Saturday, 30 November 2013

Insta-Updates: The Month Before Christmas

I feel like I've barely sat down in front of a computer this week (with the exception of working hours which are all spent in front of a computer but that's different). Sometimes it is nice to take a little step back from online life - swapping iMessage chat for real life chat, eating non-photogenic food and (trying) to re-charge my batteries ahead of the festive season.  Here's what I've been doing:

1. Just a little after work drink at Sushisamba. The cocktails are a little pricey but they are satisfyingly strong and the view is beautiful.

2. Dessert at the ball I went to a few weeks back. Lemony "thing" with shortbread and raspberry puree.

3. I definitely did not have this Wahaca salad two nights in a row.

4. What I look like when wearing about five times as much make-up as I usually do (at the Soap & Glory bloggers event).

5. Southwark Park fireworks.

6. A flying pig for the Lord Mayor's Show. The sun did come out for the last five minutes of the parade.

7. Starbucks with mummy and daddy. It was 2 for 1 on Christmas coffees so we had one each and a 4th to share. The orange mocha is nice in a sickly sweet sort of way.

8. Fireworks for the Lord Mayor's Show.

9. Mini sharing desserts at work event.

10. Nails of the week - it'll probably be a nightmare to remove but I do love glitters still. The shade is Sardonyx.

11. Designing my own show with The Colour Studio. This turned out to be a bit of a monstrosity! Mr Louboutin has nothing to fear.

12. Taking home a pair dyed by the professionals. Now all I need is for someone to invite me to a party to wear them at.

What has your month before Christmas been like?

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Little Black Bottle

The party season is here and I'm definitely in need of some inspiration. Freixenet have set me the challenge of styling up one of their "Little Black Bottles" as you would a little black dress. In an age of fast fashion, the little black dress still manages to be a party classic and with a few clever accessories you can transform it to suit the occasion.

I've styled up the bottle with some of my favourite accessory picks to see you through the party season and beyond:

Necklace - Topshop, Watch - Marc Jacobs via Watch Warehouse, Stole: Topshop, Bag: Topshop, Midi ring: Topshop, LBB: Freixenet Sparking Wine
A statement necklace is a great way to transform any outfit and this one will really set off a black dress as well as looking great over a cosy jumper during the day. A classic watch is definitely not a one-season wonder accessory and this Marc Jacobs one is the perfect accompaniment to a LBD. Midi rings are everywhere at the moment and are such an affordable way to update your look. Pare down your handbag essentials (Oyster card, lipstick, credit card - done!) and pack them into a clutch bag - this one has just the right amount of sparkle. Finally, I can't resist the chance to wear (fake) fur and if you can't swan around in a fur stole at Christmas then when can you. This ice-y blue one gives the perfect snow queen touch to a LBD and will help keep out the winter chill.

What are you essentials for styling a LBD?

Monday, 25 November 2013

Weekend Brunch: The Modern Pantry

Brunch is fast becoming my favourite weekend activity. Meeting friends for brunch makes me feel like I'm a proper grown-up and what better start to the day is there than catching up with friends over coffee and two-meals-in-one indulgence? During the week breakfast is usually a quick bowl of porridge at my desk so its nice to be able to relax and savour the most important meal of the day and there are so many options whether you fancy something sweet, savory, virtuous or naughty (you can probably guess which option is more likely).

I'd heard a lot about The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell and finally managed to find a day when my friends P and P were both free to sample its brunch offerings. The Modern Pantry is quite small so booking in advance is definitely advisable - it was packed the entire time we were there with quite a mixed crowd of City-types, yummy mummies and family catch-ups. We sat upstairs overlooking St John's Square and a sunny November day outside.

A "long black" with soya milk on the side to start for me.
Strawberry smoothie and a hot chocolate for my friends.
Ricotta pancakes with berries. These looked so good and give me an excuse to re-visit to try them. The menu warns of a 20 minute wait for them but I don't think it took this long (or we were just chatting a lot and the time flew by).
Prawn omlette with sourdough toast. Look at that escapee prawn.
For me, brunch is usually egg-based - I love perfectly poached eggs. These are with spinach, halloumi and gluten free toast (I'm not gluten free but was just curious to try it).
I'd definitely recommend The Modern Pantry for weekend brunch - we all thought the food was amazing and the prices are reasonable. We were asked to pay up and pass our table on to other diners after two hours which does sometimes annoy me but the restaurant was packed and by this point it was well into lunchtime - maybe book for a bit earlier if you want to linger a little longer.

What's your favourite brunch dish?

