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    Monday, 24 April 2017

    THE DISHES YOU HAVE TO ORDER AT THE DINER

    There are certain restaurants I could go back to, time and time again. Reliable ones where you know you're pretty much guaranteed a good time. Places like The Diner.

    You know where you stand with The Diner. All their restaurants have the same laid-back atmosphere, killer drinks menu and you know the food is going to be good.

    I've shared my love for the Diner with you guys before - in fact it wasn't actually that long ago that I showed you around The Diner in Soho. BUT the Islington branch has just got a face-lift so I couldn't resist heading back down there and letting you in on my go-to dishes for every visit.
    Let's talk starters!
    Freakshow Chicken
    I'm a HUGE fan of the chicken wings at the Diner but for something different, you can't go wrong with the Freakshow Chicken. They're huge boneless buttermilk chicken strips which come with a hot, tangy buffalo sauce and a wedge of lime. The meat is tender and the coating is lovely and crisp.
    Super Queso
    A must order for nacho fans. You're served a skillet filled with hot molten cheese loaded with beef chili, salsa, sour cream, guacamole & jalapeños. The clever thing with the Diner's nachos is that the tortilla chips are stuck into the sauce rather than as a base meaning you can scoop up all the delicious toppings and each chip gets an even coating!
    Moving on to main courses....

    Burgers
    You can't really go to the Diner and not order one of their burgers. There's eight on the menu to choose from, including the The DCB chicken burger and the pulled pork topped Juicy Lucy. I'm a big fan of the Diablo though. The patty is made from high quality Speyside Highland beef which is freshly ground and shaped then topped with cheese, bacon, pickles and special Diner Burger sauce. 

    Taco Salad 
    For something a bit different, I'd recommend you go for the Taco Salad. It's not your typical salad - partly for the fact it comes served in a giant taco shell and also the fact it's not exactly healthy either. BUT it's got all your favourite burrito ingredients in, with the tortilla fashioned into an edible bowl. You've got shredded lettuce, tomatoes, black beans, cheese and generous spoonfuls of sour cream, salsa and guacamole. Dreamy.
    AND Finally....Chilli Cheese Fries
    Don't even bother going if you don't order a portion of these. Obviously you could order regular fries but when you've got the option of chips topped with chilli and cheese, that would be a little silly right? Don't think of the calories, just enjoy. 

    The Diner is open 10am-10pm Sunday - Thursday and 9am till Midnight at the weekends. Oh and they take reservations!

    21 Essex Rd, London N1 2SA

    * We were guests of The Diner
    Our food was complimentary but opinions are 100% honest

    Thursday, 13 April 2017

    THE DIRTIEST BRUNCH IN TOWN: DIRTY BONES, SHOREDITCH

    Once upon a time, Dirty Bones invited me to take part in an epic eating challenge for this blog along with one of my favourite bloggers Katy. We embarrassed ourselves with a feeble attempt at their 'Mac Attack challenge' and I'm pretty sure I've spent the last year and a half trying to work off all the food we devoured that night. 

    While our effort was a little poor, the food at Dirty Bones was EPIC so when I heard they were doing brunch, I knew I HAD to go back. 
    They've now got three sites across London (soon to be four) so we headed to the Shoreditch branch, just around the corner from BoxPark and next door to Beach Blanket Babylon. It's an old stone building with high ceilings, neon lights and loud buzzy music - setting the perfect scene for a Saturday afternoon brunch. 

    Now I'll get to the food in a minute (and it's amazing I promise) but you can't talk about brunch without drinks right? Rather than operating your standard 'Bottomless Brunch' with free-flowing prosecco, Dirty Bones offer a 'Boozy flight' which is brilliant value and WAY better for your dignity by the end of the meal! For £19 per person, you can have up to four cocktails from their killer drinks menu (I recommend the Uptown Spritz) and given cocktails are usually £9 a pop, you're basically getting two drinks free right...you do the math!Food-wise, Dirty Bones more than lives up to it's rep with the Dirty Brunch. If there's one thing the guys at Dirty Bones know how to do, it's comfort food. Real roll your sleeves up grub.  You HAVE to start with the short-rib crumpets (£8.50). It's essentially Eggs Benedict except they use crumpets instead of english muffins (which in my opinion is a stroke of pure genius). There's two in a portion meaning it's perfect for sharing as a "starter" and you get the choice of salmon, avocado or (you'd be mad to order anything else) these short-rib beauties. 

