Friday, 31 October 2014

Visiting Vienna in 48 hours.


After the beauty of old-world Budapest, I was expecting Vienna to be grand and ostentatious, and it didn't disappoint. I was devastated not to see much of the city itself, as the rain and extreme wind meant I had my head down facing into my umbrella most of the time so I couldn't look up at the buildings. However, the hotel we were staying in, Hotel Imperial (click for my review), more than made up for the weather, as I think it really was the definition of Vienna. We quite literally stayed in a palace - just look at that lobby!

hotel imperial lobby vienna



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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Harvey Nichols Christmas Hampers.


I returned from Hungary on Saturday to find a very large box waiting for me. Harvey Nichols very kindly sent me one of their famous Christmas hampers to get me in the mood for the festive season! I do love a hamper, and this one certainly is a goodun. 

The Season's Eatings christmas hamper is a wicker basket presented beautifully with a festive red bow. It's full of all of the goodies you need to take you through the entire Christmas holiday. It contains shortbread biscuits, tea, coffee, mixed nuts, brandy butter, red wine, cranberry sauce, and even a champagne Christmas pudding!

harvey nichols christmas hamper

harvey nichols christmas hamper seasons eatings

harvey nichols christmas hamper
Dylan found the un-boxing of the hamper fascinating, and kept getting his nose in the way of the photos as he sniffed and smelt each product I was picking up out of the hamper! I figured the only way to keep him happy would be to let him have the bow and take a photo to make him feel included ;) 

cocker spaniel christmas bow

I think the Marc De Champagne Christmas Pudding is what I'm most excited about trying - and how cute is the packaging! I'll definitely let you know how it tastes after Christmas.

marc de champagne christmas pudding



You can purchase the Season's Eatings Hamper for £65, which is a bargain considering the amount you get in it! It's the perfect choice for a little bit of everything festive. Thank you Harvey Nichols!

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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Best Restaurants in Budapest.


If you love fresh vegetables and fruit on a daily basis, do not go to Hungary. However if you love all other types of food, book a flight right now. We found it so difficult to find restaurants in Budapest that had vegetables, most places serve carbs on carbs with meat alongside. We did however, find one place that served excellent fish and somewhat questionable veggies (but it was better than nothing), so I thought I'd put together a guide on the best places to eat and drink (and go out dancing!) in Budapest.

The great thing about Budapest is how cheap everything is. We ate out at two really nice restaurants for less than £20 each for three courses and wine with each course, and at a Ruin Bar we paid just £3 for huge cocktails, and around £1.50 for spirits.

Bigfish seafood restaurant black gateaux



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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Visiting Budapest, Hungary - Day 2.


Our second day in Budapest started out very wet and cold, however it did brighten up thankfully. We had a lazy morning and then sauntered down to the square behind the hotel to meet up with the guide who would be taking us on our free walking tour. Despite seeing quite a bit of the city the day before on the Pest side of the river, we hadn't seen the Buda side yet. You see, Budapest used to be three cities (Buda, Pest, and Obuda), before they all joined together to form Budapest. 

View of Hungarian Parliament building from Fisherman's Bastion



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Monday, 27 October 2014

Hotel Review: Le Meridien Budapest [Now Ritz-Carlton Budapest].


Our week in Austro-Hungary was a busy one. We started with three nights in Budapest at the Le Meridien, before jumping onto a train and zooming across the border into Austria, having two nights in Vienna, and then getting on the train again and coming back to Budapest for one more night. On our last night in Budapest we stayed at the Corinthia, and it made me realize just how much I had fallen in love with the Le Meridien earlier in the week.

PLEASE NOTE: THE LE MERIDIEN BUDAPEST IS NOW THE RITZ-CARLTON BUDAPEST

Le Meridien Budapest


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Sunday, 26 October 2014

Visiting Budapest, Hungary - Day 1.


Back in August I won the first competition I have ever won in my life. I won two return flights to anywhere in Europe with KLM. I scoured the internet, and originally wanted to go to Russia, but then realized it might be a little dangerous at the moment. Then I wanted to go to Iceland, but the volcano kept threatening to erupt, so I finally settled on my third choice; Budapest, and I'm so glad I did. 

St Stephen's Basilica Budapest


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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Quaglinos, Mayfair.


Quaglino's is a London institution. It's been in St James in Mayfair since 1929, that's 85 years! In that time it's seen countless famous faces pass through it's doors - Judy Garland even had her wedding reception there! Last year we took my Grandma there for her 80th birthday dinner, after all, it seemed fitting seeing as the restaurant is older than she is, and this summer, Quag's had a £3millon refurbishment, so last week I went to check it out with Claire to see what was new.

