Lifestyle: The Art of Sleeping Well

Sleep is something which, in phases, evades me. Most of the time I’m a pretty good sleeper. I can drift off within half an hour of so, and generally stay asleep most of the night. I’m a tad grumpy if I don’t get 7-8 hours a night, so it’s best for all those around me! That said, the stress of the last few months have meant my sleep has been disrupted.

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I’ll still fall asleep easily, but then I’ll be up and awake a few hours later. Still exhausted, but too many thoughts rushing around my mind to drop back off again. And that will be it, until around an hour before my alarm is due. I’ll listen to the planes starting to land at Heathrow again and know that I’ll feel dreadful in the morning. This will go on for a few weeks, myself getting more and more grumpy and irritable, then it will suddenly stop. I’ll go back to sleeping through. Peace will be restored.

I like to claim that my general good sleep can be credited to a decent bedtime routine. That said, with my recent stint of dreadful nights spent tossing and turning, I’ve switched things up a bit. Thankfully I’m back to *just about* sleeping properly, though the hot and muggy nights aren’t helping!

A Good Bed

Oh, this is key! I very rarely have a good nights sleep in a non-comfy bed – and as I’m quite particular that’s a bit of an issue. I like quite a firm mattress, nothing soft at all. I hate too thick-duvets. I’m one of those people who likes to have a summer weight duvet (say around 4.5tog) then a slightly thicker one for winter. And it can’t be higher than my neck.

I’ve been lucky so far in that all my university rooms and rental places have had fairly decent mattresses. In fact, the one in our current flat is almost too firm for me. I’m not entirely lying when I say the floor might be softer… We recently received an Eve Mattress Topper* and it’s shared the bed entirely. The mattress is still firm, but there’s now a supportive layer to sink into. It’s made getting up in the morning VERY difficult! I’m so, so gutted that we’re moving to a flat with a different sized bed now…
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Wind-Down Time

There’s no point me typing up a blog post, or watching an exciting TV drama (how gripping was Three Girls?!) and then trying to get straight off to the land of nod. It just won’t work. My brain will be too fired up and I’ll be up for hours with my mind racing. Better is to spend half an hour really getting ready for bed. I’ll light a candle, put on my fairy lights (I have a cheap-y Primark set wrapped around the ladder shelves that W built for me) and read a book.

Having said that, I’ve recently had to change the style of books I’m reading – turns out gripping psychological-thrillers aren’t conducive to a good night’s sleep!

Washing Before Bed

Linked in with wind-down time, I like to wash before bed. I actually shower in the evening, when I get home from work – I find this works best as I don’t have to rush, my hair is fully dry before sleeping, and (more selfishly) there’s a full tank of hot water! However I do like to redo my face before bed, washing with water (I’ll take my makeup off earlier) and moisturising. Obviously if it’s been a particularly warm evening I’ll also wash other more personal areas too!

My bed is so cosy this morning. If I am late for work I am blaming @sleepypeopleuk!

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Sleep Inducing Smells

Obviously lavender is high on the list for most people, but for me this breaks me out into insanely angry acne – it’s the worst thing for my skin! Instead one of my ‘sleepy’ smells is the Bodyshop’s Argan range. I find it so soothing and calming! I keep the Solid Oil by my bedside and apply a little to my wrists if I’m feeling particularly stressed. It’s also great rubbed into my nails and the ends of my hair!

Another one is malty, milky drinks. A favourite is warm milk with honey but, as I don’t have a microwave (and heating milk in a pan is a faff) I do like a mug of Horlicks made with boiling water and topped with plenty of milk. Of course, I’d prefer a hot chocolate but I’ve got to make some kind of an attempt at gaining a summer bod right…?

Cutting Out Sugar & Caffeine

This is something I really need to do – I’ve managed to cut down my cuppa addiction over the last few years, but since January my sugar habit has gone through the roof. I’ve used some difficult personal times as an excuse but now I’m craving sugar constantly and I’m pretty sure it’s affecting my sleep. I’ll keep you posted on how cutting down helps!

