You won’t often find me posting about wine – I’m more of a spirits person (and I get way too drunk way too easily on anything grape based!) – but when Le Petit Ballon invited me down to their Spring Aperitif event at my favourite burger restaurant in London, Big Fernand in Soho, well how could I say no?

Le Petit Ballon

Image provided by Le Petit Ballon

Le Petit Ballon are a French wine specialist who, as well as having their own store in Paris, provide a wine subscription box service in France, Belgium and the UK.

The Box

A pioneer in the world of wine subscription boxes, Le Petit Ballon is a fun, easy to understand wine box. Perfect for a novice (like me!) but equally as good for a connoisseur – there are actually two boxes to choose from;

The Apprentice (£24.90 per month) – Recommended for those wanting a head start in the world of wine, the Apprentice offers something a little different, but excellent value for money.

The Master (£39.90 per month) – Featuring more prestigious and well known labels, this one is perfect for building your wine cellar (living in London I can’t imagine I will ever have space for a wine cellar, but that isn’t the point here…).

le petit ballon

With a Le Petit Ballon subscription, you received two bottle of wine per month, carefully selected by their sommelier, Jean-Michel Deluc, based on your preferences. You also receive their monthly magazine, ‘The Gazette’, and some handy tasting notes (the ‘cheat sheet!’). Oh and subscribers get a discount at their online store too!

It’s a nicely presented package – modern yet classy and I can’t help thinking the branding is aimed at a younger, newer clientele – people like me.

The Wine

You’re in safe hands with Jean-Michel – as the former Head Sommelier at The Ritz Paris, he’s a man who knows his stuff. I was given the opportunity to interview him at the event but I’ll be honest, I was clueless as to what to ask!

Le Petit Ballon

Image provided by Le Petit Ballon

I know next to nothing about wine, and if I’m honest I find it all a little bit daunting. My wine selection is usually based on what’s on offer or what has a pretty label, haha! But I think Le Petit Ballon have really stripped back the wine selection process and made it a little more accessible and easy to approach for people like me.

Le Petit Ballon

Image provided by Le Petit Ballon

One thing I found handy in selecting my wine at the event was the ‘cheat sheet’ which Jean-Michel and the Le Petit Ballon team developed to ‘classify’ their wines. The classifications are indicated in their online store to help you pick a wine you’ll like and if you aren’t sure, you can take their little quiz to give you a better idea.

The Food

Now I know this event was about the wine, but I can’t let an opportunity to mention the food at Big Fernand slide.

big fernand

Image provided by Le Petit Ballon

It’s no secret I like my beef mooing, and it’s hard to find a rare burger in London. But you can have a Big Fernand burger blue if you want one. And of course I wanted one!

I’ve visited the restaurant a few times now, and it’s been consistently amazing. Sort of fast food like, you order at the counter and wait for your food, which you take on a tray to your table, Maccy D’s style.

I can’t believe I just compared Big Fernand to McDonalds, haha! They are worlds, WORLDS, apart.

Big Fernand are gourmet burgers at their best. Beautiful Charolais beef (or chicken, or veal, or Portobello mushroom, whatever takes your fancy), French cheese, fresh vegetables and herbs all served on a perfect sesame seeded bun.  I’m pretty certain there is no other burger comparable to this one in London at the moment.

big fernand

Oh and the sides and desserts are pretty good too.

You can actually find some Big Fernand recipes in the current issue of The Gazette. Unfortunately, The Gazette I had was in French! Don’t worry though, the English subscription copies will be in English, I just quite liked my French copy.

big fernand

Thank you for a lovely evening, Le Petit Ballon!

L xx

All photos my own unless otherwise stated.

Big Fernand Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Since I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing about my holidays, I’ll interrupt the travel posts with a little rant about Birchbox. Now, you’ll see from my blog that I rarely post anything negative. I’m a very positive person, and prefer to tell you about things I do and things I love. But for two months in a row now I’ve been annoyed with Birchbox.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with beauty subscription boxes in general if I’m honest. My first subscription, a good couple of years ago now, was with GlossyBox. I remember at the time (this was before I’d even considered blogging myself), there was a vast difference between the contents of the GlossyBoxes that bloggers and a select few received, and the contents the majority got. I was always one of the unlucky ones, and I think it was one month in which some received Clarins and the other Weleda (or along those lines), that I decided I’d pack it in. Not that there’s anything wrong with Weleda, but the difference in value between the two variations of that box was ridiculous.

I would like to point out though that I did trial GlossyBox again recently and things seemed to have evened out – they’ve also produced some fantastic collaboration boxes, such as the one with Harvey Nichols, and there’s a NARS one coming up which will be a must get. On that note, I strongly recommend you register you interest for it here. Pssst… if you do, it’d be nice if you use my referral code here so I can earn free boxes.

Seriously, look at this awesome box…

gboxhn

So anyway, I subscribed to BirchBox. My thoughts on the Birchboxes I’ve received have been mixed, some months I’ve been tempted to cancel, but have just been too lazy to. Now is most definitely the time.

