Sunday, 30 April 2017

Bottomless Bucks Fizz and brilliant brunch at Timmy Green, Victoria

Up until six months ago, I worked in Victoria. Now I've got a new job and am based in Kensington. But in the six months since I changed jobs, Victoria has suddenly blossomed in to a foodie hotspot. I mean, seriously?!

It's all down to the opening of the Nova building which has attracted a whole host of brilliant eateries. And as soon as I found out about Timmy Green I was desperate to pay them a visit. Plus I hadn't brunched in a whole two weeks so was craving my fix.

I've realised that brunch seems to have replaced afternoon tea in my life. I'm totally still down for three tiers of deliciousness, don't get me wrong, but - the millennial cliché that I am - I bloody love brunch.

And guys, Timmy Green has made it into my top three brunch spots in London I think. For reals.
I absolutely loved the vibe - floor-to-ceiling windows, two levels, plants on the ceiling, neon signs - it's bright, fun and chilled. There were fresh flowers on every table and even a very talented singer/guitar player when we visited. It was also packed.

Oh, and there's prosecco on tap so what more could you want really?
My dear friend Tasha and I decided we'd indulge and go for the bottomless brunch which entails two courses and two hours of Bucks Fizzes or prosecco (and you can switch between the two).
I was a big fan of the presentation of the Bucks Fizzes and they were freshly-made each time - whilst at some bottomless prosecco brunch spots you end up getting sloshed because the staff top up your glass before you've even drunk half, at Timmy Green it's a slightly classier affair.

They also have a cracking cocktail menu so I'm going to have to go back to make the most of that for sure.

For our first courses, we shared the banana bread and the granola.
Warm, squidgy, moist banana bread with light mascarpone cream, fresh berries and honey. It was huge, stodgy and oh-so-delicious.
Homemade maple granola, thick Greek yogurt, fresh berries, coconut flakes, honey, chia seeds, and flaked almonds. The granola was wonderfully crisp and there were chunky clusters too, which I loved. 

And to quote Tasha: "Cute plates." She was not wrong.

After a brief pause we were ready for our next courses - and let me tell you it was not an easy choice as the whole menu sounds amazing.
I ummed (my laptop just tried to correct that to bummed lol) and ahhed for a while but eventually settled on the broccoli and corn fritters. And chums, it was an excellent choice, if I do say so myself.

The fritters were fluffy and flavoursome, the avocado on top was the perfect ripeness, my egg was poached to perfection (just look at that yolk!) and I liked the courgette ribbon on the side too. I wasn't fussed about the chilli jam but that's just because I'm not a spicy gal.

I thoroughly recommend - unsurprisingly - getting a side of halloumi.
It was a rather inspired addition to the dish IMHO. Unfortunately our halloumi was actually forgotten but it didn't take long for the v friendly staff to bring it out.

As I reached three-quarters of the way through my meal, I was so full, but it was so delicious I just couldn't stop. I know there's no judgement here.

Tasha went for the avocado on charcoal bread served with homemade labneh, dukkah and spinach.
Weirdly enough, you can opt to add an egg to the dish (as you can see above), but Tasha didn't ask for one because she doesn't like eggs. So we weren't sure what happened there but hey - two eggs for Rachel!

I was really intrigued to try the charcoal bread as I'd never had it before. It was, well, rather like regular bread, but with a slightly smokier flavour. I liked it.

The trouble was - especially sans egg - the ratio of bread to toppings was a bit off, Tasha found.

But all the food was exceptionally delicious and the quality was brilliant. It's classic brunch food, with slightly creative twists. I may have just found my new fave brunch spot...

Tasha and I were guests at Timmy Green but all opinions are of course our own.
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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Piña Colada smoothie

A smoothie is my go-to breakfast when I want something healthy and light (OK, usually after indulging myself more than one should the previous night).

Now I know what you're thinking: that's all very well and good, Rachel, but I can't be bothered to get up early to make one. 

Well neither can I, chums. I make my smoothie the night before, pop it in the fridge (covered) overnight and either sip it whilst getting ready or take it to work in a handy portable bottle thingy.
What's more, with frozen and tinned fruit, I can pretty much always whip something up even if I haven't been to the shops for daaaaays.

Some people think smoothies won't keep you full, but it depends on what you put in it if you ask me.

And how much you drink.

A pure fruit smoothie probably wouldn't sustain me for long, plus that's a hella lotta sugar, so I usually try and make my concoctions a bit more filling with oats and nut butters and the like.
This here smoothie is my current fave because it literally tastes like a piña colada. Minus the alcohol. And let's be real, in the best cocktails you can't really taste the alcohol (which is why I always drink them far too quickly but what are ya gonna do?).

Heck, you could add a shot of rum to this and you'd be on your way to, um, Hawaii? Jamaica? Brazil? Spain? Clearly I don't have a clue where piña coladas come from.

