Lifestyle: Happy Things #31

Wow, hasn’t the past fortnight gone quickly! Maybe it’s because my Christmas ended up being not-so-festive, but I’ve found easing myself back into work, a routine etc a lot easier than previous years. I mean, if you ignore the horrendous 2.5+ hour journey to work last Monday morning, it’s been pretty much a breeze! Though if you could send me an excuse to eat vast amounts of cheese again, that would be wonderful…

  1. Long walks. Both on New Year’s Day, then again last weekend, me and W wrapped up warm and went for a long walk. Our go-to route is along the river (heading West out of London), but we also spent a lovely 4 hours zigzagging across Richmond Park, before walking to Ham and then onto Petersham Nurseries. Gorgeous, though trying to make our own sandwiches on a picnic bench in sub 5C was perhaps a mistake.
  2. Buying pretty plates at Petersham Nurseries. Anything for the Instagram!
  3. Speaking of Instagram, I’ve been loving curating my feed lately. If only I could reach the small but elusive 1k though!
  4. Joining a new join at work (albeit temporarily) – it involves a lot of techy and code-y work so it’s been a challenge, but I’ve really appreciated it.
  5. Booking onto a Doughnut Making Workshop as part of W’s birthday present. It’s not until the end of March but I’m already excited for it!
  6. Being challenged to cook a ‘local meal’ – more on this soon…
  7. A birthday night out at Home SW15. The food was lovely, the seasonal cocktails (mine involved parsnip and white chocolate) were yummy and I definitely want to visit for brunch now!
  8. Oh brunch. We also managed a birthday brunch at our favourite, The Dynamo (read my previous review). I tried their Turkish Eggs which were AMAZING, just lacking a big enough toast portion…
  9. Cosying up with a homemade lasagne made with my tomato-free bolognese. Cheesy, creamy, and full of all the carbs!
  10. Burning my favourite candle. It’s Rose & Oud scented and I’m so gutted it’s now ran out.
  11. Enjoying my new armchair. I now finally have a mustard-y yellow armchair. It’s just the right size to curl up on with a book, it’s super comfy and makes my flat feel 10x more cosy. I love it!
  12. Making progress with wedding bits and bobs. With less than 9 months to go we actually need to plan stuff rather than just book vendors. I have my hair/makeup trial, first dress fitting and our ‘engagemnt’ shoot with our photographer all in the next few weeks, plus a shop to try and find dresses for my ‘maids. So exciting!

What’s made you happy recently?

Food: My Kitchen Goals for 2018

As a food blogger I’m pretty much always in the kitchen or reading cookbooks. Thinking up new flavour combinations, easier ways to make classic dishes. Or I’ll be reading some of my favourite blogs, putting even more restaurants on my list… either way, food is a massive part of my life and there’s still so much more I have to try. Here’s just a few of the things I want to tick off in 2018!

Embarrassingly, some of these I’ve probably mentioned as goals before on this blog. However, as it’s a New Year, let’s wipe the slate clean and start again!

  • Improve my cake decorating skills. I shamefully tend to get W to ice any cakes that need it (case in point: my birthday cake last month). I’d love to be at the stage where I feel comfortable with a piping bag, although I’m not sure how likely it is that I’ll achieve such a goal this year!
  • Make our our pasta more often. It tastes SO much better than shop-bought.
  • Eat amazing food on our honeymoon. I don’t actually know where we’ll be flying off to, as W has booked the whole thing as a surprise, however I am pretty damn sure that there will be yummy food involved! Stay tuned in October and you’ll find out!
  • Make a “proper” pie from scratch. We quite often have a pie during the week, but the filling will be a quite casserole of leftovers, with a sheet of puff pastry baked on top. I’d love to make a pie from scratch, with pastry all the way round the perfect filling.
  • Learn more about Chinese and Asian cooking. In particular I’d love to give dumplings a go!
  • Tick off one or two more Michelin Starred restaurants. I managed to visit Pollen Street Social and Galvin La Chapelle in 2017, so I’d love to try a few more this year. Where would you recommend?
  • Make sure I eat a vegetarian dinner at least once a week. We’d like to make our meat purchasing more ethical, but to do that we need to eat less of it purely from a cost perspective!
  • Find a decent fruit and veg delivery system. Do you get a weekly food box? We’ve tried a couple and haven’t been overly impressed so would really appreciate some recommendations!
  • Actually manage to make and keep a sourdough starter alive. It’s alluded us several times in the past…

What do you want to achieve in the kitchen this year?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #30

Happy New Year!

