Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Dress.

So on Monday I'm off to the British Fashion Awards, and on Thursday I suddenly had a complete panic about what to wear! The invitations arrived a couple of weeks ago, but it's come around so quickly and I've been so busy that I just haven't had time to find an outfit. I'm quite lucky that I sit with the PR team at work, so they told me to call something in. One company immediately came to mind, my mum used to work for them and their gradual re-brand has been on my radar for a while, in particular one such collection which is a collection of beautiful black tie/red carpet dresses. They sent me two to try, so I need you all to help me decide which one! 

I'll tell you at the end which company these dresses are from, as I think you'll get the shock of your life, but they are both absolutely beautiful, and I cannot thank them enough for being so kind and couriering them over to my office on the same day. So, which one?

Number one (above) is pretty show-stopping, utterly gorgeous, oh so glamorous, and great for my cleavage. However, it is a size too big, and therefore is quite long, and it hangs off my waist and all of the weight of the dress falls onto my (already huge) hips, making them look even bigger then usual. It really is way too long - I'm wearing 5inch heels in the photo above and it's still too long!

This one makes my waist/curves look a bit Marilyn Monroe, which I love!
Number two (above) is best for my figure and completely gorgeous too. It's so flattering and nips in at my smallest part - the waist, then skims over my huge hips and falls beautifully. It's the right size so fits perfectly and the length is right so I don't have to wear absolutely huge heels with it. It's also so so pretty, but more understated and subtle than Number one. 

Both of these dresses are from Phase Eight's Collection 8 range, with Number One being the Colette in silver, and Number Two being the Nina Sequin dress.

So, which one do I go for? Number one or number two?


Friday, 29 November 2013

Barbour International Flagship Store Launch.

Wednesday night I went to the Barbour Flagship Store Launch with some of the work crew. The store is their International Flagship store, and stocks a range inspired by their motorcycle heritage (think Steve McQueen). We got there and met Edd inside, and had a peruse around the large two-storey store. We headed downstairs to check out a couple of the guys from The Vaccines who were DJing, nibbled on some of the delicious canapes and sipped on our wine chatting and catching up about the awesome Bespoke HQ event we all went to the night before.

We got really hot downstairs so went back up to the ground floor, and bumped into some of our favourite bloggers, so Dan took a photo of us all. Jaime from Boy Meets Fashion, and Leroy from Diary of a Clotheshorse. I also finally met Prince Cassius, I just wanted to touch his hair! 

I wore my new favourite item of clothing; my Tartan skirt. It's just making me feel so festive and British! I paired it with a plain black turtleneck, black tights, and it was a bit chilly upstairs as the doors were open so I had my scarf on. 

I'll leave you with some photos of the store....

Apparently the above bike was Steve McQueen's actual bike! Apparently...

Thanks for a great evening Barbour!


Thursday, 28 November 2013

London Jazz Festival - Bad Ass Brass.

After my relaxing day time treats with Claire at Le Caprice and the RA on Saturday, I had to head back to the club after and get ready to go out for Alex's birthday. A group of us were going to the Spice of Life pub in Soho to see Bad Ass Brass play to celebrate London Jazz Festival, so I wasn't sure what the dress code would be. After pulling on my black jeans, a nice top and a blazer, I felt too overdressed so just threw back on what I was wearing during the day, and then did my hair and make-up to make me look a little fresher. 

I am completely and utterly in love with this tartan skirt. Seriously, I never thought I'd love tartan so much, so naturally I had to get a selfie in the mirror in the club powder room. Also, my hair, I'd just like to say that the Babyliss Big Hair is my new saviour. It's literally the best electrical product I've ever owner (even better than my hairdryer or straighteners!), it gives me a blow-dry in 15 minutes. Ah-mazing. I have the 42mm 'old style' one, which is cheaper than the newer 50mm one but I think it gives more of a curl as the barrel is smaller? Anyway, I might do a full review/tutorial on it soon. But if you're thinking about getting one, just do it. Best hair product I've ever bought. You can buy it from Amazon for £34.99 and free delivery, woo!