    Each toasted crumpet is piled up with 14 hour slow-cooked short rib meat and caramelised shallots then topped with a perfectly cooked poached egg and hollandaise sauce. Food porn at its finest!For the mains, there's plenty of choice from fried chicken and hot dogs through to waffles and pancakes. Tom went for the infamous Mac Daddy burger (£11) which we'd seen ALL over Instagram and sadly I have to admit it didn't quite live up to the hype.

    Don't get me wrong - it looks AMAZING. It's a burger topped with pulled short-rib and a whole LOAD of Mac & Cheese for gods sake! It just lacked that salty, charred taste that I love in a good burger. All the flavours sort of blurred together and felt a little under seasoned for us!
    The baked skillet though (£9) - this was one hell of a dish. Two eggs baked in a rich tomato sauce with avocado, melted taleggio cheese and a dreamy parmesan crumb - ready to be scooped up with toasted sour-dough. Definitely one of my favourites.
    We also shared a round of Breakfast fries (£5) which came in the form of skinny fries topped with two fried egg and smokey tomato ketchup. Despite looking the part for the picture, I actually could have done without the eggs on top BUT the fries themselves were perfect. Super crisp and perfectly seasoned.
    Just look at THAT spread!
    I know by this point you'll be feeling full but save room for pudding! You really don't want to miss the Banana Toblerone-Tella Waffles (£7).  IS there anything better than a baked waffle, topped with a caramelised banana, blueberry jam and salted peanut butter gelato?! Like really?
    Oh and the "coffee and doughnuts" (£6) is also a winner. A warm sugar doughnut served with a shot glass full of coffee gelato - the ideal way to take the edge of a heavy meal!
    Overall the Dirty Brunch gets a BIG thumbs up from me. Brunch is served every Saturday and Sunday at all four restaurants (Kensington is currently closed for a refurb) and booking is essential! 

    Dirty Bones
    1 Club Row
    Shoreditch, E1 6JX
    * We were guests of  Dirty Bones
    Our food & drinks were complimentary but all brunch love is honest
    Dirty Bones Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Thursday, 6 April 2017

    THE SIXTY SECOND DESSERT: DR OETKER PUD IN A MUG

    When I was at Uni, one of my friend's introduced me to the idea of mug cakes.

    You basically put eggs, flour, sugar, cocoa powder, milk and a little oil into a mug and blast it in the microwave until it magically rises up and you're left with an incredible sponge pudding. 

    It was a bit of a revelation...but also a bit of a mess. 
    To make things quicker and easier, Dr Oetker has launched its own range of puddings which come pre-mixed meaning you can have the same sponge cake without having to faff around with ingredients. They've just launched a brand new flavour (which just so happens to be one of very favourite desserts) Sticky Toffee pudding which I was kindly sent to try out....
    All you need to do is empty the sachet into a mug, add 60ml of milk and stir, stir, stir until it's nice and thick and glossy. Then pop in the microwave for 50 seconds and you're done. 
    You'll be left with a nice soft sponge with a toffee sauce at the bottom - just make sure you follow the timings to a tee otherwise you'll end up with a dry cake (and noone wants that!). Perfect with a scoop of ice cream or heavy cream!We loved the new Sticky Toffee pudding but there's also Chocolate Chip and Rich Chocolate in the existing range. They don't quite beat the real deal of a homemade cake but it is a really speedy, easy option if you're looking for something sweet and don't have all the ingredients in! I know I would have stockpiled these back in my uni days!
    You can pick them up for just 85p from all the major supermarkets! It's definitely worth keeping a couple of packets in your cupboard for your next girl's night in or you know...the next time you fancy a bit of cake! I don't judge!

