Thursday, 31 December 2015

London Dining - Egg Break, Nottinghill

A foodie post today. To change things up, and because I know this time of year isn't exactly lacking in food, today's post comes by way of a poem. To make up for my lack of wordly ways, the image captions are there to save this blog post and review - enjoy!

In the week before Christmas Hannah, Sophie and Lily
Headed to West London to escape from the weather so chilly
From the proprietors of renowned Soho House
With the promise of food so good none left for a mouse
Comes Egg Break a restaurant that used to be Thai
Now serving eggs - poached, broken or even fry(ed)
With a tempting cocktail list the menu begins
We all had the Clover Club which contains gin
For mains so much choice at first we couldn't decide
But opted for fries, hash browns and avocado on the side
Sophie had the bun containing fennel sausage, sriracha mayo and pork
So tasty it didn't require a fork
Hannah chose spaghetti carbonara, pork belly with poached egg
A tasty delight you could not forget
I had the farro, feta and egg cooked to 63 degrees
A perfectly Instagramable dish, everyone agrees
Oh, Egg break, we loved all of the food
It was a shame the service put us in a bit of a bad mood
Service aside we left in good cheer
Merry Christmas to all and a happy new year!

Poetry aside, I liked Egg Break - I'll definitely be back for the brunch. In relation to the service - despite being the only people in the restaurant the service was super slow, our cocktails took over 15 minutes to arrive even thought we'd all ordered the same thing and didn't arrive until just after our food. The chips weren't hot which there's no excuse for when no one else was there. The staff were totally ok about us not paying the service charge (I've had arguments in the past when I've asked not to pay this for poor service which is always embarrassing) and the food was otherwise really good so I definitely want to give Egg Break another chance in 2016.

Egg Break review
The former Thai restaurant has been updated - but only just! The interiors are super simple and there are a few tables in the basement, too, as the upstairs restaurant is tiny!
Egg Break review
The cocktail list - the Clover Club was a gin lover's delight. 
Egg Break review
Carbonara.
Egg Break review
The pork brisket bun. 
Egg Break review
Farro, feta, radish, avodaco and a 63 degree egg.
Egg Break review
#flatlay
Have you been to Egg Break? The restaurant is currently shut for a re-fresh but will be open again in February.
lilylipstick
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Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Working It: Kangoo Jumps at Gymbox

On Wednesday last week (Christmas Eve Eve) I found myself in Westfield London (probably not recommended at this time of year when you have £11 in your bank account). My wallet was safe though as I was there to try out Kangoo Jumps at Gymbox - a new one-of-a-kind gym class where participants wear "Kangoos" - the world's lowest impact shoe - while doing an aerobics routine. Promising double the calorie burn of a standard class its the perfect mid-festive season workout or a great one to try in the new year when everyone re-boots their fitness goals but when the treadmill is just too soul-destroyingly boring.



The 45 minute class involves a warm-up, a step-by-step routine and a cool-down stretch. The first challenge...putting on the Kangoos! The Kangoos look like a ski boot with a curved bouncey sole. At first standing up in them was terrifying but I soon got used to walking in them - they are super light (unlike ski boots) and it's actually (thankfully) impossible to fall over in them. The class was a mix of regulars and newbies so I wasn't the only one who had never tried Kangoo before or was terrified of face-planting in front of everyone! The routine was easy to pick up, even for a left-right co-ordination challenged person like myself, as Jason, the instructor, added to it in small steps. The combined novelty of the shoes and concentrating on keeping up with the routine meant that I didn't even realise how much of a work-out the class was until half-way through. By the end I felt like I'd had a really good cardio workout without - the time flew by and the class was so much fun, even when I got the steps wrong!



