I know, I know, my ‘weekly’ round up posts aren’t really happening weekly, but life gets in the way sometimes! It’s been a busy couple of weeks – not only have I had loads on, but I managed to fracture my shoulder, wrist and break my thumb (which is why you’ll see some rather attractive wrist supports in my pics for a while!).

Sadly my injuries happened on the day I was meant to attend #BLOGGERSBELOWZERO at the Ice Bar, which I had been looking forward to for ages! Ice Bar have been very kind though and have invited me to my own little review visit so I will be posting about it soon! In the meantime you can see what Luisa of Eat Sleep Luisa Repeat thought of it here.

So here’s what I got up to this fortnight…

People Footwear UK Launch

On Tuesday I went along to The Hoxton Gallery for the UK launch of Vegan leisure shoe line, People Footwear. You can read about it in detail here.

people footwear

Abhorrent Decimation at Scream Lounge

I left the People Footwear event a little early to get myself down to the tiny Scream Lounge in Croydon to see local death metal band Abhorrent Decimation. Loved them. Properly loved them.

Despite being exactly the kind of thing I usually love, Abhorrent Decimation had managed to pass me by up until now. But I was so impressed, and I left with a copy of their new album, Miasmic Mutation. If you like death metal with a modern edge give it a listen, it’s awesome.

abhorrent decimation

ABQ London

Wednesday evening was my second visit to the ABQ London Breaking Bad themed bar (after going the first time around in the Summer, which you can read about here). After such a successful run of their Hackney pop up RV, they returned to a new venue, and a new BYOB format, which I’ve posted about in detail here!

abq london

Grease at the Hard Rock Cafe POP Picturehouse

Hard Rock Cafe London have some really cool stuff coming up, starting with the immersive showing of Grease in collaboration with Pop Picturehouse.

pop picturehouse hard rock cafe

You can read about the event in detail here, and buy tickets for the next event, Spiceworld on 22nd February here.

Alice In Wonderland Exhibition at The British Library

Have I mentioned yet how much I love Alice In Wonderland? I actually don’t think I have, which is pretty strange as I have been OBSESSED with anything Alice since my childhood. So of course the Alice In Wonderland exhibition at the British Library was on my to do list. You can see a sneaky preview of the exhibition in this post.

alice in wonderland british library

Chicken Night with Yelp & Neighbourhood

I’ve really been getting into Yelp lately (you can check out my profile here if you’re interested, feel free to add me as a friend if you’re a fellow Yelper).  I’m actually pretty disappointed that I didn’t get involved sooner, since they have such a great community and hold some really awesome events!

Wednesday just gone I attended their Newbie and Chicken Night at Neighbourhood in Stratford. It was a great night, I met some cool new people and had a delicious family style dinner and as much beer as I could drink! Thanks Yelp!

chickennight

At Home With The Chef with Yelp & Eat With

Another night, another Yelp event! This was actually a pretty special one, there were only eight spaces available so Yelp ran a little competition – the eight Yelpers who recruited the most new members won a space. And I actually won overall, and got an extra little gift of a really nice cafetiere and coffee – I’m keeping it for my new desk when I start my new job in March.

Now, this event run with Eat With is worthy of a post all of its own, so you can read about it soon!

eat with

In the meantime you can find out a bit more about the chef who cooked for us, Dylan, on his blog, The Travelling Editor.

Fat Tuesday – London Mardi Gras 2016

You may have seen my post about Fat Tuesday in advance of the event? Regardless, I was invited down by Kansas Smittys and Shotgun Carousel to their London Mardi Gras event on Southbank. Despite the miserable weather, it was a great night!

london mardi gras

So, that was what’s been going on in my life lately – the next couple of weeks are going to be busy too! Stay tuned for more cool Yelp events, Slipknot, a new tattoo and plenty of (anti) Valentines stuff!

L xx

All photos my own.

If you’re going to be single at Valentines Day, what better place to be than London?

I’ll be honest, I’m not overly fussed about Valentines, but there are so many fun events coming up over the next couple of weeks that I may as well get into the spirit of things! And I’m not talking overpriced romantic dinners surrounded by starry eyed couples, haha!

So here are my top five picks of the anti (or just not quite so traditional) Valentines events going on this year. You’ll most likely find me at a couple of them…

Valentine’s Extreme Garnishing

You know I like my weird and wonderful food events by now, right? Well The Robin Collective put on the most interesting pop-ups, from re-creating the Eiffel Tower out of toast to making miniature gardens from coconut grass and brownie soil.

sweets

I’m super excited to be joining them for their Valentine’s workshop – Extreme Garnishing at The Hoxton in Shoreditch. Not entirely sure what to expect, but I hear there will be molecular techniques, love potions and even cooking with explosives! I can’t wait!

dynamite

Extreme Garnishing is happening on Tuesday 16th February and tickets are selling like hot cakes, so pick one up for £20 from Design My Night.