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Insta-Outfits #3

Insta-outfits are getting ready for wintertime:
When its Halloween and you work in an office.
Dress: Whistles
For a day of running errands.
Blouse: Topshop; Skirt: M&S; Watch c/o Watch Warehouse
When you're off to a ball. Casual.
Dress: Whistles; Watch: Burberry; Hair freshly blowdried at Concrete, Drury Lane
Casual Sunday.
Top: Zara; Skirt: Stradivarius; Watch: Watch Warehouse; Brogues: c/o Duo; Bag: Mulberry
Meetings at work.
Dress: M&S
Perfect co-ordination.
Nail wraps: Sephora
It's cold outside.
Scarf: Vintage; Top: H&M; Skirt: c/o Clothing at Tesco; Tights: Primark
What have you been wearing recently?

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Winter Wishlist

Brrr! It's getting chilly out there and the Christmas season seems to have snuck up upon us rather fast so I thought I'd put together a little winter wish list, either for self-gifting purposes or on the off-chance that Santa happens to be reading...

Quilted jacket - Joules; Cashmere socks - Brora; Chili penguins - Hotel Chocolat; Noelle perfume - Benefit; Drink Up face mask - Origins; duvet cover - Joules.
Joules range of quilted jackets will definitely keep out the winter chill and make even the most committed city-living girl feel like a bit of a country bumpkin. I had a sniff of Benefit's Noelle fragrance yesterday and it smells like winter in a bottle - perfect for cheering up dark days and bringing back festive memories come January. Joules range of duvet covers will give my flat a new season makeover - a girl's got to have a presentable looking bedroom for when Santa does make that delivery. Hotel Chocolat's chilly penguin are almost too cute to eat but the subtle chili kick will be almost as essential for staying warm as a pair of decadent cashmere socks. Central heating and the party season are a bad combination for skin in winter but Origins Drink Up mask will see to it while I catch-up on sleep ahead of the next festive event.

What's on your winter wishlist? 

What's on your winter wish list?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Winter Is Coming

I don't really like winter clothes. I can't really make myself be excited at the thought of spending a chunk of my holiday fund on a coat and even the thought of a jumper makes me feel a bit sweaty. I just don't really do winter clothes and prefer to suffer through the colder months by adding tights and a cardigan to what I wear for the rest of the year. I had a day off work lately and decided to make the most of the shops being quiet to attempt to buy a jumper...that didn't happen but I did pick up a "wintery" top and skirt ensemble from Topshop which I actually quite like. I'm not sure how warm they'll keep me once it gets properly cold but for a sunny November day, they'll do quite nicely:

Top and skirt: Topshop; Ring: YSL; Watch c/o Watch Warehouse; Brogues: Office; Ankle socks: Primark
I'm on a bit of an anti-spending kick at the moment so hopefully this will be it until the January sales! Wish me luck...

What are you buying/wearing this winter?

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Le Weekend - Angelinas

When asking around for places to eat in Paris, Angelina's was recommended by a fair few people, possibly on the basis of its hot chocolate alone. On Sunday morning we headed to the Rue Rivoli for brunch (although by the time we got there it was 1pm, fashionably late!). The queue was already out of the door but it moved quickly. I couldn't resist snapping some pictures while we waited:

I like the sound of the religieuse caramel. Saintly, I'm sure!
Cakes and macarons to take away. Having bought the entire stock of a pharmacy's Bioderma the day before my purse cried at the thought of €1.80 each.
We were seated upstairs and started to peruse the book-like menu. There's a lot of choice, from breakfast dishes, savory meals and a lot of cakes. I ordered a pot of cacao tea which smelled amazing and continued to peruse the menu. The waiter answered with a prompt "non" when I asked whether soya milk was available so sorry, purse, for ordering a €5 bottle of Diet Coke too...

Getting in my five-a-day.
Pink pastry and apple turnover. How pretty are the peach-edged plates?
Salmon salad. The mini jug for the salad dressing is too cute.
Croque Monsieur.
Club sandwich and pommes frites.
Choc d'Afrique. The Great British Bake Off would be proud of that glossy sheen on the top.
Seasonal macaron flavours.

Angelina's does feel a little touristique - I don't think there were many French people in there, the service wasn't amazing and it is a little pricey (€10 for a fruit salad!) but we were not rushed and were left happily chatting away at our table for a good few hours. The decor feels a bit tired but it does feel quintessentially Parisian - over-priced food and slightly unhelpful staff all adding to the experience. You can't book so try to arrive early to get a table (the queue was huge by the time we left) or if its a nice day grab some macarons and cakes to take away and sit in the Tuileries gardens.

The weather then took a turn for the worse so we hopped on the Metro to Saint-Paul to browse the Marais. French designer boutiques, perfumeries and street food abound in this fashionable district. I seriously love falafel so my friend S and I hunted down L'as Du Falafel (as recommended by The New York Times, and, according to the outside of the restaurant, Lenny Kravitz). There's a whole street of little cafes selling falafel and long queues outside each one.

A falafel feast.
As the clock struck huit-heure it was time to depart and hop back on the Eurostar, with lighter wallets, heavier bags (that'll be the Bioderma) and a little piece of Paris to take back to London.

