Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Food: Brunch at 90 Degree Melt, Mile End

Things I miss living in Dubai: decent vegetarian food, paying less than £10 for any meal, East London....

brunch 90 degree melt

90 Degree Melt is a new offering on Mile End Road serving American-inspired, vegetarian (and vegan) dishes. It's proper comfort food that just happens to be vegetarian - all served without any hint of "wellness" in a minimalist American-style diner just a few steps from Stepney Green station.

brunch 90 degree melt

Eliza and I showed up at around 1.30pm for a late brunch and grabbed a spot at the end of one of the shared tables. Service was a little slow but I guess they are still figuring things out. There's no danger of us ever running out of things to chat about. We ordered three dishes to share - a vegan tofu scramble on toast, a vegan chilli skillet and jalapeno cornbread with fried eggs. I usually hate sharing food but I loved having the pick of the whole menu and being able to try a few different dishes. 

brunch 90 degree melt

The tofu scramble was the stand-out for me, so full of flavour and topped with a delicious pesto sauce with a side of guacamole for my daily avocado fix. Portions are generous and the bill came out at around £15 each (including two very tiny bottles of sparkling water) which is amazing value for London.

I would be back very soon if it wasn't for the 7 hours flying time...  

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Food: A(nother) Round-Up of Avocado on Toast in Dubai

Avocado on toast is back on the blog after an extended hiatus for Ramadan (when most cafes and restaurants were closed during daylight hours aka the only time to be taking Instagram photos), two trips back to the UK and 40+ temperatures. Sometimes, even avocado on toast cannot lure me outside...

Having a name like "amongst few" written in italic lowercase text must mean that this cafe is a hipster dream and, yes, it totally is. Located in the Palm Strip Mall, amongst few is a delightful spot for setting up for a few hours with a MacBook or, as I did, perching at the counter (a blessed joy for all solo diners not to be sat opposite an empty chair) partaking in coffee, avocado on toast and people watching. It's a popular spot with locals who all have better sunglasses, make-up and iPhone cases than I ever will. This plate was as tasty as it was pretty, I loved the addition of asparagus, feta, seeds and roasted baby tomatoes. Good coffee, too.

Vida Saturdaze

I visited this "Saturday Brunch" (the Dubai equivalent of a Sunday brunch in the UK) with my parents and any worries that it might be aimed at a younger crowd were unfounded. Billed as a chilled out, "hangover-curing", lazy brunch, I picked Vida because unlike most brunches in this city it actually serves brunch food. Are you confused, yet? At AED 139 per person (£29) it's good value for this city, especially as it includes one "brunch concoction" (i.e. a cocktail) and a buffet of granola, fresh fruit, salads and pastries as well as a juice bar. Tea and coffee is unlimited and there's a menu of brunch dishes to pick from - I obviously had the avocado on toast which was not most creative version of the dish but it was tasty all the same.

Clinton Street

I often go to this cafe after my barre classes because it's next door. The staff maybe recognize me, it's okay. The avocado on toast here was very green with a lot of rocket (/roquette if you shop in Waitrose) topping sourdough bread, chunky avocado and baby tomatoes. Very similar to the avocado on toast I sometimes make at home but with bottomless coffee which does not happen at home.


I've started a bad (for my wallet) habit of ordering lunch from here every day at work - yes, it's crazily expensive and portions are tiny but it's SO good. I credit their iced soya latte for me not treating my keyboard as a pillow at 4pm on a daily basis. Also, you can order by WhatsApp and the delivery guy brings a card reader to the office... obviously Dubai has not changed me at all. At all. The avocado on toast is on the small side but it's really good and along with a "raw vegan sweet of the day" makes me feel more virtuous than I ever deserve to.

Previous round-ups of avocado on toast in Dubai here, here and here.


