Saturday, 31 January 2015

Working It - 1Rebel, London

Friday evening saw me ignore the lure of a G&T and in favour of London's newest fitness offering.

1Rebel is hoping to revolutionize the fitness industry with its "pay as you train" boutiques - I had a free class code and so headed along half intrigued and half nervous at what to expect - was everyone going to be as edgy and cool as the people on the website? The gym is just opposite the Gherkin so the target market is clearly City workers looking for an efficient way to get fit - classes start at 6am and finish at 9pm and are both of the classes on offer are intense cardio - no downward dogs around here (gulp).

I signed up to "Rebel Ride" - already being familiar with spinning-type classes. The 45 minute class was tough but a lot of fun - our instructor, Tiago, pushed us hard but kept us motivated. The soundtrack and lighting made the time fly by - the playlists are DJ-selected and so you won't end up getting the same old songs again and again and definitely no fumbling around with CDs between songs here. Cleats (special shoes that clip onto the bike's pedals, fyi) are provided and a few sessions a week take place to the soundtrack of a live band (definitely keen to go back for this).

Towels, water and decent toiletries are also provided so all of the hassle of a gym visit is taken away. The GHD hair dryers and straighteners are a nice touch and should help avoid that "lunchtime gym class" look and the combination lockers mean no faffing with £1 coins or padlocks. And there's a branch of Roots and Bulbs (rather than an incongruous vending machine that a former gym of mine had in reception) serving up healthy post-workout drinks and snacks. The classes aren't cheap but the location and target market probably account for that - I've heard of people paying over £100 per month for gym memberships so this could actually work out cheaper and the classes-only idea means that you will definitely be getting a proper work-out on each visit.

1Rebel gym

1Rebel gym

1Rebel gym

1Rebel gym

1Rebel gym

1Rebel gym
Next week I'm trying BoomCycle - the girl who used to hide in the loos rather than go to double Games is impressed!

What's your favourite way to work out?

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Review: Breakfast at The Walkie Talk (Darwin's Brasserie)

I always joke say that I'm a morning person and a night person, its just the part in between that I struggle with. Even if you're not a morning person, it's worth getting up at a stupidly early hour to see the sunrise from the top of 20 Fenchurch Street (a.k.a. The Walkie Talkie). For my friend S's birthday we had breakfast at Darwin's Brasserie - an all day restaurant right in the roof of the building above the infamous "Sky Garden".

The combination of the early start and airport-like security to get in to the building did make me feel a bit like I was going on holiday (no liquids over 100ml or food allowed, fyi) - upon stepping out of the lift on the 36th floor the space feels vast and slightly airport-like. The brasserie itself is cosier (and warmer!) and was busy but not packed at 8am. The breakfast menu is really good value, especially considering the location. The crowd was mainly City folk but that is to be expected on a Tuesday morning - I imagine that in the week the restaurant is a prime spot for impressing clients and that the majority of people eating here will be putting it on expenses. The waiting lists are pretty long for the Sky Garden and Darwin's but if you can face the early alarm clock then breakfast is a great way to experience the views while the sun comes up.

Darwin Brasserie Sky Garden
7am. The thing with tall buildings is that you can see them all over the city until you actually need to find the entrance.
Darwin Brasserie Sky Garden
The Brasserie is simple and minimalist - the views are obviously the star attraction here.
Darwin Brasserie Sky Garden
The menu has a good range of breakfasts - I am a sweet breakfast person and while it was too early for a basket of pastries the breakfast brulee sounded amazing.
Darwin Brasserie Sky Garden
Served with an Instagram-worthy mini smoothie.
Darwin Brasserie Sky Garden
My friend H had eggs bendict (Cumberbatch) with smoked salmon (although I always thought this was "eggs royale"?)
Darwin Brasserie Sky Garden
The breakfast brulee was so good - a little bowl of berries and seeds and a warm caramelised brulee of fruit and yogurt definitely made a nice change from porridge at my desk.
Darwin Brasserie Sky Garden
S had eggs Benedict with spinach.
Darwin Brasserie Sky Garden
For photographs the Sky Garden is better - Dawin's is almost too high in the roof to have the best views. The Sky Garden is pretty cold in the winter but the fur theme warms it up. If you're on a budget then book the Sky Garden and treat yourself to coffee and cake from the bar.
Darwin Brasserie Sky Garden
Good morning!
Darwin Brasserie Sky Garden
The Cheesegrater and Gherkin - our skyline is changing so much. Tower 42 (on the left) used to be considered "tall".
Darwin Brasserie Sky Garden
I could have sat up here all day enjoying the view if I didn't have to go to work. I'll definitely be keeping my eyes on the website as I've promised my parents a visit here soon. Booking info (including how to book a free visit to the Sky Garden) here.

