Restaurant Review: HipChips, Soho

Old Compton Street in Soho seems to host a good handful of restaurants that I *really* want to visit, and HipChips was no exception. I’d heard about it a while back (okayyyy, I’d heard that you could dip potato crisps into peanut butter…) and it had really piqued my interest. Of course this meant when I was offered the chance to review I just could say no!

They use the “best heritage varieties of potatoes, serving them up delicately fried alongside mind-blowing dips.” You can choose sweet or savoury (or a mix – though as they would be served together I’m not overly convinced this is the way to go) with the sweet being sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Then choose your dips and, well, get dipping.

We went for a Large Sweet box, which comes with 6 dips. The crisps themselves certainly looked good, with various different colours. The cinnamon sugar combo was also extremely moreish – despite some of the crisps being more than a little soft.

The dips were also a mixed bag – out of Peanut Butter & Jam, S’mores, Passionfruit, Chocolate & Salted Caramel, Cheesecake and Blackberry & Liquorice there was two clear favourites, and only another two we really ate. I’d skip the Chocolate & Salted Caramel, as the warm caramel split the cold chocolate dip and just made a not particularly pleasant texture. The Cheesecake was also disappointing, bland and too ‘cheesy.’ Not great. Better was the S’mores, though the menu description of ‘gooey marshmallow’ is overselling it when it’s simply chocolate with mini-marshmallows on top. Blowtorch ’em please!

Blackberry & Liquorice was good when eaten with a spoon, not so much on a chip. However the Passionfruit and Peanut Butter with Jam were both winners. Passionfruit was sharp and fruity. Peanut Butter had the perfect salty-sweet kick and the punchy jam just made it better. I’d have been happy with several pots of both!

The savoury dips sounded good, but I felt a bit limited with the tomato-free options and, having devoured a satay chicken at Leon, was in the mood for something sweet. Even so, as I ate I found myself wishing I wasn’t in the (very modern and just a little quirky) restaurant, but rather at home, in my PJs, watching a film. And that’s what sums up my review of HipChips. The food was okay, some bits we ate were great, but as an eat-in concept I’m not 100% sure it works. If only I was in their delivery range!

*I was gifted a voucher for HipChips in exchange for an honest review – and as always all opinions are my own (or my fiances!) 

Would you go sweet or savoury with your chips’n’dips?

Review: Duck & Waffle

I’d wanted to visit Duck & Waffle for aggessss. I poured over the Instagram photos, quizzed friends who had been – hell it even made it on my London Bucket List (which I really must make more of an effort to tick off!). Luckily someone listened to my whining and Santa surprised me with a voucher in my stocking last Christmas, though despite this it was still July before we headed up to the 40-something floor in the heart of the City.

 photo Duck amp Waffle_zpss9el8ejg.jpg

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

It was pretty difficult to book in for a weekend breakfast. I checked most days for a good month before I found a date that didn’t clash with pre-made plans, exams or deadlines, and still booked a couple of months in advance. Turns out my planning was excellent – it ended up being the day after W handed in his dissertation, and two days after I found out I’d passed April’s exam (the relief is still there!). So we celebrated with a two course brunch, though passing on the alcohol as numerous bubbles had been consumed in the days previous!

Tea ordered (though still the permanent confusion when presented with two pots and no indication of which was the Earl Grey and which was ‘normal’), it didn’t take us long to decide on our ‘mains’ – we both went for the Duck & Waffle. Neither of us could resist trying the signature dish, although we were tempted by the Full English (him) and the Duck Egg en Cocotte (me).

 photo Duck and Waffle 7_zps9rzbxr0o.jpg photo Duck and Waffle 6_zpswy6s4smt.jpgA toasted waffle, topped with a succulent confit duck leg, capped with an oozing duck egg and a side pot of mustard maple syrup, the Duck & Waffle is a combination of flavours and textures that really just have to be tried. Whilst my waffle was pretty perfect (slightly sweet, soft but with a slightly toasted crunch) I’ve hear reviews of stales ones, particularly those who go later in the day. The duck leg was super-crispy on the outer, with soft fall-apart flesh within. I spent ten or so minutes wishing it was acceptable to pick up and knaw on a bone in public, I didn’t want to waste a single bit of meat. The duck egg was again perfectly cooked with a *just* set white and gooey yolk. The mustard maple syrup was verging on too sweet for me with everything else, I’d possibly want more mustard coming through, but I did enjoy it drizzled on lightly. Plus I got the converted drizzle shot…

