Sunday, 23 October 2016

Bottomless bellini brunch at Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, Clerkenwell, London

My basic love for Prosecco is no secret. But d'you know what I love even more? Bellinis. They're just so damn tasty and dangerously quaffable.

I'd known about the bottomless bellini brunch at Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings for aaaaages and had been desperate to go since I first heard about it. So when my colleague and friend Rachel (yes, another one), told me she'd been, I made her tell me all about it over lunch one day. She'd loved it, so we decided we simply must get the gang together and go.

And by the end of our lunch break, the booking was made, huzzah! I do love an impulse decision. Granted, our reservation was for about two months' time, but hey, we're busy people and B&H Buildings is so popular you really do have to book far in advance.

So it was with great excitement that I made my way up to North London for a long-awaited bellini-fuelled brunch.
B&H Buildings is a beautifully bright and airy space and the weekend vibe was wonderfully relaxed yet stylish.

We took our seats and got to perusing the rather extensive menu - there's definitely something for everyone.
Interestingly, it turns out if you want bottomless bellinis, you have to order something more substantial than granola and fruit, porridge or crumpets. Probably wise, really...

Order placed, bellinis ahoy!
For £18, you get as many bellinis as you can drink in 90 minutes. And considering one bellini is £9, have more than a couple and you're basically making money. That's how these things work, right? (Oh but please do drink responsibly, yeah? #stayclassy)
The staff are pretty good at replacing empty flutes with fresh bellinis, and we never had to wait long for a new one, despite how busy the restaurant was.

Probably in an attempt to make sure no one had drunk too much on an empty stomach, our food arrived incredibly quickly. For me, drop scones (aka pancakes) with caramelised banana and mixed nuts.
It was perfection. Literally faultless.
The pancakes were fluffy, there was ample banana and nuts, syrup was not lacking and the portion size was just right. Scrumptious. Plus, just £7. SEVEN POUNDS! Barg.

The other gals went to town too...
Absolute brunch goals.

Brunches, brownies and a few ridiculous amount of bellinis down the line, we were served our final drinks (and informed thus, which was good), and asked to move over to the sofas to enjoy them so that our table could be cleared for the next group of hungry brunchers.
It was so lovely that we weren't rushed and could sit there chatting long after our flutes were dry and we'd moved on to the tap water.

I loved Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings and can't recommend it more. Would return.

Also, anyone else really want a bellini now?

Friday, 21 October 2016

Spider-web salted caramel millionaire's shortbread

For the quarter-final of the Telegraph Bake Off, the theme was biscuits.

How do you wow with biscuits? thought I. It was quite the challenge.

So in a bid to impress my colleagues in a biscuit-based (literally) fashion, I decided to make millionaires' shortbread.

And after a bit of Pinterest browsing for inspo, my mind was made up: individual spider-web salted caramel millionaire's shortbread it would be.
It's a serious business, the Telegraph Bake Off. Well I'm taking it seriously anyway. Impressing your colleagues with baked goods is the way to career success, right?

But I hadn't actually made millionaires' shortbread for years, and with neither time nor ingredients to spare, I couldn't afford a kitchen disaster.

Fortunately, no such disaster occurred and my salted caramel millionaires' shortbread have got me through to the semi-final, week!

(Aside: where does the apostrophe go? Is it the shortbread of just one millionaire? Or multiple? I need to know!)

There's a classic crumbly shortbread base, a generous layer of velvety smooth salted caramel, and smooth chocolate to top it all off, with the sea salt stopping everything from being too sickly.
I must say, I actually impressed myself with these.

The design looks tricky but it's actually super simple - perfect for Halloween, no?
I used Green & Black's chocolate because it's fantastic and I'm sort of in love with the milk chocolate sea salt bar, but you could also use another milk choc and add a pinch of sea salt. Oh, and the G&B white chocolate is also fabulous because it's vanilla-y too.

Anyway, make these, have fun, enjoy them, love them.

And wish me luck for the semi-final!

This recipe makes 12.


90g unsalted butter at room temp
50g caster sugar
150g plain flour

90g light brown muscovado sugar
90g salted butter
320g condensed milk
a generous pinch of sea salt

200g sea salt milk chocolate (or standard milk chocolate and add sea salt)
75g white chocolate


1. Line a cupcake tin with paper cases and heat the oven to 180C.

2. First make the shortbread: cream together the butter and sugar with a handheld electric whisk until smooth and light. Fold in the flour and mix together with your hands until a crumbly dough forms. Divide equally between the paper cases and press down firmly with the back of a spoon.
3. Bake in the oven for 12-13 minutes before removing to cool - leave in the tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