Kangoo classes are available at the Westfield London Gymbox .
lilylipstick
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Monday, 28 December 2015

Read This: Haruki Murakami

It's hard to believe that at the start of 2015 I hadn't heard of Haruki Murakami. Even more shocking as a self-confessed Japanophile - it makes me wonder what else might have passed me by in the last ~28 years but that's for another day. Now, in this lull between Christmas and New Year I want to be inside, immersed in a book, preferably within comfortable distance of a roaring open fire with a Hendricks and tonic in easy reach (easy on the tonic, there). In reality, this period for the last four years has been spent in a three-quarters empty office with only a tin of the reject Quality Streets that no one wants for company but let's go back to the fireside image and Murakami, shall we?

Reading more was a 2015 resolution that I definitely kept to and probably gained me a lot more pleasure than the ones I didn't keep (go on three consecutive dates with the same person; save money).  Murakami's books immerse you into a world that is at once familiar (I have ridden the ridiculously confusing Tokyo subway and battled the crowds at Shinjuku station), pleasantly dated (1980s Japan; mobile phones not being in any way a thing; coffee and Dunkin Donuts) and downright absurd (a sky with two moons; a sheep-man; a shapely teenager in a pink suit talking of inklings and a fascination with cats and wells). Every book I have read so far has drawn me in - I read the 1Q84 trilogy while travelling in Korea and Japan and the characters felt as real as my own adventures there, I wonder how things worked out for the protagonist of The Rat trilogy and if anyone actually has a career as an ear model.

The novels are translated from the Japanese and this in itself amazes me - Japanese is so linguistically and culturally different from English but the books feel so natural. Murakami and I share a passion for running - him more enthusiastically than me having run countless marathons in seriously impressive times. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running did actually cross my radar as a running book a couple of years ago but I had no idea who had written it - the book is a short but essential read for anyone who loves running and explores the connection between writing and running: "Most runners run not because thy want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest".

The books I've read this year. 
Are you a Murakami fan? I still have a few novels to read but I'm saving them to savour slowly and carefully in between other books now. It is such a joy to newly discover a writing with such a prolific back catalogue to discover anew.
lilylipstick
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Sunday, 27 December 2015

A Weekend In Bilbao

What better remedy for the winter blues than jetting off to somewhere with blue skies and sunshine? My trip to Korea feels like too long ago and without the promise of a Middle Eastern Christmas this year, a weekend in a sunny new city was just what I needed. Coincidentally, Hannah, had visited Bilbao back in October so I had plenty of tips of what to do and where to eat.

The city is small but perfectly formed. Everything is walkable and it's so, so photogenic! Art lovers are very well catered for and Basque cuisine is world renowned. This trip really showed me another side of Spain and I definitely want to see more of the country - despite countless childhood holidays to the Costa Del Sol and trips to Madrid and Barcelona, this city break made me realise how vast and varied Spain is - San Sebastian, Seville and Valencia duly added to my travel wishlist!