What do you do to make sure you get a good night’s sleep?

Review: Skosh, York

I left planning York far too late. We booked trains, booked hotels and then pretty much forgot about the holiday until the week before we left. And that caused panic. We’re both massive foodies so arriving somewhere without any real idea of where we’re eating is a nightmare, not to mention I need several days to look at a menu and decide on what I’m ordering. Not to mention it seemed like a lot of places were closed on Sunday/Monday nights! I panic-asked around (a.k.a tweeted…) and got a few recommendations. Including Skosh.

 photo Skosh_zpsv9pzgchb.jpgA quick glance at the menu and we had to visit. The seasonal menu was just full of things we love to eat, all with innotivate little twists, and the price point was so much lower than anywhere similar in London. Problem? The website showed it was fully-booked. I rang anyway (nothing like the lure of delicious food) and secured their Chef’s Table for Sunday lunch. We were sat on high-stools overlooking the cooking and plating area – and actually it was perfect. The stools were comfortable and we could see all the action. I’m definitely doing to be cooking cabbage on a griddle pan in future! But the food. Oh the food…

 photo Skosh York Review 21_zpsfmuscwpc.jpgSkosh is full of ‘snacks’ and ‘small plates’ – the idea is you order 2-3 each (ideally sharing between you!), they are brought out in the most complementary sequence and you can then order more if you fancy. As the menu is (quite rightly!) seasonal a few bits and bobs have changed since we left, and I can’t remember the exact ingredients of some dishes – but there were no duds at all. Absolutely everything was delicious, it was a dining experience I really didn’t want to end! The style of the food is difficult to describe – they’re taking classic British ingredients and giving them a slight Indian and Middle-Eastern twist. Whatever it is, it works!

We started with bread, served with a smooth and creamy butter and gunpowder spice. This was addictively good. Some swear you can tell the quality of the restaurant by it’s bread, and whilst I’m not completely convinced (I’ve had excellent bread and poor food) it did give high hopes. The star here was the gunpowder spice. I couldn’t tell you what was in it, but it was good. So good. Bread and butter hasn’t been the same since.

 photo Skosh York Review 7_zpsdjls1lye.jpg photo Skosh York Review 8_zpsccrwn1bu.jpgOur first ‘plate’ was cured halibut, wild garlic, watermelon and black sesame. This salad was light, fresh, flavorsome and delicious. Despite the sweetness from the melon, it was also intensely savoury. Yum. I’ve only recently been able to stomach cured/raw fish and this is the best example I’ve tried. It was also a stunningly presented plate of food – everything we ate was beautiful, but watching this be plated up, flowers placed on using tweezers, really showcased the care and attention used by the chefs.

 photo Skosh York Review 10_zpsfbhlmxmv.jpg photo Skosh York Review 14_zps5wx4odu6.jpg photo Skosh York Review 15_zpsuouyekub.jpgSecond was another ‘snack’ – Skosh fried chicken with a brown butter hollandaise. The chicken was extremely crispy whilst remaining juicy, and the hollandaise so good I scooped the leftovers up with a spoon. It had been passed through a siphon gun so it was light and fluffy, almost mousse like. Perfectly seasoned and just delicious.

Next up was something else from the fryer – crispy saddleback pork and rhubarb ketchup. The ketchup is switched up throughout the seasons, but I thought the rhubarb we ate was spectacular. It cut through the pork with a really sutble sweet-sharp flavour. The pork also fell apart with the slight press of a fork, it’s outer crispy and it’s inner so soft and melt-in-the-mouth.

 photo Skosh York Review 18_zpsavfjj8by.jpg photo Skosh York Review 17_zps6ekxgpjq.jpgWhat followed was W’s dish of the day – Skosh’s take on kedgeree. Some more cured fish (smoked haddock this time), mixed with radish and samphire, served with a crisp, spiced rice cracker and a cured egg yolk. Light, tasty and just delicious. Unfortunately I don’t think this is on the menu anymore, but it was a definite highlight of the meal.