Au revoir!


Thursday, 7 November 2013

Le Weekend - Wanderings

So, after my last foodie post from Paris I thought I'd share some glimpses of the city. Having been to Paris a few times before, I wasn't too fussed about doing the standard sights and wanted to return to London feeling relaxed rather than frazzled after rushing around the city trying to fit everything in.

After browsing Sephora and French pharmacies for "essentials", I sat on the Pont Neuf watching the sun going down.

The padlock craze has been taken a little too far, there must be hundreds along the railings.

Taking a sneaky selfie on the Pont Neuf, watching the world go by and pretending that I'm Amelie. My friends met me after they had been to the Musee d'Orsay and we boarded a Seine cruise.
The Eiffel Tower as seen from the boat. We sat on the outside deck and watched the sights change as day turned to night.
After our cruise we headed to Ile de France for dinner at L'Affriole. The set menu is €40 for three courses and quite possibly the nicest fresh bread I've ever tasted to start. My food was lovely but not very photogenic so I'll just show you my dessert - a poached poire with caramel sauce. The restaurant is tiny so I'd definitely recommend booking, and fear not, the staff all spoke perfect English.
Sunday started bright and sunny. While my friends snoozed, I went for a run around the Seine. I love running in different cities - its a great way to see the sights quickly. I went for a "relaxed run" and snapped a few photos en route.
The banks of the Seine have been converted into an outdoor art gallery - the "Photo-Quai". We'd browsed the photographs on our way back from dinner but it was great to see them again in daylight. I really loved these photographs from South Korea titled "Cosmetic Girls".
These photos from Iraq were titled "Portrait of an Arab Man".
And these from Saudi Arabia showed women in their private home environments without showing their faces to the camera. How beautiful are those autumn leaves piled at the bottom of the images too?
I ran over this ornate bridge which marks the start of the Champs-Elysees.

Old juxtaposed with new.
Art or just violating parking rules?
I reached the Arc de Triomphe just has the rain drops started to fall.
We stayed int he Hotel Elysee Union - tucked away on a quiet side street but in sight of the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. The staff were lovely and our apartment which slept 6 people was spacious and felt like a little home in Paris.
A bientot - I'll be back soon with some foodie treats!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Le Weekend - Benoit, Paris

Last weekend, a few friends and I took the 6.08am Eurostar out of London for a weekend in Paris. While it might sound a bit cliched to gush "ooh, I love Paris" when talk of the city comes up, I'm honestly not sure what I feel about the city. I ended up making six trips in one year back in 2009 and while, yes, Paris is beautiful and has so many iconic sights I couldn't help but feel that it was very touristy and rather over-priced and definitely not the city of romance that its touted as being. Despite it only being two hours and twenty minutes from London, Paris feels like a world away and without a bit of insider knowledge its all to easy to end up in tourist packed places, wincing every time you end up paying €5 for a cappuccino.

Despite my feelings on the city and the brutally early start, as soon as the Eurostar pulled into the Gare du Nord I couldn't help but feel the Parisian magic (and also the October sunlight - the weather was far nice that that we'd left behind). Paris felt familiar but after a few years away somewhere I was ready to explore again and see in a new light.

After dropping our bags at the hotel, we headed for our first destination of the day - lunch at Benoit, as recommended by my friend J who is a bit of a foodie. I had booked online the day before which I would definitely recommend doing as the restaurant was pretty full - as you would expect with Alain Ducasse's Michellin-starred reputation.

Showing off the beautiful a la carte menu. Dress is ASOS Petite, Necklace is vintage Christian Dior (when in Paris..)
The set lunch menu and our beautifully laid table. The set lunch menu is €40 so works out as much better value than the a la carte - lunch menus are a great way to try out pricier places without spending too much (especially as I could hear Sephora calling my name as soon as we got off the train).
After cheese puff amuse bouches and crusty French bread, our starters arrived. The set menu offers three options for each course so there's not a huge amount of choice, especially if you don't eat or like meat (although this applies to pretty much everywhere in France). I opted for the mackeral tart which came deconstructed (very Masterchef) and almost too pretty to eat.
Mackeral is quite a strong tasting fish so I was worried that it could be a bit too "fishy" (seriously, I have child's taste buds) but the balance of flavours here was really good and the pesto sauce was lovely.
Ox Cheek and Black Pudding both being too adventurous for me, I opted for the fish of the day main. This was so good - really simple flavours but so tasty.

I opted for the tart selection for dessert and definitely didn't regret my choice. The tarts were all delicious but the hazlenut one was particularly good.
Three little slices of perfection.
After petit fours, madelines and coffee we rolled out onto the street to take in the delights of Paris. Actually, I spent an hour in Sephora trying to restrain myself from buying absolutely everything.

Until next revoir!

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