 photo Duck and Waffle 12_zpsaxwakdde.jpg photo Duck and Waffle 15_zpsrmox7p17.jpgOur ‘pudding’ was to share a sweet waffle, and it did take flipping a coin to decide which! We went for the Caramelised Banana, which came with homemade hazelnut & chocolate spread, vanilla ice cream and peanut crunch. We loved it – the bananas were warm and gooey, encrusted in a thick brulee sugar topping. The ice-cream was super-cream, the chocolate spread rich. Our only criticism was there was not nearly enough of the peanut crunch.

Oh, and we had to spend the rest of the day lying down in a food coma…

All in all, it was pretty damn good. Pricey, but worth it for a special occasion. The views were gorgeous, the interiors rather Instagrammable and the iconic Duck & Waffle dish was delicious. That said, the menu at Duck & Waffle Local looks a little bit more adventurous (that duck burger!) so I know where I’ll be heading next…

 photo Duck and Waffle 3_zpsc8iyqx9i.jpg photo Duck and Waffle 18_zpsai0yghsw.jpg*Note that this is not a sponsored review – my parents kindly got us a gift voucher for last Christmas, and we paid the difference ourselves.

Have you ever been to Duck & Waffle? What did you think?

Lifestyle: Blåbär Nordic Living, Putney

Blåbär is one of my favourite little spots I’ve found in Putney. Hidden away down a pretty unassuming (read: quite grimy) road off the High Street, it’s somewhere that I could spend a good couple of hours in despite it’s teeny-tiny size.

 photo Blabar Nordic Living5_zps0icicxyj.jpg photo Blabar Nordic Living3_zpsoychi2ms.jpg photo Blabar Nordic Living4_zps8zwspflu.jpgIt’s both a small cafe and a boutique, and I’m not lying when I say I could buy literally everything they stock. From gorgeous candles to the softest blankets, stylish light fittings to cushions that are just so me, there’s always something new to add to my wishlist.

And of course, it helps that their menu is on point too. So far I’ve only popped in (possibly far too often) for a drink and a sweet treat, but it’s still made it’s way up to the top of my list in Putney. Their hot chocolate is quite simply one of the best I’ve ever had. It’s not thick and super-chocolatey (because this gal isn’t a huge fan of hot chocolate like that!), it’s light, frothy, milky and rich without being overwelming. But it’s the cinnamon buns that *really* bring me to this place. Termed “possibly the best in Putney,” they’re certainly the best I’ve tried – and that includes my homemade ones! Soft without being doughy, sticky but not sickly, and intensely spiced. The only other thing I can say is that you should really get yourselves to Putney and try one!

 photo Blabar Nordic Living2_zpshc3zybfj.jpg photo Blabar Nordic Living6_zpsjblgnicd.jpg photo Blabar Nordic Living1_zpssnee9do2.jpg photo Blabar Nordic Living7_zpsssksy2io.jpgNow I’ve just got to head back and try their brunch menu. The vegan pancake stack sounds all kinds of delicious…

Have you got a favourite local spot?

Review: Putney Pies

I’m not going to lie, finding out this place existed pretty much sealed the deal for me on where I wanted to live in London. I’m only half joking – we’d narrowed it down to somewhere on the West-end of the District line and then this place came to my attention. Putney it was!

(The cheaper council tax also helped…)

 photo Putney Pies_zps7v1qaahi.jpgWeirdly, I’ve only been twice – and those two visits were shamefully within six days of each other. W is yet to visit (much to his disgust). It’s a shame it’s coming up to summer time now, as pies aren’t exactly going to help me get my summer bod this year!

 photo Putney Pies2_zpskh9mtqa8.jpg photo Putney Pies4_zpspiunzqn8.jpg photo Putney Pies1_zps8qjnhnsa.jpgThe first time I visited I had the Chicken & Ham Hock Pot Pie, whilst my date (the lovely Libby) enjoyed her Steak & Ale Pie. My pie was in a deep, fully-filled bowl topped with buttery short-crust pastry and served with creamy mash. The sauce was light, almost-stock like, but full of flavour. There was plenty of chunky chicken and ham, along with carrots and leeks. The mash was smooth and completely lump-free. All in all delicious!

