Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Restaurant Review: Jeremy's Pop-Up Kitchen at the OXO Tower Restaurant

  Even though I only visited on Sunday, this post is already slightly out dated as Monday was actually the last day for the pop-up. Sorry about that. But I'm still going to include it, because Sunday evening certainly was a very odd dining experience, and not at all what I expected from the OXO Tower! I'm also going to apologise here for photo quality - I had my phone only, and as the lights are very blue it's hard to get good pictures!

  The OXO Tower is probably already a familiar London landmark to you, lit up along the Thames. Up on the 8th floor lies the OXO Restaurant and the OXO Brasserie, both of which I've visited in the past and really enjoyed, for the quality of food as well as the great views. It had been probably two years or so since my last trip to the restaurant so I was excited to see they were offering a three course meal at £30 as part of the London Restaurant Festival and booked it immediately. The restaurant and brasserie do quite often offer £30 set menus but they always tend to be at really restricted times, which is great if you really like eating your dinner at 10:30PM but ultimately, I don't.

  I'll be honest - I read the little bit that said it was Jeremy's Pop Up Kitchen and didn't question for a second what that meant. So I was most definitely in for a surprise when I walked through the brasserie, beautiful as always, and was then taken to my table by a man in a luminous yellow reflective jacket. I remember thinking about how odd it was and assuming that they were understaffed and so another team were having to help out (in retrospect, I don't even know why that was a logical thought in my head. I blame the terrible traffic that night). I then got to my table, apologised to my friends for being late, stared out the window at the view for a while, and it was only then that I turned around and realised that something was not quite right.

  So, it turns out that the kitchen is being replaced at the restaurant, and the head chef decided to just roll with it. So the main kitchen area is closed off by the typical white boards you see when construction is taking place, and rather than have this be strange they decided to just go with it and put all the staff in construction tops, some of them in hard hats, give us menus on luminous yellow boards and have random drills and plans and other things decorating the place. In the OXO Tower. Yes really.

  To add to this, the centrepiece of our table was a brick with a giant mutant vegetable of some kind on it, along with a sharpie. We spent quite a lot of time debating whether we were allowed to draw a face on the vegetable or if it was just there for decoration, left it, only to head over to see a friend at another table at the very end to discover that they had done exactly that with theirs. Opportunity lost, there.

  It is really very hard to describe this because it really was very odd. I particularly remember two things; A staff member leading me to the bathroom and having to take off his luminous jacket before we were in the eye sight of people eating in the brasserie which is completely unaffected - and to make it odder, the cheaper bit - and seeing two people having what seemed to be a romantic meal under a shelf with plans and hard hats hanging from it. But it's important to add that none of this is a criticism, I actually found the whole situation very, very funny. It was just so completely odd and unexpected and not at all what you expect from the OXO Tower, but I enjoyed the experience. And if you really didn't like it, you could still stare out at the view anyway, and if you weren't there for the food then wasn't that the real reason you were there?

  Let's get on to the actual food then...

For starters, I had the smoked salmon, served with golden beetroot, beans, chestnut, lemon thyme and vanilla dressing. It was very nice and had a lot of different flavours in it.

My friend had this pumpkin soup which I thought looked great. I was really tempted by this, especially as we're so close to Halloween, but as I'm about to go on a liquid food restriction I decided to save it and make it myself later on!

For my main I had this; wild mushroom and mozzarella risotto ball with celeriac, quince puree, and grilled king oyster mushrooms. I absolutely love mushrooms and will happily eat them raw straight out of the box throughout the day but these giant things were a new one to me. The risotto ball was also not at all what I was expecting, and I didn't love this course but I did appreciate it for being a little bit odd and it was certainly still nice.

For dessert I went with a dark chocolate and cinnamon pave, which was very very rich. I actually couldn't finish it because it was just too strong. Afterwards we got our petit fours which included little cookies and fudge - I enjoyed both but everyone agreed the fudge was especially delicious and we'd have actually preferred to have just had more of that for our dessert!

Overall a very odd night but still a very fun one. It managed to remain a surprisingly classy meal despite all the oddness going on around it, and I do like that they decided to just go with it rather than close it down for the three weeks. The food wasn't as strong as the other times I've been but it's still definitely a very good meal of a great quality and I like that they get creative with what they offer there. If you'd like to visit yourself then they get a recommendation for me - head over to their website to see the menus and if its out of your price range then they do do set menus for around £30 pretty frequently if you don't mind going at a slightly odd time!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Halloween Chocolate Picks!

I've mentioned before that Halloween is one of my favourite times of the year, and also that chocolate is one of my favourite things - so I think it stands to reason that Halloween chocolate also ranks pretty highly on my list of things that I enjoy!