After getting sorted I drove round the corner to the Spice of Life (don't judge, it was raining and I wasn't ruining my blow dry!), thankfully I found a nice parking spot just opposite on a Soho back street (Tip: when driving in central London, always always always check the backstreets as they often have free parking after 6:30pm rather than 10pm). I met my friends, grabbed a drink and some chips, and settled down to watch the Bad Ass Brass play their socks off. Scroll down to the bottom for a video; the drummer did an awesome solo, then the whole band came in and had the audience dancing!

Are you a Jazz fan too?


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Le Caprice Jazz Brunch.

Le Caprice is one of my favourite restaurants in London, I went there for my 21st birthday a couple of years ago, and fell in love. A couple of months ago I was very fortunate to be invited to have lunch with the manager, Jesus Adorno, who has worked at Le Caprice since it re-opened in 1981. He started working there as a waiter, and gradually worked his way up to Manager. His stories of Le Caprice are fascinating, and his passion for hospitality inspiring. 

While listening to the smooth sounds of Dom Pipkin tinkering on the ivories, I thought how absolutely lovely it is at Le Caprice, and why it is one of my favourite restaurants. We discussed Le Caprice's history, the restaurant industry, and how they've recently started their Jazz Brunch. Le Caprice has long been popular with movie stars, musicians, and even Princess Diana, and has been an institution since it originally opened in 1947. 

Sister restaurant to The Ivy, jazz is a huge part of Le Caprice, and so not only do they have their Jazz Brunch every Saturday from 12:30pm-4pm, but they also have Jazz sessions every other Sunday. Claire and I hadn't seen each other for a few weeks, so decided to treat ourselves to the Jazz Brunch last Saturday before going to the RA to see their Australia exhibition. Le Caprice do a package where you can get lunch and a ticket to the exhibition, but Claire is a member of the RA so we didn't do that as she gets herself and a guest in for free.

We started with Champagne, and I couldn't decide what to eat, so I had a small Eggs Benedict and a small Butternut Squash and Zucchini Risotto, while Claire had the large Steak Tartar. The Eggs Benedict at Le Caprice are definitely the best Eggs Benny in town, I drool just thinking about them! Jesus says it's all in the eggs they get.

I'm not sure why my camera has made the bacon look purple?! Weird.

The risotto was so good, but so filling, I'm so glad I got the small! It was full of flavour, I find so many risotto's have an awful habit of being stodgy, but this one was creamy and just delicious.

Claire said her steak tartar was really tasty, personally I don't know how anyone can eat raw meat...but each to their own!

As we were so full we decided to share a dessert. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that no matter how full I am, I always have room for dessert. Back in September Jesus told me about a dish that is renowned amongst the regulars, but isn't on the menu. So I'm letting you all into this little secret ;) just ask the waiter for 'Iced Berries', and this is what you will get...

Frozen berries covered in white chocolate sauce... the texture of the frozen berries mixed with the creamy consistency of the white chocolate sauce is just magical. It's so simple but so satisfying. 

We had a really lovely lunch at Le Caprice, I'm sure we'll be back there soon. After our lunch we went to the RA for the Australia exhibition, you're not allowed to take photos but I managed to sneak a few pics of my favourite pieces ;) Sadly I was told off for trying to take one of the famous Ned Kelly painting so I didn't get one of that. All of the ones I really liked I liked mainly because they reminded me so much of the Australian landscape (but in a very different way to the more popular Grey Malin photographs that I love so much!), and they made me miss Australia so so much!

1. I love this because it really is how a bushfire looks. The night sky after a bushfire is strange, you always get the best sunsets after a bushfire so it's incredibly beautiful, but at the same time, knowing how much destruction has taken place to get that beauty, it quite haunting. 
2. I adore how this shows the arid landscape. Empty, wild, but completely beautiful.
3. This reminds me of south-western Australia with the trees and lush vegetation. Love it.
4. Aboriginal dot paintings, ugh, love them. We have a couple in my Dad's study that he brought back to the UK when we moved back, and they always remind me of my second home. I just love how the Aborigines see things differently, and how they depict every day emotions and actions with different animals and symbolism.
5. This painting is a colonial one of Mounts Bay Road in Perth. I've driven on this road many times, and it's so so different now! It's built up and the huge hill and river side is so covered in trees and buildings now that it's barely recognizable. 
6. This one just took my breath away, it reminded me of the Northern Territory and Kings Canyon.