 photo Putney Pies9_zpsstuyab0o.jpg photo Putney Pies13_zps25ik1b7w.jpgOn my next visit I enjoyed the Pork and Apple Pie. Fully encased in the same perfect pastry, it was packed full of juicy pork, bacon, apple pieces and a delicious cider sauce. The only criticism I have here is that it was a little dry – however as I was unable to have the gravy (damn you, sneaky tomatoes!) this is probably why. My mum enjoyed the Beef Bourguignon Pie with triple cooked chips. I have to say the chips were perfect!

 photo Putney Pies8_zpsxlz1clif.jpg photo Putney Pies14_zpsntobdjyr.jpgBoth times we had a side of Season Veg – normally I wouldn’t bother mentioning something like this, but it was lovely. Everything was perfectly cooked and lightly dressed in butter. Little touches but it made all the difference. On the second visit we also splurged and shared the Brownie with ice-cream – and it was a damn good brownie. Warm and gooey, rich and indulgent tempered with creamy ice-cream and a salted caramel sauce.

Coupled with some of the yummiest prosecco I’ve tried, this was a meal of pie perfection. I’m almost impatient for Autumn when it’s back to pie weather!

Are you a fan of pies? What’s your favourite filling?

Food: Dominque Ansel, Victoria

I mentioned a while ago that one of my resolutions for 2017 was to try each month’s Cronut flavour. I know, I’m pretty pleased with that resolution too! Most of the time I tend to just pick up a Cronut or two (because I can’t imagine I’d have a very happy fiance if I didn’t share the experience) to takeaway, but when Mummy B visited a while back I decided it was high time for a cake marathon.

 photo Dominique Ansel_zpsljbrynx0.jpgThere were a few items on the menu at Dom A’s patisserie that I knew didn’t travel well and that I’d wanted to try since first visiting a while back, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Camera in tow and an empty stomach, we rolled up ready for sugar overload.

First up, it’s not the cheapest of places. Two drinks and 3 sweet treats was quite a hard hit to my card (considering nothing lasted long!). Secondly, expect to queue. Every visit I’ve queued, from a rather nice 5 minutes to over half an hour. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why as there are plenty of staff around – I have a sneaky suspicion it’s to stop the seating area being overloaded with an influx of people and a lack of tables. Either way, once you’ve eventually chosen your treats (another advantage of the long queue!) there isn’t usually a wait for a table too.

 photo Dominique Ansel London 8_zpssjqlic8s.jpg photo Dominique Ansel London 11_zpsskvozyso.jpgDrinks wise, we went for a hot chocolate (me) and English breakfast tea (for Mummy B). I missed a trick with the hot chocolate and just ordered the ‘ordinary’ one, so didn’t get the excitement of the ‘Blossoming Marshmallows’ – as always I’m using this as an excuse to go back. That said, my hot chocolate was delicious – smooth, rich, and chocolatey without being thick and cloying. It was nicely unsweetened too, giving a caffeine-like hit.

And now it’s time for the important bit, the food.

 photo Dominique Ansel London 5_zpshlfbosre.jpgObviously there was the Cronut. Because I’m a bad blogger, we actually visited wayyyy back in January when the flavour of the month was Lemon Verbana. It was just the right balance of zingy and sweet, with a good enough lemon kick to make you suck in your cheeks. As with all of Dom A’s Cronuts, the pastry was both moist and flaky, buttery but not overly rich. Both me and W have tried other patisseries’ versions, and I have to say nowhere else has managed to get the balance of indulgence and lightness just right.

 photo Dominique Ansel London 3_zpsklvrmm6m.jpg photo Dominique Ansel London 6_zpsudiwtpis.jpg photo Dominique Ansel London 7_zpsqftu1wld.jpgNext up was the Frozen Smore, something I’d been looking forward to since Jordan posted about it agessss ago. This is quite possibly the most difficult thing I’ve ever tried to eat (and impossibly to do in a lady-like manner, especially when sharing!), but it is worth the effort. Perfectly toasted marshmallow, golden and with no char in sight. Creamy ice-cream. A touch of chocolate from the wafer crisp. This was the perfect marriage of temperatures and textures and it tasted amazing. Surprisingly not over-sweet either…

