Sunday, 6 August 2017

Wine and pizza girls' night in to celebrate Friendship Day

Whether you're someone who has a huge circle or a select few, life would be horrid without friends.

Who would you send ugly snapchat selfies with a million chins to? Who would commandeer your phone on a night out to stop you sending messages you'd later regret? And would would get sloshed with you on your birthday but not quite as sloshed as you to make sure they could always look after you?

Obsessed with birthdays as I am, I forced kindly asked my closest pals to put the Saturday night of my September birthday in their diary back in April.

When I started actually organising birthday things a few weeks ago, the girls told me they'd had the whole weekend booked out for my birthday months ago without me even asking. I was so touched. Bit emosh really.

That's the lovely thing about friendship: you'll do anything for the people you care about, especially if you know it's important to them.

Urgh so soppy.

But this was something we celebrated last weekend, which was, in case you didn't know, international friendship day.

With my oldest best friend, flatmate and sister - so arguably friends from all different areas of my life - we settled in for an evening on the sofa.

To be honest, that's quite a rarity for me. As someone who loves going out for food, drinks and dancing - and living in London where there are endless exciting options - I don't often have a night in.

But that's exactly why I enjoy a rare one so much.

I feel like you know you're with top pals when you plan on watching a film and doing face masks but don't ever get round to either because you can't stop chatting.

We ordered a deliveroo and of course, cracked open the wine (which let's be honest always helps keep the conversation and lols flowing).
And considering how long it took for our pizza to arrive - note to self, never order deliveroo at 7pm on a Saturday night - it was most fortunate that we had plenty of wine, courtesy of the kind people at I Heart Wines.

We started with the rosé because summer and girls and basic.
Hand modelling and pouring by the beautiful and expert pourer, Jessie.

It looked quite heavy but was actually light, mediumly (not a word but go with it) fruity and totally delicious.

And then our pizzas arrived, praise the lord.
Guys, Franco Manca is life. It was so bloody worth the wait.

The original sourdough pizza company, which started out right on my doorstep in Brixton, if you've never been to Franco Manca you need to remedy that asap.
The pizza bases are so soft, chewy and doughy but not greasy like, ahem, a certain popular pizza takeaway company.

It's pizza, but tastes high quality.

What's more, it's such good value. A margherita is just £6.40, pals, and who can argue with that?

Having been eating nibbles for about two hours while waiting for our pizzas, we weren't actually that hungry. But did we still finish them? You betcha. Because a) they were that delicious, and b) who gives any f***s about your figure after a bottle of wine? Quite.

We cracked open the Sauvignon Blanc next which I knew I was going to love because it's my fave wine.

It was crisp and oh so drinkable. (Apologies but by this point I was past taking pictures. You've all seen white wine before.)

And because no meal is complete unless it ends on something sweet™, we proceeded to demolish a bar of chocolate between three of us.

And I mean a giant, sharing bar. After pizza.

If you're judging us for this, you've clearly never tried Dairy Milk peanut caramel crisp.

Yeah, you try not eating it all. It is so damn good.

We had originally entertained the idea of going out out after our dinner and draaaanks. But you will perhaps be unsurprised to hear that in our very full, tiddly states, we ended up getting no further than our beds. In my case, face-planting and starfishing (man I love being single).

In bed by midnight on a Saturday? A revelation. I think it could catch on.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Percy Pig's Official 25th Birthday Party

I never buy sweets. I eat them when they're offered to me, sure. But I prefer chocolate on the whole so don't tend to buy sweets for myself.

Well, there is one exception to the rule. And that is Percy Pigs.

The pig is a legend. Due to some clever marketing on the part of M&S and the sheer deliciousness of the sweets, Percy Pigs have become iconic.

All Brits know Percy. And I've never met anyone who can resist him. The seductive little fella.

My siblings and I loved him when we were little, my colleagues and I love him now. My friends have always loved him.

Imagine my excitement then, when I learned Percy was this year turning 25, just two months before I was set to hit the milestone myself.

And that excitement went up another notch when I received an invitation to Percy's birthday party. His official 25th birthday party! What an honour.

Let me tell you, it was a lot fancier a soirée than my birthday party will be (not through lack of my trying - there's only so much you can do with a tiny London flat and a journalist's salary.)

Along with a select group of lucky journalists and bloggers, I entered on a hot pink carpet and was greeted with a choice of a Percy on the Beach or some rosé sparkling wine.
How could I choose? Obvs I had both.

Here's the recipe for the Percy on the Beach, should you want to taste the deliciousness yourself:

The room was insanely beautiful. It was so pink and essentially what my dreams consist of.
The most gorgeous bunches of pink roses and peonies atop every surface (my dream flower combo), cute retro glass jars of every different type of Percy for us to pick n mix, and huge pink pom-poms adorning the room.
And of course, I was most excited to meet the guest of honour.
Although you might think I wore pink trousers especially for the occasion, the fact of the matter is that on any given day there is a 90% chance I will be wearing pink. Safe to say I felt very at home.

We mingled, sipped drinks, scoffed canapés and discussed our favourite Percies - mine, should you care to know, are veggie Percies (I prefer the texture, they're more squidgy).

And then it was time to sit down for dinner.
The chefs said they'd tried to put the essence of Percy every course, and each dish was inspired by a different top chef too.

The starter was plated up in a retro way - it was wild seabass with citrus nage and turned courgettes, inspired by Marco Pierre White.
The mandarin definitely conjured up Percy vibes and it went down a treat with the lovely sauvignon we drank.
The main was amazing: Heston inspired ricotta tortellini with summer vegetables, greenhouse pesto, potato and a confit garlic foam.
It was accompanied by orange wine too which I loved.

Pudding was, as you might imagine, sensational.
Citrus compressed grapes with yogurt sorbet, meringue and rosemary oil, inspired by René Redzepi. It was very sweet and did taste like Percy, but it was herby at the same time which was unexpected.

Oh, and the Asti we drank alongside the pudding was so delicious. I'd forgotten how much I love Asti. I'm so basic. But who says bubbles are just for the start of the night? Asti with pudding is going to be my new thing.

And just because we hadn't had quite enough sugar, we finished the meal with mandarin sherbet dib-dab...
And blackcurrant and Parmesan marshmallows.
Yes, really. Not going to lie, it was a bit weird and confusing. But hey, you win some, you lose some.

It had been a wonderful evening and I feel very privileged to be able to celebrate Percy hitting the big 2-5.
Here's to Colin the Caterpillar's 21st next year!

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Baths, bars and breathtaking beauty in Budapest for the weekend

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of spending the weekend in Budapest. 

On a flight that was at least half hen-dos - Friday flights from Gatwick at this time of the year are always hen and stag central RIP me - we whizzed on over to Hungary, and it was my first visit to the country so I was mad excited.

Over the course of the weekend, we explored as much as we could, and guys, Budapest is beaut.
We tried to eat as much local cuisine as poss too - feast your eyes on this chicken paprikash, which was entirely delumptious.
Most people know Budapest is famous for its natural baths, but rather than go to the arguably prettier but more touristy central ones, my pals and I decided to venture out to Margaret Island - this gorgeously green island in the middle of the river - and try out the baths there.
The water was the most delightful warm temperature, but not so hot that it didn't cool you down which was great because BOY OH BOY was it a toasty weekend.
Oh, and in Budapest you can get wine spritzers in plastic bottles and we were all over that.

If you didn't know, Budapest is actually split into Buda and Pest, which are separated by the river.
Amongst all the historic buildings, there are a lot of ruins and run-down areas, but Budapest seems to make it work somehow.

You probably know about the ruin bars as they're pretty famous - we tried going to the best-known one but when we rocked up at about midnight there was a queue down the street that seemed to be made up of solely Brits, so we decided to skip it and find somewhere we thought a touch more authentic round the corner, if less famous.

Fun nightlife, has Budapest.
A post shared by Rachel Hosie (@rachel_hosie) on
And we were lucky with the weather in the daytime too.
I found that the different areas of the city had completely different feels.

The spot below, by the opera house on a beautiful big, wide, tree-lined street full of designer shops, reminded me of Paris.
And then across the river in Buda, we found this beautiful area that felt more like Prague with a touch of Bavaria.
I suppose I haven't really told you the main reason I was in Budapest in the first place, and it was both random and awesome.

The Red Bull Air Race was taking place in the city over the weekend, and I was there to interview Ben Murphy, former Red Arrows leader and current aerobatic pilot.

The race is insane and amazing - in the tiniest of planes, the pilots zoom down the river, slaloming through bollards and looping all over the shop.

Most excitingly for me, I got to fly with Ben - a proper G-flight with loop-the-loops and flying upside-down and everything!
You can see a little taster of what it was like in the video below...

Man, I bloody loved it. It reminded me that I am at heart a bit of an adrenaline junkie, and I've decided I need to make the things I've always wanted to do happen. Like sky-diving. The question is... where?

Monday, 26 June 2017

Sugar-free afternoon tea at Harvey Nichols

I know what you're thinking: sugar-free afternoon tea?

Afternoon tea, that most sweet of treats? Sans sugar?

Well, yes. Sans refined sugar, anyway.

Created by Sarah Wilson of I Quit Sugar, the sugar-free afternoon tea has just launched at Harvey Nicks. And I went along to try it out.

Sugar is public enemy number one these days, and whilst I doubt I'll ever totally quit it (because hello, sugar makes things delicious), I am trying to cut down a wee bit.

And whilst naturally sweet things - you know, fruit and honey and maple syrup and whatnot - are supposedly better than refined sugar, the general consensus seems to be that they're not saintly enough to give you a free pass to scoff loads.

Still, you can make a lot of delicious things without refined sugar, so I was most looking forward to trying out the tea. It had also been far too long since I'd had afternoon tea too.

The lovely Jenny and I made our way up to the fifth floor of Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge and sat ourself down in the restaurant, tummies rumbling.
There was a little wait for our food to arrive, but fortunately we had pots of tea and champagne in the meantime so all was well in the world really.
Champagne isn't technically part of the sugar-free tea, but let's be real here: what is afternoon tea without it? (OK yes, also good. But not as good.)

I chose pink champagne because I was wearing pink which says a lot about how I make decisions in my life.

And then came out the masterpiece.
Obviously we worked from the bottom up, we're not savages.
So, the savouries: Carrot tahini burgers, which we loved; paleo veggie bread with cream cheese and cucumber - I liked the ribbon, it was a nice twist on a classic; sardine boats (no comment as je ne mange pas fish); spring vegetable pie - warm and delicious; pork and fennel sausage roll, a definite winner; and beef sandwiches, with tasty coleslaw.

It was a LOT of food, but it was great. Very creative and nice to feel a bit healthier than the standard finger sandwiches.

Whilst the sugar-free angle was pretty irrelevant with the savouries, the next level up was where it got interesting.
The strawberry scones were good. They were served with raspberry chia seed jam which was pretty tart - noticeably less sweet than real jam - and a touch lemony for my taste. There was also no cream which was a shame.

Next up was carrot cake with cinnamon frosting. They looked super cute and the flavours were great, but the texture of the cake was not good, I have to say. It was so dry and crumbly it was practically powdery, I'm not sure why. The cream cheese frosting was divine though.

On to the top tier.
The lemon posset topped with a chia seed crumble was lovely - very creamy and a particular hit with Jen. It wasn't noticeably less sweet than a regular one either.

I absolutely loved the cheesecake - it was classic vanilla with a coconut base and utterly delicious. Very sweet too.

The chocolate cherry tart was a bit meh. The base was a bit dry and bitter and the cream was fine but not super exciting. The cherries were delicious and juicy though, which was lovely. And to be fair, we were pretty gosh darn full by this point so the tart may have gone down more favourably before we'd filled our faces.

That said, we saved the best till last by finishing on the chocolate ganache tart. Rich, smooth chocolate with a hint of cardamom on a nutty base with a sprinkle of sea salt - I was so full but it was so good I ate the whole thing.