 photo Skosh York Review 28_zpsh1rn930r.jpg photo Skosh York Review 24_zpsqej1jgs6.jpgNext was my favourite – and one of the two ‘bigger plates’ we ordered (only really differentiated on the menu by their price point, being around £5 more than the smaller plates). Crisp lamb belly, sumac yoghurt, pickled onion and pomegranate were served with a griddled hispi cabbage. The burnt ends of the cabbage had a bitterness than was perfectly tempered by the sweetness of the pomegranate and richness of the lamb. A kind of summery roast dinner, I loved it!

 photo Skosh York Review 34_zpsglygggmv.jpg photo Skosh York Review 32_zpspgdfsqee.jpgWhilst not hungry by this point, we did decide to add in another big plate to our original order – mainly because it sounded so intriguing we didn’t want to miss out. A large piece of cod was served ‘tandoor style’ with grilled pineapple, fresh coconut and a perfect lentil dhal. I was a bit suspicious of the pineapple combo (it’s not a fruit I particularly like as it is!) but it worked so well with the heavy spices and the delicate fish. This is a plate that could have easily been inedible had the balance not been right, so it really shows the skill level of the chefs.

 photo Skosh York Review 39_zpsankof4wh.jpg photo Skosh York Review 35_zpstckjmj2k.jpg photo Skosh York Review 37_zps6quxw582.jpg photo Skosh York Review 40_zpsiolxs57r.jpgAnd then, of course, it was pudding (we were on holiday after all!). We ordered the Peanut Milkshake with Caramel Donut to kick-start out sweet fix. Both perfectly made, though perhaps the less exciting option…

Much more interesting was the white chocolate sphere with roasted banana and yuzu – a balance of textures, temperatures and flavours that got more delicious and more intriguing as you ate. By far and away one of the best puddings I’ve ever eaten.

We stumbled out, slightly over-full and wishing we could have eaten more. Now if only we had something this good, at this price point, in London…

What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever visited?

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?

Review: Choccywoccydoodah Bar du Chocolat, Brighton

I mentioned in a recent foodie round-up that I’d finally managed to try Choccywoccydoodah in Brighton – and I alluded to the fact that it didn’t disappoint. In fact it far exceeded my expectations.

 photo Choccywoccydoodah_zpsqd1ojbgu.jpgAdmittedly my expectations were low to begin with. I’d always thought of it as a tourist trap. A bit tacky. Too much sugar-craft and poor ingredients. Expensive and tasteless. I’m happy to admit I was wrong on all accounts. Well, maybe it is a bit tacky, but in a good way.

The shop, in particular downstairs, really showcases the cake-decorating talent of the team. From someone who can’t ice to save her life, I was so, so impressed. There is also a range of wedding cakes to browse,perfect for a budding bride – although I’m sure they cost far more than our cake budget! Still, a girl can dream…

We weren’t there to wedding plan though. Nope, for us it was all about the chocolate! We headed up to their little cafe upstairs and surprisingly got seated straight away. There was a queue pretty much throughout our stay though, so go prepared to wait! Service was quick and friendly until we were nearly finished. We got presented with our receipt (without asking – but it felt a bit like a hint), but we waited for a good 10 minutes with our purses out before having to head up to the counter to pay. Still, at least I got to gawp at the massive 6+ layer chocolate cakes!

 photo Choccywoccydoodah Brighton 9_zpsygc7zyk0.jpg photo Choccywoccydoodah Brighton 7_zps9hptap4t.jpg photo Choccywoccydoodah Brighton 4_zpso9yubtie.jpgAll 3 of us ordered a chocolate dipping pot each (a mistake – 2 between 3 would have been plenty!). We all went for milk, though I wish I’d been brave enough to go for dark. Served with marshmallows, honeycomb, rocky road, coconut madeleines, strawberries, shortbread and some kind of fudge cake it was huge. The milk chocolate was delicious, though I think dark would have cut through the sweetness a little better. The only poor point on the plate was the honeycomb, being a little too chewy and lacking crunch.