I’m kicking the year off with a bumper Happy Things post – covering all of the festive period and a little before that. Whilst I had planned to write a couple more Christmassy posts, I felt a bit run-down in the week leading up to the big day so decided just to enjoy my time away from the office. I won’t be having more than a couple of days off until our wedding and honeymoon in October now, so it was good to make the most of it! As it was, I had a fabulous few weeks, although Christmas wasn’t quite what I’d planned…

      1. Homemade gifts. I’ve made a few homemade gifts this year and they’ve all gone down really well. The Peanut Butter Fudge has definitely been the most well-received though!
      2. A really good office party. I was in another department on a rotation before my Christmas holiday, and they were nice enough to have me tag on to their celebrations. There was good food, a lot of wine and bubbly, plenty of festive games and a compulsory Santa hat.
      3. Mulled Wine afternoons with friends, before a Carol service at our local church. Much festiveness.
      4. Continuing a new festive tradition. Last year me and W came up with ‘Pigs in Blankets Night’ – a roast dinner, but where the main meat is a good serving of homemade pigs in blankets. It’s so, so good.
      5. Sleeping for 12.5 hours pretty much straight.
      6. Curry night. I was sent some of Patak’s new Paste Pots* and added them to my Nomato Sauce. Served with homemade pilau rice, a spinach-coconut concoction I made up, bhajis and plenty of poppadoms we ate ourselves into a food coma.
      7. Frijoles at Wahaca. Though I’m not too happy at their menu change, as there’s now a lot more I can’t eat (and it feels a lot less authentic too!).
      8. A short break at Centre Parcs. We went to celebrate my sister’s eighteenth birthday and it was lovely! A gorgeous lodge with our own sauna, plenty of time in the pool (some of the water rides are pretty scary!), and some fun activities. Segeways were a particular highlight.
      9. My first ever spa day. I spent lots of time in a Blossom scented heat room, enjoyed a fire and ice experience – though the highlight was a Flotation Mud Wrap.
      10. Passing my exam! I came out of the spa to see my name on the pass list for the exam I took in September. I hadn’t been feeling overly confident recently after a tutor went over the paper, so I’m feeling relieved. Next ones are in April and I’m already on track with the material…
      11. Hot Beef Rolls from a nearby delicatessen. They roast a couple of joints of meat daily, then fill fresh slightly crispy rolls with meat sliced to order. The beef is rare and tender, the horseradish just the right heat. And at £3 it’s difficult to resist.
      12. Picking up chocolates from Cocoa Amore.
      13. Heading home for Christmas. It was a pretty hectic festive season for us all, but we managed to see both my Nan and Grandma, all the nieces/nephews and get presents delivered on time and to the correct people.
      14. The Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Rolls from M&S. They’re addictive.
      15. Christmas Dinner. Nuff said. Although I did have to rush my one on the big day as W was being ill (nesecitating a trip to A&E, 2 litres of fluid on a drip and an awful lot of worry). Then my second Christmas Dinner on Boxing Day was understandably subdued. Both delicious though!
      16. Being able to say – “We’re getting married THIS YEAR!!”

Hope you had a good Christmas – and that your New Year has gotten off to a good start! What’s made your festive period so special?

Life: Best Food of 2017

I can’t quite believe that it’s time to start rounding up 2017 – this year has just flown by. For personal reasons it hasn’t exactly been a great year, so this gal is excited for 2018. Not least because there’s a certain day in October when I get to done a rather pretty dress and sign perhaps the most important document of my life!

A few months ago I made the decision to move the focus of this blog away from ‘everything and anything’ to food. Because I’m all about food. For the first time in what feels like years, I’ve been really happy with the way my blog is moving forwards. I feel more excited to sit down and write posts, to take photos. Admittedly this is being shadowed by the need to move all my photos from photobucket at some point (cheers guys, that’s probably a month’s work right there) but I’m so excited to see what happens next.