 photo Dominique Ansel London 4_zpsuipimc6f.jpg photo Dominique Ansel London 10_zpsvu5bfvuu.jpg photo Dominique Ansel London 12_zpswopxzrms.jpgAnd finally. Last but not least. Our favourite of the bunch, and a recipe exclusive to London (I believe). The Liquid Caramel & Peanut Butter Mousse Cake could possibly be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. First off, it’s so pretttyyyy. Just look at it! The finish was so shiny I could almost see my reflection in it. It’s even attractive on the inside, with a perfectly symmetrical finish that wholly appealed to my mathematical and slightly OCD nature. It’s sweet but not sickly. The mouse isn’t at all rich, but airy and light. The peanut butter flavour comes through, as does the caramel, and again there’s the slightest hint of chocolate. I could have eaten several of these – and I probably would have done had we not snagged the last one.

 photo Dominique Ansel London 20_zpspfzihfsf.jpgUnfortunately for my bank balance, we’ve been back several times since. My goal to try each month’s Cronut is the main driver, although sadly February’s offering was a tad disappointing. Raspberry & Orange Blossom sounded like a great combo, but unfortunately I found it all a little over-sweet and one dimensional. March’s Rhubarb on the other hand…a dream! I’m excited for the rest of the year’s flavours… #bestresolutionever

Have you been to Dominique Ansel’s bakery? Have you tried a Cronut yet?

Review: Brunch at The Dynamo, Putney

One of the other main foodie loves in my life (beside burgers) is eggs. Fried, scrambled, baked, poached and of course the dippy egg. Served with toast, bubble and squeak, chips, or in a bacon sandwich, I just love eggs. As long as it has a runny yolk (I warn you now, never, ever serve me up a non-runny yolk. I will and have sent eggs back for such a crime) you can pretty much guarantee I’ll love it.

 photo Dynamo_zpsqc4v05mt.jpgI almost ruined eggs for me though. My pre-exam meal throughout my final-year exams was two slices of toast, two slices of ham and two poached eggs. Mushrooms if I had them to hand. Now I struggle to stomach the thought of poached eggs, and I haven’t eaten that particular combo since my last exam. In fact, I’ve had poached eggs a grand total of two times since – both whilst out for brunch.

Once was at Cambridge Street Kitchen with some blogging gals – nothing special, toast too crunchy and eggs only just the right side of ‘done’. Another 5 seconds and I’d have sent them back (though considering it took an hour for them to materialise, maybe not…).

Then there were these. The. Best. Eggs. Ever.

 photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 9_zpsxfnekvaa.jpgI’m not even exaggerating. I mean, just look at that yolk.

Dynamo is a strange pizza-brunch-cylist workshop-cafe type place just around the corner from us. It’s dangerously close given it’s menu, though somehow we’ve only eaten there twice since moving in back in August (plus a cheeky Deliveroo order, because it was raining and I needed pizza). I’m not exactly sure what kind of concept and vibe they were aiming for, but it works. It’s the kind of industrial interior that looks good on your Instagram feed. The kind of menu that makes you go ‘oooh’ and have to ponder for a while. Smiley staff. And a bike workshop in the mornings if that takes your fancy… You can even take your dog, which I’m SO doing next time he comes to stay!

 photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 11_zpsgt6olcja.jpg photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 12_zps985di4b8.jpgThe pizzas (I know, this is a brunch review) are some of the best I’ve had. Pillowy, soft sourdough base which some really interesting toppings. There’s a good selection (three!) of white pizzas, including a totally irresistible Pancetta, Fennel & Pomegranate combo. Try it and thank me later.

And now to brunch.

Also a ‘different’ menu. No traditional Full English here. The ‘Full Dynamo’ features sweetcorn fritters, there’s blueberry pancakes with bacon, chorizo hash and all kinds of other egg-based delights.

 photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 5_zps8vly6r1e.jpg photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 4_zpshr3uofj7.jpg photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 2_zpsd5sfii8i.jpgW had the Chilli Scrambled Eggs – “Scrambled Eggs, Nduja Toast, Feta and Zhoug.” Yep, we had to google Zhoug too (it’s a green chilli sauce). The scrambled eggs were some of the best we’d tried, which considering we have very different ideas about what scrambled eggs should be (I’m creamy and barely cooked, he’s firmly set but fluffy) is a pretty tall order to satisfy. The nduja and zhoug added just the right amount of spice, and the feta added a gorgeous fresh tang. Scrambled eggs, but not the nursery supper from your childhood. He certainly had a happy face after eating!