We had a lovely relaxing day, which prepared me for the London Jazz Festival event later that evening! You'll hear all about that tomorrow :) 


Monday, 25 November 2013


Continuing my cultured/musical week, on Wednesday I went to the Royal Albert Hall with the girls and M. Barts Choir were performing Brahms' Requiem, and Ciara was supposed to be singing with them, until I got a call the week before from her timidly asking 'Is it ok if I just sit in the audience with you guys? I haven't practiced enough'. I told her we would just pretend she was singing, so on Wednesday we all met for dinner, then went to the beautiful Royal Albert Hall for the concert.

We were very lucky to have the most amazing seats (thank you HRH!), I can't say exactly which box we were in...but I think you can guess from that sneaky reference ;) We had an amazing view, although I'm still confused as to why this box isn't in the middle of the venue, and why it's off to the right hand side!? So weird. 

The next day, Ciara and I went to see Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Opera House. I'm not a massive fan of opera, but I love ballet, and Romeo and Juliet is one I haven't seen before. I booked the tickets way back in the summer, so had been looking forward to it for months! It definitely didn't disappoint, it was so beautiful, and because I already knew the story line I didn't have to concentrate much like I did when I saw the Nutcracker last year, I could just sit back and enjoy it. 

We had seats really high up as they were waaayy cheaper. We could still see everything though so it was fine. After the performance we snuck down to where the edge is so we could see the beautiful ceiling!

I'm sure Ciara is sick of seeing me now, three times in one week has to be a record (apart from our trip to Paris). Thankfully I won't be seeing her for a while now, so our friendship is safe ;)


Sunday, 24 November 2013

My Last Ever Concert.

This week has been a very busy, and a very musical/cultural one. I performed in a concert last weekend, and then I went to a concert at the Royal Albert Hall and the ballet at the Royal Opera House this week. I also then went to a Jazz Festival event last night and the Australia exhibition at the RA. Phew, it's been busy. So every day this week, I'll be posting about each event. I've also got another restaurant review for you all!

It started last weekend when I was in a concert with the South West Surrey Concert Band (SWSCB). We had 6 hours of rehearsals on Saturday, then rehearsals Sunday mornings and a concert at G Live Sunday afternoon. I've played the flute since I was nine years old, and joined the SWSCB when I was 13, and I absolutely love the feeling of being in a concert band surrounded by so many talented players. My brother plays the drums and percussion, so he's been in the band since he was a youngster too. 

The brother and I after the concert. Please excuse the uniform and me looking all sickly - I'd been signed off work the week leading up to the concert as the docs thought I had glandular fever.
The band is actually a youth band, and you have to leave when you turn 18, so I haven't actually played in it for a number of years. However, it's the 30th Anniversary of the band this year, so they invited some of the old members to come back and play with the senior band in the concert (they have a junior band for those up to grade 5, then when you hit grade 5 you audition for the senior band). Naturally I jumped at the chance, and started going to the weekly practices on Saturday mornings right back in September to prepare myself and get back into it. The first day of practice back in September, I just sat there in complete awe, I'd forgotten how truly amazing these kids are. 

We played one of my favourite pieces, Tchaikovsky's Marche Slave; it's one of those pieces that makes my heart well up with emotion as it builds up and gets faster and faster, until the middle section when the band just seems to explode and my eyes just filled with tears! How sad is that!? It's one of the most beautiful pieces of music, and I really recommend you listen to it, and make sure you listen to it all the way through and turned up so it feels like you're listening to it live! It starts off unimpressive and then just wows you. 1:30 - 2:59 is my favourite part.

The hardest thing about being in a concert band rather than an orchestra is that there are no string instruments, so all the other instruments have to make up for that and we play an arrangement specifically for concert band. Fortunately though, Bella and Ciara came to the concert last Sunday and Bella said she forgot/didn't realize there weren't any strings until after we'd finished the first piece! Booyah! 

Anyway, it was completely magical playing with the band again and being on the stage at G Live. We played a complete mixture of pieces, from Tchaikovsky and Shostakovitch, to Morricone and the theme music from James Bond and War of the Worlds! It was wonderful, and it's really made me consider looking around to see if there are orchestras or concert band's for adults that I can join. I just miss being surrounded by music so much, and literally being right in the middle of it all.


Thursday, 14 November 2013

Mamounia Lounge, Mayfair.