4. Once the shortbread is cool, make the caramel: in a non-stick pan gently melt together the condensed milk, butter, sugar and salt, stirring as you go. Once the butter and sugar has all melted, turn up the heat a touch to bring to a gentle boil. Stir continuously for 5-6 minutes until thickened.
5. Whilst still hot, dollop a generous spoonful of the caramel on to each shortbread base, dividing it equally between them - it should be runny enough to level out by itself - and add an extra sprinkle of sea salt to each. Leave the caramel to set and cool completely.
6. To make the chocolate topping, carefully melt both of the chocolates separately either in the microwave or in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Spoon the white chocolate into a piping bag (or a freezer bag if you're budget like me) and snip off the teensiest hole in the end.
7. Working with a couple at a time (so the chocolate doesn't set), cover each caramel shortbread with a generous spoonful of milk chocolate. Carefully pipe three consecutive rings of white chocolate on top, then use a toothpick or a skewer to drag lines from the centre to the edges, wiping the end clean after each line, thus creating the spiderweb effect. Complete for all shortbreads.

8. Leave to set and you're done! If you're in a particularly warm clime, you may need to pop your shortbreads in the fridge, but they're much better kept at room temperature. Enjoy!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

A marvellous vegetarian dinner at The Gate, Islington

In recent years, vegetarian food has had something of a renaissance. No longer associated with sad tofu or cardboardy meat substitutes, tons of tasty dishes where veg is the star of the show have been appearing on restaurant menus, foodie blogs and in dedicated recipe books.

And what with a plethora of vegetarian and vegan restaurants having opened in London over the past few years, I was most intrigued when The Gate was brought to my attention recently, as I'd never heard of it.

With two locations - Hammersmith and Islington - The Gate was established back in 1989, and yet it seems to be relatively under-the-radar when it comes to London's healthy foodie scene. 

Think of veggie restaurants in the capital and Mildred's comes to my mind initially (totally go if you haven't already). But after my visit to The Gate last week, I can't for the life of me understand why it's less well-known.

As it was Thursday evening (or Thursyay, amiright?) and my dinner date Jenny and I hadn't seen each other for weeks, we kicked things off with prosecco. (Lol as if we wouldn't have done that regardless of the day of the week or if we'd seen each other the day before).
The restaurant is big but it was absolutely packed with a mixed crowd of all ages. The interior is simple but stylish, and the candles on the tables created a lovely cosy atmosphere. I'm all about those cosy autumn evenings.
People who think you can't make interesting, delicious meals without meat really need to go to The Gate - the menu is simply fantastic. The dishes are so creative and everything we ate burst with flavour.

I thought the starter menu was particularly enticing and genuinely wanted to eat everything, so I was thrilled to find the option of a mezze platter for two to share.
It was beautifully-presented and quite possibly the stand-out dish of the night.

We had miso-glazed aubergine, three-onion tart, fabulous red onion chutney with crostini...
I have never tasted aubergine as delicious as this - it was so soft and almost buttery in texture, and simultaneously sweet and savoury. Sensational.

Then there was three lentil pate terrine, couscous and feta fritters, and grilled halloumi in Indian spices.
Dat halloum tho. With chickpeas. So good. Halloumi 4 lyf.

I really liked the texture of the couscous fritters and the (I wanna say) pumpkin puree they came with, but alas there was some coriander in there which as we all know is a deal-breaker for me.

And the terrine was really interesting, unlike anything I've ever had before, although Jenny found one section a bit too olive-y.

We moved on to a carafe of Sauv (love a carafe and love that there was the option - it was jut the right amount of wine) and were soon served our once again beautifully-presented mains.
For me, the butternut rotolo:
The rotolo consisted of layered potatoes stuffed with butternut squash, italian sundried tomato and basil, and it was served with with celeriac puree, apple and celery salad, vegetable crisps and creamy sorrel sauce.

My goodness, it was fantastic. There were so many big flavours and textures going on that all married together so well: smooth celeriac puree, crunchy crisps, soft butternut squash and crisp apple. It was wonderful.

Jenny had the aubergine teriyaki:
Glazed and grilled teriyaki aubergine, stuffed with horseradish, coriander pesto, roasted pepper, shiitake and ginger duxelles, on top of a crispy noodle salad with peppers, flat beans and carrots, and mango and coriander salsa.

It was very good. The portion was big and there was a lot of aubergine, but veggies are good for you so yay for lots!

And just to make 100% sure we ticked off our five-a-day, Jen and I shared a couple of sides: roasted spiced sweet potato wedges with garlic and chive sour cream...
Apols for the blurry picture but oh my daaaaaayz these were so good. Again, a sizeable portion, but it was just cooked to perfection. If I could use the 'OK hand' emoji in a blog post, I totally would to describe these.

And then cauliflower with smoked paprika tahini, pinenuts and pomegranate.
Not mind-glowingly delicious but certainly enjoyable - great flavour combo again. I'd never considered adding paprika to tahini but it's definitely something I'm going to recreate.

And because man cannot live on vegetables alone, Jenny and I figured we definitely had room for a spot of pudding. And boy, is the menu good.