We descended down the sweeping staircase, and were seated in the vast subterranean restaurant. I instantly noticed that it seemed classier...fresher...this place means business. It used to feel glamorous and classy, but you could see that the furniture was a little tired and it desperately needed a 'freshen up', now though, it's back with a bang. We started with cocktails, and nibbled on the warm fresh crusty bread while perusing the menu. I had the 'Fresh as a Daisy', it was deliciously refreshing! 

Fresh as a Daisy cocktail Quaglino's
Fresh as a Daisy Cocktail
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Saturday, 18 October 2014

Barbour Watch Launch & LCW 2014.


Last week Barbour launched their new watch collection. Edd and I went along to the launch, and were greeted with flutes of champagne while the lovely people of Barbour took us through the collection. I fell in love with both the purple and tartan watches (you'll find out which one I chose at the end!), and was shocked at how large the collection is.

Barbour women's watch launch london
Barbour actually dabbled in the watch industry years ago back in the eighties, however this time around they mean business. The watches each have solid Swiss Movement, and the time pieces start at just £125, rising to £300. Each watch has elements of the British brand, from tartan to quilted leather, to metal.

Barbour watch launch london
The signature watch is the £300 men's Beauson Leather Strap watch. A beauty if ever you saw one.

Barbour Men's Beauson Leather Strap Watch

barbour covent garden london

barbour womens watch
As well as material and leather straps, they also have a wide range of more traditional metal watches, and a good variety of thin and thick bracelets. Apparently quite a lot of women are actually buying the men's watches for themselves, and from looking at them, many of the watches are actually quite unisex.

So which one did I go for? The Tartan Fell Watch. I decided to go for it as it's a bit different, and I love how every tartan fell watch is slightly different from another, each one has a unique tartan design.

Barbour tartan fell watch



After the Barbour event we then headed on to Be At One just down the street in Covent Garden, for the London Cocktail Week launch of the new ABSOLUT Cherry flavour. After throwing some shapes on the dance floor with the marketing teams for Be At One and ABSOLUT, as well as far too many Cherry flavoured cocktails, we stumbled across the cobbles of Covent Garden back to the train station just in time for the last train home. All in all an excellent night getting to hear all about some awesome new products!

Be At one ABSOLUT cherry launch London Cocktail Week




Be At one ABSOLUT cherry launch for London Cocktail Week



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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Salmontini, Belgravia.


When Henry asked if I was free to review Salmontini with him, I hesitated. I really can't stand salmon, however after checking the menu, I found myself meeting him there at 7pm on the dot on opening night. Salmontini are huge in the Middle East, and after their success over there, they've decided to open up a restaurant in Belgravia.

The restaurant is on the site of what used to be 'The Palm' on Pont Street, and what a difference compared to The Palm! After a full refurb gone is the dark old fashioned room, and instead it's light and sophisticated, classy, even. After a drink at the bar and a catch-up we were seated, and handed the seafood-heavy menu. I chose the crab salad to start, while Henry went for the salmon salad, and we ordered some California maki rolls (a type of sushi) to share. Please excuse the photos, I only had my phone on me :'(




The crab was beautifully fresh, however nothing particularly special. The California maki rolls were superb, I constantly had my eye on Henry and glared at him every time he reached for another. I did what I usually do when I really like food I'm sharing - I ate them as quickly as possible so I could have more than him. 

For mains we both ignored the salmon options and went for the Alaskan black cod. That's the wonderful thing about Salmontini, despite them specializing in salmon, there are so many other options as well - their seafood menu was so vast I had serious trouble choosing and it took me a while before I settled on the cod. Black cod is a favourite of mine though, and I wanted to see how it compared to the black cod at Roka (which was so good that when I was describing it to Oli he stopped me mid-sentence and said "I'm really sorry, but can I just stop you before you have an orgasm in the middle of the bar...")



Our cod swiftly arrived and we dug in with our chopsticks. It was on par with Roka. I was a very happy girl. Henry wasn't too keen on the sweet sauce it was caramelized in, but I loved it.

We then moved on to desserts (as if we hadn't eaten enough already!), I opted for apple tart with vanilla bean ice-cream, while Henry went for the chocolate pudding. When they arrived I got major dessert envy, and then we realized that this always happens. I always go for a fruit option while he always goes for a chocolate option, and then I always get dessert envy. Anyway, the apple tart was really delicious, so all was fine. The gooey chocolate dessert did look exceptionally good though! Just look at it!






