Restaurant Review: Steak & Co, Covent Garden

I love London. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a countryside girl at heart, but London gives me a real buzz, and more than anything it excites the foodie in me. I try to be relatively adventurous when eating out – recently I’ve had fabulous meals in a vegetarian pay-by-weight buffet place (I loved it, my boyfriend wasn’t convinced), a charming little Swiss place in Soho, and of course my go-to is the utterly delicious Wahaca. But this time we decided to follow up a recommendation and go pay to cook our own dinner…

 photo 2014-10-11185939_zps266fe77c.jpgWe had decided what we were eating before arriving; steak cooked on a hot stone. The only decision to make was the cut, the butter, the salt, the sauce and the sides. In the end we both went for a (massive) 8oz Rib-Eye. I had garlic butter, mustard salt and pepper sauce, he had chilli butter, chilli sauce and pepper sauce.

 photo ebcb545d-e1dd-42b3-ad6b-b835aa9cd6a8_zps23360018.jpgThe idea is your steak comes underdone – so as I like mine rare it comes to the table blue. You then cook slices to your liking on the hot stone provided, using your flavoured butter, sprinkling with the salt, and dipping into the sauce. A bit theatrical, but the steak is good quality and well-flavoured, and it’s not ridiculously expensive. Our bill came to around £40, which really isn’t bad for central London steak. Mustard salt is delicious, the mushroom sauce I ordered originally should be avoided (the pepper one is lovely!). I’d possibly suggest not getting rib-eye if you like your meat rare – its a cut better suited to being more cooked so the fat renders down.

 photo ff7cc94a-1b61-4889-aa8a-f3fb71fdaf74_zpse56743d0.jpg photo 7f9f8dbf-a96c-401b-891c-a332cffaff06_zps247ae66d.jpgSides were garlic mushrooms for me, sweet potato fries for him. The mushrooms were spectacular, garlicky and cooked to perfection. Only issue was there were so many I couldn’t possibly finish them all. I stole a few sweet potato fries, and surprisingly enjoyed them. Still a little over sweet for my tastebuds though.

 photo 2014-10-11160243_zps52409faf.jpgWe weren’t impressed with the desserts menu at all, instead opting for a wander to Ben & Jerrys at Leictester Square. We had eaten a massive brownie from Borough Market before dinner though!

Have you ever been to a restaurant where you cooked your own food? What do you think about the concept?

Life: Feeling Low

I normally get a little low in the dark and dull days that come after the New Year sets in. With a whole host of birthdays in December and early January, it’s always a little bit of an anti-climax when they’re over. And pretty much a good pep talk from myself, a bit of forcing myself to think happy thoughts, and everything is right as rain again. So when I sat in a pretty deep depression last week, it came as a little bit of a shock.

 photo 2014-09-13150354_zpsb756f772.jpgRegular readers will have noticed that only two posts went up. Colleagues noticed I had retreated into my shell. There were a few tearful nights, a few moments where I was perhaps a little short-tempered. But what worried me most of all was my lack of motivation. I didn’t want to do anything – not blog, not work towards a university deadline, no knitting, no cooking, no baking, it was even a no to online shopping. I pretty much just sat on my bed and was miserable. Luckily I have a great support network, and I was also able to recognise that I needed to do something quickly or it would only get worse.

I’ve started making an effort to get fresh air on my lunch break, which is easier now the local park is open again. On Monday I sat in my coat, in brilliant sunshine, eating my sandwich and reading a book. I then wasn’t tempted to nap at my desk, and I came home, cooked soup and was suitably productive.

A recommendation from his darkest days at university, my boyfriend told me to put the radio on if I’m feeling lonely. Surprisingly so much more effective than just music, I find myself feeling less alone even if there’s no one about.Still a student at heart (and remembering that’s what I will be again next September), I’m trying to learn that a little treat now and then isn’t bad. Whether it’s ingredients for my favourite meal, or even just a coffee on the way to work, little treats can really perk up my day. I treated myself to a hazelnut hot chocolate, topped with cream and marshmallows, last Friday. Best thing I’d done all week.

Helping others feel happy is also something which seems to give me a real buzz. The thanks I get when bringing a fresh batch of cakes into work puts a huge smile on my face, and it’s having double the effect this week as we’re raising money for a fantastic cause (you can read a bit more about our campaign here). 2014-09-28 10.14.21A fry up makes everything better. Fact. I went home this past weekend and had one both mornings. Bacon, eggs and toast are my staples, black pudding is a regular addition, though this weekend saw the return of a new favourite. Mushrooms fried in bacon fat. That size 8 dress I was dieting to fit into? I changed it for a 10… (in defence, it was tight on my hips which are stubbornly bony).