    * This post was sponsored by Dr Oetker

    Thursday, 30 March 2017

    THE THINGS I WOULD BUY IF I HAD ANY MONEY...

    We're trying to save really hard at the moment. So besides paying the bills and buying enough food to survive the month, I'm on a spending lock-down.

    That doesn't mean I can't window shop though right? So here's this month's round-up of the things I'd buy if I actually had some money...


    * Collaborative Post

    Tuesday, 28 March 2017

    FIVE GOLDEN RULES FOR TAMING DRY, DAMAGED HAIR

    My motivation levels have been on the floor recently - like honestly, non-existant. I've fallen out of my gym routine, I've been really CBA when it comes to my blog and I generally haven't been that much fun to be around because #moody.

    Part of it, I blame on the weather. I'm 98% sure I have seasonal effective disorder (it would explain a lot) so now the sun actually sticks around and it's light past half 6, I'm hoping I start perking up - for everyone's sake.

    So there's that and also the fact that I need a bloody good hair cut. Does anyone else feel like their hair dictates their mood? Seriously, hear me out on this one. On the days I (rarely) wash my hair, I've noticed I immediately feel SO much better. It usually prompts me to put on make-up and a nice outfit and my work colleagues always compliment me on hair-wash days, which you think would encourage me to do it more often, but the amount of effort required to wash, blow-dry and style my hair, I usually just revert to putting it in a messy bun.

    What was the point I was trying to make? Oh yeah, the fact that this whole lazy girl's attitude towards my hair recently has meant that I haven't had it cut in ages and it's just making me feel a whole lot of eurgh about everything. 

    As a little kick up the bum to get an appointment booked in, I've rounded up some tips for taming dry, damaged hair to remind myself of all the good reasons for taking care of your locks.
    FIRST RULE IS....DON'T OVER-WASH YOUR HAIR
    Try telling that to a sixteen year old me. I used to wash my hair every single day - sometimes twice - because my hair was so goddamn greasy. This is actually the worst thing you could do for your hair because you're stripping out all the essential oils and it basically means your hair over-compensates by creating more oil so you're just stuck in one giant vicious loop. You only really need to wash your hair two - three times a week max so just make BFFs with your bottle of Batiste.

    REMEMBER OIL IS ACTUALLY GOOD FOR YOUR HAIR
    Again, tell that to sixteen year old me. Despite flying in the face of everything I thought I knew about haircare - putting oils through your locks actually helps to smooth and nourish your hair, leaving it super shiny. Moroccan or argan oil is my treatment of choice - it's packed with Vitamin F and E and leaves your hair feeling super swishy.

    NEXT REMEMBER COLD IS KEY
    I think everyone knows heat is bad for your hair. Everyone also knows it's virtually impossible to style your hair nicely without heat so you've kind of got to make your peace with it BUT did you know it's actually cool air which helps set your style the best? It also stops your hair from 'cooking' when you blow-dry it and it locks in all that lovely shine.

    To help limit further damage, I only use straighteners on my hair once a week and I try to use a heat-protecting spray and a low-heat setting on the days I do.

    TREAT YOURSELF TO A GOOD HAIR TREATMENT
    A bit like your skin, you should treat your hair to regular masks and treatments to keep it in good shape. Olaplex is one of the biggest beauty techniques at the moment which does wonders for your tresses. It's an in-salon treatment, loved by the Kardashians, which works to strengthen broken bonds in you hair and 'undo' a lot of the damage caused by over-coulouring. It's a little pricey but well worth the results!
    NOTE TO SELF: GET REGULAR TRIMS
    I need to take my own advice here and remember to book in regular hairdressing appointments. The best way to keep your hair in good condition is by getting it trimmed regularly I'm almost embarrassed by how rarely I visit my hair-dresser so if there's one thing we both should take way from this, it's to book in for a cut ASAP!