things to do in Bilbao
Yes, the coloured glass windows was the main draw for staying here! It was a great hotel for a weekend away.  More on where to stay at the end of this post. 
things to do in Bilbao
First stop - the Guggenheim. The structure dominates the city - you really can't miss it! I re-introduced myself to Louise Bourgeois' spider sculpture "Maman" which used to be outside the Tate Modern in the long ago days when I lived in that part of London. 
things to do in Bilbao
A misty selfie - as we walked around the Guggenheim's lake a mist suddenly appeared (and quickly disappeared again!). The weather was amazing for December - sunglasses definitely needed! None of the city's attractions were too crowded - Bilbao is a chilled out place and it's perfect if you want to explore a new city but also have time out to enjoy the cafe culture (and maybe some sneaky Zara shopping). 
things to do in Bilbao
My favourite photo from the trip - blue skies and water reflections. The sculpture is Tall Tree and The Eye by Anish Kapoor. 
things to do in Bilbao
Tulips by Jeff Koons. I loved the Koons exhibition at the Pompidou in Paris which I visited back in March so it was great to see more of his work here - although slightly disappointing that there is none inside the gallery. The steel structures by Richard Serra inside the gallery are pretty cool but for me the architecture was by far the highlight. 
things to do in Bilbao
Puppy by Jeff Koons - an icon of Bilbao, the puppy sculpture was intended to be temporary when it was installed in 1992 but the town's residents fell in love with it and it couldn't be taken away! The puppy is watered by an internal irrigation system and looks different depending on the time of year. We also visited the Belles Artes museum which focuses more on fine art but had a temporary poster exhibition which was really interesting. 
things to do in Bilbao
The best views of the city are at the top of the Funicular - the two minute ride up costs less than one Euro! There's not a lot to do at the top but it was a good Sunday morning activity (most of the shops are closed on Sundays so I didn't make it to Sephora much to my wallet's delight!).  
things to do in Bilbao
Street art in the old town - the old town is great to explore with it's narrow streets and tiny cafes. A big contrast from the centre of town with it's Oxford Street-esque shopping street and international chains. 
things to do in Bilbao
A flower market in December - I'd forgotten what summer smelled like! I found myself thinking "I wonder what it's like during the winter here" and then realising that this is winter here. 
things to do in Bilbao
Walking back from the old town. You can see the funicular track going up the hill. I clocked up 25km walking around the city so definitely earned my super rich, Spanish-style hot chocolate enjoyed at an outside cafe (again, in December!). 
things to do in Bilbao
Bilbao is known for it's dining scene and when in Bilbao you have to try pintxos - the Basque version of tapas. Bilbao residents hop between bars eating and drinking and even in December the crowds spill out onto the street. I sometimes struggle to get my G&Ts on trips abroad but Spain loves a good free-poured G&T in a giant glass! 
things to do in Bilbao
Pintxos are ordered 2-3 at a time so you can go back for more of the ones you like! It's not the most veggie friendly pursuit but as a fish-eater I found enough to eat and everywhere offers the famous Spanish omelette! Pictured are mushroom and ham pintxos, pork meatballs, squid an da smoked salmon morsel all in El Globo - one of the most famous Bilbao eateries. The streets in this part of town are packed with bars - seating is hard to come by so don't expect a relaxing meal but it's a fun experience (even for a resolute non-sharer of food)! Also pictured are some sweet treats - I totally missed out on having churros which I'm still sad about.  
Getting there: BA flies from Heathrow to Bilbao in 1 hour 50 minutes (EasyJet also fly to Bilbao from Stansted). The airport bus to the city centre is less than €2 and takes around thirty minutes or a taxi costs around €20.

Staying: We stayed in the Hotel Hesperia which was in a great location and served up a good buffet breakfast. Hannah stayed in the Hotel Miro which looks great, too.

The cost: Bilbao is great value not being as touristy as Barcelona - entrance to the Guggenheim is €13 and to the Belles Artes €7, food and drinks are well-priced (€4 for a very large G&T and around €10 for a main course) and the nicest thing to do in the city is to walk and take it all in - totally free!
lilylipstick
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Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Sandwiches (Veggie Edition)

This is my first Christmas as a veggie so I thought that the Christmas sandwich game was one that I'd have to sit out of. Until the start of this week the only veggie ones that I'd noticed were some sort of brie / cranberry concoction and - to make life more awkward than it already is - I am not a fan of cheese or the frankly quite awful looking Tesco cherry-cheese-chocolate one:
With only a few days until Christmas I still wasn't feeling particularly festive and after seeing a few Instagrams of the Pret veggie offering I decided to give this Christmas sandwich thing a go. The veggie ones seemed to score quite badly in the reviews I'd read but I think it's unfair to compare them to their meatier counterparts - for those of us who don't like or don't eat meat for whatever reason the veggie options are definitely welcome and I don't think it's fair for a meat-eater to compare a vegetable sandwich to one filled with four different types of meat...

I work in the City so pretty much every lunch offering is in easy reach and thankfully the week preceding Christmas has been quiet so far so it's been almost acceptable to fall into a bread-included "hey my keyboard is suddenly resembling a soft, tempting pillow" type carb-coma every afternoon. Itsu just doesn't do that to me but Christmas comes but once a year for a reason...