This year it's also pretty important as in two weeks I'm going to be put on a liquid diet for around six weeks - so this little selection here is probably also the last batch of chocolate I'm going to be eating! :(

I'm going to be working a 24 hour shift on Halloween itself so no typical Halloween festivities for me - however I'll be taking some of these treats along with me to keep myself and my co-workers going (or just to taunt them with, haven't decided yet) and I'll also be using them to accompany all the horror movies I'm watching this month. And, who am I kidding, sometimes I'm going to have them as part of lunch just because I want to as well...

So featured in my little stash we have two Halloween candy canes, a Hotel Chocolat Beastly Bites, Yikes!, and Oozy Eyes, a Cadbury Scream Egg, some little chocolate pumpkins, and some white chocolate raspberry bon bons. What's in your spooky stash this year?


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

My Little Box October 2014 - DVF Collaboration

Last time I made a post about My Little Box it was for the UK launch - I posted about how excited I'd been for what seemed like a unique addition to the subscription box scene, and about how happy I was with the products that arrived.

When I first opened my box I wasn't quite as convinced, but was still feeling optimistic. This box is a collaboration with Diane Von Furstenberg, a fashion designer who had not previously heard of. Still, the design of the outside box was quite nice and I felt pretty optimistic about the contents all the same - my last box had been so great, and the past boxes I'd seen looked fantastic as well, so I was pretty confident that this box would still be a good one - even if I had no idea who the person it was based around was!

Let's look inside then, shall we?

The opening card was one I actually really liked. "Be the woman you want to be" is the quote on it, which is a little interesting I think being that the author of said quote is a woman who married a prince and therefore probably had better chances at being who she wanted to be than most... But alas, I actually really liked this card and it's one I'm planning on keeping. Even if you know absolutely nothing about the person behind it or what any of it symbolises, I think it's well designed and inspirational, and I'll be adding it to my Mood Board for next month all the same.

Next up was a copy of My Little World magazine. I missed out on this in my last box so I was looking forward to seeing it but was pretty underwhelmed by the whole thing. It's well designed and good quality but, well, not in the least bit interesting. Of course, this is a DVF collaboration but having the whole thing about her is a bit much. Interviews with her which aren't particularly interesting, her background. It's the wrap dress that DVF is famous for, so interviews with people who...wear...wrap dresses. Yeah. I was really looking forward to having a flick through this but it ended up with me spending about two minutes on it before deciding I really couldn't force myself to read any more.

Next up is the little lip brooch. Initially, I liked this. I had no idea when I'd wear it, but actually I thought it was pretty cool and I'd keep in my jewellery box. And then I googled it, and found out that these lips were actually one of their logos. Yeah. Not cool MLB, I'm really not going to go around wearing the logo of a brand I'm not familiar with and don't particularly care about.

Next up is this scarf, which I believe comes in two prints. I think I lucked out with this one because actually I like this scarf. It's really soft and silky, the texture is really nice, and I do actually like the print. I tend to go a bit monochrome or dulled down in the winter and so this is a nice touch - the other option available is a green and white one which I just don't like anywhere near as much so I got the right one this time round. I don't really know what I'll use it for as I'm not much of a scarf person, but I'll keep it all the same as it is nicely made and a nice print. The book suggests wearing it as a head scarf - I tried this and looked like a pirate. We'll see.

On to the beauty products!

First up is My Little Beauty's own product - Eau Micellaire Demaquilante. This is a micellar water that removes make up and improves skin complexion. It's a good sized bottle and smells really nice. I'm not entirely sure when I'll use this but I'll keep it in my box in the bathroom as I'm sure it'll come up.

Next up is a 24 hour hold and anti humidity shield by Kerastase, I'm in two minds on this as I do find hair products quite dull - but on the other hand I don't actually own hair spray or any other product like this so it's actually going to be really useful to me and I'm glad to receive it! I have actually been thinking of buying a hair spray recently so this works for me.

Finally is a hand cream by L'Occitane. This is a tiny little product but it smells really good and I've not used a L'Occitane product before so I'm looking forward to putting it to the test.

Overall - I'm pretty disappointed by this product, let's be honest. To me this could have been basically any other subscription box and I wouldn't have known the difference. I'm not too disappointed by the beauty products it came with, but if I just wanted a box of beauty products I'd go with one of the bigger beauty brands and expect a lot more of them for my money! The products just weren't all that interesting to me and either way this box just did not have the feel that the one prior to it did, and the feel that I was expecting from this brand. I'll definitely still be keeping my subscription as last month was great and all the past boxes I've seen have been fantastic, but I definitely am disappointed this time around.