And on that note, rather than doing lots of round-ups like 2016, this year there’s just one. The best food of 2017. Here goes.

I have visited Putney Pies twice in a fortnight, sooo yummy! 🙈

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January

I spent a lot of January cosied-up at home. With W away in the warmer climate of Chile I relied on a lot of comfort food and quick fixes – though I ate a lot of mushrooms and seafood too. Homecooking highlights were perfecting my homemade falafel (recipe here), and cooking up a delicious mac’n’cheese infused with whisky (with whisky glazed bacon crumb) to welcome my boy home. I’ll actually be posting that recipe ahead of Burn’s Night 2018 so keep your eyes peeled.

January was also the first month I visited Putney Pies – in fact it was so good I actually went two weekends on the trot!

Cake 😍 🍰 Saturday’s trip to Dominique Ansel was pretty much sugar-high perfection!

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February

February saw sugar-overload from a mummy-daughter trip to Dominque Ansel. The Frozen S’more is every bit as delicious as it sounds. I also managed to perfect my Tomato-free Bolognese, which I’ve since made many, many times.

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March

This month saw me eating a lot of beetroot – with my Beetroot Risotto becoming a firm favourite. With plenty of goat’s cheese I reckon it’s a way to encourage beetroot-haters to try this delicious vegetable! We also discovered Maltby Street Food Market this month…

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April

Ah, now April was a good food month! The start of it saw us head off to York, where we had so many delicious meals. There was lunch at Skosh, which is one of my top meals of all time. We had a cheese and wine night at Pairings, which is my idea of the perfect date night location. And of course, we had to stop by Betty’s – we didn’t something different to the usual afternoon tea which I’ve just realised I haven’t yet blogged about! Whoops! Following my exam this month we also had a celebratory meal at Pollen Street Social – whilst I didn’t blog about the visit, I can confirm that chicken-fat mash should totally be a thing…

Homecooking wise and a highlight was my oven-baked crumpets. Originally baked as part of a collaboration with St Helens Farm, these were absolutely delicious. I may have to make them again soon!

May

May saw us try and eat as many vegetarian dinners as possible, with some real highlights. I developed a delicious vegan bolognese recipe (although quite often we added plenty of parmesan), and this curry is now a firm favourite.

June

Now, June was a stressful month. We found out we needed to find a new flat – trust me, house hunting on the hottest weekend of the year was not fun! There was definitely some foodie highlights though – Kenwood sent me one of their kMix Stand Mixers* which was fun to play with, and I cooked one of my favourite salads yet.

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July

Another good food month! We kicked off July with a delicious meal at Bistro Vadouvan in Putney, eating one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever had. We also celebrated my exam pass with a brunch at Duck & Waffle which was utterly amazing, I’m so glad I’ve ticked it off my list.

We then flew to Switzerland for a week of cheesy carby goodness, including a rather excessive rosti topped with 10 rashes of bacon, and a meringue that was larger than my head. I also tried flammkuchen for the first time, I’ve been craving one ever since!

August

August was a quiet month, with most of it taken up with gradually moving out and dealing with our ex-landlord (he wanted a new carpet to the tune of over £1000. Short story: he didn’t get one, or at least not from our deposit!).

This Fesenjan was honestly one of the best dishes I’ve ever cooked! Tender chicken in a Pomegranate & Walnut Sauce it’s comforting, rich and lightly spiced. Served with brown rice and fragrant roasted cauliflower it’s a hug in a bowl for an Autumn evening! What’s your favourite dish? #fesenjan #pomegranate #middleeastern #middleeasternfood #goodfood #whatimeating #thefeedfeed #onmytable #savorthejourney #foodstories #forkfeed #inmytummy #makeitdelicious #eatnowplaylater #yougottaeatthis #tastingtable #storyofmytable #heresmyfood #inspiremyinstagram #show_me_your_food #foodandflatlay #hungrygrls #lickyourphone #foodlikewoah #noleftovers #verytandc #happyselves #theartofslowliving #nestandflourish #fdbloggers

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September

This was another exam month, though someone we managed to tick two pizza places off of our list to try (Mother LDN and 400 Rabbits – review from the latter will be one of the first of 2018). We also spent the last weekend of the month in Suffolk, which was utterly wonderful – I never realised the county was so foodie! A particular highlight was the chocolate doughnut from Pump Street Bakery…

And on a cooking note, this month was when I cooked what is perhaps the best thing I’ve cooked all year – my Chicken Fesenjan. Perfect for a special occasion!

