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Top Valentine’s Restaurants: Manchester

7 Feb

I lived in Manchester for a year when I got my first job in fashion/lifestyle PR soon after graduating and I fell in love with the city. Even though I’m having a great time in London, there are times when I do miss good old MCR! There are so many fantastic restaurants in the city so I thought it only appropriate to do a little roundup of what I think are the best restaurants for a Valentine’s Day date…

The Alchemist

The Alchemist was one of our regular haunts when I lived in Manchester because it was the perfect mix of tasty, affordable food, yummy cocktails and a chilled ambience. (Oh and because one of my friend’s boyfriends worked there too)! As well as the one in Spinningfields, there is now a fabulous one open on New York Street too. In my mind, it is an ideal choice if you want a fairly romantic meal out without being too fancy/expensive. The menu has a wide range of options, from British to Mexican to Chinese to Asian; I can definitely recommend the fajitas! 

Fajita main course at The Alchemist

Fajita main course at The Alchemist

Cocktails at The Alchemist

Cocktails at The Alchemist

Grill on New York Street

Speaking of New York Street, just down the way from the Alchemist is a fabulous restaurant called the Grill On New York Street. It was fairly new when I arrived in Manchester back in 2011 and sometimes ran a half-price weekday offer, so it might be worth having a research online or signing up to their newsletter to see if they still do this! It is a restaurant that serves good, locally sourced food without being crazy expensive – I always went for the scrummy corn fed chicken breast. The inside décor is simple with low-lighting, which also makes it a great place to take the parents. There is also Grill on the Alley which came before the New York Street branch but I have not been inside myself. 

The Oysters with Tabasco Sauce

The Oysters with Tabasco Sauce

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Australasia

Australasia  is a very stylish restaurant in Deansgate which you access by going through a glass pyramid and down the stairs – very Louvre-esque! The food is a mix of Indonesian and Southeast Asian cuisine, with plenty of sushi, sashimi and tempura dishes to tempt your fancy. This tends to be more ‘glamorous’ and there are often local celebrities to be found in there, so a great place to go if you fancy making a bit of effort.

Australasia entrance Manchester

australasia manchester restaurant

Vermillion

Another stylish restaurant where celebs can often be found is Vermillion, a Thai/Indian Asian restaurant near to the Ethidad stadium and not too far from the main Piccadilly train station. There are two large floors; the Asian-designed restaurant can be found on the downstairs floor whilst a fabulous bar area can be found upstairs. We went here for my work’s Christmas party and the food was absolutely fantastic, though it would still be a good place to go just for a drink as the bar area is super snazzy! There are big multi-coloured light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, big clam-style seats and a stylish – if slightly WAG- ambience.   

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Vermillion Bar

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 Epernay

If drinks are more your thing for Valentine’s Day then I would definitely recommend Epernay, a champagne bar found near the upmarket area of Deansgate. The inside is sophisticated, with glass walls overlooking the city, a brick bar and golden fairylights all over, with plenty of wine and champagne offers to tempt your taste buds. I only got the chance to go in once for a Lucille Lingerie event – you can read more about that here.

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Best Restaurants in London

31 Jan

Best For: Calamari

I was actually first told about Busaba Eathi by my manager at L’Oreal when I first moved down to London, with the instruction ‘you HAVE to get the calamari!’

Busaba Eathi is a small Thai chain which I believe is only available in London at the moment and is like a more stylish Wagamamas. I really rate it and always take any out-of-town friends there for an affordable yet tasty dinner. I can definitely recommend the Pad Thai, the duck and the coconut rice! I’m not the biggest fan of calamari as I often find it too ‘squidgy’ or greasy but I have to say, the calamari at Busaba Eathi totally converted me. It is available as a starter and comes in a gorgeous dressing that I need to find a recipe for! It is not overly deep-fried and doesn’t come in a greasy batter at all. A definite must-try if you go.

Thai calamari ginger and peppercorn

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

 Best For: Brunch

My first experience of Bill’s was visiting their cute restaurant in Brighton many years ago. I was a student and opted for the cheapest breakfast at the time which was soft-boiled eggs and soldiers and even this was presented so well – chunky, soft, buttery bread, two big organic eggs and cute little piles of salt and pepper.