I’ve also tried to put less pressure on myself. Its not easy, as I’m such a perfectionist and I’ve never let myself off. Getting less than perfect marks? I’ll beat myself up about it for years (I can still get tearful about my A-Level results, and they were far from bad!). I forced myself not to type out a blog post I didn’t have the heart for. And to be honest, nothing bad happen. My views dropped by probably 20 a day, which is miniscule in the grand scheme of things. I still gained followers. So now I know the world doesn’t end when I don’t push myself to my limit, I can relax a little more. Have a long soak in the bath instead of rushing back to my laptop. Stand and cook a risotto without thinking of my to-do list. Eat a greasy fry-up without thinking of my hips…

 photo 2014-08-30143507_zps857050c4.jpgI’m now feeling much more happier having made some time for me. Sleep is coming slightly easier at night, though it would be great to not see midnight most nights. I’m still convinced the dull, dreary weather doesn’t help (if anyone wants a natural light box reviewing, I’m your SAD girl!) but making the most of my days is definitely helping keep me cheerful. I’m sure my laptop is grateful for the rest too…

What do you do when you’re feeling a little down?

Beauty: Staying Moisturised

Until this year I’ve never suffered too badly with dry skin. Sure, I’ve had some dry patches in the winter, and if I shave too regularly my legs feel pretty parched. But nothing too severe, and since I stopped straightening my hair twice (yes, twice!) a day that’s been in pretty good condition too. But now I’ve started working in an air conditioned office, walking to and from work in all weathers, and spending far more hours than normal on trains something is sucking my body of all its moisture. Even my eyes are dry for heaven’s sake!

 photo be037bf8-91f6-48df-bc56-89259e818c1b_zps8ee743e7.jpgI’ve had to put an extra special effort into staying moisturised, and here’s what’s helping…

 photo 88bbc847-de26-4356-88b3-2dde31889dd4_zps5502b28d.jpgDespite still enjoying using the Nivea In Shower Moisturiser, it’s not quite moisturising enough. It stops my skin feeling sore as I dry it, but other than that it doesn’t seem to benefit my skin as much as it used to. I’ve taken to smoothing on pure coconut oil just after a shower – this is the only thing that really, really seems to help me skin. I’m also using it as a deep conditioner every once in a while, and before having my haircut was using it on any straggly ends too.

 photo 0dae5096-c094-48f9-839f-ef895761f9fc_zps15c49e22.jpgOf course, I can’t quite stop at coconut oil. I love the smell of the Wild Argan collection from The Bodyshop – its incredibly comforting, so I’ve been using the body lotion before bed. I’ll be honest, it’s not particularly moisturising, but it does the job, and sinks in quickly. It’s great for dry elbows though, as you can really massage it in. I’m desperate for the body butter, but as I’ve mentioned before I’ll never buy from there without an offer, and this range is STILLLLL excluded from discounts.

 photo cb40fee4-ab75-4ba7-9ab3-6cd7fd8265e7_zpsffe417e3.jpgMy feet are suffering from the bad weather we’ve been having recently – think torrential rain paired with burst water mains vs ballet pumps. Not only has think made them quite dry and neglected, I’m also keen to get them in good shape for winter. Having had chilblains most winters for a few years as a result of silly shoes and not enough socks, my feet are a priority this year. Chilblains is not particularly nice, especially when you believed it was only a feature in war-time stories. I’ve been slathering on virtually any moisturiser I can get my hands on, but for a deep treatment the Hemp Foot Protector from The Bodyshop can’t really be beaten. It smells pretty vile, but is amazingly effective. Their Peppermint version is lovely for summer too.

 photo eb786be6-2d9d-4308-aadb-74befbbcd042_zps39f549bd.jpgFinally, I’m not sure anyone gets through the winter without chapped lips. I’ve been using Nuxe Reve de Miel for a few months, and am still unsure it’s up to the hype. Sure, I wake up with gorgeously smooth lips, but I find they are often parched again by the evening. Burt’s Bees is my ultimate day-time lip balm – I’m hoping to try some of their more pigmented products soon. You all know how I love a good bold lip!

So, how about you? Do you find air conditioning hellish on your skin? How do you keep your skin soft?