1. PrĂȘt Veggie Christmas Lunch - £3.25

Containing roasted chunks of butternut squash, nutty Christmas pesto and spicy rocket with a spoonful of yogurt mayo dressing and a sprinkling of crispy onions on malted bread. This sandwich packs a rather hefty calorie punch of 525 calories so it had better be worth it. For my first Christmas sandwich, my exceptions were low but I enjoyed this more than I expected to. Or maybe it was just the novel joy of eating bread for lunch which in this day and age feels sadly rebellious. Top marks for the butternut squash and the nutty pesto tasted good too. I'd forgotten that Pret puts rocket in every. single. sandwich but can forgive it here as the peppery flavour nicely offset the richer ingredients. Half a mark added for the charity donation.

7.5/10

best veggie Christmas sandwich

2. Eat Festive Roast Roots - £3.79

This square-shaped bloomer sandwich contains roast butternut squash, chargrilled carrot slices, spinach, apple and pumpkin seed stuffing, cranberry sauce and low fat mayonnaise. At 480 calories its slightly lighter than Pret's offering but only slightly. I had higher exceptions for this sandwich and I'm pleased to say it met them - the veg was tasty and I felt like I was maybe getting some goodness needed to help fend off all the office germs going around at the moment. The sandwich wasn't particularly Christmassy but it was huge and filling and I guess Christmas and vegetarianism are not the easiest pals in the first place. The highlight of this sandwich was the super soft, seeded bread which made it seem slightly posher than the Pret offering, if a bit messier to eat. I also love Eat's Christmas packaging this year.

8/10

best veggie Christmas sandwich

3. Starbucks Christmas Veggie Feast Flatbread - £3.95

Starbucks offers a hot flatbread rather than a traditional sandwich. Filled with chestnut puree, apricots and stuffing, roasted butternut squash, mushrooms, seasoned gravy and fried onions. Surprisingly, this is the lowest calorie offering of the lot at 455 calories but is the most expensive. To me, this tasted the most Christmassy due to the chestnuts. I usually hate gravy (wet food, no!) and was apprehensive about it here but the sandwich wasn't soggy and it wasn't an overwhelming taste. I liked that the flatbread was hot because I usually opt for hot food for lunch and sandwiches usually make me think more of summer picnics than food for the middle of winter. One warning with this - the mushroom flavour is quite strong so if you're not a mushroom fan then it's one to avoid but, again, I enjoyed this more than I was expecting to and the flatbread was a nice change after two days of regular bread.

7/10

best veggie Christmas sandwich

Have you tried any festive sandwiches this year? Are you sick of Christmas food already or do you wish it could be Christmas everyday?

lilylipstick
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Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Tea For Five - sketch London

Before last weekend, I hadn't had afternoon tea for far too long. My wallet and waistline can probably be pleased about this but if I had to pick a meal to have out I'd always go for afternoon tea over lunch or dinner - I blame my child's tastebuds which love bite-sized sandwiches, tiny cakes and a sense of occasion when ordinary everyday foods are elevated to something special.

The pink parlour at sketch has featured in many an Instagram feed and (unlike many things in life) it doesn't disappoint in reality. A mix of super girly with it's marshmallow soft chairs, Instagram-filter like lighting and irreverent British eccentricity with David Shrigley art on the walls (some less suitable for my child-like mind) and quirky crockery. The sketch Christmas afternoon tea is the perfect Christmas present to yourself and a haven away from the trials of a pre-Christmas or post-Christmas West End - its available until 31st December after which the usual afternoon tea offering will be back. My blogger pals and I had a fun, sugar-fuelled, pink-tinged few hours here at the weekend and I had to sneak a blog post in before the inevitable January diets start...