     Any hairdressing tips you can send my way?

    * Collaborative Content

    Monday, 27 March 2017

    INTRODUCING THE NEWEST WAY TO GET YOUR CAFFEINE FIX...

    I only really got 'into' drinking coffee about a year or so ago. Aside from the occasional Starbucks trip (because Caramel Macchiatos are bae) and the odd latte if I went out for breakfast, I just sort of stuck to drinking (a lot) of tea. 

    Somewhere along the line I moved across to drinking coffee in the mornings at work and now, for better or for worse, I don't really know how I ever went without. 
    Ahead of UK Coffee Week (yep it's a thing - more on that in a minute), I've been trying out a new way of drinking my morning cup of the black stuff - in a tea bag!

    Yep. Lyon's has introduced coffee in bags and it turns out to be a bit of a revelation. Rather than containing instant granuales, Lyons has packed each little bag with freshly roasted ground coffee,  meaning you can have a perfect cuppa - even on the go. 
    And I have to say I've been quite impressed. It's a hell of a lot easier than using a cafetiere or a percolator (because who even has time for that? ) and way less fiddly than filter coffee meaning they're perfect for using at work or even when you're travelling.
    You make it exactly the same way you would a cup of tea. Leaving it to brew for three to four minutes (or longer if you like it strong!), add your milk and your good to go!
    Plus during UK Coffee Week, you can drink it knowing that you're doing your bit for charity too. Between 10th-16th April, thousands of coffee shops across the UK will be taking part in Coffee Week, a nationwide celebration of which raises funds for Project Waterfall, to help provide clean drinking water to coffee growing communities in Africa.

    Double thumbs up from me. A box of 18 costs just £2.60 so throw some in your basket next time your in Tesco or Sainsbury's and you'll save a fortune on your normal Starbucks coffee runs!

    What do you think? Would you try coffee in bags?

     * This post was sponsored by  Lyons Coffee

    Wednesday, 22 March 2017

    STEAKS & SUSHI AT M, VICTORIA

    One minute I'm saying I never go to Victoria and now it seems I can hardly keep away.

    I always do this when I find somewhere I like. I rinse and rinse and rinse it until I'm completely bored and never want to go there again (I do this a lot with songs too e.g. the new Ed Sheeran album am-i-right?). BUT anyway for now - I am completely loving the new Nova complex opposite Victoria station which I guess means you should all get used to seeing a lot more of my favourite restaurant recommendations for the foreseeable...

    And first on that list is M. I'd heard plenty of good things about the mysteriously named 'M' so when I spied it on the list of Bookatable Star Deals, I snapped up a table and headed straight there to see what the fuss was about. 
    Aside from sharing it's name with the character from a spy novel, M is actually a swanky steak restaurant and a pretty bloody good one at that. It's run by the former managing director of Gaucho (so you know he knows a thing or two about steak) and oozes glamour with it's slick, modern dining room.

    The restaurant prides itself on serving the best cuts of steak from around the globe, with the menu putting a real emphasis on the high-quality ingredients. You'll find steaks from suppliers on every continent, from the highly prized Australian Blackmore Wagyu through to beef from South Africa, France and the USA.
    There's plenty of choices aside from steaks on the main menu too with pork belly, fish and risotto on offer but I'd definitely recommend trying the Bookatable menu. For £29.50 per person you can enjoy a four course dinner (which includes steak!) and a glass of bubbly - what's not to love?
    First up you're served the intriguing-looking black taramasalata which comes drizzled with smoked olive oil and crisp wafer thin toasts. It gets it's dark colour from black curry powder and is whipped up into the lightest of mousses - so tasty and the perfect way to start off your meal.
    Next you can choose between a sashimi or vegetable tempura platter so we opted for the sushi (obvs). You're presented with a platter full of thick, delicately sliced salmon, tuna and open blue cobia with a decent amount of wasabi, ginger and soy. I love sashimi and the fish here is super fresh  and just the right amount to share. For the main event, there's just one choice: steak. A generous 400g slab of Irish rump, cooked to order, and served with wilted, buttery greens, crisp chips and a chimichurri sauce - all designed for sharing.  
    Unfortunately we did have a little hiccup with our steak. We'd ordered ours medium rare but when it came up it was closer to well-done so we had to send it back. I hate complaining in restaurants, it makes me uncomfortable and awkward but overcooked steak is one of those real bug-bears I can't overlook. 