The chocolate was (surprisingly to me) oh-so-good. Creamy, rich, just the right amount of sweetness and with a lovely deep cocoa taste. By far one of the best milk chocolates I’ve tried in a while!

 photo Choccywoccydoodah Brighton 3_zps7wb2viev.jpgBeing the greedy piglet I am, I also ordered a praline milkshake. I ask for it without chocolate; a good shout as it was light and refreshing. By far and away the best milkshake I’ve had. Next time though? I’m definitely trying the cake!

Have you ever been to Choccywoccydoodah? What did you think?

Review: Peruvian Food & Señor Ceviche, Carnaby Street

With Will spending January in Chile, he came back with a taste for lighter, fresher food. Typically I was used to the cold weather and was craving comfort food and stodgy carbs – so finding a destination for our first date night of the year was difficult! After much too-ing and fro-ing and menu consulting, we decided on Señor Ceviche. Offering both Ceviche and Peruvian Barbecue we thought there would be plenty of choice to keep both of us happy!

 photo Senor Ceviche_zpsi2qthbfj.jpg photo Senor Ceviche 13_zpsmytnvhsm.jpgFirst off, Kingly Court is one of my favourite little pockets of London – a multiple level open area, with around twenty different restaurants offering food from across the globe. Plus Carnaby Street is a bit of shopping-addicts playground! The restaurant carried on the relaxed feel of it’s surroundings – the decor felt authentic and homely, the music was foot-tappingly fun, and the staff super-friendly. I love it when restaurants have an open kitchen too, it gives me more to be nosey at…

Allergy information obtained, having studied the menu over the few days leading up to date night we both quickly ordered. We took the opportunity to catch up properly before our food came out – as this visit was back in February (hence the horribly dark and badly edited photos!) it was our first chance to properly talk about his trip. We were also given some popped corn to nibble on while we waited – insanely addictive stuff!

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Food arrived as and when it was ready – but it arrived quickly and pretty much at the same time anyway. The Pachamanca pork ribs were slathered with a slightly sweet sticky sauce and peanuts. The meat fell right off the bone, the sauce was insanely good – these were very much a favourite of us both. I only wish we had more of them! I absolutely loved the Anticucho De Res of beef heart skewers served with sweet potato mayonnaise, aji panca, botija olives and mint. The heart arrives in big pieces, each one folded onto a skewer, with a good gamey texture. It was rich, satisying and super-flavoursome, though I’m a big fan of offal as it is. Will wasn’t convinced by these, and he was definitely put off by the strong olive flavour of the topping. I have to say, I was massively disappointed with the presentation considering Señor Ceviche’s own Instagram post above!

 photo Senor Ceviche 3_zpsv2fwmztu.jpg photo Senor Ceviche 2_zpszdpltery.jpg photo Senor Ceviche 1_zpsqeqglmde.jpgFrom the ceviche, we went both hot and cold. The hot option was mussels with rocotto & coconut tiger’s milk, chorizo and charred sourdough – it was rich, spicy and intensely savoury, and the mussels well cooked and juicy. I wished we had had more bread to mop up the delicious sauce too…though I may have used the empty mussel shells to ferry most of it down! The sea bass ceviche with aji limo tiger’s milk, sweet potato puree, choclo corn, red onion, coriander & plantain is their classic dish. Beautifully fresh and zesty, full of colour and full of flavour – this was my first time trying ceviche so I was a little nervous, but I definitely enjoyed it!

The only dud of our meal was the quinoa. We both love the stuff, but this was really buttery which clashed with all the other flavours. It was overly rich and cloying – not good at all, in fact completely inedible. If our servers hadn’t been so lovely, we probably would have sent it back…

 photo Senor Ceviche 9_zps29jlj7l2.jpgWhilst W was more self-restrained and ended his meal with a Pisco Sour (too sweet apparently, he preferred the ones he had in South America) I finished with the Dulche de Leche. Tooth-achingly sweet, the warm sauce and crunchy pecans went wonderfully with the smooth ice-cream. It was the perfect end to the meal for me!