I made this smoothie with the rather fab Panasonic blender I was lent. Now, I've used a lot of blenders in my time, but this is definitely one of the best. It's stylish, super powerful and exceptionally big, if a tad heavy.

This recipe would serve two people as a snack or one person who wanted a big old smoothie as breakfast.

(I would make some sort of pun about going loco-coco or something but I just can't bring myself to do it.)

Ingredients

300ml coconut milk
1 tbsp flaxmeal
1 tin pineapple
1 frozen banana
2 tbsp vanilla Oppo dairy-free ice cream or thick Greek natural yoghurt
1 squeeze honey
Drizzle of Pip and Nut coconut almond butter and extra honey (optional)

Method

1. Blend everything bar the coconut almond butter.

2. Pour into a drinking vessel, drizzle with almond butter and extra honey, and enjoy.

This post is sponsored by Panasonic as part of their #ExperienceFresh campaign.
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Monday, 3 April 2017

Brunch at Smith & Wollensky, London

A steak restaurant might be a slightly rogue choice for brunch, but stick with me, I think you might be swayed.

Smith & Wollensky is an American steakhouse but they opened their first branch across the pond almost two years ago. Just off the Strand, it's a brilliant central location but it's unlikely you'd have walked past.

From the outside, it looks like it's been dropped straight out of New York, and the interior is similarly cool.
Elegant and stylish with the most wonderful 20s vibe, I couldn't help but imagine how fabulous a spot Smith & Wollensky would be for a party.

I was there for brunch with my dear friend Caroline - we hadn't seen each other for months so had a hell of a lot of catching up to do, and Smith & Wollensky provided the ideal setting.

Despite them not being on the drinks menu, our craving for Buck's Fizzes was gladly satisfied.
I do love a Buck's Fizz.

As someone who actually doesn't like steak (please don't hate me), I was originally concerned that Smith & Wollensky would have nothing for me. But I was wrong, chums. Boy, was I wrong.
Helloooooo, burger!
Dayum, this was an exceptional burger. As one would expect from a fine steak restaurant, the quality was noticeably higher than your average high street burger joint. It was just so buttery!
Caroline went for the signature steak sandwich and loved it.
Oh, and by this point I'd moved on to a bellini and highly enjoyed its pinkness.

Alongside our burgers we shared some hashed brown potatoes.
It wasn't quite what I was expecting but it was utterly delicious.

And purely for the sake of health...
A spot of salad. Which was, ya know, salad.

Then we sat and chatted and explored the restaurant and generally digested our huge, meaty meals.

A little while later, we decided we could go for another bellini and Buck's Fizz. We placed our order, but a few minutes later the bartender came over and said he didn't want to make them.

Um, what? Why wouldn't he make our drinks?

Well, he said they were boring and he wanted to make something more exciting.  Now, I always trust a bartender so was happy to go with it...
We were duly brought two Old Cubans - like the lovechild of champagne and a mojito, it was ace. Did you know the drink was invented by a woman called Audrey Sanders? Well it was.

And by this point we were ready for something sweet. Don't try and tell me multiple courses for brunch isn't a thing. It's totally a thing.
 For Caroline, a rather ridiculously epic stack of blueberry pancakes.
 So fluffy and thick! Proper American pancakes.
Because I am powerless to resist, I went for the sticky toffee pudding.
Less American, equally delicious.
Ohhhhh it was so so very tasty. There's nothing worse than a dry sticky toffee, and this was far from it.

The staff and service had been absolutely delightful throughout and the food was, quite frankly, faultless. Quote Caroline: "Everything was delicious."

I'll definitely be going back (maybe for a Great Gatsby-themed party..?).

Caroline and I were guests at Smith & Wollensky but all opinions are honest.
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Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Brunch at Ben's Canteen, Battersea

Ben's Canteen serves possibly my favourite type of food. And d'you know how I would describe that type? Delicious. 

Having visited for dinner a couple of times, I'd been thoroughly wooed by their burgers. But I was absolutely desperate to brunch at Ben's.

I seem to be getting into a habit of making my way over to Clapham/Battersea for brunch and then slowly ambling my way back to Brixton on a leisurely Saturday or Sunday. It's fun.

Ben's Canteen was buzzing when I arrived. Almost as buzzing as I was to be there. (Srsly, you should follow them on Insta as then you'll be the same.)

I went to their Battersea branch which has a fun, relaxed, friendly vibe - most conducive to brunching, I'm sure you'll agree.

My pal Alex and I sat ourselves down and prepared to satisfy our rumbling tummies.

The brunch menu at Ben's is so fabulous that I wanted to order just about everything. Sadly, however, eating five meals in one sitting is apparently a) frowned upon, and b) unhealthy, so I restrained myself.