Looking for something similar? Duck and Waffle in the Heron Tower also serves up great views and slightly quirkier food.

Square Meal

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Review: Lunch at The Folly

To celebrate Mummy Lipstick's birthday (it can't be helped but surely January is the worst month in which to have a birthday?) we headed to The Folly for lunch. Located on Gracechurch Street in the heart of the City, at weekends The Folly is a really chilled out destination for brunch, lunch and 4pm G&Ts. In the week it's rammed with City folk but at the weekend the City is really quiet and actually quite pleasant to wander around - Leadenhall Market and the garden of St Dunstan's In The East are my favourite hidden gems among the banks and growing collection of novelty buildings like the Walkie Talkie and the Cheesegrater. I also love some of the street names in the City - Threadneedle Street just sounds so lovely and Milk Street and Honey Street always make me smile. While a lot of City bars and restaurants have quite a bland, corporate vibe The Folly is really quirky and doesn't require a banker's bonus to work your way through the cocktails list.

The Folly Review
Mummy and Daddy Lipstick had the Sunday roast which they said was really good.
The Folly Review
I had possibly the most blogger cliche plate of food possible - a halloumi and hummus burger with the bun substituted for avocado and a side of sweet potato fries, definitely all of my favourite foods on one plate...
The Folly Review
...which I then Instagrammed. Unashamedly basic bitch, I know. The fries were so good and halloumi is practically a food group for me so I was happy.
The Folly Review
This is the "Goldfish In A Bag" cocktail which is a must-try - gin, vodka and less than 100 calories.
The Folly Review
Our shared dessert was flaming baked Alaska - I'd never had this before but it was so good.

It's always fun to take my parents to my favourite hang-outs (well, the ones which are parent-suitable at least!).
What would be on your plate of favourite foods?
Square Meal

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Lights Of Soho: God's Own Junkyard

Going to more exhibitions in high on my to-do list this year. Living in London there is always so much going on and many are free - I've started cutting bits out of Time Out magazine and making a list so that I don't miss out on anything.

Last weekend I visited Lights Of Soho for Chris Bracey's "God's Own Junkyard" neon exhibition. The Soho pop-up is now closed but you can still visit the main "Junkyard" in Walthamstow (another one to add to my list) and there's a display in Selfridges, too. I loved the neon creations - they definitely brought some much-needed brightness to a January afternoon and there was an amazing range of retro-style shop signs and neon artworks to admire and photograph.

God's Own Junkyard

God's Own Junkyard

God's Own Junkyard

God's Own Junkyard

God's Own Junkyard

God's Own Junkyard

God's Own Junkyard

What exhibitions have you visited this year?

Monday, 19 January 2015

Etsy Store: Pieces of Patterns

As part of a big clear-out, a huge box of vintage patterns were unearthed. Many unused and still in pristine condition, the patterns instantly transport you back to a simpler (but definitely harder) time when making your own clothes was a key way to add to your wardrobe and give a unique spin to your style. For better or for worse, there was no Primark in 1950 and so women made use of their skill and creativity and made their own clothes. Even the drawings on the pattern packets are a work of art in themselves and make me wish I had some sewing skill and could do something with these.

Etsy Vintage Patterns
I've set up a little Etsy store to re-home these patterns here. It's called Pieces Of Patterns and I'll be adding more to it in the days and weeks to come as I continue to sort through the box.
Vintage Patterns Etsy

Have you ever tried making clothes from a pattern?