Quinoa aside, we both really enjoyed our time at Señor Ceviche. Our issue was the price – whilst not expensive, we both felt for the portion size all of the dishes (with perhaps the exception of the ribs) was overpriced. Considering the two of us can eat a massive meal at Wahaca for less than £25 total, we both felt a little put-off by our bill – and whilst we enjoyed our food, it didn’t absolutely blow us away. Perhaps we’re still not used to London restaurant prices!

Have you been to Señor Ceviche? What’s your favourite restaurant in London?

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?

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?

 

Food: The Year of the Burger

Forget Chinese New Year, and the year of the rooster – for me it’s all about the year of the burger.

 photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 1_zpscaakdr4r.jpgIt’s clear from both my Instagram and previous blog posts that I’m a massive lover of burgers (as well as runny eggs and pretty houses!). I’ve tried burgers than are pretty much steak in a brioche bun. I’ve tried “London’s Best Burger.” I’ve had McDonald’s and other fast food burgers. I’ve had fun toppings, plain Janes and pretty much everything in between. I’ve suffered allergic reactions (thanks Byron for just removing the tomato slice then handing the burger back!), felt too stuffed to move. I’ve eaten more than my fair shame of bad burgers, but equally I’ve eaten some bloody damn good ones!

 photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 5_zpsbhtsdznk.jpg photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 4_zpsjpvojda6.jpgProbably the most inventive place I’ve been for burger toppings is Burger & Cocktails in Brighton. The burgers themselves were thin patties cooked well-done, but quite flavourful and juicy – and they really let the toppings shine. I went for a mac’n’cheese and bacon combo (carbs on carbs, and adding bacon is never bad), whilst W enjoyed a spicy, oozy, cheesy number. Sides were also excellent, with the onion rings being the best I’ve ever had. And I don’t need to say more than this: alcoholic chocolate orange milkshake.

I’ve also enjoyed GBK, though I was gutted that the Camembert burger seems to have disappeared. Beef patty, Camembert, onions, bacon and shoestring fries allllll inside a bun was pretty much a party in my mouth. I’m not a huge fan of a lot of the other burgers on the menu, though with my new found love of beetroot their signature is now high on my list to try!

 photo Honest Burger Review 1_zpsxg6a81ra.jpg photo Honest Burger Review 9_zpsno3bkbbe.jpgIn terms of the best burger patty, the winner so far has to be Honest burgers. My review is due to go live in a few weeks, but here’s a sneak peek: excellent meaty flavours, well cooked, an soft but robust brioche bun and the BEST chips. I also love that I can pretty much eat everything on the menu as there’s no tomato slices and no cheeky relish lurking. I’m also a big fan of the pickled cucumber…

Five Guys is also close to my heart, though I’m still unsure as to whether it’s worth the rather high price-tag. I do love it for a quick lunch, but at £12+ for a chip-burger-drink combo (I can’t resist the still peach fanta – and it’s double-cheese-and-bacon or go home!) it’s pricey. Unlimited free toppings helps though – my go-to is grilled onions, mustard, mushrooms and lettuce. Yum yum.

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 6_zpswsobxllt.jpgOf course, I can’t not mention Mac & Wild. It’s Veni-Moo was voted London’s best burger of 2016, so obviously I HAD to try it. I loved it, but I’m unsure if it’s worthy of it’s title. It was bloody good, with juicy patties, runny cheese, cream Bernaise, pickles, mustard, a decent bun, candied bacon. But it was just too big. It was impossible to eat as a burger, definitely a knife-and-fork job, and even then it had to be eaten element by element. Just not quite there for me, I’m gutted to say. Though I’ve since been back and gorged on venison Chateaubriand. Pricier, but worth it.