Thursday, 17 August 2017

Food: Where To Eat Vegan In Dubai

Dubai hasn't quite embraced vegan, or even vegetarian, eating like London has. When I first moved here I was a little disappointed in the lack of options for the sort of foods I favour - I eat vegan at home and as much as I can when out unless I really fancy poached eggs... I know, I know. London seems to have got its act together for catering for all dietary whims (although New York does it better still) whereas Dubai is definitely a little too keen on eat-as-much-as-you-can buffet style arrangements which is fine if you're here for a long weekend but y'know, I live here now. 

best vegan cafes dubai

I would happily move in to this "concept store" on Jumeirah Beach Road. The self-described healthy cafe is not all vegan but there are a lot of options and everything is so delicious. I love the avocado crostini and the almond milk matcha tea and the outdoor area is just so nice for a chilled afternoon in the shade (the beach is a five minute walk away if you're that way inclined but I'm still this pale for a reason...). Yes, it's a little over-priced but, hey, welcome to Dubai! 

best vegan cafes dubai

A more "hippie" rather than hipster take on vegan eating, Life N One feels like one of those village garden centre cafes I'd get taken to as a child only with a more "yoga" decor scheme. The menu is mostly raw vegan but they do sweet potato fries (#balance). I love the vegan sushi and the raw matcha donut is so amazing (if you love matcha - I do and it seems hard to find here). The bathroom wall says "you just have to trust that what you want is coming, and watch how fast it comes" which I like a lot.

best vegan cafes dubai

One of my favourite spots for brunch and somewhere that you will be dragged to if you visit because its a ten minute walk from mine. Again, not a vegan place but the avocado on toast here is possibly my favourite and the salads are amazing too. The white crockery is very Instagram friendly. Oh, and they do the best bread in all of Dubai (most bread here is somewhat thankfully Very Disappointing) and have bottles of balsamic vinegar on the tables which is something I don't realise I miss until I get to drown my food in it. 

4. Tom and Serg

best vegan cafes dubai

Tom and Serg were (maybe) the first ever hipsters in Dubai and they've now got a small empire of cafes around the city. The original Tom and Serg in Al Quoz is my favourite - my slightly difficult to please daddy loved it too despite it being down a alleyway behind a hardware store and the interior looking like the decorators gave up halfway through. The vegan veggie bowl is really good and the coffee here is the absolute best. Oh, and the staff are super cool and always compliment my outfits, maybe they do that to everyone but it makes my day regardless. 

Located in the Galleries Lafayettes food hall, I was so happy to remember the existence of this raw vegan counter when I was last in Dubai Mall. The menu reminds me a lot of Tanya's Cafe (a West London favourite) - definitely a good thing. The food is really creative - the vegan sushi I ordered didn't contain fish (well, yes) or rice but still had that authentic sushi taste. There are some very beautiful raw vegan desserts which I managed to resist on my first visit but seeing as I tot up 10,000 steps every time I go to Dubai Mall, I can have one next time.

More to come once it gets a little tiny bit cooler outdoors...


Sunday, 13 August 2017

Life: Apps To Help You Survive The Dubai Summer

Don't let the niche title put you off. My recent app discoveries aren't all Dubai (or summer) specific but in the context of "feels like" 50 Celsius temperatures, these apps have been making my life a little easier, maybe even enjoyable during what is our "stay indoors" season. While I've made watching all seven seasons of Mad Men a personal goal during this season, I've had to set a daily one episode limit and force myself to maintain some sort of productivity and not merge into my sofa come September so these apps can take all the credit...

Kate Spade case (similar) and my new Samsung S8 Edge - still unscratched and in one piece 

The Dubai equivalent of ClassPass, GuavaPass lets you book workout classes anywhere in Dubai / Abu Dhabi in just a few clicks. Filter it by area, time of day and activity to find something you want to book and get all the information on whether the studio has showers, provides towels and whether you need to bring along those grippy toe socks (or risk being charged £10 for another pair you do not need). The 4 classes per month package works out as good value compared to booking classes individually and I've discovered new studios that I wasn't aware of before that are only a five minute taxi ride from my apartment.   

Android here, iOS here.

Uber / UberEATS

Something you all know about anyway but if you are in Dubai I definitely recommend using Uber to get around in a slightly more comfortable manner than regular taxis and they have GPS so will be able to find that yoga studio and deliver you straight to the door with minimum fuss (and sweat). UberEATS get a mention for delivering my lunch from Circle Cafe on a daily basis and the occasional afternoon iced soy latte because a walk to Starbucks (basic caffeine tolerance over here) may be the end of me in these temperatures but a girl still needs iced coffee.

You have it on your phone already, right? Use my code lilys279 for money off your UberEATS order wherever you are.

Office Lens

A slightly geeky favourite of mine but Office Lens is such a useful app - whether you need to email someone a document or want to go paper free and have everything on your Google Drive (so no need to tear your apartment apart when you need to provide your National Insurance number or ask your mother to trawl through your home bedroom looking for your old P45). This app effectively makes your phone a tiny scanner and lets you crop and adjust documents and email them to whoever needs them or electronically file them away. A 50 degree weekend is a great time to scan some adult-y looking documents and expense receipts and then satisfactorily bin them all (of course after checking they've been successfully uploaded or emailed away). Ex-pat life has practically turned me into Marie Kondo or maybe I do just need to get out more? 

Android here, iOS here


I sort of wish I had had this in London but, then, I'm not sure if there was really any need given that I lived opposite a Waitrose. InstaShop lets you pick groceries from an Instagram-esque interface that are delivered from your nearest supermarket in around 45 minutes. You can order as much or as little as you like (subject to a minimum spend), paying by card or cash on delivery but I mostly use this app for emergency ordering the Diet Coke that I claim not to drink anymore. Unfortunately it does not deliver gin although if it did then I may never leave the house again.

Android here, iOS here.

Physique 57 On Demand

Not an app as such but another workout savior this summer. I love a barre class but they are super pricey over here (and pretty much everywhere actually) and, as previously addressed, involve going outside. I do one or two weekend classes in a studio but keep myself en pointe during the working week with P57's online workouts. P57's barre classes are super tough and the at-home workouts are no different, minus an instructor being there to "helpfully" move your leg to the correct but far more painful position. The workouts are handily split by target area and duration so I (rarely) have an excuse not to do nine minutes of arms and feel in awe of the superstar instructors before work or telling myself that I've earned a second hour with Don Draper... 

Available here, the first month is free (and you can cancel and not pay anything).

Any others I should add?

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Life: Friendship Bracelets

Twenty years ago my friend E and I weaved brightly coloured threads together in that gap between school and sitting down to a meal which definitely would have included oven chips. We never gave one another these "friendship" bracelets, oddly, but made them together often while pondering much the same things we do today (namely food and whatever will we do when we are grown-up).

I'm not sure how I still remember to make these, especially as I've forgotten a lot of what I once spent hours learning since: EU Law (now outdated anyway), how to drive (never really mastered it) and Hangul characters (but I can still recognise "bibimbap" so all is not lost).

It's been over 40 degrees in Dubai for over a month now so indoor activities are on the agenda. It's not so bad in a country designed for hot temperatures - anything can be delivered to your door in under an hour and most activities have wound down for the summer so there's no guilt in devouring all seven seasons of Mad Men with a cold Diet Coke (we may have Waitrose but it doesn't sell gin) in hand until outside becomes a little more pleasant.

Making these these bracelets is also an ideal way to prevent online shopping (harder to resist when you have a trip home approaching and can avoid shipping charges), mindless snacking and booking flights to cooler places, as well as being a nostalgic reminder of a much simpler time.

If you want to give them a go and need a refresher then these links should help (1), (2) and (3).

Until next time, #netflixandweave.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Food: London Eats

Being reunited with London's food scene was such a joy on my trip back home. As much as you can have "anything" in Dubai the city is slightly behind the curve on vegan and even vegetarian food (I ate a lot of hummus when I first arrived) and finding decent, affordable sushi is an ongoing process / struggle. Thanks to the "clean eating" movement and the rise in fashionable food allergies, London is now a haven for vegans and almond milk iced latte drinkers, and also for those of us who had a bridesmaid dress to fit into right at the end of a two week trip and a constant nagging fear of it not zipping up (spoiler alert: it did)...

Kaia The Ned

The Ned was obviously top of my list after seeing it on a few friends' Instagram feeds and genuinely feeling green with envy. I visited solo and felt simultaneously very classy perched at the counter at Kaia but also a bit like a scruffy student in my scuffed plimsoles and plaited hair amongst grey-suited city types. The venue itself is so, so beautiful and exactly the sort of place I'd imagined I'd spend time in as an adult until I realised that adulthood is no different to what came before it other than having to pay bills and make pension contributions. I obviously had the rainbow poke bowl along with a side of edamame and a ginger kombucha mocktail (#detox). The food was good, not mindblowingly so but the ambience and scope for people watching (the man sitting next to me ordered two old fashioneds "with an extra shot" at lunchtime, no judgement) are second to none.

The Lighterman at Kings Cross is a good alternative to Grain Store and Caravan - I'm still so pleasantly surprised every time I visit Granary Square it's such a contrast to the rather grim Kings Cross area I remember as a child. Make a reservation (a newfound joy after years of thinking them unnecessary) for the upstairs restaurant which is more spacious and airy than the ground floor and has amazing views over Regent's Canal. The meal I had here was pretty much my ideal dinner - a seasonal G&T with a slice of grapefruit, a superfood salad (dressing on the side) and an order of sweet potato fries dipped in ketchup. A friend and I caught up on the last few months without being rushed out and service was fast and friendly. The weekend brunch is a must for my next visit.

Itsu! I never tired of having Itsu for lunch in London and during a quiet period at work spent an hour a day with a green tea, the Greens, Grains & Glory rice pot and one of the Games of Thrones novels immersing myself in Westeros without leaving the City. Itsu has loads of new menu items, many of which are vegan as well as all the usual sushi (avocado baby maki mmm) - I had the vegan "miso happy" soup, tofu zero noodles and the raw chocolate pie while petitioning Itsu on Twitter to please open a branch in Dubai.

Coppa Club is another new city opening doing the rounds on Instagram. I actually visited twice during my trip back as its a super easy spot to meet up with former colleagues and city-working friends. Unfortunately on my first visit, our waiter accidentally spilt a drink on my friend but was very apologetic and the drinks were taken off of our bill. Service was much better (and much speedier) on the second visit, I guess its still early days. The salads are served in huge portions (because no one wants a small salad) and come on their own or topped with feta or chicken. On my second visit a friend and I shared the courgette fries which were better than Byron's (and I had previously always held Byron as the gold standard of courgette fries).

I loved Veggie Pret when it opened in Soho last year and now one of my regular Prets (Great Eastern Street) is a Veggie Pret, too! I wanted to order one of everything but limited myself to the cauli & tumeric super-veg salad, a dairy-free mango chia pot and a coconut matcha latte. I've clearly been away from London too long to be this excited about Pret but it's great to see so many options and for veggie foods to finally be more exciting and varied than a falafal wrap or a sad salad.

Where should I try next time?

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Life: July Round-Up

July is always a favourite month of mine. Main highlight this year: a trip back to UK for two weddings (of the same friend), baking in my parents' kitchen to the chirps of our little canary bird (he's seven years old can you believe it) and a fair few G&Ts enjoyed under still-light-at-9pm skies. 

1. Blue skies after arriving at Heathrow at 7am. I had inexplicably booked a waxing appointment for noon.

2. The food at my friend's Indian wedding - for once not being the awkward fussy vegetarian.

3. Summer night skies at Sophie's house - she hosted a BBQ which was my first of the season.

4. My bridesmaid hair, I went to Academy in Welwyn where Rachel coaxed my super long but super fine hair into a braided bun.

5. Back in Dubai and amusing myself with Paperself temporary tattoos and avocado art.

6. Baking with mother - we made a chocolate and hazelnut loaf cake (this recipe) which smelled and tasted amazing.

7. The beautiful venue for my friend's civil ceremony, Mickelfield Hall. Would recommend if you're looking for wedding venues in the Hertfordshire / North London area.

8. Visiting my old neighborhood, just to check that everything's still ok.

9. I didn't get many pictures of my first foray into bridemaid-ing as the day went by in a flash so here's a selfie (Benetint on lips and cheeks) and a little glimpse of my bridesmaid dress (ASOS).

How was your July?
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