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Spring Wishlist

Let's not kid ourselves, January is the worst month of the year. Getting on the tube at Bank the other day (an experience I seek to avoid at the best of times), I felt like the world was in black and white - between the grey sky and the black coats of the City folk there was no colour to be seen at all and the days of waking up and leaving work while its light outside feel like a long distant memory. Spring is still a far away event but as spring collections come in long before the weather turns remotely springlike, I'm already dreaming of spring fashion - I'm a summer person through and through and really can't get excited by coats and jumpers so let's pretend that it's March and that payday has arrived and let's dream of florals and pastels:

fashion blogger wishlist
Blue Silk Dress - Topshop Boutique, Pink Column Dress - M&S, Abstract Print Dress - M&S, Camisole - Topshop, Jacquard Skirt - Topshop, Cut-Out Slipper - Topshop

Dresses are my wardrobe staple whatever the season and this blue Topshop Boutique number is far too pretty to be hidden under a winter coat. I've not worn a lot of pink in the past but lately I have been obsessed with the colour - I think my shorter hair makes it a less girlie-girlie look. The bodycon would make a perfect work dress and the scallop-collared dress (both M&S) is just too cute (I can definitely imagine wearing this to the theatre or afternoon tea). Branching out from the dresses, the Topshop skirt and cami would make a perfect spring outfit (and the skirt would work now with a knit until bare arms can even be contemplated). Slipper flats are going to be on my feet once it stops raining and, again, I couldn't resist the pink!

What are you looking forward to wearing this spring?

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Afternoon Tea at Bea's of Bloomsbury

The blog has had a minor shake up - there's now a few categories on the right to make navigation easier on my more popular topics. There's a whole category devoted to afternoon tea so it only felt right that Sunday afternoon was spend eating scones and drinking tea in aid of my friend H's birthday.

Bea's of Bloomsbury has three locations in London now - we visited the St Paul's branch where a cosy vintage tea room has been recreated inside the One New Change shopping centre. The tea room is pretty tiny so definitely book in advance - there were 12 of us and our table took up half of the upstairs space.

The Bea's take on afternoon tea features mini baguettes rather than traditional finger sandwiches with veggie options available, scones with jam and cream, cupcakes, mini brownies, mini blondies, meringues and marshmallows. The marshmallows are not vegetarian so this was swapped for banana cake for the veggies in our group. I wasn't that keen on the sandwiches - the baguettes were not the most dainty things to eat and the fillings were not very generous in comparison with the bread - but the scone was lovely and the famous Bea's cupcake didn't disappoint; one of the best cupcakes I've had in a while with top marks for the frosting to cake ratio. The brownie and blondie bites were super sweet but a good way to try the range on offer at the counter downstairs without falling into a complete sugar coma. There's a good range of teas - I had the green tea which was a good counterbalance to all the sweetness!

The service started off a bit scatty, perhaps due to the size of our party and confusion over how many orders there were. The cakes arrived before the sandwiches, the tea didn't arrive until we'd already tucked in to the food and we had to ask for jam and cream for the scones but we were offered top ups of tea regularly and the option to take away the leftover cakes which was great. We were left to chat for hours and didn't feel under pressure to give the table back which is my pet hate when you feel like you have a time limit. At £19 this is a really good value afternoon tea and there is a lot of food for the price so I'll forgive the not quite on point service as the food was top quality and it was a lovely spot to spend a gloomy January afternoon.

bea's of bloomsbury afternoon tea
bea's of bloomsbury afternoon teabea's of bloomsbury afternoon teabea's of bloomsbury afternoon teabea's of bloomsbury afternoon tea

Have you tried Bea's?

Square Meal

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Wardrobe Detox

We're nearly halfway through the worst month of the year. The weather is dismal as expected, bank balances are looking sad and the temptation to hibernate is pretty high. But, it's still a new year and we're meant to be brimming with enthusiasm for a "new start". So, I have a task for you this Sunday. It doesn't involve a juice detox or running a 10k in the rain. It's a task that can be done in the comfort of your own home so get that onesie on, boil the kettle and hit pause on Netflix (just for now).

1. Set all guilt aside before embarking on this task. Those ASOS dresses with the label still on? Essential "end of a tough week in the office purchases". That floor length sequin dress you've never worn? Well, how were you to know that Prince Charming wasn't going to turn up and invite you to a ball that week. Those Primark shoes that were so uncomfortable that the taxi ride home cost twice as much as the actual shoes? Well, we all make mistakes. Yes, the contents of your wardrobe probably amount to the price of a small car and you probably only wear 10% of it on a regular basis but that's why a sort out is needed.