Despite my initial reservations, I was really impressed with Salmontini, everything was perfect and I honestly couldn't fault anything. The waiter was attentive and friendly, having a joke with us and recommending a really great wine to go with our meal, and the food was just exceptional. If you love seafood, you have to try this place. It's definitely a goodun.

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*We were guests of Salmontini/Jori White PR, and therefore our meal was complimentary. As always this does not change or influence my views in any way.

Salmontini on Urbanspoon
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Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Pernod Absinthe x L'Atelier Joel Robuchon.


Last Friday I was invited along to michelin-starred L'Atelier Joel Robuchon in London for an evening with Pernod Absinthe to kick off London Cocktail Week 2014. Having never tried Absinthe before, I was keen to finally give it a go. To be totally honest I'd always been too scared, what with it being illegal in most countries for many years, and the rumours of hallucinations and the famous 'green fairy'. But you know what, I didn't have any hallucinations, and in small quantities, it's absolutely fine (and mighty delicious)!

Pernod Ricard Abinsthe tasting at L'Atelier Joel Robuchon


Edd met me at L'Atelier, and we headed up to the roof top for the infamous Green Hour (the time of 5pm in Paris when everyone flowed into the bars and roof terraces to drink Absinthe in the 1800s). Tom from Pernod Absinthe greeted us with the 'Van Gogh in Havana' cocktail to start with, which is made with Pernod Absinthe, Plymouth Gin, Lillet Vermouth, sparkling wine, fresh mint and almond syrup, and we joined the rest of the group. It was lovely to see a familiar face in Clerkenwell Boy, who I hadn't seen for almost a year!

After tasting my first sip of Absinthe within the cocktail, I was hooked - it tastes just like liquorice! I soon finished it, and then we were on to the 'Green Beast' in these awesome pipe glasses! We all exclaimed how we wanted to take the glasses home with us, little did we know that they had prepared goodie bags for us all with the glasses inside them!

Pernod Ricard Abinsthe tasting at L'Atelier Joel Robuchon for LCW

Pernod Ricard Abinsthe tasting at L'Aterlier Joel Robuchon

Pernod Ricard Abinsthe tasting at L'Aterlier Joel Robuchon





















After drinking up our Green Beast cocktails, we were then taught how to drink Absinthe the traditional method - with an Absinthe fountain, sugar cube, and iced water. I actually got a video of the entire method, so I'll get this up for you at the weekend as it's actually really interesting! For now though, I'll give you some photos and a quick explanation;

The iced water is put into the fountain, and you put a shot of absinthe into the glass, the glass then goes beneath a fountain spout, and on top of the glass rests a stirrer, with a sugar cube resting atop. You then start by very slowly dripping the iced water onto the sugar cube, thus dissolving it into the glass of Absinthe. Once the sugar cube is dissolved, you then fill up the rest of the glass with the iced water, depending on how strong you like your drink. 

Pernod Abinsthe tasting at L'Atelier Joel Robuchon for London Cocktail Week
Pernod Abinsthe tasting at L'Atelier Joel Robuchon for LCW

Pernod Abinsthe tasting at L'Atelier Joel Robuchon for LCW

Pernod Ricard Abinsthe tasting for London Cocktail Week

After drinking our glass of Absinthe, we all had another go, until it was time to soak up some of that alcohol with food. The staff at L'Atelier brought out plates of delicious canapes, including my favourite from the evening; Absinthe Macarons. Officially the best Macarons I have ever tasted in my life (even better than the Champagne ones I had at Hakkasan last week)!

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This, ladies and gentlemen, is an absinthe macaron. And the best macaron you will ever taste. #greenhour #pernod #macaron #french


Absinthe canapes and macaron for London Cocktail Week
We stayed longer than most, chatting to the guys from Pernod Absinthe and discussing our favourite restaurants, the history of Absinthe, and our mutual love for Havana! L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon are collaborating with Pernod Ricard and will be exhibiting a Pernod Absinthe installation throughout the month of October, showcasing a variety of traditional absinthe glassware, including 2-tap and 4-tap fountains, punchbowls and absinthe pipes. You can also head to L'Atelier over the next four days to taste the Van Gogh in Havana cocktail, which is being served exclusively for London Cocktail Week this week! 

Pernod Ricard Abinsthe tasting at L'Atelier Joel Robuchon























Thanks for having us, we had a really fantastic evening!

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Thursday, 2 October 2014

Golden Week at Hakkasan.


In case you didn't already know, this week is Golden Week, the biggest holiday in the Chinese calendar, so to celebrate Michelin-starred Hakkasan have a special menu in place until 12th October. On Monday Dani and I headed along to the Hanway Place Hakkasan in London to test it out, and to see if it was as good as everyone is claiming it is. It was a pretty special meal indeed. 