If you'd like to subscribe to My Little Box, you can do so via their website, here.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Restaurant Review: Afternoon Tea at 5th View Bar & Food, Piccadilly Circus

London Restaurant Festival is pretty much my favourite time of the year as its when lots of fantastic restaurants offer special menus for great deals. I've had some really great menus at places that I already loved as well as discovered some new restaurants through this in the past, and this year my first stop was 5th View Bar & Food - located at the top of Waterstones Piccadilly, Europe's biggest book shop.

I made a bit of a mistake when I first got there and decided I didn't want to queue for the lift. I quickly discovered that the stairs went on for a lot longer than I thought they would (and that my friends were not very happy with my decision either) and that there were apparently a lot more books I wanted that I hadn't even known about as well.

So before I'd even made it to the restaurant I'd ended up buying We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, and The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. I have a bit of a book backlog at the moment (I'm on And The Mountains Echoed at the moment, and there's two more books behind that but to be honest I've been putting those off for a while so there's a good chance they might be skipped...) so don't expect a review of these too soon, but, well, I do have an awful lot of free time coming up so who knows? While there I also placed an order for Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. I've been eyeing this book up on Amazon for a while now and when I saw it in Waterstones I had to have a quick look through as though I knew I'd find the topic interesting I just wasn't sure if it was a book I'd be able to actually get through. Luckily it is, so that should hopefully be arriving any day now!

5th View has quite a disappointing view actually, but is a nice little restaurant. It's not very book shoppy up there which surprised me - I thought they could make a bit more out of it but no, it's more its own little thing up there. The afternoon tea was a special menu and cost £9.95 and included a glass of fizz - I thought it was great value! It's not your normal endless quantities of food that you'd get in an afternoon tea but it was exactly enough to leave me feeling completely satisfied and not really wanting anymore - you get one giant but tasty scone, two sandwiches, a brownie and a little fruit tart which doesn't sound like much when I write it out but was really very filling and delicious and I thought was good value, especially with the fizz. It does of course also come with tea, but I don't actually like tea so I can't really give you any good feedback on that.

5th View is located on the top of Waterstones Piccadilly and is open for both lunch and dinner. If you'd like to have the menu I've mentioned above then you have a little bit of time left as the restaurant festival ends on the 27th of this month!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Review: Naked 2 Basics

I watched the hype for the Naked palettes and I let them pass me by, so it was with surprise that I found myself ordering the Naked 2 Basics palette last week.

Let me explain. I really do like natural palettes. But I already have Too Faced's Natural Eye palette for my daily look, which has been so loved that half the sections have just traces of any eyeshadow left in them. I also have Sleek's natural palette which is good quality and cost me less than a tenner. So the idea of buying yet another natural palette where let's face it, the colours aren't going to be all that different but will cost about £30 more really did not appeal to me.

However, as mentioned, my Too Faced palette is nearly no more and I had to start looking for a new product - bring in the Naked Basics palettes. I found it hard to choose between them as, well, neutral palettes tend to look very similar... In the end Naked 2 Basics won as it seemed like the colours were better suited to my skin tone, and conveniently I managed to get a good price for it!

Let's have a look then shall we?

First up, the packaging - these little boxes really are well made. It's a nice quality tin with a nice design and is easy to open (there have been days where I've considered throwing my Sleek palette across the room because I can't think of any other way of getting the darn thing open) and it's a really good size as well - it will fit really easily inside even my smallest nightclub bag!

Upon opening I was pleased to discover that the colours are actually much nicer than they appeared online. I ordered somewhat optimistically not really sure about how I felt about the colours - it seems that these shadows are just pretty difficult to photograph accurately, they appear much more pleasant and varied in person. The colours are Skimp, Stark, Frisk, Cover, Primal and Undone. I'm especially happy to see that Skimp looks like it will be a great replacement for one of my used up Too Faced shades, and I think I'll be able to use all of the colours. The shadows have a nice creamy texture to them and you get a lot of colour with them. None of them have any shimmer which pleases me - I HATE neutral shimmers! I love glitter in my bright colours, but I like my natural sets to look, well, natural.

I'll add that all photos in this post are completely unedited so you can see the colours as true as possible.

The inside of the palette is equally well made with a large mirror and good presentation. I sort of wish it had come with some sort of brush though! I know that I almost certainly wouldn't use it and would continue to use my own brushes, but sometimes its just much more convenient to have one included - especially if you're planning on sticking the palette in a small bag!

Overall though I'm happy with this little box :)


Friday, 10 October 2014

Things I Wish I Was Good At...

I've quite frequently mentioned the fact that I'm going to be using my upcoming medical leave as a time to develop some skills. But let's take a look at what I'm going to be focusing on, shall we?

I want to make cute little crochet critters so bad. I have this book. I have some wool. I have some hooks. The problem is, I have owned all of this for...maybe two years now? I have made multiple attempts. I cannot do it. I cannot make the beginning eggs, let alone a full blown chicken. This is a book for beginners but it may as well have been written in a different language. Youtube manages to enlighten me and then confuse me further all at the same time. It's a good job I have a whole lot of time to sit there and figure this out, isn't it?! Hey, maybe I'll have opened an Etsy shop by the end of December...