Then there was my order. Eggs Eddy, a spin on my favourite Eggs Benedict – “Poached Eggs, Black Pudding, Citrus Hollandaise and Seven Seeded Sourdough.” Guys, black pudding instead of ham is a revelation. I know not everyone is a fan of it, but I LOVE it and this worked so, so well. It was perfectly cooked (crispy outer, soft and melting inner), topped with perfectly cooked eggs. Gooey yolks, just set whites and no firm yolk in sight. And the colour. And flavour. So good. The citrus hollandaise was delicious, with the zing cutting through the rich meat so I didn’t feel (too much) like waddling out afterwards.

 photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 6_zps7tztzscx.jpg photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 8_zpssa9hiopd.jpgThe only complaint (from both of us) was that we’d have loved an additional bit of toast, or a thicker slice. A little thing, and we could have easily ordered some had we not been off to devour birthday cake!

So yep, this is my local brunch spot. Safe to say I’m not planning on finding a new flat any time soon! I’d highly recommend a trip out to deepest SW15 if you’re looking for a new brunch spot…Now all I need to do is find out who supplies their eggs!

Where’s your favourite brunch spot?

University: Saving Money in London

London is expensive. You hear this a lot, but I don’t think you truly appreciate just how true it is until you actually live there – I know I didn’t! “Sure” I thought. “Everywhere’s expensive for a graduate” I scoffed. Despite being on a (very) good graduate salary living in London can sometimes be tough.

 photo Student Budget_zpss6by45ja.pngRent is ridiculously pricey (I’m desperately hoping my landlord doesn’t up the rent in the summer!). I have a list far longer than my arm of places I want to eat. There’s shops on every corner. Delicious coffees to be drank and cronuts to be eaten. Travel within London isn’t too bad, but to get out anywhere? It can be ridiculously pricey! We’ve been lucky so far in that we’ve managed to travel out of the Capital for decent amounts, but that’s through being savvy – and used to hunting down cheap fares from our LDR days!


Ticketclever
have produced a (pretty good!) infographic helping students in London. I definitely have to go and give @SkintLondon a follow, sounds like a great place to get ideas. Oh, and even if you only travel a couple of times a year, I’d highly recommend a 16-25 railcard. It pays for itself in just two visits home to me – and the saving on travel to places like Edinburgh means it pays for itself almost immediately!

*Sponsored post, as always all opinions are my own.

What recommendations do you have to save a bit of money?

Review: Honest Burgers, Covent Garden

I subtly alluded a few weekends ago that I quite like a burger.

 photo Honest Burger_zpsgd83mpms.jpgScratch that, I pretty much shouted from the rooftops about my love for burgers. This year I’ve made it my mission to find my ultimate burger. I’ve got a meat grinder attachment for the KitchenAid to try and make my own. I have an ever-growing list of places to try (and please, please feel free to add your favourite burger to it!). I even, much as I am ashamed to admit it, day-dream about burgers. Please tell me I’m not the only one?!

When we moved to London Honest Burgers was top on my list of places to visit, but despite my office being literally on top of one, it took me until November to visit. Then I went again in December. And again since. It’s taken me until now to pen up a review, and I’m not entirely sure why. Because, quite simply, I could have summed it up with a simple Instagram post and a “Yum” #thumbsup.

 photo Honest Burger Review 1_zpsgeseavtn.jpg(Fun Fact: my flatlay of Honest burgers was my first Instagram photo to smash through 100 likes).

We visited after a few drinks, and before more drinks, with a small-ish group of friends one Saturday night. Despite going to the small Covent Garden branch, we maybe waited 20 minutes for a table (heading off for more drinks whilst we waiting for the all important phone call!) – definitely not the wait we were expecting!