Baking: Grandma’s Treacle Tart

Quite a fussy child, when my grandma brought out cakes to go with tea when we visited, I’d only go for two options. If there weren’t there, I’d go hungry. Actually that fussiness hasn’t completely gone away, as the texture of any dried fruit is still a no-go for me – which means no fruit cake, no mince pies, no Christmas pudding, you get the jist. Anyway, I’d either eat jam tarts, or treacle tarts. To this day Grandma’s Treacle tart is one of the best I’ve eaten, and I think I’ve finally managed to replicate it.

 photo 150544d1-991c-40a6-be3c-c0aed1be8d5c_zps2b5ce75d.jpgIt’s quite a bit denser than your traditional Treacle tart, and is best served gently warmed. If you want a gooey, looser filling, simply leave out the oats. I personally prefer it, it’s a bit more substantial, and keeps me from getting a major sugar rush. Perfect with cream, even better with ice cream, this one is a winner for a cold Autumn or Winter night…which is exactly why I’m entering it into Topps Tiles A/W14 National Baking Week Challenge. A few bloggers were hand-picked to enter, and sent some gorgeous baking goodies (currently at my home; I couldn’t quite carry them on the train) and then told to post on this week. Here’s mine, fingers crossed as I know my mum would love to new tiles, and I definitely wouldn’t say no to a Kitchen Aid…

 photo 0e317927-29b0-4ab8-977d-510db4f8226d_zpsb770a9bc.jpgRecipe

  • Pastry case – you could try making my pastry here, replacing any salt/pepper/herbs with a little sugar. Blind bake, cool, then fill. Alternatively buy read rolled and blind bake, or even a ready made pastry case. The steps in this recipe assumes you’ve got a pastry case all ready.
  • 400g golden syrup – I bought a 450g tin and just left a spoonful for porridge the next day
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 80g breadcrumbs, which I found was roughly 1 rolls worth
  • 2 tablespoons of oats

 photo 6c1326b7-22dd-421a-9bda-1749b349d6b0_zps526a45a0.jpgPreheat your oven to 160g. Grate your lemon zest into a bowl, and pour over the golden syrup.

 photo b2b7d888-8500-40ee-a350-621b08c0d2e0_zpsa1d669bb.jpg photo 0b78cf1a-8444-4d29-a854-66f0919cd762_zpsd8e289b3.jpgStir in your lemon juice and your breadcrumbs/oats. Stir well, until it is all combined. The mix should be thick, but still able to ‘move,’ i.e. when you pour it into the pastry it should spread itself to the edges.

 photo 96f0caff-20bf-4932-a46f-982e678641f4_zps1c1b7f9c.jpgAdd to the pastry case, and then bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Keep an eye to make sure that the top doesn’t catch – you may want to lower the heat.

 photo 6a831efd-b8a2-4816-9b59-ada55a97ce6a_zpsba7cee49.jpgThe mix will be quite wobbly and ‘wet’ when you fetch it out – it will firm up on cooling. Enjoy slightly warm (the microwave does this perfectly) with cream or ice cream.

 photo 7d706961-68c8-4d60-9278-a58b7b2a603d_zpsf42b6d25.jpgI absolutely love this bake, warm and comforting, and ridiculously simple to make. I’ll never buy one in again – even with buying a pastry case the ingredients are far less science-lab, and there’s something so lovely about the smell of it cooking too. One of life’s greatest pleasure, and I’m very thankful for my Grandma for introducing me to her recipe.

What’s your favourite comforting bake for cold weather?

Fashion: Sentimental Jewellery

This post was initially titled Everyday Jewellery, but I decided to change the title and not the content. No prizes for guessing why… photo 6d4ce0b4-4d39-42f5-b391-94ceb3fdcc2c_zpsdf75c289.jpgI’m not a fashionable person, and I don’t claim to me. I’ve found a way of dressing which seems to suit both my body shape and my lifestyle, but one of the things I really don’t think suits me is ‘costume jewellery’ – on a day-to-day basis I rarely deviate from some pieces special to me, and I doubt that will change anytime soon! Of course there’s always a few outfits where I like to dress up with a chunky necklace – I was sent a necklace from Sainsbury’s which I love for work, with a plain black skirt and white blouse. But generally here’s what I stick to each day;

 photo 20aa03e6-c630-4857-94d6-8269c963acdd_zpsb7e089fe.jpgMy bracelet is a LoveLinks, cheaper than Pandora (especially as I used to get a discount at the main jewellers selling this in my town, due to working in Debenhams) but amazingly classy with a huge choice of beads. It started off as an eighteenth present from my parents, with the bracelet part and a set of pre-selected white charms and some spacers. My boyfriend, equipped with an annotated version of the brochure, picked out two more lovely beads for me that birthday. I treated myself to one after my nose operation last year, and then it went unadded to until I start my placement this summer – both my parents and my boyfriend bought me one charm each. At the moment I’m unlikely to add to it until I can afford to fully complete it, as it’s at a nice fullness – and once its full I’m very tempted to start going along a different colour scheme, so I can switch it up when I need to. But when most of my clothes are pink/purple and berry tones, this suits me perfectly.

