ever had a cheeseburger with sweet chillis and truffle mayo? I have and I’d thoroughly recommend it!


I missed the headliners for the night due to the rain (British summer at its best) but I’ll definitely be popping down for another night – the Urban Forest is open until 12th July with the likes of Miss Dynamite, Slow Club, Chromeo and Trevor Nelson headlining. You can check out the line up here, I’ve already Sunday 5th July in your diaries – Southern Hospitality’s Hiphop Karaoke is hitting the Urban Forest which is sure to be an unforgettable night.
 
The Urban Forest is only open to over 18s and it’s free!
 
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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

London: Murakami, Covent Garden


 
I have to admit something quite shocking. I didn’t try sushi until I was about 24 - super late to the party I know. I was visiting one of my best friends in London, he was a tennis coach and utterly obsessed with sushi as it was “pretty much the healthiest thing you can eat”. He was one of those health obsessed types and I was definitely more into cake than anything gluten-free. He took me to a little underground place in Soho, very authentic but a little dingy.
 
I didn’t warm to sushi during my first visit but fast forward six years and I’m a bit of a sushi addict, like much of London which explains the volume of Japanese restaurants across the city. On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of visiting one of the newest Japanese restaurants in town – Murakami. Located on St Martin’s Lane in Covent Garden, it’s ideally situated on a quiet street in one of the busiest parts of London.

 
 
The interior has a very cool, contemporary vibe with stacks of natural wood and a 12 foot living plant wall. Coupled with dim lighting from oversized glass bulbs suspended from the ceiling, the look is modern without being cold and clinical; it actually feels quite intimate so great for lunch or a cosy dinner as well as a convenient and lively spot for drinks. The top notch cocktail menu was created by Shrub and Shutter, incorporating plenty of Japanese influences and whiskies.
 
 
 Right so onto the food. The menu is incredibly extensive with a large selection of sushi created freshly at the sushi bar as well as tempura and delicious dishes from the robata grill. I was seated next to the sushi bar and was captivated by the chefs deftly whipping up delicious nigiri and sashimi dishes. I started with the popcorn tempura prawns which were absolutely addictive, the tempura batter was so fluffy and airy and the chilli and lime mayo was refreshing with a little kick, the perfect accompaniment. I’m not a huge fan of wings but the teriyaki and lime chicken wings were sublime, not overly sticky and very moreish. In terms of sushi, the green dragon tastes as good as it looks if not better while the spicy salmon with basil and yellowtail with jalapeno are flavourful with a little bit of sassy spice.


I need to call out the desserts which are sublime. The nutella and chocolate cheesecake was a little bite of heaven with each mouthful. Pro tip: It does very well with the pornstar martini.

 
Overall, the food was delicious, super light with subtle flavour and a dash of spice which delicately enhanced the flavour of the fish rather than being overpowering. I love tempura but a lot of places get it wrong, the tempura at Murakami was absolutely spot on, a testament to the expertise of the Japanese chefs. Despite the masses of Japanese restaurants in town, Murakami manages to carve out its own niche; New York cool with a delicious, varied menu which is affordable – this is my favourite new opening of 2015.
 
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Monday, 29 September 2014

Sneak peek inside Timberland's Regent Street store



Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, it was pretty impossible to ignore outdoor activity brand Timberland. While I didn’t spend my youth hiking or doing anything remotely outdoorsy, I did listen to a lot of hiphop. Timberland boots became the unofficial boot of hiphop culture, with everyone from Tupac and Biggie to Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep name dropping and wearing the iconic boots. Superstar producer Tim Mosley was so fond of the boots that he was nicknamed Timbaland by Jodeci’s DeVante Swing. It’s no surprise that sales skyrocketed to nearly $1bn by the end of the 1990s.
 
Fast forward to today Timberland boots are still as popular as ever, with the fash pack adopting the boots as their go-to footwear choice. The key is to customisable Timbs though, rather than pairing them with baggy jeans and bucket hats. Emerging menswear designers Martine Rose and Matthew Miller have both featured customised boots on the runway, using the boots as a canvas to express themselves and reflect the collection.