Because Alex is a functioning human and not a borderline alco like me, he ordered a smoothie and I followed his lead - we both went for the tropical one.
Ngl, it tasted pretty much solely of pineapple but I for one am a big pineapple fan so this was cool with me.

Then it was time for the main affair.
I ordered the courgette and sweetcorn fritters and sweet lord, I bloody loved them.

Clearly deep-fried, they were super crisp outside and soft inside.
They were served with a perfect poached egg, halloumi (my fave), and sticky, sweet tomato chutney.

It was a decent-sized portion although I totally could've done with more halloumi. But then again, when do I ever not want more halloumi?

There were many textures and flavours which was particularly enjoyable given my our choice of sides.
We had the smashed avo with feta but it was actually more like guac - I am very particular about this because I LOVE smashed avo and don't particularly like guac because of the tomato. Blergh.
Unsurprisingly I also couldn't resist the cheesy hash browns. They were GREAT! Big, chunky delights. Why do people not add cheese to hash browns more? You should.
For his part, Alex had the burrito. He enjoyed it and said all the flavours really complemented each other well, although it could've been improved by more chorizo.

I love the crockery at Ben's too - trendy but a little bit kitsch.

To be honest it was one of the best brunches I've had in a long time and I'm already desperate to go back.

Alex and I were guests at Ben's Canteen but my opinion is unbiased and I will totally return and pay myself.
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Thursday, 16 March 2017

On body positivity and chocolate

A few years ago, I started following a load of "fitspo" accounts on Instagram.

You know, they post gym selfies, colourful vegan meals and transformation pics showing how their bodies have gone from flat-stomach to defined-abs.

And you follow them in the hope that they might inspire you to be fitter, healthier, stronger, slimmer and better.

That they might help you lose a few pounds, muster the motivation to go to the gym when you just want to go home, and find the strength to resist the box of biscuits when it's passed round the office.

Lord knows it's bloody hard.
(Re the above: never get between a woman and a chocolate fountain.)

But I've recently realised that these Instagram accounts aren't helping me at all.

Because whenever I see pictures of these tiny women with their thigh-gaps, bikini-bridges and slim, toned bodies, it doesn't inspire me, it makes me feel bad about my own body.

I don't look like them. I have a wobbly tummy and a layer of squidge all over my body. I'm not even sure if I have ribs, collar- or cheekbones because you sure as hell can't see them.

Now I'm sure the women behind these Instagram accounts did not set out to make others feel bad about their looks.

I'm sure they want to inspire us.

But I've realised that's not what's happening to me.

I applaud the influencers lifting the curtain and revealing how you can make your body look completely different based on how you stand.

❌THIS IS NOT A TRANSFORMATION PHOTO❌ I've jumped on the #30secondbeforeandafter 🕐 challenge and have decided after much hesitation to share this photo. In the photo on the left I am tilting my pelvis forward, bloating my stomach as much as possible (btw I've got mad bloating skills), hunching my shoulders and slumping. In the photo on the right, I'm standing tall, I'm flexing my stomach, my spine is in proper alignment. Girls, for me this photo really reaffirmed how important it is to take your progress photos with the same posture, lighting, etc. It's not about how big of a transformation you've had. It's not about how skinny you appear to be or how heavy you were when you started your journey. It's not about how you compare to other girls who are on the same week as you. I'll tell you what it IS about: strength, integrity, fortitude--things we strive for each and every day that we wake up and choose to be honest with others, but first and foremost, honest with ourselves about our insecurities, our hopes, our struggles, our triumphs. At first this picture embarrassed me. I wasn't going to share it and I've hung onto it for days debating. I'm doing it now because it's REAL. So jump on the bandwagon or don't--either way, let's work together to keep this community transparent and goal driven! #transformationtuesday #not #honest
A post shared by Cristina Stief (@cristinastief) on

However more than that, I applaud body-positivity Instagrammers.

I recently decided to replace fitspo with body-posi, and d'you know what? I feel much better about myself.

When I first came across bodyposipanda, all I could think was "YAAAASSSS! My body looks like that! This is what most women look like! And she's BEAUTIFUL!"


I'm pretty sure the majority of women dislike their bodies which is totally sad. But I think the reason for that is we're told we have to be slim and toned, yet also have boobs and a bum and a waist and look womanly AND PRACTICALLY NONE OF US LOOK LIKE THAT!

Our bodies just don't do that.

And stressing out about not being slim takes up so much valuable brain space.

Think about how much more we could achieve if we stopped thinking about our bodies all the time?

I don't look like a Victoria's Secret model or a fitness blogger because I really really like chocolate.

I love it so much.

And this is why I'm thrilled to be teaming up with Ferrero Rocher and giving you guys the chance to win some delectable choccies.