If you’re intrigued by the toast, there’s another toast build coming up – look at their upcoming events here. Oh, and I’m also keen to try some of their Medicinal Marshmallows

Blindfold Date

If you’re British, and unless you’re way too young for me anyway, there’s no way you won’t know what Blind Date is (and I hear it’s making a comeback!). On Wednesday 10th February (so great timing for you to actually make plans for V Day at the weekend if they manage to match you up with Mr/Miss Right), It’s Unknown will be hosting a gameshow type night at Concrete in Shoreditch.

blindfolddate

As well as one lucky contestant being blindfolded on stage to ask questions of three potential soulmates, there will be plenty of other chances to find love – including tombolas of love (?), love shacks and slow dance sessions (that’s my nightmare, right there!)…

I’ll be at Blindfold Date with a a few hot girl friends, so get involved! Tickets are £6 advance from Design My Night.

Psst… It’s Unknown have plenty more cool events up their sleeves – sticking with the love theme there’s Musical Bingo’s Heart Make Hotel later this month.

The Bloody Valentine Cabin

If you’ve seen my bucket list, you’ll know I’m dying to try out one of the cabins at York & Albany in Camden – and obviously a horror themed version is ideal! From 11th to 14th February, the cabins are decked out in blood splatter, with screenings of horror movies and themed cocktails and snack platters. Prices start at £30 per person (for snack platters and a cocktail), but there is a minimum spend of £120 per cabin for groups of 4 or less (£180 on Friday and Saturday).

yanda

You can book a cabin by emailing experiences@gordonramsay.com or for larger groups, you can book on Design My Night.

Eat Your Heart Out

I love a good supper club, and you know when it’s being held at House of Vans in Waterloo it’s going to be a fun one! With mischieviously named dishes like ‘Cupid’s a Cock-tail’ and ‘Sour Grapes’, their anti-Valentines supper club is in conjunction with Grub Club, so you can take it as a given that the food is going to be good.

lovebites

Dinner is on Saturday 12th February, and tickets are £30 each, but currently YPlan have a great deal with tickets at £25.50 (also, you can save another £5 using my code LEVANS88 ).

Or, if brunch is more your thing, House of Vans and Grub Club are holding an anti-Valentines part 2 on the day itself, with their Boozy Bill Murray Brunch – a Bill Murray double bill, bellinis, Bloody Mary’s (or, erm, ‘Bloody Murrays’), unlimited waffles and pancakes and a whole load of American style sharing dishes. Pretty good for £20.

billmurray

House of Vans also have a couple of anti-Valentines double bills (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind/Lars & The Real Girl or Before Sunrise/Her) and a cute card making workshop.

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

Nothing says anti-Valentines like preserving a heart and putting it in a jar, right? Not one for the faint at heart, a couple of places are holding macabre classes in pickling lamb hearts and placing them in jars. Has anyone else noticed that taxidermy is so in right now? I don’t really get it, but anyway…

hearts

The Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch (which makes an appearance on my bucket list for its Brothers Grimm themed rooftop) is holding their workshop on their rooftop terrace on Saturday 6th February for £55 (or £100 for a couple). Tickets available here.

Or The British Academy of Taxidermy have two sessions on actual Valentines Day priced at £50 each (or £70 for a couple) at the Islington Arts Factory. Tickets available here.

Dirty Lovin’

Yes this is number 6, and I know, it isn’t exactly a Valentines alternative but I wanted to give it a mention. The Kensington branch of one of my favourites, Dirty Bones (you can see a review post here) has a Valentines Tasting Menu night on February 14th, featuring some brand new dishes – for £25 you get two courses, sides and a cocktail.

dirtylovin

Also, from 12th to 14th February, the to die for Banana Toblerone-tella Waffles are available all day, not just for brunch at both Dirty Bones Kensington and Carnaby.

So there you have them, my top picks. I’d love to hear what other single people get up to!

L xx

All photos from the relevant establishments/PRs.

Today is February 1st – the first day I would have been able to eat animal products after Veganuary. Strangely, my food for today was actually Vegan – Vegan Quorn fajitas with plenty of peppers, mushrooms, lime and coriander rice and home made guacamole, as well as an Alpro Soya chocolate dessert.

Todays choice of meal suggests I was continuing with a Vegan lifestyle. I’m not. In fact, I didn’t even complete Veganuary. It wasn’t actually by choice – I was in hospital in my final week and was advised by my Doctors to at least add dairy back into my diet.

Although I decided pretty much at the start of Veganuary that it wasn’t something I would want to stick to long term, I still thought long and hard before taking my Doctors advice. After all, I had stuck with what was, to me, a life changing diet for almost the goal period, and I was determined to see it through. But my health comes first.

basilico

I understand that a lot of Vegans reading this will dispute the fact that I actually needed to incorporate animal products back into my diet. And I think that in part they are correct – I’m sure there are plenty of ways for knowledgeable Vegans to ensure they are getting the sufficient nutrients. But I was not a knowledgeable Vegan, I was a fussy eater when it came to meat alternatives, and with the stress I was under with my health issues and for practicality reasons it just wasn’t working out. So, knowledgeable Vegans, please bear in mind that you don’t know anything about my medical history and give me kudos for trying, please? I mean, I’m personally pretty shocked and impressed that I lasted as long as I did.

Despite it being a struggle, and it not quite going to plan, I did learn a lot from my time participating in Veganuary, and I’m glad I attempted it. So, I bet you’re dying to know what I learnt, right…?

Quorn isn’t Vegan

Shocker, right? I actually found this out by accident as it seems my local Waitrose is one of few supermarkets stocking specifically labelled Vegan Quorn. Had I not seen one pack labelled as Vegan, I wouldn’t have realised, so it was lucky I guess!

In case you’re wondering, it’s a little mushier than regular Quorn.

quorn

A lot of alcohol isn’t Vegan

Nightmare. Seriously. It isn’t necessarily that they contain animal products as actual ingredients, but has more to do with the manufacturing process. Luckily most spirits are, and some lagers that I like, such as Corona and Peroni. And my favourite, Amstel.

corona

In fact, a lot of things you’d think are Vegan aren’t

What I didn’t realise when taking on Veganuary, was the sheer number of products that animal produce is used in. Veganism cuts out a surprising amount of foods beyond eggs and dairy and requires meticulous reading of supermarket labels.

You don’t need specialist stores

You just need a Waitrose. Or the internet so you can shop online with Ocado. Seriously, they put the rest of the supermarkets to shame (Edited to add: I’m informed that some branches of Tesco/Sainsburys/wherever cater much better to Vegans than the ones I went to, but my point remains the same – you don’t need specialist/health food stores).

Now, it could be argued that Waitrose tailors more to Vegans than the others because it is the choice of the Middle Classes, and Veganism is a bit of a Middle Class phenomenon, but that’s a whole other argument that I don’t want to entertain. But what I will say is…

Eating Vegan (properly) isn’t cheap

If you’re purchasing meat substitutes and specialist Vegan products, it really adds up! But, on the other hand, if you’re a fussy, lazy, uninformed Vegan in the way I was, you’ll likely find yourself eating basics like fruit, veg and rice because you know you can’t mess it up. Which is actually pretty cheap. Cheaper than buying meat anyway.

Eating out is surprisingly easy

It’s funny I think this, as a lot of Vegans I know would disagree, unless it comes to specific Vegan restaurants. But I ate successfully at chains including Wagamama, Nandos, The Diner, Yo Sushi and Chiquitos with no problems.

wagamamavegan

Eating at home was when I struggled, but I think that has a lot to do with my lack of imagination in the kitchen and laziness in analysing lists of ingredients.

nandos

Vegans get dessert too!

And they’re pretty damn good desserts! From jaw dropping donuts (see my post about the San Diego Donut Bar) to delicious cakes and ice creams (posts coming soon!), finding Vegan desserts when eating out really isn’t hard. And at home there are plenty of dairy free options that you don’t need to go to a speciality store for – my favourites are Pudology and Alpro Soya. I’ll post a round up of my favourites soon.

Your taste buds will adapt

I started January hating things like coconut water, and almond milk, and avocado. But they’ve managed to grow on me. But fake cheese and fake chocolate take some getting used to.

Speaking of avocados…

Vegans are obsessed with avocados

I have no idea why. But look at this pretty damn good looking avocado…

avocado

You will need dietary supplements (or could do with, depends on your source)

I didn’t take them which was dumb. So I learnt this the hard way. And to be fair, it probably had more of an impact to me, going from being a heavy meat eater than it would have to a vegetarian. This probably applies less to lifelong Vegans (if at all).

Cutting out a large part of your normal diet might feel like the main challenge, but what I didn’t consider was that the real hard bit is to cut those things out whilst maintaining a nutritious diet. Without meat, you will need plenty of iron, vitamin D and Vitamin B12.

As iron supplements often contain animal products, my research took me to Solgar Gentle Iron, which is completely Vegan, and their vitamin B12 which helps with the formation of healthy red blood cells. Look at me talking about nutrients and science stuff, haha!

Being a Vegan isn’t just about what you eat

While I didn’t give this aspect consideration when I made the decision to participate in Veganuary, I picked up quite early on that I wouldn’t just have to cut animal products out of my diet for the month. I mean, I could have done, but if I’m going to attempt Vegan, I’m going to give it my all. That meant no purchasing animal products, or products tested on animals, and no participating in activities which went against the whole principle. So no San Diego Zoo for me!

I also made sure that the beauty products I purchased in January, even while in the USA (because obviously I hit up Sephora!) were cruelty free. Luckily, my top US brand to purchase, Kat Von D, is pretty much all Vegan!

I actually discovered some great Vegan cosmetic brands, and I’ll be posting about them shortly. SauceBox is a particular favourite, and I’ll be running an awesome Vegan giveaway soon featuring one of their products, so watch this space!batalash

Although it is not my intention to continue with either a Vegetarian or Vegan diet, and my life will return to usual once I have used up all the Vegan food in my cupboards, I will continue to post on Vegan topics. There are restaurants I visited which I’m keen to tell you about, others I’m still yet to visit, there are products I loved which I want to review, and I’m sure I’ll continue to come across them more in everyday life – when I do they can be found in the Veganuary tab on my menu bar.

Although I will continue eating meat, I no longer have the attitude I had before – that a dish without meat is a side dish. And if you recall my original Veganuary post, that is what I was trying to change. What I completed of Veganuary did make me think harder about what I was eating, and it has made me more open to trying new things. Now, I will happily eat out at a specific Vegan or Vegetarian restaurant, which I would have turned my nose up at before.

In fact I had the nicest Vegan noodles in Shoreditch the other day. More of that soon, but here’s a pic to wet your appetite.cookdaily

I’d love to hear from anyone else who participated in Veganuary.

And if you want to read a Veganuary success story, take a look over at Eat Sleep Luisa Repeat‘s post here. Actually, she posts a lot about Vegetarian/Vegan topics, so if that interests you you’ll like her blog!

L xx

All photos my own. Except maybe the pizza pic, I’m not sure, maybe Luisa took it? Either way, she wrote about the pizza in detail here.

Last time I was in California, in October, I meant to visit the (now closed) Donut Bar in Orange County, because I’d heard great things, but didn’t get round to it. I hadn’t realised there was another (the original) Donut Bar in San Diego so was crazy happy when my friends took me there for breakfast donuts!

donutbar9

Donut Bar has a menu which changes daily, and is written on a chalkboard at the shopfront (it’s also uploaded daily onto their Facebook page).

donutbar5

They do sell out though, and queues can be long, so it’s best to get there early! Luckily it wasn’t too busy for us on a Friday morning, but I am told it gets pretty bad! You can place a order here to pickup the next day though.

donutbar6

On the day I visited the menu was quite varied, featuring everything from a basic $1 ring donut to a $5 Monte Cristo (if you don’t know what a Monte Cristo is, it’s a deep fried ham and cheese sandwich – now imagine that in donut form…).

donutbar3

I was surprised at how Vegan friendly Donut Bar was – they had four Vegan options which were clearly marked. There was a basic ring, a creme brulee, an apple fritter, and the one I went for – the Strawberry Split. At $4 this spectacular donut, I’m told, is one of the ones that put Donut Bar on the map. Seriously, look at it. It’s ginormous, and delicious, and I would never have guessed it was Vegan. I’m trying to find out what the cream substitute is but so far I’ve not had any luck.

donutbar1

Another donut, I just have to mention is the Big Poppa Tart Donut. Costing $4, the Big Poppa Tart weighs in at a huge 1lb, and has a whole pop tart in the centre. On the day I visited three flavours were available – S’Mores, Strawberry and Blueberry. Try this one heated up…

donutbar4

Next time I want to try the Jim Beam Maple Bourbon…

Donut Bar also have an outlet in San Diego airport Terminal 2, and I may have had a takeaway box for the plane…

donutbar2

L xx

All photos my own.

 

Donut Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I actually didn’t eat a lot – not for me at least! This may have something to do with a terrible hangover I had on day two…

Day One

I arrived at Gare Du Nord station at about 10.15, and was starving, so we just went to a little cafe opposite – I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called!

I just had a croissant (delicious) and the BEST HOT CHOCOLATE I’VE HAD IN MY LIFE. I think this cafe will definitely see me again.

garedunordcafe

We then headed to Hard Rock Cafe for an early lunch. I do like Hard Rock Cafes, and I’ve visited them in a lot of different countries. I usually prefer to find local gems, but sometimes it’s good to go for something familiar that you know you’ll enjoy. I normally like their cocktails, but I didn’t want to start too early, so I didn’t indulge this time.

Both myself and Chloe went for a starter as a main – the Tupelo Chicken Tenders. They’re normally served with mustard or hickory barbecue but we were awkward and asked for the Heavy Metal sauce instead. This sauce is seriously SO GOOD.

I went for a side of the parmesan fries with garlic aioli. Chloe had the biggest side salad known to man. It was a good meal.

hardrockparis

After dropping my bag off at Chloe’s adorable apartment, we hit the touristy spot of Montmartre after research led us to some rock bars in the area. It seemed most things in Paris were closed on Mondays, at least until later on, and a few of the bars we looked for were closed down permanently. We finally found a promising one, but went for some dinner to kill some time.