Bill’s has gone from strength to strength and now I see their sign all over London! It is easy to see why they have done so well when their food is so good and reasonably priced, especially their amazing breakfast/brunch menu. This is hands-down my favourite place in London to go for brunch, even (dare I say it) better than The Breakfast Club! I always go for the smoked salmon/poached eggs on toast and they have always given me a good portion of fresh smoked salmon , poached eggs cooked to perfection and big slices of buttery bread! My boyfriend goes for the full English and is always satisfied too.

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 Best For: Burgers and Salads

I should begin by saying that I am yet to try an Honest Burger which is getting so much love at the moment. Nonetheless, I really don’t think you can beat Byron for a good dinner! This is another chain that has been growing from strength to strength and have even branched out to Manchester now. As well as amazingly tasty burgers, their salads are such good value too – I often opt for the Classic Cobb Salad and get moaned at by my peers, until it arrives and they see what a huge bowl of glorious chicken, avocado, egg, bacon, cheese, lettuce and tomato it is! Plus, the skin-on-chips are totally delish.

Byron saladByron burgerByron chips

Best For: Sunday Roast

Often in London, Sunday roasts are overpriced and a little disappointing. Not so with The Cutty Sark Tavern in Greenwich! Just a short walk along the river from the old naval colleges, the tavern is a charming rustic pub with two levels; the downstairs is a little pub (which allows dogs!), whilst the second floor is a lovely wooden restaurant which you have to book in advance for. A Sunday roast here typically costs between £12-£16 depending on the meat but are totally worth the spend. Last time we visited, I had the chicken whilst the boyfriend had the beef. Both were hearty, warming and filling – I found the beef very slightly fatty for my taste but my boyfriend was completely sold. Plus, you can walk it off with a walk around the gorgeous Greenwich park afterwards!

The Cutty Sark TavernGreenwich

Best For: Steak

I’m not usually a steak/red meat kinda gal but even I can’t get enough of the steaks at Gaucho! The global chain specialise in quality, Argentine cuts of beef which really are the best I’ve tasted in London. Before your meal begins, a member of staff will come over with a board of uncooked steak and explain the different cuts to you – I didn’t realise there were more than just ‘sirloin’ or ‘rump’! The environment is fabulous too, with low lighting, glossy black walls, cow-hide seats and very good staff. My favourite is the restaurant overlooking Tower Bridge. Oh, and the red wine is pretty lush too…

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 Best For: The Parents or a Date

I feel that Brown’s is a fail-safe place to take the parents or a date for a meal that is somewhere in between casual and fancy. With plenty of choice on the menu, quality food, reasonable prices and a mahogany/gold décor, as well as restaurants across the country, I definitely think it is a winner. My personal favourite is the Brown’s Sharing Platter which comes with chicken, hummous/dips, calamari, amazing homemade sausage rolls, prawns and more – what’s not to love!  

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 Do you have any restaurant recommendations in London? I would love to hear them!

August in Pictures

1 Sep
RED Market, Shoreditch

RED Market, Shoreditch

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Greenwich Market

Greenwich Market

The Cutty Sark

The Cutty Sark

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Celebrating my brother's 21st

Celebrating my brother’s 21st

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Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival

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Bank Holiday Fair in Hampstead

Bank Holiday Fair in Hampstead

Hampstead Park

Hampstead Park

Picking blackberries

Picking blackberries

Homemade apple and raspberry crumble (this is a major cooking achievement for me!)

Homemade apple and raspberry crumble (this is a major cooking achievement for me!)

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Chorizo hash brown, scrambled eggs and mushroom at The Riding House Cafe

Chorizo hash brown, scrambled eggs and mushroom at The Riding House Cafe

Poached eggs and smoked salmon on sourdough toast

Poached eggs and smoked salmon on sourdough toast

The Riding House Cafe

The Riding House Cafe

RED Market Shoreditch – a cool little pop up food/drink market near Old Street. Could have done with a few more bars and food stalls though!

Exploring Greenwich – I have spent a lot of time in Greenwich recently looking at flats and it is really worth a visit! There is a beaut park, lots of naval history and a fab market at the weekends.

Notting Hill Carnival – as mental and busy as always!

Bank Holiday in Hampstead – if you live in London but want to go somewhere that doesn’t feel like London, then get yourself to Hampstead Heath! We had never been before but it was a really lovely, salubrious area and the park is amazing – there is even part of the lake where you can swim. And we spotted Ricky Gervais and Emily Blunt – bonus.