Last year I was invited to review Mamounia Lounge in Knightsbridge, and as they've just refurbished their Mayfair establishment, they invited me back to review this one. Moroccan and Lebanese food is a favourite of mine, and I couldn't wait to try out some new and different dishes at the Mayfair restaurant. However, as always, as soon as I spotted Calamari on the starter menu I had to have it. I don't care if it isn't a traditional Moroccan or Lebanese dish, it is my favourite. However I did go traditional for both the main and dessert.

We started with cocktails, I had what Claire had last time we went - the Marrakech Express. It was delicious, the perfect balance of passionfruit, vodka and midori. Mamounia Lounge is really really dark inside, so I'm afraid I had to use the flash with the pics. 

 The Calamari was fantastic, not too chewy, and full of flavour. I really don't like it when restaurants serve sweet chilli dip with calamari though, I much prefer aioli.

Dan had a hot mezze - the Hommus Kawarma. Pan-fried lamb with pine nuts in the centre of a creamy Hummus, it looked delicious so I stole some, and the lamb was beautifully tender and tasty, and the breads that came with it I couldn't get enough of!

Last time I went to Mamounia Lounge I had the Lamb Shwarma for mains, and Claire's Tagine looked amazing, so this time I went for one. I had the Lamb Tagine, with slow-cooked lamb and topped with apricots, prunes and almonds. I also had a side of the homemade butter couscous. The lamb was absolute heaven, it was so tasty and just melted in my mouth. The flavours were full and spicy, but not too overpowering. To be honest I could have done without the couscous, the dish was huge and I couldn't finish it all.

Dan decided to go for the Farruj Meshwi, grilled baby boneless chicken marinated with paprika, coriander, lemon and olive oil. I was told that it was very good and surprisingly filling.

Despite being completely full we still had dessert. I don't know how, but no matter how full I am I can always squeeze pudding in as well. I think that might be why I'm no supermodel. That and I'm too short. Anyway, I went for a traditional pudding, while Dan went for the chocolate fondant. Naturally I had mine...and half of the chocolate fondant too. It was amazing, probably the best chocolate dessert I've ever tasted! My pudding was great too, really light and refreshing and the perfect light dessert.

I absolutely love the refurb at Mamounia Lounge in Mayfair. It's much more trendy than the Knightsbridge version, it's also much bigger and has a large bar area on the top floor, so you can just go for drinks and shisha if you want. I say this every time I go anywhere remotely Middle Eastern...but just being there seriously makes me want to go travelling around the Middle East! Crazy? Well my Dad thinks so.

If you love Moroccan or Lebanese food, go and check out Mamounia Lounge. I literally couldn't fault them at all, they couldn't do enough for us and the food was incredible. For any of my clubland folks, it's just up from the Lansdowne Club. For anyone else, it's on Curzon Street. Make sure to let me know if you go!

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*I was asked to visit Mamounia Lounge and our meal was complimentary. All views are my own.

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Sunday, 10 November 2013

Special K Challenge Update #2.

So the Kelloggs Special K Challenge is going...ok. I'm eating much healthier than I used to, I'm not snacking on bad foods as much as I used to. I'm walking further, and I'm also eating much lighter lunches instead of huge meals from Exmouth Market. The New Covent Garden tomato soup is my new fave - zomg it's amazing. The most important part of my eating though, is I now make sure I always have breakfast. I've become addicted to the Special K red berry porridge sachets as they're currently on offer at Budgens, which is opposite my work. £1 for a box, so I stocked up! They're so handy to keep at work and have when I get in in the mornings.

The exercise part isn't going so well. I still haven't made it to the gym or any classes...but really, I don't have the time. It's party season, which means I have various work, social, family, press events almost every single day and night from now until Christmas. I'm having to turn down so many events because I'm simply booked up 5 weeks in advance, so to try and get to the gym around that is a bit insane. To try and make up for not being able to go to the gym I've been doing exercises at home in the mornings and before I go to bed. I've been doings situps, squats, and I have some weights for arm exercises. 

I'm really getting the hang of squats, and each time I do them I try and push myself that bit further, holding it longer or going down further. Situps I struggle with...the other week I laid down on my bedroom floor at about 6:30am...realized how comfortable the floor is when you're exhausted and awake at 6:30am...and instead of doing situps, had a nap there and then on the floor. Epic fail. 