As it was Dani's birthday on the weekend and I had missed her party due to having the flu, we had cocktails to start with and to help prepare us for the huge amounts of delicious food we were about to consume. I had the 'Walking Buddha', which was a gorgeous fruity concoction and the perfect refreshing start to the meal. 

Hakkasan Walking Buddha cocktail


Hakkasan Golden Week Menu



We started with a Dim Sum platter. I love Dim Sum so so much, but I find it so awkward to eat - do you shove it all in your mouth, or take small nibbles and risk knocking it out of the clutches of your chopsticks?! Personally I just shove it all in my mouth, but then I feel like a greedy pig as I struggle to chew down on it all. Anyway, the dim sum at Hakkasan is some of the best you will ever eat. It was Dani's first time at Hakkasan, and her face went all wide-eyed, before she exclaimed 'Oh my goodness, this is incredible!', and then very quickly polished off the rest of her share.

Hakkasan Dim Sum platter

Next up was the Peking duck with Hakkasan special reserve ‘Qiandao’ caviar. The first course came with pancakes, baby cucumber and spring onion, and despite sounding like something you'd get from the local Chinese (minus the caviar), this really was something different and special. The crispy duck crunched satisfyingly in the mouth, and the caviar and pancake gave it the perfect balance of different textures. Despite sounding like something from your local takeaway...it definitely didn't taste like it. I think this was possibly my favourite course of the whole night.

Hakkasan Peking duck with special reserve ‘Qiandao’ caviar


After the starters it was then onto the mains, which included the second round of the duck, but this time it was cooked in our chosen sauce. We chose ginger and spring onion as neither of us are huge 'spicy' fans, and the ginger sauce was the mild option. The meat was juicy and tender rather than the dried out duck that is so common in restaurants, but a little uninspiring after the incredible first round of duck we had.

Out of the mains the Fried Rice with Abalone and the Hakka Stew Pork belly were the favourites, the Seabass we weren't a huge fan of mainly because we weren't warned that it was full of bones...cue a mouth full of bones and me spitting them out as fast as I could while half choking delicately trying to pick them out so as not to disturb/horrify people around me with my rudeness *ahem*. I'm not very good when it comes to bones in fish, ask my mother.

Hakkasan pork belly
Hakkasan chicken
Hakkasan rice and abalone for Golden Week menu
Hakkasan sea bass for golden week menu


After spending ages eating our way through the mains due to our inability to stop talking and just eat the food, we eventually ordered some more cocktails and then waited for dessert to arrive. As a good main-to-dessert cocktail, I had the Black Forest Gateau Martini. It was literally like an alcoholic dessert in a glass. It was heavenly. If you're ever in Hakkasan and in need of a sweet cocktail, you need this in your life.

Hakkasan Black Forest Gateau Martini

I think dessert was my least favourite course out of the whole meal. It's a shame, because we started on such a high, and then ended on a 'meh'. Dessert was deep-fried sesame balls with green tea and peach. I found them quite bland and tasteless, and a bit too savoury for my liking. So many people around us had these incredible looking desserts; brightly coloured sorbets, and extravagantly decorated chocolate concoctions that made my stomach grumble despite the huge amounts of food we'd just eaten. Compared to those sumptuous looking puddings, the sesame balls were slightly lackluster, and I left feeling as though I desperately needed a palate cleanser, and something sweet and refreshing to 'finish' the meal.

Hakkasan sesame balls for golden week


Luckily we'd been given little goodie bags to take away with us (everyone who orders the Golden Menu gets these), and inside were three beautifully presented macarons covered in gold glitter. Upon biting down on the soft outer of the macaron, the taste of champagne hit my mouth and all of a sudden popping candy exploded all over my tongue. There is one word for this, erm, YUM! These definitely made up for the lackluster sesame balls. 

Hakkasan golden champagne macarons

The Golden Week menu is available at Hakkasan's in the UK, US, and UAE, so if you fancy trying something new or just really love Chinese food, call them up, book a table, and get down to your local Hakkasan ASAP to try out this delicious feast! I wasn't overly enamored with the seabass and sesame balls, but the rest of the nine-course meal was truly sublime and a total treat. At £88.88 each it's by no means cheap, however for nine-courses in a Michelin-starred restaurant, it's a pretty good deal if you ask me - especially if you have a special occasion that needs celebrating! 

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*We were invited along to Hakkasan as guests to try out the Golden Week menu, and received our meal complimentary. However my views remain my own as always.

Hakkasan Hanway Place on Urbanspoon
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