But this is the year I try new places, branch out. I have SO many burger places I want to try. Shake Shack has been on my list for what feels like years, and now new branches are popping up I can avoid the huge queues in Covent Garden. As a black pudding lover, Bleecker St is somewhere I NEED to visit asap. With Spitalfields being one of my favourite weekend haunts, I’m not too sure why I’ve not visited yet. Then there’s Patty & Bun, which again seems like somewhere I need to visit. There’s Smashburgers which has opened up in MK and Brighton, a new concept which I’d love to try. And of course, I’m also open to finding the best fried chicken burger too…

So now it’s over to you. Where is the best burger you’ve ever had? Where do you recommend? Don’t just limit it to London, I’m willing to travel for the perfect burger…

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?

Lifestyle: Results with Lucy Review

I’ve come to the conclusion I needed a regime to get me to start to exercise. Or rather, to force me to slot exercise into my daily routine. The gym just doesn’t work for me, neither does exercise classes; I’m too self-conscious of my bodyshape, of my fitness level, of how red I get to fully take part. Plus London gym prices?!Just think of how much Dairy Milk I could buy for that money…

 photo Results with Lucy_zpsgau33pxj.jpgBut quite often I found myself saying “I’ll do it tomorrow”, or “too tired.” And yes, I am tired. Getting through the door late after an intense day of work and spending too long on the tube is not particularly conductive to a good workout session. So having something a bit more structured, telling me what workouts to do that day or (on the best days!) telling me I can have a rest day, is working wonders. I’m keeping up with the schedule, I’m finding myself actually looking forward to exercise. And now my ‘plan’ is coming to an end, I’ve found myself drafting out my own version, figuring out how I can keep it up.

When I was offered the chance to try out The Student Plan* through Results with Lucy I have to say I was skeptical. A lot of workouts I had previously tried needed a lot of equipment or far too much space. Plus I have always had my doubts about plans like this. I was dubious that it could actually work and was under the impression that it was just another celebrity endorsed gimmick. That said, there’s not a huge amount of emphasis on Lucy at all, it’s much more about the qualified personal trainers – they take you through your paces, show you the moves and shout at you to keep you going. It’s pretty much like being in a proper exercise class, just there’s no audience to watch me!

 photo Results with Lucy 5_zpsct1yefxg.jpg photo Results with Lucy 4_zpschg9cmvw.jpgThe Student Plan gives you 4 workout playlists a week, allowing 3 rest days, unlimited access to all workout videos, and a small recipe library for some inspiration – for £10.50 a month. Now to be honest, I’ve not really used many of the recipes yet as most of them aren’t to my taste (I prefer a high-fat low-carb diet as much as possible) but they would be great if you were stuck for ideas. Workouts range from arund 20 minutes to 1 hour including warm up/cool down, and you’re warned about any equipment needed before you start. I can confirm you only need a tiny space too!

The workouts? Well, they are hard. I hate, hate, hate leg day with a passion (jumping squats are my ultimate phobia). But having said that I do love the variety. There’s boxing workouts, dancing sessions. There’s videos targetting certain areas, even challenges. One of my favourites is the 100 Squat Challenge, but I’m also loving The Tummy Tuck.

Now, I do have ‘before’ photos and more up-to-date ones; they won’t be making an appearance on here. There is a noticeable difference in the two, but I don’t feel quite comfortable with putting it out there for the whole world to see. Instead I can reveal that I have lost two inches from my legs, and just under an inch from my jiggly tum – and I’m seeing definition which I’ve never seen before. For me, though, it’s not really been about the appearance/weight side of things. It’s been about improving my appalling fitness levels and actually feeling healthier – and for those reasons alone this plan has been a sucess. A few months ago there’s no way I could have done 20 sit-ups, let alone 50+. I can do 200 squats pretty much no problem. I feel so much better in myself!

 photo Results with Lucy 1_zps8xdutkwt.jpgWhilst I’m not 100% sure if I’ll continue with a subscription after my current one times out, the plan has done what it needed to do – made me enjoy exercise. I’m now cranky (sorry W!) if I miss a day, I look forward to coming home and working out, and I don’t think I’ll have a problem in putting together my own workouts. And if I need another kick in the right direction, I’ll be straight back on the plan!

*I received a three-month subscription in exchange for an honest review – and I genuinely loved the programme!

What exercise plan do you follow? Are you gym-phobic like me?!