As well as doing those normal exercises I'm also doing ones I used to do when I did figure skating, so there's this move called a Spiral, which you can see Karen Magnussen doing below... it improves balance, stomach muscles and leg muscles, so I'm doing these too...but on land rather than skating across the ice. Sadly I don't even have time to ice-skate anymore either - that was ah-mazing for my tummy muscles, arms and legs!

I'll give you another update in the next week or two, I'm hoping that the next one I give you will be about me mastering the art of the sit-up! Wish me luck!


Saturday, 9 November 2013

Rextail, London.

This week Arkady Novikov, the man behind famed Berkeley Square restaurant Novikov, opened a new joint in town. Rextail is a steak, game and seafood restaurant on Albemarle Street in Mayfair. Albemarle Street is becoming a bit of a foodie hotspot - Hix and Gymkhana are both almost opposite Rextail. Rextail had a soft opening this week, offering 50% off to everyone who managed to get a reservation between 7th-10th November. Thankfully I was on it like a rocket, and managed to get a booking for 8:30pm on Saturday night. Booyah!

Dr J and I haven't caught up for a couple of months, so I decided he deserved my company and the 50% off at Rextail. Before dinner we went along to The Wine Gang's Christmas Fair at Vinopolis in London Bridge, but sadly due to the traffic we didn't get there until 20 minutes before it finished :( I did find an incredible dessert wine there though!

After the Wine Gang event we had a couple of hours to kill before dinner, so went to The Shard for drinks in Oblix and Aquashard. We started in Oblix, and although the view was nice, it was so full of tourists and my cocktail was to put it bluntly....vile. I had the Acapulco Gold. It tasted like tapestry's smell...musty. The smell of tapestry's always makes me sick, I once threw up on the steps at Hampton Court Palace. Soz, TMI. Anyway, I took a few sips then made Dr J swap drinks with me. He had a glass of Bollinger. Much better.

After the disastrous cocktails at Oblix, we went across the hallway to Aquashard. Sadly the drinks didn't get much better, I had a tasteless glass of wine, however it may have been because I was completely spoilt with the wines at The Wine Gang event earlier. 

We could see London Bridge and the Tower of London
Finally we went to dinner, and it really was something special. You go down the stairs into a basement restaurant, it feels very homey and country chic. The staff were fantastic; they couldn't do enough for us, the restaurant was buzzing and yet the service was excellent. We didn't order starters as I really struggle to eat three course meals, however they brought us baskets of bread and a wooden board with cured meats on it. 

For mains I had the Grilled Wild Seabass with Girolles Mushrooms, with sides of Butternut Squash and Potatoes. The Seabass was beautiful; thick chunks of white meat full of flavour. It reminded me of eating Barramundi at seafood restaurants in Australia. Dr J had steak, and wouldn't stop praising it. Apologies for the awful photos, I never feel comfortable whipping my camera out in restaurants unless I've specifically been asked to do a review for them. It just feels so wrong interrupting everyone else's meal with a flash and snap, so I got a few cheeky photos with my phone.

After our delicious mains I just about had enough room for a dessert. Creme Brulee is such a simple dessert, but is one of my favourites. As soon as I saw Lavender Creme Brulee on the Rextail menu I knew I had to have it to compare it to the Royal Automobile Club's version. It was incredible; the top crisp and caramelized to perfection. 

With Adrian Martin as Head Chef, I was expecting great things from Rextail. Adrian was previously at Annabel's, The Ivy, and Le Caprice (my favourite restaurant, ever), and he didn't disappoint. The damage for a two course dinner and drinks with 50% off, was around £30 each; not cheap, but also not as expensive as it would have been without the discount (around £60 each without discount). Soft launch offers are a great way to try a restaurant out - I probably wouldn't have visited Rextail without the offer, but with it I now know how good it is, and that actually, I probably would go back and pay the full price for a special occasion or a treat, as the food and service was so exceptional.

I'd definitely recommend a visit if you're a foodie or really love meat and fish, my Seabass was so full of flavour, and Dr J's steak was huge and looked delish! 

I just got home to this snugglemonster all tucked up in his bed with his toys, so naturally had to disturb his peace and quiet for a selfie before blogging about my fabulous evening at the hottest new restaurant in town!

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