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October

October was the month where I enjoyed having some me time - no exams to worry about, no deteriorating family members at the back of my mind. I cooked lots this month - with the Caramelised Onion & Goat's Cheese Pasta being a particular favourite. I also came up with my favourite lunchbox salad ever - a combination of crunchy veg, quinoa and satay sauce. And of course, Autumn meant homemade fruit crumbles...

I had the pleasure of being invited to the Ginger Whisk Cooking School, where I learnt to temper chocolate and make peanut butter fudge (recipe here).  I was also privileged enough to take part in Wok for 1000, where we made over 1400 for people in need across the city, included a whopping 4000+ wontons.

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A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

November

Ah, November! This was the month of my very early Christmas party (and with 2016's in February, there were less than 9 months between them!). It featured "Christmas Dinner on a Stick" which definitely wasn't one of my foodie highlights! However this month also kicked off the festive dining in a rather spectacular way. The #AEGTasteofXmas event featured perfectly cooked turkey and beef rib, deliciously crispy roasties and a rather nice apricot-spiked stuffing (but, to my horror, no pigs in blankets). We learnt how to make pastry for mince pies, and picked up lots of tips for cooking the big meal this year. Not that I'll be attempting that one quite yet...

We also managed to get to the Taste of London event - eating our way around we have some *really* good things, with the stand-out being a Roasted Peach Massaman Curry. Yum yum!

December

My birthday month! I kicked it off in style by spending a scary £65 in the butchers on meat for the weekend (yep, it made me feel faint too!). I cooked up braised Ox Cheeks for my family, a delicious Pork Stew for me and Will, and I got my traditional birthday steak night too. Yum!

My actual birthday day saw a couple of lovely meals out too. Breakfast was at Antipodea which I loved - such a cosy atmosphere and my pancakes were delicious. Lunch was a trip to tick Hai Cenato off my list. I embraced the carbs-on-carbs, eating a pizza topped with potato, egg yolk and the obligatory cheese. No regrets.

And of course, December also has more good food to come. The best bit! Christmas dinner, featuring the usual two-birds (goose plus turkey), pigs in blankets, two types of potatos (roasts plus mash), two types of stuffing (sage and onion, plus a sausage-y one), lots of veg, yorkies and lashings of gravy. I'm drooling already!

What are your best eats of 2017? Where do you recommend for next year?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #29

Another Monday, another “Happy Things” post – although those with a good memory will have noticed that I’ve missed one or two of these. Whoops!

I’ve had a busy few weeks at work, a lot of blog events to go to (and write about) and I’ve been trying to take it a little easier in the evenings I have been at home. Comfort food, catching up with Masterchef and reading a few good books. Oh, and attempting to fix insanely massive tech issues on this blog (it was to the point my hosting company suspended my account and everything disappeared) and trying to deal with Photobucket giving me 30 days to save thousands of photos… yep these happy things posts just slipped my mind! It’s a shame as there’s been many happy things lately…