Speaking of learning another language - why not learn an actual one? I've spent a lot of time trying to learn Spanish, but I'm just not consistent enough with it. It also doesn't help that I can speak conversational Italian which is very similar to Spanish - so whenever I'm trying to speak Spanish and I hit a word that's the same in both languages, I automatically default back to Italian. This seems like a pretty good time to make a proper attempt at learning it.

I used to know every little way of using my last camera. Then I got my newer camera, got some lenses and - okay, I admit it, I'm that person who uses my DSLR on default settings. I used to know how to get my last one to do whatever I wanted, and I think it's about time I could do the same for my newer one. Especially when it's not actually all that new any more!

I have this book that teaches me how to make some cute origami animals and comes with a lot of really pretty paper as well. I'll be honest, I haven't actually tried to make anything out of it yet - I looked at the diagrams, concluded it was more difficult than I'd expected, and decided I'd save it for med leave. It's coming up, so hopefully I can soon become that person who leaves a trail of little origami elephants wherever they go!

Going to the gym
Okay, this probably isn't going to be something I manage to do during my leave being that I have an exercise ban (HOORAH) but right now I basically pay my gym membership to go about once a month - generally towards the end of the month when I suddenly realise I haven't been yet and isn't that a waste of money? I used to be great at this. I'd go to the gym about three days a week, but then I got ill and my progress went back so far I didn't want to do it anymore. Then I got really into yoga, but the one good teacher left and the others make me irritated. Then I discovered zumba was really fun, but then I got fed up with giving up my evenings. I briefly had basically no free evenings because I was either working them, seeing friends, or at the gym - and I just wanted a few evenings a week where I could basically just sit there and relax - come on, I average 60-70 hour weeks at the moment, I need that! I've been trying to inspire myself to go to the gym BEFORE work so I stop losing all my evenings, but so far that is absolutely not happening. Hopefully when I start improving I can start doing yoga in the mornings, and then keep that in my daily schedule when I return to work.

Visiting exhibitions
This falls into the above - I just don't have the time. I wish I had the time, but when I do have the time I'm seeing friends. It's part of why I moved to London so I definitely miss it - hopefully having so much time off will give me an opportunity to go and check out all the cool things that are going on and regain some culture :)

I wish I could draw - but in particular, I wish I could draw cartoons. I have the above book all ready which is supposed to teach you how to draw cartoon animals. I love the pictures on the front as it's exactly the style I'd like to be able to draw, but a quick flick through suggests its one of those books where the instructions consist of, "1. Draw two circles. 2. Okay, now turn that into a dog." which isn't the most helpful for someone as clueless as me!

I'm not even going to take a picture of the watercolour for beginners book I have because it's so complicated looking I know I'm not even going to humour it. But what I have discovered is that painting by numbers for adults is very definitely a real thing and there are some great looking canvases available.In particular there's a really pretty purpley/blue one of London I've seen, and I think that's going to be the one I start with.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Giveaway - Win a Hotel Chocolat Yumpkin!

Halloween is one of my favourite times of the year, and so I thought I would share some of the joy of it with you! We don't always remember to decorate the house for Christmas but we definitely do always raid the stores for some Halloween decorations (why oh why are Yankee Candle's Halloween options so expensive?!), watch some horror movies, and I always go to some kind of Halloween event - Fright Nights at Thorpe Park is always a good one, but if you follow me on Twitter you may have seen that this year I'll be making the long journey up to Alton Towers to see what their Scarefest has to offer!

But of course, a lot of people will associate Halloween with the goodies on offer - and as this is going to be my last holiday this year that I'll be able to eat properly though, I thought I'd go ahead and make a little Hotel Chocolat giveaway for you all. I should mention here that this contest is in no way affiliated with or sponsored by Hotel Chocolat - I am simply a long time fan of the company and as I was already buying some HC goodies for friends, it made sense to buy an extra treat to share with one of you as well!

This contest is to win a Yumpkin - a milk chocolate pumpkin with white and dark chocolate decorations. I've already got one for myself and at the moment I'm worried that it's too adorable for me to be able to eat it, and I've bought a couple for friends as well. The contest closes on October 25th so that your little gift will make it to you in time for Halloween :)

Upon closing the contest I'll send a message to the winner asking for their address so I can send their Yumpkin to them. You'll have 48 hours to reply before I'll assume you're no longer interested and move on to the second place person, etc etc. For this reason there's a chance you won't receive it in time for Halloween - but hopefully the first place person will claim their Yumpkin and all will arrive on time :)

Want to enter? Simply use the rafflecopter box below - good luck!

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