Picking blackberries – it seems to be the perfect time to pick some blackberries so I decided to dust off my (very unused) oven gloves and try making a blackberry and apple crumble – and it worked!

Brunch at The Riding House Cafe – Such a popular restaurant that you definitely need to book in advance! It was full of fashionable, cool people and had a really good menu, though I have to say my poached eggs/smoked salmon on toast was a bit disappointing – the eggs were overdone so were a bit like boiled eggs and the toast felt almost stale. Jen’s was amazing though, so maybe it depends what your order!

Recipe: Healthy Natural ‘Ferrero Rocher’

2 Jun

I have one month until I am off to Thailand (woo!) which also means I have one month until I bare my bikini body (eek)! In a bid to trim and tone for the trip I am trying my hardest to eat as ‘clean and lean’ as possible, which is something I have been trying to do generally since finding out that my body can’t really process dairy/wheat/gluten (aka anything yummy). My sweet tooth has always been my undoing, which is why I was so happy when I inadvertently created a completely natural and healthy concoction that really reminded me of the inside of a Rerrero Rocher!

*I have popped the recipe below – sorry about the poor quality pics but I only had my mobile to hand*

Ingredients

Mixed fruits/nuts/dates

Agave syrup (or honey)

Almond butter or hazelnut butter (I sometimes also add in a dash of tahini paste to smoothen the mixture a little)

Cocoa powder (I often use the milled flax seed/cocoa powder/berries pouch from Linwoods for extra health benefits)

 

(From left to right) - Hazelnut butter, cocoa powder, tahini paste, milled flaxseeds/cocoa/berries, agave syrup, mixed nuts/seeds/berries/dates

(From left to right) – Hazelnut butter, cocoa powder, tahini paste, milled flaxseeds/cocoa/berries, agave syrup, mixed nuts/seeds/berries/dates

Recipe – Serves 1-2

Add in 2 handfuls of mixed fruits/nuts into a blender, along with a tbsp of cocoa powder. Add in 2-3 tbsp of almond or hazelnut butter and a generous squirt of agave syrup before blending it all up until it resembles a sticky, nutty, sweet paste. Either roll into balls in dessicated coconut or simply grab a spoon and tuck in!

This is a very slapdash recipe that can be tweaked to suit individual tastes, so feel free to add in more/less of certain ingredients. My picture below doesn’t really do it justice but believe me, it tastes so good!

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Finished appearance (tastes much better than it might look!!)

Finished appearance (tastes much better than it might look!!)

Early Birthday Celebrations: The Ritz Afternoon Tea and Piccadilly Institute

14 Apr

I don’t officially turn 23 until next week (20th April to be exact) but as I will be in Rome then I got to celebrate in London this weekend!

On Friday I met my gorgeous mummy from Euston train station and we headed to Harrods for the Dior Exhibition (which you can read about here) before our high tea afternoon at The Ritz. Afternoon tea at The Ritz is done in sessions, so we joined many other excited ladies for the 1.30pm seating. It is fair to say the hotel is absolutely beautiful; there are huge gold and white curtains, gilded mirrors, real silver ornate teapots and cutlery, a pianist playing at a grand piano and even the toilets are powder puff pink with huge murals on the walls! It is hard not to feel excited when you are surrounded by such luxury.

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In the ladies powder room

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The beautiful afternoon tea setting

Yes, I am grade 3 paino

Yes, I do take requests

We went for the standard Afternoon Tea which includes a selection of finger sandwiches, plain scones with jam and cream, a pot of tea and a selection of mini cakes. The sandwiches were the traditional type, including egg and cress, cheese and pickle, ham and mustard, smoked salmon with lemon butter, and chicken mayo. After you finish your first sandwiches a waiter in tails comes round to see if you want anymore, so we of course said yes!

The mini cakes included a rich chocolate cake, a cream bakewell tart cake and macaroons, though half way through our seating another waiter came around with a trolley offering coffee and walnut cake (which was DELICIOUS!), lemon drizzle cake and a panna cotta desert. By this time we were getting really stuffed, though we still managed to sample the scones with thick Devonshire cream and sweet strawberry jam.

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Peppermint tea!

Peppermint tea!