They are hundy P some of my favourite chocolates of them all because I live for the chocolate-hazelnut combo - the crunchy roasted hazelnut pieces, the crisp wafer shell, the smooth chocolate...

Excuse me while I wipe drool off my keyboard.
The texture is so unique and I genuinely don't think there's any occasion that wouldn't be improved by a Ferrero Rocher (or three).

So here's what I want you to do: eat chocolate, enjoy it, and don't let yourself feel guilty afterwards.

It's not easy, it's really hard in fact (the not feeling guilty part - the eating part is exceptionally easy). I get food guilt really badly, but we need to stop being so hard on ourselves.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet and nourishing our bodies is important, but so is loving them.

And I don't know about you but chocolate makes me happy.

So enter below and win yourself some delicious chocolatey goodness!

Firstly, you should head to Ferrero Rocher's Facebook page and enter their March competition to win a dinner party for four cooked in your own home. The prize includes a starter, main course and the Dolce dessert plate, alongside drinks pairings, which sounds pretty sweet to me.

Oh, I've actually had the dessert plate and can confirm it is sweet as a nut. (Runners up get boxes of Ferrero Rocher too!)
You literally just comment on one of their posts to enter so you'd be a fool not to, really. A FOOL!

But that's not all, folks. I've also got a lovely little giveaway for you to enter.

I'm so thrilled to have five of these insanely awesome giant Ferrero Rochers (see pic further up this post) to give out to you lovely people so you can enjoy the chocolatey nutty goodness and feel fabulous and sassy and gorgeous like you are.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
So tell me, chums: how do you make sure to focus on feeling body positive and enjoying delicious things like Ferrero Rocher?
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Sunday, 12 March 2017

Dinner and many many cocktails at Browns, Canary Wharf

'Tis a funny place, Canary Wharf. It's so shiny and corporate and I never have any reason to go there, but on the rare occasions I do, I do always find myself a bit in awe of the big buildings (and feeling like I'm in The Apprentice).

It's not a place I would ever think to go for dinner and yet that's where I was on Friday evening.

After getting rather lost on what should've been a seven-minute walk from the tube station, I made it to Browns by the river.

I'd never seen a Browns before I moved to Bristol for uni and for a long time I thought it was an independent restaurant. Yeah, lol. I was wrong. I believe there are about 25 branches of Browns across the UK so it's not exactly as chainy as Pizza Express, but there are a fair few.

I was looking forward to tasting some delicious things from their new menu.
My old school friend Tash and I kicked things off with cocktails and they were so fab that we drank different ones all the way through dinner. At around £7, the cocktails are really reasonably priced too (for London especially).

The place was packed and the vibe was fun.

We decided to get the sharing plate to start, and the staff kindly agreed to amend it a little for us.
Neither Tash nor I being huge pork fans, we asked if we could skip the pulled pork and pig cheek crostini and have more of everything else - 'chicken lollipops', salt and pepper squid, prawn cocktail, beetroot houmous and crostini.

It wasn't the most exciting sharing plate ever but it was perfectly nice. The bruschetta was crisp but the chicken was a bit oily for me.

On to the mains (and more cocktails)!
 Tash had the lobster risotto with parmesan, chives, courgette and lemon which she loved.
 I decided to have the beetroot and avocado salad with added feta.
Beetroot houmous, quinoa, avocado, asparagus, baby kale and feta - it was genuinely one of the best salads I've had in some time. I loved it.

It was also huge and just seemed like it wasn't going down, as much as I ate!

I absolutely loved that after I ordered my salad, our waitress asked, "Would you like some chips on the side?" Like, she literally read my mind.

That's like the law of having salad, right? You have to have chips as well? (And pudding?)
So yeah Tash and I got the truffle parmesan chunky chips and asparagus with hollandaise on the side.

The chips, were, amazing. So crisp! So fluffy! Could've done with a touch more truffle oil in my opinion and they were better once the cheese was meltier, but they were still fantastic.

And the asparagus was super too, even though I don't believe it's currently in season - not overcooked or stringy.

I did notice that there weren't loads of options for veggies on the menu, so you may want to bear that in mind if you're not a meat- or fish-eater.
For pudding we both decided to have the apple, cherry and almond crumble (and another cocktail).

It was HUGE, but I am always ok with that. It was also v hot, which is good.

Cherry and almond is always a winning combo in my book and I loved the almondy topping - Tash thought there wasn't enough topping in the crumble to fruit ratio, but I was on board with it.

I don't think the cherries were fresh, but I could be wrong - and hey, when they're in a crumble who really cares? The fresh berries on top were a random but nice touch.

All our cocktails had lovely fresh berry garnishes too which I loved. Probs got one of my five a day through sheer alcoholism.

It had been a delicious Friday evening that just happened to be in Canary Wharf.

Tash and I were guests at Browns but all opinions are my own, natch.
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