Between us we probably ordered most of the menu. A couple of cheeseburgers, a couple of “plain Jane’s”, a couple of Tributes, a chicken, the special at the time (some with black sesame seeds and kimchi) and my “Honest” burger. Everything comes with chips (a nice surprise!), and we also grabbed a couple of buckets of onion rings to share.

 photo Honest Burger Review 5_zpsn4fklxkd.jpg photo Honest Burger Review 10_zps7nbor936.jpgI always think that if a restaurant names a burger after themselves, it’s got to be a bloody good burger. Byron made that mistake (it was a bit disapointing), but Honest really nailed it. For one, it didn’t contain tomatoes. At all. It’s rare I can enjoy a relish, or even not have to trust them to not put a sneaky tomato slice in, but this was pure tomato-free goodness. A thick meaty patty cooked just right (plenty of oozy pink, but nothing too slime-ily raw about it), seasoned well and actually tasting of beef. Lots of oozy cheese. A good spoonful of onion relish, but not too much it took over. Crisp but not tooth-shatteringly so bacon. A token bit of salad. Some gorgeous lightly picked cucumber – slightly sharp, still crunchy and adding a gorgeous refreshing element. All held together in one of the best brioche burger buns I’ve tried. Despite the juiciness of the patty it held together pretty damn well. I didn’t get it all down my front at least…

 photo Honest Burger Review 3_zps3wha0un7.jpgOther burgers got similar reviews. W had the kimchi special, which I didn’t try (I’m not a fan of kimchi or sauerkraut flavours at all) but it did look and smell good – and disappeared in super-quick time. The chicken burger also looked damn good, even if I never order them. And whilst the cheeseburger did look good, when you can add bacon and relish I’m just not too sure whether I’ll ever order one…

The chips were also a revelation. I’ve become used to disappointing chips, and nothing is worse than a limp fry – but these were stunning. Chunky, almost chip-shop style, but with lots of crispy bits. Drenched in a rosemary salt, they were incredibly moreish and I hoovered up the massive portion size. On my second visit I went after work in my tightest pencil skirt. Bad decision. I forced the chips down and then couldn’t sit down on the tube to get home.

 photo Honest Burger Review 7_zpscwpzqxr3.jpgIn fact, the only dud were the onion rings. And I was super disappointed. One, because I bloody love onion rings (number one place so far has been Burgers & Cocktails, followed rather closely by Ed’s Diner). Two, because I’m heard so many people raving about Honest’s onion rings. Sure, they were reasonably crispy, but the onions inside were watery, and the batter thick and almost doughy. A raw spice taste to them too – despite only two portions between 7 of us, they were the only thing we failed to polish off…

 photo Honest Burger Review 9_zpshsqynyy2.jpgOnion rings aside, Honest Burgers jumped straight to the top of my ‘favourite burger’ list. Excellent meat, good buns, supremely moreish chips. They’ve recently had a ‘Sunday Roast’ burger special with bacon gravy (!) and roast potatoes that I’m desperate to try, and I’m only gutted I didn’t manage to grab one of their Christmas specials. This year, this year.

Have you ever been to Honest Burgers? What did you think? Where’s your top burger in London?

 

Lifestyle: Different Things to do in London

It’s official, I have fallen completely and utterly in love with London. I was enjoying living down in the Big Smoke, but it took my trip up to the Midlands at Christmas to make me realise just how much I love our capital. And other than waxing lyrical about my love for the city, I’ve decided it’s the perfect timing to pen up some of the underrated areas I’ve found over the last few months.

 photo Things to do in London_zpsmqpr1knd.jpg

A photo posted by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

Wander Around Victoria

During my placement year I spent hours in Victoria Station (as I’m sure many of those who rely on Southern rail have!). I only wish I’d ventured outside and down the road before now, I didn’t realise quite how Instagrammable the streets of Victoria and Pimlico are! Plus it doesn’t hurt that both Peggy Porschen and Dominique Ansel are so close!

 photo Olympic Slide 29_zpsiyunb1it.jpg photo Olympic Slide 26_zpsj4avz8ao.jpg photo Olympic Slide 24_zpssju86ad0.jpg photo Olympic Slide 17_zpswqlydjmk.jpg photo Olympic Slide 18_zpsdelfmybv.jpg photo Olympic Slide 16_zps18yf69zy.jpg photo Olympic Slide 13_zpsuq3d21g5.jpg photo Olympic Slide 12_zps3eodgulb.jpg photo Olympic Slide 10_zpsvvjwjfki.jpg photo Olympic Slide 8_zpsodgwfwot.jpg photo Olympic Slide 5_zpstnoqgqn0.jpg photo Olympic Slide 3_zpsrghvekk7.jpg photo Olympic Slide 31_zps8gyxvpau.jpg photo Olympic Slide 30_zps8addigce.jpg

Ride the “Olympic Slide*”

Way back in December I was invited to Stratford to ride the Arcelor Mittal Orbit. At nearly 180m it’s the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide – and when they say it’s tall, it’s bloody tall! It takes around 40 seconds to descend the slide, circling around the ArcelorMittal Orbit 12 times through loops and curves, including a tight corkscrew section that definitely got a few screams out of me!

It’s pretty pricey (full disclosure here – I was invited to slide free of charge, but we picked up a ticket for W using his student discount) at £15 per adult, but the views are pretty good, and the slide both exciting and scary in pretty equal measure. Plus it was an excuse to have a quick wander around the Olympic Park, having only visited way back in 2011 on a Geography field trip when it was still a muddy building site! I only wish it hadn’t been quite so foggy on the day we went up, though I quite like the atmospheric pictures I managed to take.

Oh, and there’s now also the change to abseiling down the structure. I’m hugely tempted!

Indulge in Creme Egg Delights on the Southbank

I got super-excited when I first ventured out of the house on the 27th December – because sat by the tills in Waitrose were the Creme Eggs! I haven’t succumbed to the temptation quite yet, but I guarantee I’ll be getting my fix soon. There’s nothing like feeling sick on the sugar overload that is a Creme Egg!

And even more excitingly – the Cadbury Creme Egg Café is back (with a twist!) and this time it’s touring the UK. The Cadbury Creme Egg Hunting Lodge will include a takeaway with an offering of gooey Creme Egg S’mores to-go, with some extra treats if you’ve got enough time to stop awhile. The Lodge will be visiting London, Bristol, Leeds and Edinburgh – unfortunately tickets have sold out but there’s limited space for walk-ins. I know I’ll be queuing!

 photo South Kensington 15_zpsxmy4jdvm.jpg photo South Kensington 16_zpspzfa5vmh.jpg photo South Kensington 8_zps16wbwjck.jpg

Walk Between Kensington & Knightsbridge

One of my favourite walks goes from Imperial College, through cobbled streets (lined with the prettiest multi-coloured cottages), coming out just down the road from Harrods. I can indulge several passions in one short trip. Taking Instagram shots of houses, window shopping (shoes are my latest obsession – I’m desperately hunting down the perfect wedding shoes) and browsing some of my favourite homeware boutiques.

I’d also highly recommend a trip to the (free!) Design Museum if you’re in the area. Be warned though, it’s quite tight for space around the exhibits and I’ve heard it’s packed at weekends!

Planning on visiting one of my favourite London places of 2016 today – Spitalfields Market. Perfect for a rainy Sunday!

A photo posted by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

Get Spendy in Spitalfields

Another one of my favourite places to spend a Sunday afternoon – particularly if it’s raining as other than the short walk from Liverpool Street you’re pretty much undercover the entire time. It’s full of quirky buys (I’m class it as the ‘grown-up’ Camden – though I love Camden just as much), vintage stalls, leather wares, upcoming fashion designers, beauty boutiques, more homeware stores and glorious smelling food popups.

I took a trip with one of my best friends during January and we had the best time browsing, lusting over bits and bobs for our future houses and hunting down a new coat for me. It does’t help that Kontidor and Cook have their store nearby, they make the best brownies…

These are just a handful of some of my favourite bits and bobs to do in London – there’s so much more I have to see (Portobello Market and Kew Gardens are high on my list!).

What are your favourite things to do in London?

Restaurant Review: Mac & Wild, London

Scotland is somewhere super-close to our heart. And I love burgers. So when we found out about a Scottish restaurant who made London’s best burger of 2015, there was no question about where we were spending our anniversary. We donned some fancy-ish clothes (me bringing out a dress I love, but is too dressy for every-weekend wear, too low-cut for work), I whacked on the date-night makeup (because wearing Mac Diva is great for eating a burger…) and we headed out for a much anticipated evening.

mac-wild photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 1_zpsykqkcpjl.jpgAnd it didn’t disappoint.

I could just finish the review of Mac & Wild here, by telling you to go, to go book a table, eat plenty of meat, drink lots of whisky and feel very merry, very happy and very full. It would sum up exactly how I felt about the place. But obviously I’ll have to tell/show you exactly why you should make the effort to get to this Scottish gem in the heart of London.