    1. My birthday! Sure I’m another year old, another year closer to finding grey hairs (I’m convinced I’ve actually gone slightly grey so I’ve upped my dyeing game lately!). But it was a great weekend spent with some of my best friends and my lovely family.
    2. And of course, a lot of food was eaten on said birthday weekend! I managed to tick off two restaurants from my ‘to visit’ list, including a delicious brunch and an *amazing* double carb pizza. Full reviews coming in the new year!
    3. Amazing gifts. I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging at all, but some of the gifts I received this year were truly magical. From a plant pot (can tell I’m getting old!) that fits in perfectly with the rest of my flat decor to a gorgeous Olivia Burton watch. I know I’m not the easiest person to buy for as well!
    4. A pretty good one-to-one with my manager. I don’t share a huge amount about my professional life here, but it’s been quite a tough few weeks at work so to find out I’m actually not screwing things up was a major thing for me recently! Now just to start thinking a bit more positively…
    5. Snow! Some of my colleagues were visiting from India at the time and had rarely, if ever, seen snow so it was super-exciting. Though I find snow at any time exciting!
    6. Opening my M&S Beauty Advent Calendar. I was worried it was’t going to be worth the money but I’ve been really impressed so far.
    7. A New Look Haul. I ordered myself a couple of jumpers and several skirts to update my winter wardrobe and now feel so much happier. I should probably through some older stuff away to make room though…
    8. Buying some really good quality meat. Now, I’m all for living ethically but equally I don’t particularly have any desire to be a vegetarian. Sure it works for some people, but I find I do feel an awful lot better when I eat meat. With that in mind we’re trying to eat slightly less of it, but make sure it’s coming from a better source. It’s costing is a bit more (and my birthday steaks made me pale as we went to pay) but it tastes SO much better. Pork in particular is a total game changer. Now to try and find a better source for fruit and veg – any recommendations?!
    9. Wine, wine, wine. This winter I’ve discovered I really like red wine. There’s a Romanian one I’ve been absolutely loving, but my go-to is a malbec. All the wine please!
    10. Ox Cheeks Braised in Red Wine. Combining two of my big loves – red meat and red wine. It was utter heaven served with celeriac mash and bacon-fried greens. Yum yum!
    11. A realllllyyyy yummy lunch at Bill’s. It’s not somewhere I visit often, but the cod and lentil dish I had was light and tasty and really hit the spot. The Molten Chocolate Bombe I had for dessert wasn’t quite so light, but was just as delicious.
    12. Watching Aladdin at the threatre. It was such a good performance, and the set and effects are some of the best I’ve ever seen on stage. Highly recommended!

What’s made you happy lately? What’s the best thing you’ve eaten recently?

Life: Foodie Bucket List – The UK Version

So I’ve done the ‘home cooking’ bucket list, now it’s time for the UK version. Here’s a collection of the restaurants and places I most want to visit in the UK – by no means is it everything on my list, because that would be a VERY long blog post!

Instead this was just me sitting down for 5 minutes and listing down everything that first jumped into my head – because that’s probably the ones I want to do most, right?! Though realistically if I could just eat everything that would be wonderful…

  • Eat Lobster on the beach in North Berwick. This particular beach holds a special place in my heart, and I just know it would be a perfect meal.
  • Visit Sketch. If only to use the toilets!
  • Try the Hallomi Fries at KERB. My Instagram feed was full of them over the summer and they looked so damn tasty!
  • Eat at Wood Manchester. I actually met Simon (winner of 2015’s Masterchef) a few weeks back at an event run by Magnet kitchens. He was as lovely as he seemed on the show, and the dishes he cooked up were simply delicious – scallops and dahl, 18-hour pork belly, mackerel with goats curd and beetroot. I can only imagine what his restaurant’s food is like!
  • Head back to Pump Street Bakery for another doughnut. That’s how good it was!
  • Try some proper Ramen. Send me recommendations asap!
  • A foodie trip to Wales. I’ve been following Gourmet Gorro for a while and the restaurants he eats at make me jealous for two reasons. One, the food looks delicious. Two, the prices are insane compared to what I’m used to in London.
  • Try alllllll the burgers. Shake Shack, Bleecker Street and Patty & Bun are all vying for my next visit!
  • Eat pasta from a “bowl” of cheese. You can thank Rosie for that craving…
  • Tick off “London’s Most Instagrammable Desserts” – challenge accepted!
  • Visit Bao. It’s been on my list for so, so long and everything looks delicious!
  • Eat at The Fat Duck. Because it just sounds so amazing.
  • The new Copper & Ink (I’m anxiously awaiting their opening) also sounds right up my street. As does The Dairy in Clapham…

What foodie hotspots do you want to visit? What else should be on my list?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #28

Another Monday, another “Happy Things” post – although those with a good memory will have noticed that I’ve missed one or two of these. Whoops!