 photo 54ec73cc-566e-4db5-8be1-6f8ace081364_zps54e4546f.jpgThe ring is also immensely special to me, and also an eighteenth present. Long story short, my granddad had always planned to treat myself and my sister on our eighteenth to something special, but unfortunately he developed severe Alzheimers before either of us reached that goal – devastating, but my lovely nan kept his word and we picked out this delicate diamond and white gold ring. It’s not huge, mainly as I have teeny hands so anything bigger looks a little silly, but its just exactly what I wanted, and even three years on (I feel old!) I still love it. Plus the diamond is actually of amazing clarity, so sparkly…I’m a bit of a diamond lover, quality of them over size or quantity any day for me!

 photo d9b5ad09-db0b-4196-9034-a41fa3ddc5b4_zpse5226cc9.jpgMy watch is the result of months of searching for one that was slim enough not to look silly on my child-like wrists. I eventually fell in love with it, made by Radley, it’s tiny, but with a decent sized face, looks classy and it’s too masculine being light grey in colour. It’s also lasted surprisingly well given the thinness of the leather! It was slightly more than I wanted to pay, but hardly expensive compared to most watches you see around!

 photo 6a092e2a-d6ca-4575-a7a0-8337f18d3302_zpsfdade76b.jpgNow finally is my necklace, the most-worn piece of jewellery I’ve ever owned. The other two bits are lovely, and I wear them most days, but obviously for walking the dog, or lounging about, they’re just a bit OTT. This necklace I can honestly say rarely leaves my neck – the only times I’ve not worn it are either because it’s being cleaned, or I’ve snapped the chain. My boyfriend bought it for my on my 17th birthday, after less than two months together. I absolutely love it; its a gorgeous shape that’s not too childish, not too big, and it brings so many wonderful memories – that day may or may not have been when certain words were first uttered, so it’s a huge sentimental piece. My dream is to get it remade in white gold as the silver is starting to slightly tarnish, but I don’t want to let it leave my neck for a long time!

I had planned this post to be quite a quick, unemotional post, but it’s turned into quite the opposite – clearly I have a lot of emotional attachment to these pieces!

What’s your favourite piece of jewellery, and why? 

Lifestyle: Girly Date at The Chocolate Cafe, Canterbury

Looking back I didn’t visit the Chocolate Cafe in my second year at university, which is strange because I loved it in my first year. Me and my boyfriend would go on an evening, after a meal out, and cuddle up on one of the many armchairs dotted around. Chatting and catching up, coupled with hot chocolate. The waffles made it just about perfect.

 photo d5940928-cb76-49b2-b175-671d9b54f23c_zpse3027a74.jpgWhen I went to visit my university girls last weekend (I miss them so much!) the Chocolate Cafe was number one on our list for eats. To be honest, I’d have loved a visit to Pork & Co too, but you can’t have everything. And I did go and buy five bags of pork scratchings…Anyway, the Chocolate Cafe it was, after a visit to the new Primark, and the accidental purchase of a new winter coat.

 photo 93b14776-8d77-445c-a721-da5e9b919c2d_zps203d5cb4.jpgIt being suddenly Autumn, suddenly cold, and suddenly very rainy (24 hours earlier I’d been in a pub garden in a t-shirt?!), we were rather hungry, so descended on the savoury items, and the cakes, and the drinks. I pushed the boat out – hot chocolate, mozzarella and prosciutto toastie, and a green tea cake. Others went slightly healthier, choosing tea or juice. But damn, that hot chocolate was worth it! Perfectly thick, almost like melted chocolate but a little more liquid, smooth, and a great chocolatey flavour without being too sweet. Yum. The sandwich was good for a place specialising in the sweet side of things, although it could have been a little hotter, and the cheese wasn’t melted enough. Yummy combination of flavours though, and packed with filling for the price.

 photo 7b148e76-2ac5-4cfc-af97-b2affd48b4f0_zps21e44236.jpgNow my cake! Oh my cake. You probably can’t tell from these awful photos, complete with instagram filter (whoops!) but it was more cheesecake than cake. A light, slightly crunchy base, topped with a green tea cream, and then topped with a thick layer of white chocolate and lemon mousse. It was unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before, but it was utterly delicious. So light and refreshing, whilst being utterly indulgent.

 photo 65bb55ec-1f81-4963-a1fe-74988c9b88dc_zpsdb1d1d94.jpgOf course, I couldn’t stand paying by the chocolate display and not pick up a few, so I used “The Anniversary” as an excuse. I can’t remember what I picked out now, apart from a Blue Cheese and Walnut invention – so it’ll be a surprise when we dig in! We’ve eaten chocolates from there before in the past and they’ve delighted with their flavour combinations, so I’m looking forward to these. I’m hoping to have a few more chocolatey posts up over the next few weeks, as I’ve found some lovely little places which you *have* to visit!

Are you a chocolate lover?