For Jen, the white chocolate sphere...
Slightly disappointingly, the sauce wasn't quite hot enough to create the dramatic scene for which we'd been hoping, but it did collapse the white chocolate shell to reveal the chocolate mousse and caramel inside.

Naturally, I had a mouthful (or four), and unsurprisingly, it was utterly scrumptious. So pretty too!

And because I was so intrigued by the prospect, I chose the vegan cheesecake.
With its nutty cashew base, creamy filling (apparently made from chickpeas *gasp*) and spiced cranberry topping, I loved it.
Maybe it was the cranberries, but something about the cheesecake tasted festive to me, and hey, I enjoyed that immensely.

In fact, I'd enjoyed the whole evening and everything about The Gate. It's creative, high-quality, beautiful-presented and utterly delicious vegetarian fare, proving that you absolutely don't need meat for a satisfying meal.

I'll definitely be back!

Jenny and I were guests at The Gate but all opinions are honest, promise. 

Sunday, 9 October 2016

A London staycation with a view at Novotel Blackfriars

To live in London is both a privilege and a pleasure.

But even as a Londoner (yeah, it's been all of nine months and I'm calling myself a Londoner now), to spend a night in a hotel in the capital is an extremely exciting treat.

And that, dear friends, is exactly what I did on a random Thursday not too long ago.
On a summery early autumn evening, I walked through this beautiful city from my work in Victoria to the Novotel in Blackfriars.

If you're a tourist coming to London, it might seem like a slightly odd location, but actually I reckon it would be nice to be out of the hustle and bustle of Soho/Covent Garden. You're right by the river and the hotel has the most fantastic view of the Shard.
Inside the rather futuristic but stylish lobby, I was swiftly checked-in and up I headed to my room on the 10th floor.

Come on in...
The room was clean, modern and minimalist, much like the lobby, although I couldn't help but feel slight airport lounge vibes. I accept that that might sound a bit weird, but it was just the impression I got. The style wasn't the homeliest, I suppose, but that's just the look they're going for.
For a basic room, it was spacious and well-equipped.

There were tea- and coffee-making facilities (only English Breakfast and Earl Grey though), a fridge, hair-dryer and ironing board, but unfortunately there wasn't any bottled water provided. Have I become a real diva? Is it outrageous to expect bottled water in a hotel room? I happily drank tap water anyway...

I really liked the sofa in the room, although I felt it could've done with a cushion - luckily there was a spare pillow so I'll let them off.

Sitting there, peering out at this view, felt pretty darn cool.
In the bathroom, basic toiletries were provided as well as towels that were pleasingly big, if a little on the tatty side.
The wall of the shower was really cool - whilst it looks like your classic floor-to-ceiling window, at the tap of a button it turns opaque. I have no idea how that works but I was impressed.

Before settling in for the night, I popped down to the hotel pool for a dip (there's also a gym, but one thing at a time eh?).
It's not huge so wouldn't be much fun if very busy, but luckily for me there were only a couple of other swimmers there.

With an under-the-sea scene projected onto the wall, I really enjoyed the calming vibe. There's a big sauna, which I liked, and a jacuzzi that flows into the pool (and is thus the same temperature).

Feeling like I'd earned it (I hadn't), I headed back to my room and ordered a take-away from Uber Eats - there is of course room service at the hotel, but I was in the mood for something specific, and you just can't fight those cravings, can you?
With an unnecessary amount of food for one person (#noregrets), I settled in for a night in front of the TV in my PJs.

God, I love me-time.

When I eventually went to bed, I decided to leave the curtain open, as it's not every day you get to fall asleep to a view of the Shard, is it..?
Possibly Almost definitely because I'd left the curtain open, I woke unusually early. But boy, am I glad I did.
Well good morning, London.

I watched the sun rise whilst snuggled up in my lovely crisp bedlinen.
And before I new it, my breakfast had arrived!

Whilst there is, of course, a breakfast buffet, you can get your brekkie delivered for no extra cost, and I for one cannot resist the allure of breakfast in bed.
The menu isn't extensive, but it's good.

My breakfast was really very lovely actually.
I had fruit salad which was pleasingly full of fresh, interesting fruit (don't you hate it when a fruit salad is like 75% apple chunks?), if a tad cold. And alongside my fruit salad I had a big bowl of muesli with yoghurt, honey and stewed prunes. Oh, and a big pot of tea, of course.

And then, much to my disappointment, it was time to go to work (after an incredibly quick check-out.)

I left the hotel feeling refreshed and revived and had had a wonderful stay. I think perhaps, spending a night by yourself, somewhere nice, may do wonders for the soul. Note to self: must do more solo staycations.

I was a guest at Novotel London Blackfriars but all opinions are my own and unbiased.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
© Handbags and Cupcakes. All rights reserved.