If you fancy your own customised Timbs, you are in luck. I popped over to the shiny new Regent Street store recently and came away with my own pair of customised Timberland boots. The vast array of options, from studs and tattoos to coloured laces, makes sure that your freshly bought Timbs will be totally unique. The cherry on the top of the customised cupcake has to be the laser machines which etch initials, your name or a tattoo design onto your boots. I opted for my name and a dagger going through a heart – how badass do my boots look?! If the tattoo etching, studs and laces aren’t enough for you, Timberland have commissioned a series of artists to paint and draw on boots on a first come, first serve basis. They have lined up Elena Boils, Ryan Kai, Sophie Alda and my favourite, Matt Bromley.


Oh and as for the store itself, it looks much more contemporary than other Timberland stores but with an urben, rustic feel. The exposed brickwork is a nice touch and it feels really fresh, thanks to plants and recycled materials scattered around the store. It brings the outdoors element into the store without being to nostalgic or heritage heavy, and the merchandising is on point. Go and visit the store, pick up a pair of customised boots while you're there.

 
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Thursday, 26 June 2014

Brunch at Balthazar, London


The original Balthazar in New York is somewhat of an institution. Located in the heart of Soho, it was opened in 1997 by Keith McNally offering a French brasserie inspired menu in resplendent surroundings. Still going strong and a firm foodie favourite, I was overjoyed when I heard news that a London outpost was to open in 2013.
 
In a city which enjoys a raft of new restaurant openings each week, you know a new restaurant is going to be a hit when staff at all of the top restaurants are clamouring to work there. Indeed, Balthazar had its pick from chefs to front-of-house and a waiting list before they'd even opened their doors.

In the last year, I've enjoyed plenty of dinners and drinks at Balthazar but I have to say my favourite is brunch. Consistently delicious with great service, it's a staple in my London brunch roster – and I’m a picky bruncher. Last week, I took my cousin for her first Balthazar brunch.

 

I had my usual, which is the Hazelnut Waffles with warm berries, crème fraîche and maple syrup on the side. As delicious as they sound, if not moreso. The waffles are soft enough to slice through with ease (I hate hard overcooked waffles) and the berries are always in season and juicy, yum. I opted for a Balthazar Bloody Mary rather than tea and was rewarded with one of the best I've had in London, packing the perfect amount of spice and punch. My cousin opted for a classic Eggs Benedict and some brunch bubbles which went down very well.
 


Consistent, reliable and a firm favourite for long, lazy brunches, with the added benefit of being an utter sanctuary from the weekend chaos in Covent Garden. I prefer Balthazar for brunch rather than dinner, when it can get a bit hot and rushed as it’s still super popular. Brunch is perfection though; this is the perfect place in London to enjoy an unhurried weekend catch up/gossip session.
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Monday, 23 June 2014

London Life: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk


A few weeks ago, I went to see the first major Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibition at The Barbican expecting a lovely but fairly standard exhibition. From the moment I arrived I realised I vastly underestimated L’Enfant Terrible, to quote Julia Roberts: “Big mistake. Big. Huge”. I should have expected more from the man who has shocked and delighted the fashion world for over 40 years.
 
The sprawling exhibition is made up of 165 RTW and Haute Couture outfits and spans two floors, with the majority of the mannequins being bought to life with moving, talking human faces – they are projected on but very realistic and therefore pretty creepy but very cool.
 
One of the most well curated and comprehensive fashion exhibitions that I’ve visited, the quirky features such as the projected faces and mechanical catwalk really bring the Frenchman’s archive pieces to life and play on his playful, theatrical creativity.
 
The exhibition presents eight Gaultier themes; The Odyssey of Jean Paul Gaultier, Punk Cancan, Muses, The Boudoir, Metropolis, Eurotrash, Skin Deep and Urban Jungle; as well as photography by the likes of Richard Avedon, Miles Aldridge and David LaChapelle, an exploration of Gaultier muses and video footage of shows, concerts, music videos and films. And yes, Madonna’s conical bra basque from her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour is also on show.
 
The exhibition is one not to be missed and is on at The Barbican until 25th August 2014.
 
 
 

  
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