It’s small, it’s cozy, it’s ‘trendy’ lighting didn’t make for great photos. Walls were adorned with stag’s heads and rather graphic photos. Staff were outstandingly welcoming and friendly, taking the time to talk us through the menu and ask about our days. And the food was damn good.

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 2_zpshnhr7kff.jpgWe started by splitting a ‘lighter’ choice alongside a heavier one. The Bone Broth was deceptively heavy, in a good way. Rich, unctuous, this is the kind of thing you crave when ill. I’d happily bulk buy and store in the freezer. The Scotch Egg was a heavier choice. A perfectly cooked egg (no set yolk here), encased in wonderfully flavourful venison meat, covered in crisp breadcrumbs and served with a mustard so perfect I’m tempted to contact Mac & Wild and find their supplier. I was a little wary that the meat was rare, but it was piping hot, tender and worked well all together. Definitely a filling portion!

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 3_zpsenykwgk9.jpgW went ‘date-night suitable’ for his main, choosing the Venison Steak with Bearnaise. The steak arrived pre-sliced, and cooked as it’s meant to be cooked (there was no choice given upon ordered, so be warned if you aren’t a fan of rarer meat!). It was gorgeous – extremely tender and beautifully rich in flavour rendering the silky and buttery Bearnaise unnecessary. I stoke a piece and almost, almost regretted not suggesting sharing a Chateaubriand.

The reason for not regretting? Well, London’s best burger of course…

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 5_zpsgn6iiev0.jpg photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 6_zpsz7at3wrc.jpgWhilst I’m not quite sure it deserves that title (more research needed, you see), it was a damn good burger. Both patties were cooked well – tender and moist, a slight hint of pink to the beef. They were well-season whilst remaining a good ‘meat’ flavour; you could tell which was which. The Bearnaise added moistness and richness, the cheese and mustard (more of that addictive mustard!) adding a salty kick. I usually pick the pickles out of a burger, but here they worked perfectly to add a much needed tang. I added the Candied Bacon, but honestly I’d say it’s not really necessary (shock horror!) – I found it got a little lost amongst all the flavours, and wasn’t quite crisp enough to add an extra texture. The bun held it all together, but the big issue with the burger? It was just too big. It was impossible to eat all elements at once and ultimately I felt it suffered. And date-night suitable? Definitely not. My lipstick was down my chin before I was halfway through the burger…

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 7_zpspossdcak.jpg photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 4_zps2xqiqurt.jpg photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 8_zpseuo5yvwv.jpgWe both went for sides of Haggis Mac & Cheese. I’m a huge mac’n’cheese fan (if you hadn’t already guessed), and haggis is a major foodie love of mine. The two together was something I’d never considered (though I’m now anxiously awaiting Burn’s Night) – it’s a pretty good combo! The Mac was cheesy and rich, the haggis moist and peppery, and the crispy topping by far the best topping on a restaurant one I’ve tried. My only complaint? It was a little dry, though I saw ones at different tables that looked a lot looser and creamier. I was a bit jealous if I’m honest!

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 10_zpsril5vxv3.jpg photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 9_zpscejbwlag.jpgPuddings were also a success. The Cheeseboard came with a good selection, though we were a bit perplexed at the lack of biscuits considered one of them was a softer cheese. My desert, however, was the winner. The “I Shouldn’t But I Will’ was a dark chocolate Nemesis, salted caramel sauce, orange, almonds, & taffy crumble base. I was recommended a side of salted caramel ice-cream; I declined but rather wish I hadn’t as the portion did need something to break it up a little. That said, we both enjoyed it – I just preferred the savoury options and rather wished I’d tried the Haggis Pops instead!

We paired our food courses with whiskies, generally going with their suggestions (apart from my desert; I was recommended a smoky Islay whisky of which I’m not a fan, so went with my favourite tipple). All were deliciously drinkable and did complement the dishes perfectly. We left clutching our stomaches and swaying slightly…

Mac & Wild definitely impressed us, and it’s certainly left us wanting more. I know without a doubt I’ll be back to sample more. Their Sunday Roasts sound rather intriguing, they have a delicious sounding brunch menu, and their Dirty Buttery Mash sounds too good to miss.

Have you ever tried Haggis? What’s your favourite London restaurant?