When in Paris, there are some things you just have to eat. Steak tartare is one of them. We were seriously picky about where we had dinner. We left the first cafe because it didn’t seem clean. We left the second because a Yelp review mentioned insects. And we finally settled on one down one of the shopping streets, Le Saint Jean, because it seemed to have a lot of locals in, which is always a good sign.

steaktartare

We also saw the cutest thing, check out this dog at the counter!

dogbar

After dinner we finally found an open rock bar – Rock & Roll Circus. I loved it. Happy Hour was 6-8pm, and had 3.50 caipirinhas. Strong caipirinhas. And we had too many. Quite a few too many. Oops.

drinks

Seriously though, if you’re looking for a dive bar with good music (of the heavier persuasion, you know my taste by now) and well priced generously poured drinks, this is your place.

Day Two

Well, this is embarrassing. Day One ended on an eventful note with a lot more alcohol so Day Two was a lazy hangover day! We did go to a local supermarket in Jourdain to get comfort food – mine was in the form of speck (Austrian ham) and some amazing bread from a little bakery. I also had this delicious ‘chocolate snail’.

chocsnail

Day Three

Things got a lot better on Day Three. We started with a Burger King at the metro station (which I didn’t photograph- but I had an XL Bacon Cheese) before we headed off to Versailles.

At the Château de Versailles I was excited to find a branch of Angelina and even though I wasn’t hungry, I had to have cake there!

We shared some macaroons in dark chocolate, pistachio, caramel and blackcurrant.

macaroons

And I went for the festive version of Angelinas signature patisserie, the Mont Blanc in yule log form.

yulelog

To drink I went for their famous Iced Chocolate L’Africain. Never again, it was the richest, most chocolatey thing I have ever drunk. I left most of it.

Before I got my Eurostar back to London, we had a late dinner at a brasserie opposite Gare Du Nord, La Maison Blanche. Time for two more typically French dishes – Chloe had the French onion soup and I had rare steak.

onionsoup

The food was really good, not badly priced and service was fantastic. I’d definitely go back if I’m hungry and need to kill some time pre-departure.

steak

And after that, it was back to London for me! I’ve decided that, with Eurostars being so cheap (my return ticket from St Pancras was less than £70!) I need to go to Paris more often, so expect more posts like these!

L xx

All photos my own.

Yes, I know, I skipped a week! But it’s been a bit of a busy fortnight so I’ve been a bit slack on my blogging – I’ve had my birthday, a trip to Paris, Christmas… But the main reason I’ve been a bit quiet is that I’ve focused on a few job interviews I’ve had (and yes, they went well!). So here are a few things I got up to over the last fortnight…

Le Bun Brunch at The Zetter

To be honest, it’s a small miracle that I haven’t yet posted about Le Bun since, in my humble opinion, they’re the most exciting thing on the London food scene (okay, I may have given them a little mention in my post about National Burger Day, but trust me, they deserve a post all of their own!).

I make a point of visiting Le Bun at their every venture, and I was extra specially excited to visit their residency at The Zetter in Clerkenwell for brunch, to try their Bloody Mary with cheeseburger garnish after I saw pictures of it on social media. So on Sunday 13th myself and a date went for an early brunch (followed by some drinks at the new Brewdog nearby). It did not disappoint.

bloodymary

I ate so much – after starting with the Bloody Mary, I had their delicious Truffles & Waffles (I’ve eaten a mini version of this before, it’s one of my favourite street food dishes – so I couldn’t resist a full sized version!). I also ‘shared’ (by shared I mean I ordered it ‘to share’ but ate it myself) an avocado benedict.

lebunwaffles

If you get a chance to try Le Bun do it! They currently have a burger van at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park until January 4th.

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes and The Bronx at Brooklyn Bowl

This is actually the first gig I’ve been to at Brooklyn Bowl (inside the O2 in Greenwich) and it’s now one of my favourite venues! We had a meal in their diner pre-gig, which was a bit of a waste of time as they also catered the VIP area for the show, so I really had my fill of their (delicious) French bread pizza.

Anyway, it was a really great evening – I’m a big fan of Frank Carter and his various ventures (except Pure Love, they really weren’t my thing) and this was my first time seeing him with The Rattlesnakes.

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And The Bronx are one of my favourite live acts. It was also great to catch up with a couple of old friends.

brooklynbowl2

Winter Wonderland

Every year I visit Winter Wonderland on the Friday afternoon before Christmas, it’s been a tradition for as long as I can remember.

ww

I was actually really pleased to see that Winter Wonderland was a little less commercial than the past couple of years – it started to get a lot of stands for larger brands to just give out non Christmassy samples and promotions. This year it seemed to have a bit more of a German Christmas market feel again, although there were still a lot of fairground rides.