Square Mealsketch christmas afternoon tea
The menu - the buche de Noel is really the only Christmassy addition to the traditional afternoon tea. Fine by me as Christmas sandwiches and mince pies aren't really my thing! 
sketch christmas afternoon tea
David Shrigley line drawings adorn the walls. I was drawn to one of these in particular. 
sketch christmas afternoon tea
The teacup knows best. There's a huge selection of teas which were replenished regularly - and we had the chance to switch between the ones on offer. I stuck to the Japan Sencha as I love a stronger, cleaner tasting tea with sweet treats. 
sketch christmas afternoon tea
Sugar. It's not ok. 
sketch christmas afternoon tea
The three tiered tea stand. From the bottom - sandwiches filled with coronation chicken, cream cheese and cucumber, smoked salmon, quail egg and a mini cheese toastie (grilled cheese). I didn't ask about veggie options as my coronation chicken one could easily be traded! The sandwiches are refillable and second rounds were delivered promptly. I loved the warm cheese toastie wrapped in paper and ribbon and the melt-in-the-mouth smoked salmon sandwiches. Scones were delivered separately, in a choice of plain or raisin, warm and wrapped in linen napkins. 
sketch christmas afternoon tea
When your friends are bloggers and all take pictures too. Working up the tier, the next two levels had patisserie cakes - aside from the cassis cheesecake I wasn't in love with any of these but I'm not a fan of patisserie and, for me, the sandwiches stole the show. Un-pictured meringues and marshmallows provided a further sugar rush! 
sketch christmas afternoon tea
The buche de Noels came on a separate trolley in a choice of  raspberry and lemon or chocolate, coconut and praline. I opted for the latter which was delicious. 
sketch christmas afternoon tea
The tearoom - can I just come and live here, please?
sketch christmas afternoon tea
A visit to Sketch isn't complete without a trip to the loos. And a photo of the loos.
Have you had any festive afternoon teas this Christmas?



lilylipstick
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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Insta-Outfits - Party Edition

As a child, this time of year meant an advent calendar and a trip to Santa's Grotto in Selfridges. As an adult its a chance to wear the (disproportionately large) "party" section of my wardrobe. This year, I've said yes to every invite and have, at the same time, banned myself from buying anything new (even on Black Friday). So here's what I've been wearing so far and there's still a few more dress up occasions and, of course, NYE to go...

1. Vuelio Blog Awards - an awards ceremony at a five-start hotel in the City, for which I didn't read the dress code until I was halfway through getting ready....

ASOS dress (sale purchase a couple of seasons ago), AdR for H&M charm bracelet, Topshop hairband (and not my plaiting skill). 
Finishing touches - Toyshop coat, Carvela shoes, Vivienne Westwood Handbag (borrowed from Mummy Lipstick)
2. Work Christmas Party - navigating party dressing with "I have to see these people everyday at work"...

My work Christmas party had a black tie / James Bond theme - I went with the later as an excuse to wear this Goldfinger-inspired dress bought from H&M a few years ago,
Finishing touches - John Lewis cape and American Apparel watch.

3. Ice Skating at Somerset House

It's tradition for my friend HP to have an ice-skating birthday party. In past years we've worn ball gowns but as a sensible adult I wanted to wear something I could layer up against the gale force wind. My top is from H&M a couple of years ago and my skirt is from Poprageous but this was the first time I'd worn it! Only right to wear a skater skirt to go skating...
Finishing touches - red coat from Dorothy Perkins and fur cape as worn above.

4. Tokyo Nights - Night Tales' Tokyo-themed experience - sadly now closed but I love all things Japan and had to go last Friday night:

Top: Vintage Next (my mum used to wear this in the 80s - I remember seeing her dressed up in it and going out to a "dinner and dance"), Skirt is from the Indian version of Primark. 

5. Afternoon Tea at Sketch with Blogger pals:

I went through a big "red" phrase around 2011/2012 - this Primark dress has been amazing, I still love it and unlike most of my Primark purchases it hasn't (yet) fallen apart.  
Finishing touches - red coat, red Longchamp bag and red gelish nails - totally forgot that the interior of Sketch is all pink and that this would be a total colour clash! 
What have you been wearing this festive season?

lilylipstick
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