I’ve had a busy few weeks at work, a lot of blog events to go to (and write about) and I’ve been trying to take it a little easier in the evenings I have been at home. Comfort food, catching up with Masterchef and reading a few good books. Oh, and attempting to fix insanely massive tech issues on this blog (it was to the point my hosting company suspended my account and everything disappeared) and trying to deal with Photobucket giving me 30 days to save thousands of photos… yep these happy things posts just slipped my mind! It’s a shame as there’s been many happy things lately…

  1. It’s my birthday week! I don’t think anything could be happier than that, HA! I have a day off to do absolutely whatever I please, a breakfast planned on the big day, an order in for a steak-night-in and a family lunch the next day. Looking forward to it!
  2. My first Christmas dinner of the season. And thanks to the fancy AEG ovens it was perfectly good and just so tasty. I am desperate for my own kitchen so I can have my own…
  3. My work Christmas party. We had our 2016 party in February, so there was 9 months between them – but it was a great night. We had a cocktail making workshop (excellent) and “Christmas dinner on stick” (not so excellent). And I felt surprisingly good the next morning too!
  4. Picking up the M&S Beauty Advent Calendar.
  5. W making the tastiest (and quickest) veggie curry we’ve had in a while. Yum yum!
  6. Doggy cuddles. I nipped to my parents for the night over the weekend – instead of getting the much anticipated bed to myself, I found myself clinging to the edge whilst a certain terrier snored in the middle…
  7. Making one of my favourite chicken dishes. We rarely buy chicken breasts, but splurged on some ‘premium’ ones (wincing at the price slightly!) and pan-fried with a leek and mustard sauce. So good.
  8. An evening at Taste of London. Read Saturday’s post to find out more!
  9. Wandering around a garden centre looking at (and buying!) Christmas decorations. Hello middle agedness!
  10. Homemade marshmallows in hot chocolate. It’s my new obsession.

What’s made you happy lately?

Food: Overindulgence @ Taste of London

Taste of London. A place where some of London’s best restaurant’s come together under one roof. Somewhere where I can try several of the places on my list in one go – a small plate at each, making a decisive about how quickly I need to tick them off properly. Basically Taste of London is my dream way to spend a few hours.

There was everything there. Every type of food you could imagine. Chinese dumplings which smelt INSANELY good. Classic French. Cheese. Indian. Thai. Everything. I quickly instructed W that we would share everything so we could try more things – a plan I’d highly recommend. I’m only gutted that we arrived already feeling pretty stuffed from a festive cookery class with AEG (more to come on that one!).

We started by trying to have a wander and gauge what was about. Spoiler: we failed miserably. Going onto the site afterwards to try and write this post I realised just how many places I wanted to go to. Bubbledogs and Kricket both got missed which I’m pretty damn gutted about!

First to be ticked off was Bao, which has been on my list to try for what feels like forever. The Fried Chicken Bao
(soy milk marinated chicken, Sichuan mayo, kimchi, coriander) was everything I hoped for. A little on the small side for £6 perhaps, but full of flavour. The chicken was both crunchy and moist, and the sauce spicy and sweet. The Bao bun was also delicious and it’s pushed the place further up my list.

We then wandered off to find the dish that, for me, turned out to be the dish of the night. Farang’s Roasted Peach Massaman Curry (seasoned with peanuts, sweet basil and wild ginger) was utterly amazing. Sweet, salty, spicy and perfectly balanced. How they managed to keep the fruit so perfectly cooked is beyond me. Damn good and something I’ve been craving all week.

We took a quick break from the savoury options and headed over to Action Against Hunger’s Doughnut stall. We split two options. The Peter Gordon (pear and ginger compote stuffed doughnut
crunchy maple cornflakes, basil icing) was absolutely delicious whilst the Dan Doherty (coffee, Amaretto and almond) was a tad too sweet for my taste. Both good though, and better than quite a few doughnuts I’ve tried recently!

It was then time to hit The Cheese Bar. We picked up their Four Cheese Truffled Macaroni Cheese and it was…okay. If I’m honest I was disappointed – it lacked a real cheesy depth of flavour, and I didn’t really taste a huge amount of truffle either. It wasn’t bad, and maybe I’d have enjoyed it more had I not been totally and utterly stuffed. Their grilled cheese looked pretty epic though! This is definitely a place I want to visit to see what they can do…

Our final dish was one which confused me. Moro serve North African and Spanish dishes and the flavours in our pick were certainly good. Grilled quail with beetroot borani and pistachio sauce balanced on a fine line of freshness and richness. It was herby and vibrant, so colourful, but utterly filling. Our real complaint was that it was impossible to eat with plastic cutlery on a paper plate.

And with that we left. Clutching our bellies, it was a long tube journey home!

Unfortunately Taste of London was limited to one weekend, and one weekend only, but the good news? They’ll be back! From the 13-17th of June they’ll be in Regents Park and I’ll definitely be there – and starting with an empty belly this time…

*I received two tickets and some meal vouchers as part of an AEG event, however was under no obligation to write this post – I loved the evening and wanted to share all the delicious food!

Have you ever been to Taste of London? What did you think?

Lifestyle: Eating Out on a Budget

I love food. It goes without saying really, given that I run a food blog, but I live to eat. To me food isn’t just a fuel so I can get on with my life, it’s one of my genuine pleasures and I get so much out of a good bite to eat. Whether it’s a perfectly cooked steak, gorgeously runny egg, exotically spiced curry or even a comforting roast dinner, a good meal to me is the fastest way to my heart.

Prioritize Spending

This is generally how we “afford” most of our meals out and expensive cooking ingredients. Yes, we don’t see the problem in shelling out upwards of £100 on a meal for two (or more, especially now I’m out of university). However as a couple neither of us are into nights out, and nor have we ever been.

I personally would never dream of spending more than £10 on an evening of drinks, whilst I know friends, colleagues and family who wouldn’t think twice at spending £50, £100 or even more. And that’s absolutely fine. They enjoy a  night out. I see a tray of shots as a fancy dish I could be eating. It’s each to their own, and I put my eating out more highly than alcohol.

Eat Mid-Week

Quite a few restaurants will sneakily put their prices up Friday-Sunday – midweek meals are generally the cheapest. There will also often be special deals which are just too good to miss. Putney Pies does a deal on a Tuesday which makes it a lot more affordable!

Purchase Discounted Vouchers

As well as popping restaurant vouchers on your Christmas and birthday wishlist, you can also pick them up at a discounted price on Zeek*. Whilst the savings aren’t massive, you can easily save anything up to 10% by purchasing  restaurant vouchers using the app. It’s mainly chains on offer, though I do love Bella Italia’s courgette and chicken pasta!

If you know where you’re off to, getting a small amount of money off a voucher can make all the difference. You can generally treat it as a giftcard too, meaning it can be used alongside other discounts. Double win in my books!

Visit “Cheap” Restaurants

Cheap doesn’t have to be McDonalds, or a soggy fridge-cold sandwich from Tesco! Whether it’s tacos at Wahaca (the two of us can generally eat for around £25 including churros) or pizza at the Dynamo, there’s a lot of reallllyyyy good places to eat that won’t break the bank. A little time spent searching means we’ve got a bank of cheaper restaurants that we really want to try – have a looksie on Time Out for inspiration!

Utilise Lunch-time Offers

Dining in pricier restaurants is, for us, only usually possible at lunch times. Case in point is when we took a trip to Pollen Street Social earlier in the year. It’s a pricey restaurant (main courses start at around £35 and the portions aren’t *huge*), but with a three-course lunch offering at £37 it’s a lot more reasonable than it seems at first. We actually purchased a lunch voucher in advance, and so only paid for teas/coffee on the day – and we’re still treated to both appetizers and petit-four too. Definitely worth it if you want a real treat without completely blowing the budget!

Steer Clear of Alcohol

I love me a glass of wine as much as the next person – but it’s pricey. I’ve been to many a restaurant where the cheapest bottle isn’t far off our weekly food budget, so it’s quite rare that we’ll indulge. I’ll avoid soft drinks too – I’d far sooner spend an extra £10 on starters rather than a glass of lemonade! Tap water all the way here…

Keep An Eye Out for Soft Lauches

A soft launch is a chance for new restaurants to test their menu, kitchen and staff before they are officially open. Sure, the service might but a bit hit-and-miss but the food is usually delish and you can get a decent discount – up to 50% is normal. I’ve used hot-dinners.com in the past to see what’s popping up!

*I was gifted a small amount of Zeek credit in exchange for a post, although all opinions (and other tips) are my own!

What are your tips for eating out on a budget? 

Life: A Foodie Weekend in Suffolk

Booked as a post-exam relaxing break, this wasn’t planned to be a foodie weekend. Obviously as massive lovers of good food we’d earmarked a restaurant or two we wanted to try, but we’d overlooked the fact that Suffolk is a county producing so much yummy stuff.  Every single thing we ate over the weekend was delicious, everything seemingly fresh and local. We found some real gems and I couldn’t help but share!

Our base for the weekend was the absolutely gorgeous Five Acre Barn, just down the road from Aldeburgh. Newly opened, it manages to combine modern with cosy perfectly. Think polished concrete floors, with fully-controllable under-floor heating. Think plywood, but combined with soft and luxurious bedding and blankets. The bath was an utter delight, and the bed so insanely comfortable I genuinely had to be restrained to avoid stealing the pillow. Bruce and David were the perfect hosts (and Ruby the Visla of course!), with Bruce’s breakfasts being the best B&B ones I’ve eaten. Creamy scrambled eggs, huge full English’s and a gorgeous hollandaise were all on the menu over the weekend.

Dinner on our first night was a recommendation from my parents – Sutherland House in Southwold. A little pricey than others in the area, we still spent less than £80 on a three-course (plus amuse-bouche) meal with wine for the non-driver (#winning). I enjoyed the best scallops I can remember, served with a glorious combo of pork belly, black pudding, apple and cauliflower. I stayed on the fish-theme with my main, ordering the Parmesan Crusted Salmon with Potato Soufflé. The salmon was a tad overcooked (possibly a victim of the massive portion), though the soufflé was a revelation and something W is going to recreate for me next date night! W was equally impressed with his meal, though admittedly we were both slightly put off by the serving of frozen grapes with his cheese board (both a fan of frozen grapes, but not at the expense of cold cheese) I finished with a perfect chocolate fondant, then fell asleep on the way back to the B&B…

The next day was spent exploring. We wandered aimlessly around the streets and beaches of Aldeburgh and Thorpeness, popping into local delicatessens and drinking apple juice pressed before our very eyes. We’d heard mention of “amazing doughnuts” over breakfast (it’s communal dining at Five Acre, a concept I loved). Obviously those two words were enough to encourage a drive over to Orford.

I want to live in Orford.

Orford is a tiny village, so picturesque. Full of old cottages with plants snaking up the walls, surrounded by gorgeous countryside and the peaceful quay. It’s also home to some of the best foodie spots I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. There’s highly recommended pubs and restaurants, there’s the award-winning smoking house. But the star of the show is Pump Street Bakery. I’ll be posting a full review in the next few weeks, but if you’re in the area? Go. We drove back the next day so we could take bits home with us!

That night we’d had a bit of a fail with booking a table at the closest pub, so instead ate Fish & Chips in the dark on the beach. Every bit as romantic as it sounds – until you get the tell-tale drip from your nose that vinegar and cold air seems to cause!

Some local cider (and a bag of Peanut M&Ms) in bed, then I slept for longer than ever before. Bliss.

Reluctantly checking out, we detoured back to Orford to load up the car with as much as we could, before heading to Southwold. The weather let us down, with the wind so strong the pier was closed and our ears ached. We spent far too long in the Adnams shop, purchasing their own gin. We explored local galleries, picked up some Suffolk Salami (fortunately this is available in Wholefoods, as Sainsbury’s own is no longer cutting it for me…). We lunched at Fifty One Cafe, where my Smoked Haddock Gratin hit the spot perfectly. Warming and comforting, plenty of cheese, and a really tasty beetroot salad (and 4 cups of tea!) to accompany. W’s Celeriac Soup was also hugely enjoyed.

With that, we started the long journey home – it took us two hours to get from near Canary Wharf to Putney (just under 10 miles!) so we were glad of the Pump Street Doughnuts we’d bought!

Suffolk was such a delightful county, and one I really wish we’d visited sooner. We know we’ll definitely be back!

Have you ever visit Suffolk? Where do you think is best for foodies in the UK?