Look how pretty Hyde Park looks…

wwtrees

The Bavarian Village is predictably my favourite bit – I’m not sure why there was a giant with a bird there this year? Given my heritage, if it’s a Bavarian thing I really should know, so if anyone can enlighten me…?

wwgiant

I actually popped back to Winter Wonderland on the Saturday too, with Luisa (Eat Sleep Luisa Repeat) where she purchased (without me knowing at the time) some beautiful red rose lights for my Christmas gift. We ate pretzels and drank cider before heading back to hers to exchange gifts with the other (non-blogger) member of our friendship trio, Georgia.

luisaww

Yelp’s Festive Afternoon Tea at Ma’ Plucker

Before meeting Luisa to go to Winter Wonderland on Saturday 19th, I went along to Ma’Plucker in Soho to have a festive afternoon tea with the guys from Yelp. I’ve really got into Yelping lately – it’s so much more than just a review site. I strongly recommend checking out their events, as they have some really cool stuff on – like this afternoon tea, which was complimentary.

mapluckertea

I had such a great time and will be giving a full review shortly, but you can have a little preview on the Yelp site if you’re interested! If you’re on Yelp, or want to join, feel free to add me as a friend – you can find my profile here.

The Glam Clam

It was a busy Saturday! In the evening I was fortunate to have been a guest of Design My Night for an evening at The Glam Clam – a pop up jazz club and drag cabaret in Tufnell Park, with a dinner menu by Gizzi Erskine. It was pretty special and you can read more about it here.glamclam

Birthday Lunch at BoxPark

Sunday 20th December was my 28th birthday. As it’s so close to Christmas I never do anything for my birthday – this year I just had a quiet lunch at BoxPark in Shoreditch. We had a couple of vegetarians/vegans with us, so the layout of BoxPark made it really easy to keep everyone happy!

I had a festive pizza from Voodoo Rays,  with pigs in blankets on!

pizza

Paris

Obviously, I’ll post about my three day mini holiday to Paris seperately, but for now just know I went, okay!

How awesome is this Disney toy tree at St Pancras…?

disneytree

Christmas

Christmas is a tricky time of year for me, as I have pretty much no family, and this year I’m single at Christmas. But, for the second year in a row, I volunteered on Christmas Day for the Rotary Club, serving Christmas dinner to the elderly at Battersea Evolution.

You won’t see any haul posts from me – I don’t really have anyone to give me gifts, although, as I mentioned above, myself, Luisa and Georgia did exchange them this year. It’s cool though, believe it or not I’m not a very materialistic person, and I find volunteering at Christmas really rewarding.

So that’s my life lately, sorry it was such a long post, but it was a fortnights worth! I’m sorry I haven’t updated the blog much recently – I mentioned earlier that I had a couple of job interviews. Well, I was successful in both, and have been offered a new opportunity by my current employer, so I’ve been focusing my thoughts on making the correct career choice. I think I’m finally almost at a decision!

I hope my readers have had a lovely festive period (yes, I know, it isn’t quite over yet!) and I will be making more of an effort to blog regularly for 2016, I promise! I already have some cool things lined up, including a January trip to San Diego so watch this space!

L xx

All photos my own.

We all know by now how much I love a good burger, right? I mean, just look how much I ate on National Burger Day, haha!

So of course I got overexcited when my favourite burger joints brought out their festive specials! Anyway, here are my five favourites from this year, in no particular order…

MeatLiquor

I actually ventured out of London to try the XXXmas menu at MeatLiquor – it was my first visit to their branch in Brighton. I think it might actually have my favourite interior of the whole chain, but this post isn’t a restaurant review so I’ll focus on the food…

MeatLiquors festive menu appealed to me the most out of the ones I saw (and trust me, I looked at a lot of festive burger menus), which isn’t surprising really. I love the chains aesthetic, and their food is always interesting.

Top of my list to try was their XXXmas Garbage Plate – fries, sausage & stuffing patty topped with slices of roast turkey served with gravy, cranberry sauce and crispy stuffing sprinkles. I’m a fan of fries with OTT toppings anyway (I love a good poutine) so this was always going to be my favourite. It was basically a junk food version of Christmas dinner – my kind of meal!

garbageplate

Yes, I know this isn’t technically a festive burger, but I did have the XXXmas Burger too and it was a tough one to beat! Instead of your usual beef, this burger had a sausage and stuffing patty, roast turkey, crispy bacon, gravy and cranberry sauce. It was delicious and tasted like Christmas – the most specifically festive tasting of the burgers I tried. Literally Christmas Dinner in a bun.mlxmas

It was very similar in flavour to the garbage plate (obviously, since it has virtually the same ingredients) so I would suggest ordering one or the other – not both like I did!

I also tried the Xmac & Cheese – deep fried camembert and stilton mac and cheese with a cranberry and port dipping sauce. These were divine. I love the regular mac and cheese bites but these were extra oozy and cheesy and the sauce was perfect. I definitely over cranberried on this meal!

mltray

In case you’re wondering what else is on the tray, we also ordered the Chicken Parma Burger and the Fried Pickles (my favourite side!).

Honest Burgers

Honest Burgers will always be one of my most visited burger chains in London – it’s so hard to find a good burger served on the rare side, so when I find one it automatically becomes a favourite. I tried the festive special at their branch in Tooting.

Honest kept it quite simple with just one festive option – a burger comprising of a Ginger Pig beef patty topped with a well sized slab of brie coated in poppy seeds and breadcrumbs, smoked bacon, cranberry sauce and rocket. Perfectly pink in the middle, no overly dominant flavours – my only niggle was that I’m not overly keen on poppy seeds, but I can’t really make personal preference a criticism. It was festive but not over the top so, and the brie was a generous slab, no stinginess on toppings here.

honestxmas

Pssst… I can’t talk about Honest without giving the infamous rosemary salted chips a mention. They’re served on the side with every burger and are proper squishy yet crispy chip shop style chips to die for.

Dip & Flip

I love Dip & Flip. Seriously, a branch opening in my neck of the woods (Wimbledon) has not been good for my waistline. I’ve tried several things from the menu, and they’re all pretty faultless.

I’ll be honest – the festive special here is nothing revolutionary, but to be fair, their regular menu with it’s roast meat topped burgers lends is easily adapted to a turkey version.

Their are two variants on the festive special – the Dip (thinly sliced turkey in a roll) or the Dip & Flip (cheeseburger served topped with thinly sliced turkey). Both are topped with stuffing and cranberry slaw, and are served with the usual tray of gravy.

I went for the Dip & Flip. The burger patty, served medium, was perfectly cooked, with a bit of pink inside but a really nice slight charring outside. They’re generous with their toppings too, the cheese just oozed out of this one. Oh yeah, Dip & Flip is messy – not somewhere for a first date! The turkey was lovely and moist. I couldn’t really taste the cranberry though which was a shame.

dfxmas

If you’re wondering what the other dish is in the picture, it’s a favourite menu item of mine – the bacon and green chilli cheese fries, which are a bit like a poutine. Seriously filling though, you only need one portion between two of you.

Shakes are good too and the specials are usually pretty exciting. The festive shake is a vanilla mince pie version – try it with bourbon, trust me!

Dirty Bones

Ah, I love Dirty Bones! And you’ll quite often find me in the Carnaby St branch.

Their festive menu rivalled MeatLiquors to be my favourite. I think I like when places actually put some proper effort in, rather than just creating a special burger. Dirty Bones had festive burgers, side, cocktails, desserts…

dbxmas

Anyway, the Get Elf’d Burger – aged steak patty topped with deep fried cran-brie, torn slow cooked gammon and stuffing mayo. I’m all about gammon at Christmas, so this was a no brainer! Nice, good quality pink in the middle (have we established by now that I like a rare burger?) beef, a generous portion of flavourful gammon and a big chunk of breaded brie – well played Dirty Bones, well played.

You could double this one up but I chose not to. Only because I needed space for the Double Dirty Fries (see my review here for more about these) and dessert…

dbdessert

So the dessert – the Smashed Mince Pie, which I’d read rave reviews about. I’ll be honest, I was a little underwhelmed. It was just a nicely presented broken up mince pie with brandy butter gelato and coconut ‘snow’. Nice, but not £6.50 nice.

Voodoo Ray’s

Okay not a burger but I had to sneakily add this festive pizza in! I’ve talked about Voodoo Ray’s before here – I’m a fan. And the festive pizza I tried, Santana’s Little Helper, was delicious! I visited the branch in Shoreditch BoxPark.

voodooxmascounter

I mean who could resist pigs in blankets on a pizza? It was also topped with red onion, rocket, marinated tomatoes, cranberry and parsley. I strongly recommend you try a slice.

voodoo

So, those are my top picks of the London chains for festive junk food – I’d love to hear if anyone else has any recommendations.

L xx

All photos my own.

Obviously, I like my music, but it hasn’t really been until recently that I’ve become a bit of a snob about what I listen to it on (I blame Sennheiser and my ace Momentum headphones). No matter what you’re playing, if it’s through a poor quality pair of speakers, it sounds a bit crappy right? But I was yet to invest on a decent pair for my home.