    The staff were brilliant though. They immediately took our dinner back to the kitchen and re-cooked not just our steak but all the sides and re-filled our bubbly, completely putting us at ease. As soon as our freshly cooked dinner hit the table, it was perfect. The way the waiters and manager dealt with our complaint made all the difference and this tiny blip didn't impact our dinner or evening in the slightest. 
    And it's a good job too because the pudding isn't one to be missed. If you've got room (and I say if as though anyone doesn't have room for dessert?) you can tuck into mini doughnuts stuffed with either lemon curd or chocolate mousse. They're the perfect little mouthful to take the edge off your rich, decadent feast!
    What a feast, aye? Overall we both really enjoyed M. The staff were super attentive and helpful and couldn't do enough for us, especially following our little mix up with the main course. Value-wise, the Booktable deal is absolutely spot on and I highly recommend you make the most of it. It's available to book for lunch or dinner Monday-Saturday until 13th May! What are you waiting for?!

    Cardinal Place, 
    74 Victoria St, Westminster, London SW1E

    * I was invited to review by Bookatable
    Our food was complimentary but opinions are totally honest
    M Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Friday, 17 March 2017

    NORDIC DINING AT ASTER, VICTORIA

    Until recently, I've never really had any reason to go to Victoria. Unless you count going to the station.

    There was that one time for my twentieth birthday when we went to Pacha (omg I feel old) and there was the occasional outing when I worked across the river in Battersea...BUT for the most part, it's not somewhere I'd think to go.

    But that's all changing now, because Victoria has Nova. Yep, a bright, sparkly new development of restaurants, bars and shops which have popped up, firmly with the intent of putting Victoria on the map...and I have to admit, it's all getting a bit exciting.

    Amongst all the shiny new restaurants, you'll find a Bleeker Street down the road (for the BEST burgers), Jason Atherton's new place Hai Cenato (for New York meets Italian) and then there's Aster where you can get, drum roll please, Nordic meets French dining.

    It's right opposite the station and it's THE perfect place to kill some time while you wait for your train. Come on, I'll give you a quick look around...
    Aster is the latest opening for the super trendy D&D group - you know the guys behind 100 Wardour Street, Bluebird and the German Gymnasium. It's a multi-level space with a cafe, deli and restaurant spread across it's two stunningly decorated floors.

    My favourite part though? It's got to be the wine bar on the ground floor and the dedicated cellar on the second which are both packed with some incredible bottles of wine. Each has been selected to go perfectly with head chef Helena Puolakka's menu of Nordic meats and smoked fish - but best of all, they all come at affordable prices (I'm talking about £5 a glass here!)
    What you have in terms of food very much depends on what part of Aster you'll be eating in! The cafe is on the ground floor as you walk in where you can order a Smörgåsbord of dishes including  herrings, pickles and meats. Upstairs, you'll find the main restaurant which has more of a fine-dining feel with a menu of arctic char, fillet steak and milk fed lamb shoulder.
    But equally you can just pop in for drinks like we did and make use of the bar snacks menu! A bowl of olives or nuts will set you back £3 or you can order a mini cheese platter for £11 - all that coupled with a £5 glass of wine and you've got yourself a purse friendly feast while you wait for your train! All in the most decadent of settings. 
    Aster is open from 7am-10.45pm midweek and from 9am on the weekends - I definitely recommend you pop in, even if it's just for a glass of their fabulous wines! 

    Aster 
    150 Victoria Street
    London, SW1E 5LB
    * We were guests of Aster Victoria
    All opinions are completely honest
    Aster Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato