Monday, 17 November 2014

A raw brunch at NAMA, Notting Hill, and a raw rice pudding recipe.


Healthy, organic, vegan and raw food restaurants have been springing up all over London recently. They’re the trendy eateries of the moment, and I’m hoping this is a trend that will continue to grow.

NAMA is one such restaurant, and having read lots of fab reviews and practically drooled all over their website, I was super keen to visit and try them out on my latest visit to London.

Conveniently, I was staying with ma best gal pal, Georgie, who is also totally into healthy, ethical eating.


Located in the divine Notting Hill, NAMA is perfectly positioned for all the yummy mummies and yoga bunnies who live there.

NAMA was created, in their own words, “to enrich, inspire and nurture”, which sounds pretty fab to me. One of their aims in setting up NAMA was to introduce people to an alternative lifestyle choice, one of nutrition, health and wellbeing. And I’m all for that.

NAMA is a raw food café, which basically means the food hasn't been cooked, treated or processed in any way at temperatures above around 45C. They say:
“Above this temperature the enzymes in the food begin to degrade, losing a great part of their nutritional value. These enzymes play a number of vital roles, including supporting the digestive process, maintaining cell functioning and helping to transport nutrients around the body. Therefore adding a greater percentage of raw foods into your diet can have amazing health benefits. Whether you eat 100 % raw food, high raw with some cooked or just some raw, no matter where you stand, is an excellent way to reach or maintain your optimal health.”
I’ve read a lot about raw food but had always been slightly wary of it to be honest with you – surely raw food basically means carrot sticks all.the.time? But I loved the sound of NAMA’s food philosophy and so was super interested in paying them a visit and finding out how raw food can be delicious.

Over-excitedly strolling through Notting Hill
Georgie and I arrived for a Saturday morning brunch and excitedly sat down (seriously, we’d been excited about this for days.) The interior fits perfectly with the vibe of the café – simple, clean and natural. There was also wonderfully chilled out music playing.


At 10am, we were the first ones there (keen beans), but by the time we left it was packed!


We were brought some cucumber-infused water as soon as we sat down which not only looked really cool but was also tastier than expected. I also generally just love it when water is brought without you having to ask.

First up, Georgie and I ordered a few beverages: I went for a Chai latte and mango lassi smoothie...



Of course, when ordering my latte I was offered a choice of milks: coconut, almond, hazelnut, rice, hemp or bonsoy (nope, I've got no clue what bonsoy is either.) I chose almond and it was delish - didn't really taste any different to a regular latte with normal cow's milk.

My smoothie was also insanely delicious. Super thick and tasty, and the friendly waitress even told me she thinks the others on the menu are all better! Crazy.

Georgie went down the très healthy green route with a green tea and green juice:


She thought her juice was delish. I was less of a fan. But that's probably just because I'm yet to try a green juice and actually like it.

Moving on to the food, it was a tricky decision. The walnut pancakes and buckwheat granola were extremely tempting, but in the end Georgie and I both ordered the porridge:



It's called porridge but is actually made from fresh mature coconut, dates, almond, apple, vanilla and spices, topped with cacao nibs, hemp seeds and blueberries. How's that for a bowl of health?


I liked that it was served with individual milk jugs too.

Of course, unlike classic porridge, it was cold, so in my opinion more like bircher muesli than porridge. Whatever you call it, it was blimmin' delicious. Like, seriously delicious, and really cleverly made - the texture was just like muesli/porridge!


We both absolutely adored it and agreed we'd eat like this all the time if we could. The porridge was filling, flavoursome and made me feel super awesome as it was so full of goodness.

As I looked around the café, it appeared most of our fellow diners were on the porridge too... We must have made a good choice.

Brunch was not over yet though, oh no.

It was pudding time, of course. (Brunch pudding is totally a thing, right?)

NAMA have a selection of puddings, but I think the best offering is the sharing plate of mini ones - who can choose just one pudding!?


Beautifully presented, much!?



Despite being somewhat full, we managed to chomp our way through blueberry and lime cheesecakes, maca energy bars and white chocolate crunchy squares.


They all tasted so indulgent I could barely believe they were all so healthy! The white chocolate squares were my favourites.

Georgie and I left NAMA feeling energised, awesome, happy and full. I was also extremely taken by the lunchtime menu so am pretty desperate to go back and give that a try too. I just wish there were more places like NAMA around!

Realistically, it's the prices of all the ingredients that make eating the NAMA way all the time slightly challenging, but I certainly left feeling inspired to try.


And if you fancy having a go at some raw eating yourself and can't get yourself to NAMA, they've kindly shared one of their recipes with me: Arroz con Leche (Spanish rice pudding).


Arroz con Leche is a creamy rice pudding delicately flavoured with cinnamon. It is one of Spain’s favourites and we have decided to recreate the flavour in this delicious raw recipe. The traditional rice and milk are replaced with coconut, one of our favourite nuts.   
To serve 4, you need: 
1 cup young coconut meat (from 2 coconuts)
3/4 cup coconut water
1/4 cup maple or date syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded dried coconut
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
Put the coconut meat, coconut water, and syrup in a blender and process until very smooth. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the blender jar with a rubber spatula. Transfer the mixture to a small mixing bowl and add the dried coconut and the cinnamon and stir well to mix. Chill in the fridge for at least two hours. To serve, sprinkle some cinnamon powder on top and decorate with half a cinnamon stick. 
Stored in a sealed container in the fridge, the Arroz con Leche will keep for three days.
I certainly think it looks and sounds delicious so am keen to have a go myself - do let me know if you do too!

What do you think of raw food?

NAMA kindly invited me and Georgie to try out their café but the opinions in this blog post are entirely honest and 100% my own. Thanks, NAMA!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Ludicrously skinny, scrummy and simple peanut butter banana pancakes


Oh my god you guys, I have massively won at healthy brunch. 

Actually, not even brunch but just breakfast - these are so good-for-you and low-cal you can totally have lunch as well.


But sweet lord in heaven above, they are ludicrously delicious. 

Like seriously, mind-blowingly tasty


So insanely good that I made them twice in three days. I've been dying to share the recipe with you ever since!

They're super flavoursome, bursting with peanut buttery banana-y goodness, which is then a match made in heaven with the Choc Shot and berries I like to top mine with. 


They've got that classic American fluffy pancake texture going on which is quite frankly a marvel considering they don't contain any flour. That's right: NO FLOUR!

Although, they're slightly squidgier than traditional pancakes, but hey, I for one enjoy the squidge. 


The egg makes them rise, but they don't seem eggy or omeletty at all, neither in taste not texture. 

These pancakes are actually an ideal breakfast because they're super healthy and really filling too. 

What with the egg and peanut butter they're blimmin' bursting with protein to fill you up for the day and beautiful energising banana will give you a fab morning boost. 


What's more, you get a huge portion for one person and they're so low cal - for seven pancakes (which I consider to be one serving), I've calculated it's about 300 calories. Insane, right?

Obviously if you smother your pancake stack in Nutella your calorie count is going to shimmy on up a bit but in the name of all that is delicious, I think that may have to occur. 

I like to go for a drizzle of all-natural, low-cal Choc Shot myself so finish feeling oh-so-virtuous. 

You know what would also be epic though? Chocolate chips in the pancake batter. Go on. I dare ya. 


And oh ma days, are these babies simple. I bet you're expecting me to list a load of weird protein powders and whatnot, aren't you? Well no, siree! All you need is three ingredients. THREE! And they're normal things you probably already have too: 
  • Banana
  • Egg
  • Peanut butter

Oh, and depending on the size of your egg/banana you may need a splash of milk (I used almond milk) but everyone has milk, right?


So to sum up, these pancakes are a little bit wonderful. 

I'll be honest, I'm feeling pretty damn pleased with myself for concocting them. Yup, I'm a smidge smug. So I really really hope you guys love these pancakes as much as I do. 

I just can't get over how amazing they taste and then how healthy they are!

Sorry, I really should calm down. 

This recipe is for one portion (a stack of seven pancakes) but could easily be increased to serve more. 


It's crucial your banana is super duper ripe (like, brown ripe) as this will give your pancakes more flavour and natural sweetness. 

Now I want these pancakes again.


Ingredients

1 super ripe banana
1 egg
1 large tbsp smooth peanut butter 
(A splash of milk if needs be - I used unsweetened almond milk)


Method

1. Mash your banana. 

2. Add the egg and whisk in well. 

3. Whisk in the peanut butter until you have a smoothish batter. Add a splash of milk if you think it needs it. 


4. Either use kitchen roll to wipe a tiny drop of oil round a non-stick frying pan or place a circle of non-stick parchment on the cooler hot-plate of an Aga. Leave to heat up for a few minutes. 

5. Drop large spoonfuls of the batter into the pan and watch them spread and small bubbles appear on the surface. 



Cook for about 1-2 minutes over a medium heat then flip over and cook another minute or so until brown (these go a bit darker than traditional pancakes, fear not.)

6. Stack up on a plate, top with whatever you fancy and prepare to enter healthy heaven...


Do let me know what you think!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Following my dreams with a Smythson Panama notebook.


A girl can never have too many notebooks. Especially not a girl who loves to write as much as I do. 

And whilst I'm often found tapping away on the Notes apps on my iPhone and iPad, nothing beats putting pen to paper. I always have a notebook in my bag, and it's safe to say I get through a fair amount of them. 

I particularly love notebooks for list-making, especially for lists that are going to be a bit more permanent (so probably not your shopping or weekly homework lists.)

A stylish notebook really inspires me to write too. Not only to write, but to dream, to use my imagination, and to think. 

Such has been the case with my latest acquisition, this beauty from Smythson: the Panama notebook.




As one would expect from Smythson, it’s frightfully well-made and oozes quality.

At first I was slightly perplexed by the pale blue shade of the paper, but then I read the story in the back of the notebook – it turns out Smythson notebooks and diaries contain ‘Featherweight’ Paper, copyrighted by Frank Smythson in 1916, who had a vision to create the world’s first practical, lightweight, portable diary.



My notebook is certainly practical, lightweight and portable, so well done, Frank!

Furthermore, Featherweight Paper is half the thickness and weight of normal paper so you can squeeze lots of pages into a slim book. The paper’s also rigorously tested to ensure it can hold ink from a fountain pen. I kinda wish I had a quill to be honest with you.


Featherweight Paper is also pale blue in colour (although I don’t know why.)


Paper aside, the Panama notebooks are bound in crossgrain leather and can even be rolled up or squashed – they improve with age. There’s nothing like the slightly-worn look of a well-loved notebook, is there?

The notebook bindings are handmade with stitched spines and gilt-edged pages, which certainly add a luxurious feel in my opinion.


After the notebook was first launched in 1908, it was affectionately nicknamed ‘the Panama hat of books’ (hence the name) due to its ground-breaking design.

The bright colour certainly fits in with the colour scheme of my life
It's too pretty for random scribbles, and I don't want to get through this notebook quickly so am only going to write down my absolute best musings in it. 

I'm thinking my favourite quotes, inspirational ideas and bucket-lists. It's so beautiful a notebook it deserves only the best notes!


I'm also feeling pressurised to do my best handwriting. God forbid I make a spelling error! *hyperventilates at prospect*

It's the perfect size for keeping in your handbag (lightweight and small but not stupidly so), but even if inspiration strikes and I find myself sans Symthson notebook, I plan to scribble down my brainwave elsewhere and write it up in my notebook of beauty later.


Hopefully, a few years down the line, I'll have a little book full of inspiration, ideas and memories to look back on. 

You know those books of motivational, witty and deep quotes? Well, I plan on turning my beautiful Smythson notebook into something of a personalised one. You never know, maybe it'll be published one day and you'll be able to buy my musings in Waterstones (or download it to your watch/glasses that work as fully-functioning computers.) (It probably won't.)


I personally think writing, taking time to reflect and pausing for a moment to collect your thoughts is super important, and in this fast-paced, technological world in which we live, it's more important than ever. I need to do more of that anyway, and it turns out a pretty notebook can be just the impetus you need. 

Simply taking a few moments to stop and think about your blessings, something you've heard and want to take on board, or a kind gesture you witnessed and want to remember - and noting it down - can be really therapeutic. 


Smythson Panama notebooks have for a long time been popular with distinguished writers, journalists and travellers – the type of people I long to become – so it’s pleasing to read that “over many generations, [Smythson Panama notebooks] have been called a ‘secret social passport’.”

I see my new notebook and can't help but smile. A little reminder to follow your dreams never hurt anyone either.

This is a sponsored post by Smythson - they very kindly offered me my Panama notebook, but I truly love it and the above blog post contains only my honest opinion.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Festive Champagne Afternoon Tea at Lanes of London


Wow, this was really something special.

Afternoon tea = awesome.
Champagne = the one.
Christmas = best thing ever.
Snazzy Mayfair hotel = the dream.

Combine them all together and what do you get? A giant bow-wrapped Christmas present of ultimate joy, that’s what.

Lanes of London is the restaurant of the five-star London Marriot Park Lane Hotel. They must’ve known that their new festive afternoon tea was my idea of heaven as they oh-so-kindly invited me over to be one of the first to try it out. My excitement levels, unsurprisingly, went through the roof.

Lanes of London Front

It also gave me the perfect excuse to spend a day in London and catch up with my darling friend, Ellie, who’s now a very important young London professional.

Lanes of London do Champagne afternoon tea all year round, but for November and December this year, they’ve given the British traditional tea a fully festive makeover. You’ll see how this manifested itself in due course, dear readers.

Just metres from Marble Arch tube station on the très swanky Park Lane (you know – dark blue on Monopoly, people!), Lanes of London is in an awesome location. And the inside of the hotel is seriously snazzy and luxurious too. I’m talking valets in top hats and proper hand towels in the loos, my friends. #livingthedream

Lanes of London as a restaurant itself didn’t have quite the vibe I was expecting – it seemed more like a bar than a traditional afternoon tea setting. The lighting was quite dim, but then again it did get dark outside shortly after we’d arrived (hence my camera’s inability to focus and the less-than-clear nature of my photos.)


One of the many charming members of waiting staff showed us to our table, brought us the menu and settled us in nicely.

Naturally, tea is a very important part of any afternoon tea (duhh), and at Lanes they offer a range of speciality loose leaf teas. Being the classic girl that I am, I went for the Assam, whereas my more adventurous companion chose Jasmine Pearl (which I tried and I have to say it was divine. Next time…)

We also had lovely BIG tea cups, which I loved. Tiny cups are all well and cute, but I prefer ones that contain more than one gulp of tea. As one would expect, they were in sets with pretty saucers too, which always feels nice.


The tea pots themselves were clear which was a new experience for me. I like them though. Rather stylish and kinda cool to be able to see the tea leaves. The most wonderful thing, however, was that the staff refilled our tea pots over and over again during the course of our afternoon tea, without us even having to ask. I was very impressed by that.

As soon as we'd sat down we were also brought tap water, which earned another thumbs up from moi. I did, however, have to ask a few times to have my glass refilled before anything happened though.

More excitingly beverage-wise, was the scrumptious Moet and Chandon Brut Champagne we enjoyed over the afternoon. It was certainly flowing - Ellie and I may have had three glasses each. Just maybe. But aren't they served in pretty glasses too!?


We felt très sophistiquées.




We sipped our Champagne and commenced a loooong afternoon of catching up. 

Before our main stand of treats arrived, we were served eggnog with spiced mince pie foam. Neither of us really knew what to expect here, but BY JOVE, it was delicious!


Frightfully festive tasting too.