2. Ok, let's get organised. Start with the items on the shelves. Take them all down, shake everything out and divide into piles:

- summer clothes: unless you're going on a beach holiday in January then these shouldn't be in your wardrobe. Fold neatly and pack in vacuum sealed bags under your bed to be unpacked in April.
- eBay / Debop: items that are new or worn only once that you just don't love or won't realistically ever wear. Cut your losses and make some money back.
- charity: items that aren't worth selling but which could be re-loved by someone else.
- clothing bank: items that you wouldn't bestow on your worst enemy (actually...) and that are of no use to anyone can still be recycled.

Now you should be left with neat stacks of jumpers, tshirts and gym kit on the shelves that are easily accessible. 

3. Now get to work on the rail - these should be your bread and butter pieces, ones that you're reaching for regularly and deserve pride of place. For me, the rail is 80% workwear which is equivalent to the amount of time I spend at work (probably). Divide into sections - skirts, dresses, tops so that getting dressed in the morning is a little easier. Coats / blazers at one end and party dresses at the other so that they are not distracting when trying to pick an outfit at 7am.

Top tip: turn hangers hooks to face you. Once you have work something turn the hanger hook the right way. Once the year is over, anything with the hanger look still facing you goings in the eBay / charity / clothing bank pile.

Top tip 2: Pick up one of these scarf/belt organisers on your next trip to Ikea:

 4. "But I wore this to...blah blah blah and can't throw it out!" Let yourself keep some "sentimental items" even if you'll never wear them again. I have my sixth form leaver's hoodie still despite it only serving as a reminder of how old I am now but otherwise, be strict - it's just taking up space that newer, nicer clothes that you'll actually want to wear could be occupying. Same goes for anything purchased with a plan to "slim into" if that realistically isn't going to happen.

5. Finally, the bottom of the wardrobe - shoes. Ditch anything that isn't comfortable, as Papa Lipstick once said "don't wear uncomfortable shoes, it shows on your face". I have no idea if that is a real saying or not but its definitely true. Put summer sandals into storage and any shoes with worn out heels need to be sent to the cobblers for re-healing so that you can actually wear them.

Ta-da! Now back to Netflix you go...

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Party In The UAE

My final weeks (and final holiday) of 2014 was to the UAE with my parents. This was my fifth (!) trip and re-visiting a place is a mixed blessing - there's less of a sense of adventure but when you've been somewhere so many times it almost feels like a second home the moment the plane touches down. Albeit it a permanently sunny, five star luxuary second home by way of Le Royal Meridian on Jumeriah beach - I'll sacrifice some of the thrill of the unknown for that. We spent Christmas in Dubai which was the best present that Santa could bring the three of us after a busy year.

We landed at Dubai airport at 8am, seeing sun and feeling the heat for the first time in weeks was an awesome start to the day despite the night flight and added extra: screaming kids. The next 10 days involved plenty of beach time, mall time and some time in the old town and Al Ain to see the "real" UAE - it's not all shiny skyscrapers and giant malls, there is culture and history if you know where to look (and if you don't then every hotel offers a multitude of day trips). Our last visit was in 2012 and its amazing how much has changed since then - Dubai always feels like stepping into the future, case in point: a man on a hoverboard in the sea off the man-made palm island.

A bath with a view.
Swapping scarves for suncream. Kiehls SPF 50 is my new favourite and the Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Stick is perfect for the beach bag.
Kitties! Mornings and early evenings = kitty time with these three. Sad to say goodbye to my holiday friends!
Sliders! The Royal Lounge cocktail bar was our favourite evening destination - G&Ts, canapes and we even made some holiday friends.
Last day breakfast because it's a bikini free zone for the next 5 months. Nutella and tahini buckwheat crepe.

International falafal at Souk Madinat Jumeriah,

Christmas Day camels on the beach.

Bespoke eclairs in the Royal Lounge.

Chilling in the palace in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi. Al Ain feels very different to Dubai - it's less glitzy but the palaces, museums and oasis where dates are grown and picked are must-sees.

Tasty times at the Camelicious camel farm feeding the camels. The camels are milked to produce camel milk chocolate. It tasted...interesting. Camels are as intelligent as 11 year old children apparently and far easier to convince to eat their vegetables - this one is happy after eating a tasty carrot.

Dubai Marina at night.

Abra tour on the Creek - top tip: a private Abra for an hour costs around £20 and is a great way to see both the old town and the Dhow ships setting sail for Iran and India. Do try to swing by the Gold and Spice Souks on the bank of the Creek.

Living in a shoe. Top tip no. 2: take a pashmina everywhere - modest dress code and Arctic-like mall temperatures sorted.
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