So all in all it was a slightly mixed afternoon tea, with some real winners and some not so much. To be honest though, I love the concept of a lighter, sugar-free afternoon tea. And if you are watching your sugar intake, it's a rather nice treat.

Jenny and I were guests at Harvey Nichols but all opinions are honest.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

A vegetarian dinner with a view at OXO Tower Restaurant

Oh, London. You beautiful, exciting, welcoming, fearless, fun, brilliant, nutty and wonderful city.

I have loved London ever since I first visited as a young girl, and I am so proud to call the capital my home. The longer I live here, the more I love it.

And I recently had one of those evenings where the sheer beauty of the city blew me away once more.
If you look closely at the above photo, you'll see where I was fortunate enough to spend an evening: the OXO Tower Restaurant on the South Bank.
See it?

Up on the eighth floor you'll find the restaurant, and if it's a warm enough evening, you should sit outside and admire the insanely beautiful view.
Meet my date for the night, the lovely Ciara.

It was a balmy early summer's evening and the setting couldn't have been more perfect. Being Friday night, it was definitely time for cocktails (lol as if I need the excuse of Friday).
Don't they look pretty!? Mine was the Due South - vodka, elderflower liqueur with lemon, raspberry ripple and champagne. Divine.
I know it's very remiss of me but I'm afraid I can't remember the name of Ciara's cocktail. I can remember, however, that it was super delicious. We both enjoyed each other's drinks as much as our own that we had to have the other one later on.

The reason I was there was to sample the restaurant's new vegetarian menu. Whilst not strictly veggie, I do eat vegetarian about 80% of the time. I'm not actively trying to, I'm just not that fussed about meat. I love veggie food! So I was excited.

After a spot of bread each - oh my days, the rosemary potato bread was BEYOND - we tucked into our starters.
I went for the smoked burrata with grilled apricots and fresh almonds. Sweet Lord, it was tasty. The burrata was smokey and creamy and the apricots were perfectly grilled. It was a delicious summery plate.
Ciara had the sweet potato pancake with Cornish Brie, courgette flower and kumquat marmalade. To be honest it wasn't really a pancake but rather a disc of sweet potato, but to quote Ciara, it was: "So delicious I forgot what the ingredients were. A plate of deliciousness."

So there you have it.
With a glass of light white wine and the view to admire, it was heaven.

For my main, I chose the cheese crumble.
According to the menu, it was: "Walnut, tofu and Spenwood cheese crumble, pickled red cabbage, radish and spring onion salad." Now those are all foods I like.

Most peculiarly, however, the crumble turned out to be seemingly 80% mushroom. And I don't like mushrooms. Why did they not mention mushroom on the menu? I don't know. It was disappointing.

Speaking of mushrooms, Ciara went for the mushroom lasagne.
It was a huge portion, and even as a big meat-eater, Ciara loved it. It wasn't too saucy and the mushrooms were nicely sautéed.

Fortunately for me, we'd ordered a couple of sides.
Tenderstem broccoli with flaked almonds and delicious skin-on chips. Perfection.

As we ate, the sun starting making its way to bed and the view just kept getting better and better.
And the staff came round with blankets too to save us from getting chilly. Top-notch service.

Even though we were quite full, both Ciara and I definitely wanted pudding.
Behold, the OXO chocolate plate. It was pretty dreamy: a milk chocolate tart, white chocolate semifreddo, orange chocolate mousse and sour cherry chocolate fondant. It was, quite simply, excellent.

I would know because even though it was meant to be Ciara's pudding I definitely ate at least half.

I also ate my own pudding:
Rhubarb, custard and gin sorbet. It wasn't quite what I was expecting - the custard element was like a panna cotta in texture - but sweet baby Jesus it was heavenly. The slightly sharp rhubarb with the sweet vanilla custard was perfection.

We watched London light up and sat talking till late.
It had been one of the best dining experiences I'd had in a while, despite mushroom-gate.

Ciara and I were guests at the OXO Tower Restaurant but all opinions are our own.
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