Coffee and Walnut cake

Coffee and Walnut cake

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It was definitely a fabulous way to spend a rainy London afternoon and I would absolutely recommend it for the excitement and indulgence, though saying this, you do get the slight sense that they are not paying as much attention to you as they are busy thinking about turning over for the next shift. Plus the pianist didn’t play for very long! I have to say, I still think the Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea at The Sanderson Hotel might have the slight edge…

Last night I went out at Piccadilly Institute which seems to have a million rooms over a million floors! I was with a big group so it was hard at first keeping track of everyone , especially as it was so busy (and hot) but we had a good night with plenty of dancing. I wore a Primark cut-out aztec dress underneath my Zara drop hem skirt but there aren’t many good pics of me from the night so I shall leave you with this bad boy!

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Weekend Update: H&M Flagship Store Launch, OXO Tower and Duck & Waffle

19 Mar

This weekend was a bit of a hectic one so apologies for the delay but it has taken me until now to muster up the energy to write about it!

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 I popped along to the H&M Flagship Store Launch on Oxford Street which promised a four day extravaganza of music, offers and collaborations. I arrived on Day One where there were mannequins styled by fabulous fashion blogger Susie Bubble and banging tunes by a variety of DJs; I managed to catch Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw, complete with newly dyed pink hair for Comic Relief as he played my song of the moment. The store has five floors and the top floor was my favourite as it had a very glam changing room with big, grey drapes which can only be accessed by heading through ‘The Lounge’ (aka swanky seating area with white statues and velvet seats). 

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I had some banana/rum cocktail which came wrapped in a banana leaf and which tasted amazing

It was my five year anniversary with my boyfriend (eek!) so we celebrated by heading to the OXO Tower for drinks on Saturday night. I had never been before but would definitely recommend it as it had a very chilled vibe with fantastic views over London. (FYI, the tower has a viewing gallery which I believe can be accessed for free so there is nothing to stop you heading up here for free views!) It was very busy and standing room only in the bar area so try and reserve a table if you plan to go.

Duck waffle

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Duck & Waffle bar area

Duck & Waffle bar area

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On Sunday we headed for brunch at the notorious Duck & Waffle, located at the top of Heron Tower opposite Liverpool Street Tube Station. The lift sped up to floor 40 within a matter of seconds (prepare for your stomach to drop a little) where we entered into a slightly urban bar with stylish graffiti on the walls. As we were five minutes early, we waited in the bar area admiring the amazing 360 degree views of London (again), despite the grey, rainy weather, though I have to say that the bar seats weren’t the most comfortable and as they were so rickety I kept falling off mine! Once in the restaurant, I ordered Columbian Eggs (scrambled eggs with tomatoes and pepper) with smoked salmon and avocado on toast, whilst the boy ordered a full English breakfast. The food arrived after about ten minutes and was very tasty – just what we needed on a sleepy Sunday (though I still think my Breakfast Club brunch is the best I have ever had).

 

Hope you all had amazing weekends with plenty of Paddy Day festivities! 

Restaurant Review: Muriel’s Kitchen

9 Mar

After such a cold, miserable week (and finally catching the cold that has been doing the rounds at work) I decided that it was the perfect time to visit Muriel’s Kitchen next to South Kensington tube station for some hearty, comforting, home cooked food. 

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I have walked past Muriel’s Kitchen a few times and have always been enticed by the window full of delicious cakes, the counter full of colourful seasonal food and the warm, cosy interior. It is usually busy, though we turned up at 6pm on a Thursday and managed to quickly get a table for two overlooking South Kensington. 

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The menu includes home-cooked mains like salmon, chilli con carne, lasagna and vegetable pie and this is tweaked each month to suit the seasonal produce. We chose the lasagna and the chilli con carne to share with each other; these both cost £9.99 each (any sides are extra). The food arrived within about five minutes and they kindly bought us extra sour cream when I found the chilli a little spicy!

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The food was super tasty and just what we wanted on a chilly London evening – the seasoning was subtle and I was happy that the lasagna was packed full of meat, as often restaurants seem to serve cheesy pasta sheets instead! My only bugbear was that there did seem to be a little more oil at the bottom of the dishes than I would have liked and I have to be careful with oil, though luckily it didn’t seem to affect me.  

As the dishes were so filling and heart-warming we didn’t have room for one of the gorgeous cakes, so I think I will just have to visit another time. The question is, which one to choose…? 

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