For October I received the Back To Basics box which was, quite frankly, the dullest beauty box I have ever received. Boring contents, boring packaging, just boring. Although, it did what it said on the tin – it contained basics. But it wasn’t until I saw on social media people raving about the contents of their Birchboxes that I realised there had been two boxes available in October – some people received the Basics box, and some received a much more exciting collaboration box with Stylist. I just put it down to bad luck, until I saw comments from others on the Birchbox Facebook page. Apparently, subscribers were able to select between the Basics box and the Stylist box. News to me, and I clearly wasn’t the only one. Now I’m normally really on top of things like this, so it seemed odd to me that I’d miss an email, but whatever.

birchboxskinnydip

Image from www.birchbox.co.uk

But last week, I saw a blogger friend (you can see her thoughts on the SkinnyDip x BirchBox here) post about the November Birchbox, a collaboration with a brand I love, SkinnyDip (remember their awesome Simpsons range?). In addition to the beauty box, there was apparently an option to add a SkinnyDip phone case (which I actually would like) for £4 (a great deal, since SkinnyDip phone cases are usually £12 plus). Unable to see how to add this to my order, I emailed Birchbox enquiring, and also pointing out my disappointment with the October box.

Now, I’ll be honest, I’m used to companies providing pretty good customer service. So I was expecting a response along the lines of, ‘sure, we’ll add it to your order’. Pretty much what you’d expect right? I wasn’t asking for anything for free, but just to be able to purchase something at the price others were able to purchase it for. I also made sure I had contacted them before my box was dispatched so the addition could easily be made.

But the response I received was ‘we apologise that on this occasion you have missed out – we hope you will still be able to enjoy your Birchbox!’. It was a little more elaborate than that – it detailed that I should look at their social media, and if I were subscribed to the newsletter I would have known about it with instructions as to how to subscribe. Now, especially as I have received emails from Birchbox previously, I wasn’t aware that I wasn’t down to receive the newsletter – with every other shop I’ve purchased from I’ve been automatically updated, or asked if I want to be. Whether my settings have somehow changed, I don’t know – if they have been they weren’t changed by me. But that’s not the point, really. If an email is advising an already subscribing customer that they need to make a selection, that email should go out to EVERY SINGLE SUBSCRIBER regardless of whether they have opted to receive the newsletter. Edited to add that this morning (the day after this was posted) I actually received a random promotional email from Birchbox…

Besides, I hadn’t actually missed the information this time, I just couldn’t work out how as an existing subscriber to add it to my order. This was never explained to me. I presume it was in the email I wasn’t sent.

bboxskinnydip

Moving on, I received my Birchbox today. I received the box on the right in the above promotional picture. Of the products pictured I received a sample of Notting Hill Femme from English Laundry (not the usual kind of scent I go for, but still rather nice), a Lord & Berry pencil in ‘Silhouette’ (I’m a fan of white eyeliner so this will get used – edited to add this in fact a clear lipliner), and a small Trilogy Make Up Be Gone Cleansing Balm (not tried a cleanser like this before). In substitution of the Living Proof, Ren and Cowshed products pictured in the promotional images I got Beauty Protector Beauty Cream Hand & Body Moisturiser (I never use this kind of product), Delarom Acquacomfort Cream (no opinion on this product) and So Susan Featherlash mascara (generic beauty box filler but mascara is always handy). It’s a shame, I’d have liked to try Living Proof and Cowshed products. But it’s ok, I understand by now that not everyone receives the same contents and I’m not complaining.

But do you know what I was looking forward to receiving? The SkinnyDip shell bag. It appears that the shell bag actually doesn’t come with the box (correct me if I’m wrong?), in which case I find the above promotional picture which appears on the Birchbox site pretty misleading. And it also begs the question as to how, aside from the shell print on the box itself, this is really much of a collaboration with SkinnyDip? Previous Birchbox collaborations (such as that with Sophia Webster, which contained a cute purse) have had items inside which are relevant, so it isn’t unrealistic to have expected a SkinnyDip item inside. Or was that collaborative item the phone case which I was unable to purchase? Or maybe the discount code they provided (£10 off a £24 spend)?

I actually loved the little purse from the aforementioned box…

bboxpurse

As I said at the start of this post, I’m not usually one to complain. And from looking at the Birchbox Facebook page, and the reviews for the October box, I am by no means the only one feeling this way. I really am disappointed with the customer service I have received from Birchbox, and I think they need to review their treatment of their existing subscribers.

And so, that’s me done with Birchbox. I’m now waiting on the rather high priced but highly raved about Cohorted box, so we’ll see how that one goes! I’ve also splurged on the Pusheen box which I’m really excited for!

I’d love to hear of any subscription box recommendations, not necessarily beauty! Link me to your reviews, or just comment with ones you like or dislike.

L xx

All photos my own unless stated otherwise.