And then it was time for the main affair. It's always so special to be served a full afternoon tea on a three-tiered stand, don't you think? One of my favourite British traditions. 




I mean, WOW!

That is a lot of food. Like, a LOT. Luckily we had an equally large amount of time (and quantities of Champagne/tea to wash it all down!).


Naturally, we started off at the bottom and worked our way up. They were very good finger sandwiches - I love the traditional style - and it was extra exciting (yes, exciting) to have a different bread for each type. 

We had: free range egg mayonnaise & cress, cucumber & mint, honey glazed ham & mustard, and smoked salmon & cream cheese. My fave was the ham, Ellie's was the salmon. I know it's a classic but does anyone actually like egg mayo? No-one I know, anyway.


One of the things I love about proper afternoon teas is that you really take your time over everything, enjoying each mouthful, and pausing lots in between. Well, Ellie and I had a lot to talk about!

Next up: scone time!



Golly, I really love scones. It was pleasing that they'd been wrapped in a napkin to help retain some of their warmth, and I thought extremely generous that there were two rather sizeable scones each.



As one would expect, the scones were served with clotted cream and gorgeous strawberry jam - it had lovely chunky strawberry pieces which I adored. If you're going to be reeeeaaaally picky you might lament the fact that there was only one flavour, but not this gal. I'm a strawberry jam fan and was thus as happy as a clam.

Needless to say we were both starting to feel a little full by this point. Obviously, we powered on though. I'm just really selflessly committed to my job as a reviewer, you see. It's a hard life, I know. 

The final tier - the cake tier - was where the Christmas theme came into its own. And it was mightily marvelous.


Doesn't that all just look fabulous? Super cute, too. 

We had: Christmas pudding spiced macaron, chocolate & orange opera cake (hidden in the above picture), a gingerbread house, and a coffee & mascarpone yule log. It was beautifully presented which I do think is really important.

Our first stop was the super cute gingerbread house. It was very nice, but I'll be honest, not the best gingerbread I've had in my life. Very crunchy, whereas I prefer mine a little softer. But, um, reindeer for courses, right? (Please tell me you got that that was an awful attempt to Christmassify the expression "horses for courses"?)


The chocolate orange opera cake, however, was really wonderfully scrummy. It wasn't too stodgy either - thank goodness, considering how much we'd already eaten. Light sponge and mousse layers, all with the lovely Christmassy flavour of chocolate orange.

Then we moved on to the macaron. Oh, this macaron. I'm still dreaming about it.


For starters, it was huge. And pleasingly so, considering how much we loved it. Chewy, creamy, lightly-spiced and finished with a white chocolate snowflake... It was pretty dreamy. Both texture and taste were mind-blowingly good. Seriously.

And last but not least, the yule log. I'm not a coffee girl so didn't have high hopes for this pretty little log, but I was glad to discover the coffee flavour wasn't too strong. It was light and creamy, but even I couldn't manage the very last mouthful.

The combination of Christmassy cheer, Champagne, sweet treats and good friends had left Ellie and I giddy with joy by the end of our afternoon tea. It really had been a true delight though.


We left Lanes of London and turned on to Oxford Street, where, conveniently, the Christmas lights had just been turned on for this year.

It. Was. Magical.



I mean, there's just so much SPARKLE!

There was even fake snow being poofed out from the rooftops. I was loving it.


But alas, Ells and I had to say goodbye and head our separate ways. Megabus was calling, and I couldn't help but laugh at the ridiculousness of my situation: going from Champagne afternoon tea in a five star Mayfair hotel... To Megabus.

Still, I most certainly can't complain (as much as I didn't want to go home and face my uni work.)

I absolutely loved my festive afternoon tea and can't recommend it enough. Sure, at £29 per head (or £23 sans Champagne), it's not going to be an everyday occurrence for most of us. But as a one-off, special, Christmastime treat, I think it's perfect. 

Can I go again?! It was perhaps my ideal afternoon. 

Thanks to Lanes of London for inviting me to enjoy their festive afternoon tea, but as always, this review is my honest opinion.