31 October 2013

pumpkin pugs

H A P P Y H A L L O W E E N !

I've been really getting into the swing of Halloween these last couple of years. Mainly thanks to my American buddy KK (she throws the best Halloween gatherings, s'mores and all!) but also I've discovered that I actually love pumpkin carving. I like free-drawing a random pattern/face and just going with the carving flow. It's hard work, there were some red hands and some good elbow grease going into carving, but so satisfying once you see your design lit up in the dark. Have you guessed which pumpkin is mine yet? I'll give you a clue, I named him Fangy :) On the actual night of Halloween, I ended up going to a suitably halloween-y restaurant for my friend Pete's birthday. Guaca is a Mexican restaurant in Fulham. It was my first visit and I was really impressed with both the service and the food. I tried some new things tonight, 1) King Prawn Salsitas [prawns, peppers, onions and spicy sauce with rice and salad] and 2) Guaca Margarita [tequila, avocado, passion fruit, agave syrup and fresh lime juice], both of which were really really good. Fun atmosphere, beautiful skull prints on the chairs, and free-for-all sombreros if you really want to get in the mood. And to top it all off, I also bumped into the cutest trick or treaters tonight: Betty & Ben, pugs who dressed up as pumpkins. Super Halloween Chic and incredibly cute!

Hope everyone had a great Halloween :)

30 October 2013

A/W13 wishlist


It's that time of the year again. We have officially transitioned into layers-weather and I need to start looking for my beloved earmuffs and gloves. Keeping warm is serious business, particularly when your favourite temperature is in the late 20s, early 30s...

I haven't compiled a wishlist in yonks and this seemed like as good an opportunity as any other to showcase some great Autumn/Winter pieces I've stumbled upon over the last couple of weeks. Hopefully you like them too and maybe they'll give a little inspiration when planning how to wrap up in style these coming (chilly) months. Enjoy, and keep warm!

the watch | Michael Kors, MK3226, £209
why: the rich green is sophisticated, pops with the gold and works perfectly with those autumn colours; think it was love at first sight

the boots | Aldo, in black, £100
why: smart yet practical, these boots are perfect for the winter-woman on-the-go; yey to no slipping and staying stylish

the coat | Zara, in mid-grey, £89.99
why: no need to coat hunt when you can cosy up in this beautifully designed Zara bundle of warmth

the bag | Accessorize, in dogtooth, £22
why: a perfect day-to-night bag, this is a classy addition to the winter wardbrode; plus you get to sport the dogtooth and monochrome trends in one go, woop

the scarf | H&M, £12.99
why: this scarf makes me smile, love the earthy tones, and makes me want to go for long walks in the country; cosy cosy!

25 October 2013

autumn prints

Autumn is undoubtedly here but I am clearly refusing to welcome it into my life as legs were out again last weekend for a spot of brunch and coffee in Covent Garden with my buddy Kevin. It wasn't actually that cold outside but I decided to cosy up [minus the bare legs] anyway, wearing a pretty cotton dress mummy bought me for Christmas last year and my favourite +Uniqlo cardigan.

Location | Kopapa café & restaurant, 32-34 Monmouth street, Seven Dials, WC2H 9HA

Kevin and I organised to meet up at Kopapa after my dance class. I'd heard a lot about this place and based on Kevin's experience as well as various friends' recommendations, I thought why not give it a try. Really glad we booked a table as it was pretty busy inside. Once sat down, the first thing we saw on the menu was brunch cocktails. Bit early... so I ordered my usual latte. Then onto the menu... everything sounded delicious! There's a good variety of brunch options [also a fair few words we didn't understand, clearly need to brush up on the brunch-vocab] from french toast or "pikelets" [apparently mini pancakes to you and me] to a steak sandwich. Kevin opted for the latter and I opted for: Kopapa's hot smoked salmon on toast with spinach, two poached eggs & yuzu hollandaise. Though I couldn't finish it all [I never seem to be able to], I can vouch that it was very tasty - solid brunch dish.

The restaurant itself is buzzy and modern. Staff are friendly except I felt were a little off one or two times. I asked a few questions about a couple of the dishes and got some blank it's-this-how-can-you-not-know-that looks, to which I obviously replied "apologies, I don't know that's why I'm asking". However, this may just be because the team seemed pretty swept off their feet. Other than this little hiccup, Kopapa is a good little stopover destination for brunch in central London and I would recommend as the food is great.

Post-brunch, we decided to grab another coffee as Kevin the busy-working-man had some work to do. We headed over to probably one of my favourite Costa coffee shops [it's really nice in there so if you ever need to chill out mid browsing in the vicinity of Neal Street, go!]. I had a vanilla latte, tasty as always and the best way in my opinion to end a fun brunch.

outfit | print cotton dress (present from mum), green cardigan (+UNIQLO UK), tutu coat & brown boots (+Topshop), scarf (+Accessorize)

nails | sunflower inspired, step-by-step guide here

20 October 2013

work it

Location | Workshop Coffee, 27 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RN

Spotlight time: my beloved coffee. Where would I be without it. This is a massively delayed post but I am really excited to show and tell this place with you all. Before exploring [the concrete jungle], Adrian  decided to show me Workshop Coffee [aka home to my favourite barista yet]. Well known by office workers in the area - I was told it was a common stop-off before the office in the mornings - we decided to test out Workshop Coffee not just for the java but for their food offering too.

On arrival, we were greeted by a chirpy host and were added onto a waiting list. Ten minutes later, we were promptly shown to our table, up on the first floor. One of my favourite things about the set-up is how the barista island is literally the heart of the restaurant - as you walk in, right there in the middle of the room and the coffee just smells amazing. Not only is this practical, for those grabbing their java-to-go, but for me it reiterates how serious the team are about their coffee-making. Once sat down, I immediately ordered a latte and Adrian a cappuccino, and then we turned to the menu. The brunch menu is perfectly formed, offering your classic eggs, muesli and french toast. However, it also branches out to some more creative dishes like the smoked fish kedgeree and corn fritters.

what we ate | Adrian: rare breed hamburger brioche, comté, chipotle mayonnaise, fried ratte potatoes | me: smoked salmon, avocado, seaweed w/ watercress, ginger, wasabi aioli, sesame seeds & corn frittettes

If the pictures haven't made you salivate yet then let me just spell it out: the food was... SO GOOD. Seriously, seriously good. I am a big fan of salmon but this was next level salmon. When I saw the menu, my first thought was "oooh deconstructed sushi" (I clearly watch too much Masterchef). But to be fair, when it arrived it pretty much looked like all the california-roll elements laid out beautifully and it was so yummy. Super indulgent but still light and fresh. Adrian's burger looked really good too. Our dishes looked so good that even our table neighbours ended up asking us what we ordered and then proceeded to have the exact the same meal. If that's not a sign for enviable great food, I don't know what is.

I felt really at home in Workshop Coffee. The atmosphere is chilled yet special and this may come across all gushy but I genuinely love this place. It makes me want to move north-wards just so that I can become a regular, even if it's just for a quick cup of java. If you are ever in the area and fancy a bite I would encourage you to go in and say hi to the team. Tables can be booked during the week but weekends are free for all (we headed over early afternoon on a Sunday); and if Clerkenwell isn't good for you then they also have a coffee bar in Marylebone. Enjoy!

14 October 2013

panda proud

Over July and September this year, fourteen panda cubs were born in China's Chengdu Research Base. The team there were so proud [I imagine because pandas are pretty rare and also extremely cute] that a few weeks ago they put the cubs on display for all to see in their full glory. The smallest is only 700g! You can enjoy the full report here but I warn you the cuteness may be too much.

With fourteen new panda cubs to welcome into the world, I was inspired. So naturally, ten more pandas were quickly born onto my nails. I'm surprised they hadn't appeared sooner to be honest as I am a big fan of pandas and other great black-and-white animals, but I guess if there is any occasion to celebrate these cuties through a nail art tribute then this is definitely the one.

Have a fantastic week :)

9 October 2013

brunch regen

Location | Caravan, King's Cross | Granary Building, 1 Granary Square

It's that time again, another recount of a recent food adventure. It had been a while since my fellow Brunch Bros and I had brunched; we wanted somewhere new and had been recommended Caravan by a few friends. First thing - trendy (plus for me, patience) alert. Caravan is one of these new we-don't-take-bookings places which essentially means you've got to queue if you want the experience. Phil and I arrived at about 11.30am in the hopes to brunch within the hour - just after midday is usually the perfect brunch o'clock. On arrival, the restaurant was clearly very popular. There were two queues - one for outdoors and another for indoors. Given that it was a beautiful day and we were explicitly told the queue for outside dining was longer, we decided to opt for the indoor list. "That will be approximately 1 hour and fifteen" said the clearly-stressed-out waitress. Now, if you know me well you will know I am not the most patient person. However, this was a chilled Sunday, the food sounded worth-the-wait so we decided to wait, relax and explore (more on the latter below).

1 hour and 45 minutes later (and just as my patience was wearing pretty thin and stomach was crying for food), we received a text: "Your table is ready". We then re-queued (be prepared for a lot of this) and were finally ushered to a comfy table - grey sofa bench on one side and grey (what I can only describe as) schoolroom chairs on the other. Phil and I got cosy on the sofa and then it was straight to the menu. Drinks were ordered almost immediately: I went for my go to latte (first picture), which was pretty good. Then it came to the food. The brunch menu is relatively concise but perfectly formed.

What We Ate | Phil: Jalapeno corn bread, fried eggs, black beans, guindilla pepper | Nick: Caravan Fry - eggs, field mushrooms, tomato compote, bacon w/ sourdough toast | me: poached eggs, aubergine puree, yoghurt, sumac, parsley, chorizo w/ sourdough toast

To be honest, the minute our food arrived we all knew we had picked a great brunch destination. The frustration around the waiting time almost disappeared because the food was genuinely fantastic. Great flavour combinations, well executed and creative twists on some pretty common brunch components. I have never had yoghurt, aubergine and chorizo together in a meal and do you know what, it works. You may have to try it to believe me but it is really good. The boys seemed pretty happy with their choices too - confirmed by completely clean plates.

All in all, visiting Caravan was a fun experience. The wait really did challenge my patience (which I'm sure you can tell) - I don't mind waiting (that's my choice) but if it's even longer than I'm told then I am not a happy bunny. I felt for the women taking reservations as they genuinely looked like all they were getting were complaints about the wait. However, the setting and the food made up for it. Plus, the bill was very reasonable at £15 each including tips. This place really does have a great atmosphere and I'm glad we ended up inside rather than out because I think you get a greater feel of the buzz. With an open kitchen, a barista bar, industrial lighting / feel and tables constantly rotating with new diners around us, it was a fun place to brunch.

The restaurant itself is in the heart of the Kings Cross regeneration project and really does personify the excitement around this whole development project. Caravan is located within the historical Granary Building which currently has an art installation lightening bolt across the front. On this particular visit, there was some sort of medieval festival happening in Granary Square which the boys and I got to explore while we waited for our table. There were fruit, animal (taxidermied) and veg stalls, a crockery smashing stand, a big brass band, horse & cart and all sorts to set the scene. It looked like a fun family outing opportunity, but for me also just showed overall how well the old works with the new. This is only the first phase of the Kings X project and I'm already impressed by what has been achieved. It's going to be a fantastic, cultural hub in the centre of London and I for one can't wait to watch it blossom!

2 October 2013

accidental riverboat

My brain has been on over-drive lately so getting nailspiration has been relatively harder than usual. That being said, last week I decided to just freestyle my nail art and came up with the red and gold flower pattern above. Then, my colleague Andy saw my nails and said they reminded him of riverboats. And I thought, what a nice idea. Then oddly enough, on a whim I ended up spending some of the weekend in Camden showing around my buddy Simon's friend Victoria who had come to visit all the way from Paraguay... and we ended up in riverboat land! My particular favourite was a long riverboat that had been hired out for a hen do - the colours were just great and fun. We also saw the lock in action (on both sides) which I hadn't seen in ages. So all in all, either it was all a coinkidink or I'm psychic?! I'm sure we'll find out in good time :)

nails | base: bright red (Barry M), flower: gold effect (Barry M) & spilled milk (Topshop)