So, last month (yes, last month, I told you I’d been a little slack with my blogging lately!) I was excited to be invited by Joe Blogs and Currys PC World up to the recently opened Sonos Studio in Shoreditch to preview the new Sonos Play:5 speaker and participate in a speaker ‘building’ workshop.

sonosbuilding

Photo by Joe Blogs

You may not be familiar with Sonos? They’re an American company who produce products and software to tranform the home sound system for the digital age. Using their wireless speaker systems they aim to make listening a valuable experience and optimise the quality of music within the home.

sonos

There are a variety of products (and even streaming services!) within the Sonos range (which starts at £169 for the Play:1 speaker), but I’m going to talk to you about the Play:5 and the new Trueplay software.

Play:5

The new Play:5 wireless multi-room speaker is an upgrade to the original Play:5, their first wireless speaker released in 2009. My understanding is that this is the first time that Sonos have retired a product and reinvented it – and from reviews I’d read of the original version in the past it was a tough one to follow.

play5

But they seem to have managed it. The new Play:5 is, aesthetically, simpler and more modern. It’s an attractive piece of kit, available in either black or white and can be orientated three ways (horizontally, or both ways vertically) – which I believe explains the clean design, required to support this function. This versatility in orientation allows greater flexibility in placement and makes it look a bit more natural when paired with another speaker (since the release of the Play:5 Sonos have announced stereo pairing so perhaps this was deliberate?).

One thing I find interesting about the new design is that it’s actually larger than it’s predecessor – looking at other consumer electronics (classic example being the Playstation) the general trend is for upgrades to be smaller and thinner. Now this may be a little above my tech understanding but I believe it’s something to do with the quality of the bass – by getting rid of the bass port the bass sound is cleaner and deeper, which is worth losing some sleekness for in my opinion.

play5apart

There are other changes in appearance too, such as the front grille, which is now plastic rather than metal so as not to interfere with the wireless performance. But we’re not talking cheap looking plastic, this is classy stuff! The top mounted touch controls (play/pause, volume and track change) are sleek and alter dependent on orientation which is a nice touch.

The Play:5 features six speaker drivers (an increase to the five featured on the original model) with six matching Class D amplifiers, three custom designed 10cm mid-woofers and three tweeters. Now that’s all a bit techy for me, but I can tell you 100% that the sound that comes from this single speaker is HUGE. In case you can’t tell, the Play:5 is most definitely on my wishlist! It’s a shame it’s out of my current budget at £429 – but if it’s affordable to you I’d definitely recommend it!

Trueplay

With the release of the Play:5 comes some impressive new software called Trueplay. Before I tell you about Trueplay, I should perhaps mention that the Sonos speakers can be controlled via a phone app. And it’s a surprisingly easy set up.

Anyway, Trueplay – we had a nice demo of this at the workshop using a speaker placed under a sofa and turned against the walls. Trueplay tailors the output of speakers to optimise the sound dependent on where they are placed within a room. Using the app you can kind of scan the room – I believe it uses the microphone to measure speaker response and adjust the sound accordingly.

Now to my mind Trueplay has one negative – it’s currently only compatible with iPhones/iPads/iPods, Android isn’t yet supported. But as you only need to analyse a room once, you could maybe find a friend with an iPhone if you don’t have one?

On the plus side, although Trueplay was released with the Play:5, you can upgrade the software on existing Sonos speakers to work with Trueplay. Actually, the ease with which you can upgrade the software to Sonos products was something I found really impressive. Sonos design their speakers to last around ten years, so the ability to update the software regularly will keep them performing at their best. Almost makes that £429 price tag seem affordable, right?

The Challenge

After learning about the Sonos range and Trueplay we were split into two teams and challenged to build our own speakers Blue Peter style, as well as to come up with a marketing plan and sales pitch.

speakerbuilding

Photo by Joe Blogs

Despite me being a shy and retiring wallflower I had to do the talking for my team. Needless to say we lost, haha!

The Studio

I found the Sonos Studio to be a very interesting place, and a little gem in a convenient location in Shoreditch. The studio itself is on the first floor, and features listening rooms where consumers can test out the different types of speakers before buying. It’s a great space, with the main area designed to just seem like a living room. There’s also a little workshop – I’m not sure exactly how much development is actually done there, but it gave a good effect!

sonoslounge

Something I was excited about was the ground floor cafe. It’s a lovely, quiet, creative space with plenty of power outlets – absolutely perfect for some quiet time to get some work done if need be, or even just for a coffee and chat with your friends.

The drinks and food were reasonably priced and looked delicious. I tried the toasted banana bread with a hot chocolate and it was lovely. I even liked the look of the salads, and I’m really not a salad person!

sonossalad

I would definitely recommend popping in to Sonos Studio, if not for the speakers, than for the food!

sonoscafe

Thank you for having me Sonos, and for giving me the opportunity to have a sneak peak of your awesome new product!

L xx

All photos my own unless stated otherwise.

You can take a look at the official Currys PC World blog post on the event here.