11 June 2017

25th Birthday Food

It wouldn't be right to celebrate my 25th birthday without an abundance of fantastic food. So, naturally, when 24th May came around, I ate my way around Bristol. I should probably mention now that actually, birthday celebrations begin at least one week before, and can last up to one week after, the day itself. Because why the heck not?

Souk Kitchen - Clifton

First up was Souk Kitchen. I invited my closest, bestest friends to eat my favourite meal (brunch) at one of my favourite restaurants, Souk Kitchen. I should definitely eat here more often; it's like Comptoir Libanais but 10000x better (not a chain) but for some reason I forget about it. I won't from now on, though, that's for sure.

I stuffed my face with the garlic and coriander field mushrooms on sourdough, wilted spinach, fried duck egg, pumpkin seed dukkah, tarragon and preserved lemon butter. It was pretty much the best thing I've ever eaten.

Lido – Clifton

On my birthday I booked the morning off work. The weather was beautiful; I really couldn't have asked for anything more than a slow start at home followed by breakfast at the Lido. Here I enjoyed a Portuguese tart to start (yes, starters are for breakfast, too), followed by smoked salmon and cream cheese on sourdough and a black coffee. I watched regular swimmers retreat to the bar after their morning dip for eggs and coffee, and I daydreamed about the day when I too would do the same. 

Cupp – Central

Best thing to drink on a hot (birth)day? Cupp bubble tea, obvs. I always have the peach iced green tea with passionfruit bubbles and it never disappoints. I sat in the park and soaked up the last hour of my morning before heading to work for cake and presents.

Chomp – St Nick's

This is the year of steak discovery. I've toyed with the idea of veganism but after visiting Chomp it's safe to say it's just never going to happen. I'm making my way around the cuts – fillet has been my favourite so far, but the flat iron at Chomp was delectable. Cooked medium rare and served with fries and peppercorn sauce, this was an outstanding birthday meal. Would recommend.

Swoon – Park St

The best ice cream in all the land! Even my Italian housemates say so. I love Swoon's unique flavours – chocolate sorbet is a firm favourite – but on my birthday I had an extra large helping of their peach variety. Soooo good, even when you think you can't eat another bite after dinner.

Brozen – St Nick's

More ice cream, because it's my bday! I'm a sucker for a good gimmick, and my first experience with liquid nitrogen ice cream was great – check out my review of Cardiff's Science Cream. I was SO excited, then, when I found out about Brozen in St Nick's market. A very friendly man made me a chocolate orange baby right in front of my eyes; from the little milk bottle in the fridge to the kitchen aid with a few magical puffs of liquid nitrogen, ice cream was presented in a cone to me, and it was delicious.

Anna – Clifton

If you follow me on Instagram you'll already know how much I harp on about Anna, but it's justified. Anna is such a treasure and even more so when there's something to celebrate. From left to right – passionfruit & coconut, red velvet cheesecake, chocolate, orange & carrot and another passionfruit & coconut because that's the best best best one.

Bar Buvette – St Nick's

Cheese board, charcuterie, asparagus and a grilled cheese sandwich in a peaceful French restaurant on a Saturday afternoon. It was so quiet, but I preferred it that way. Everything was excellent; the waiter with his tiny glasses and striped top, the presentation and taste of the food. I can't say any more – just go and see for yourself.

In between all of the above I ate Rococo rose and violet creams, pink cupcakes and chocolate and violet birthday cake. Decadent? Yes, but you only turn 25 once.


5 April 2017

Crumbs & Doilies – Cupcake Extraordinaire

Cupcakes are still a thing, apparently. What was once deemed a noughties phase is here to stay, and who am I to complain? Miniature – and miniature miniature – cakes topped with perfectly piped buttercream are still as appealing as they were in 2003, and when flavours extend beyond vanilla and chocolate I am so there.

Outside of my kitchen (and a few friends') there isn't a single cupcake worth eating in Bristol, but wander a little further – London, to be exact – and there are delectable offerings on every street corner. 

Crumbs & Doilies has cracked the cupcake industry. I found them on Instagram, of course, where anything sparkly, bright and uniform goes. C&D's Insta following stands at 197,000 at the time of writing, and it's not hard to see why.

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With shades of unicorn and cute childhood favourites like bourbon biscuit and my personal fave, maple and bacon, the guys at C&D know how to grab your attention. But, more importantly, they know how to keep hold of it. Their variations are constantly changing, and it's a treat for the tastebuds (and eyeballs) of anyone taking a trip to their bakery in central London. Get your iPhone ready for a series of snaps worthy of the most beautiful Insta feeds – you're gonna get a lot of likes on this one.

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And who doesn't want to see rows of identical peaks of pastel rainbow puffs? It's magical, it's edible and it's 100% accessible. But the question I'm asking is why only in London? It can't just be the capital, and its tourists, that want cupcakes. We've got Millie's Cookies, Ben's Cookies, Krispy Kreme and so many others dotted around the rest of the UK, so where are all the good cupcake shops at?

Maybe it's just me, and I'm being totally ignorant (likely), but I can't be travelling all the way to London every time I want a perfectly formed red velvet cupcake, can I? If there are some in Bristol that I have just totally overlooked, where are they? Show me your beautiful sponges! Or, dear Instagram, sort your algorithm out, yeah?

5 March 2017

Italian Brunch at Rosemarino – Bristol

Nothing beats a brunch-fuelled morning in Bristol. After a busy week I love waking up on Saturdays and spending my morning catching up with friends, indulging in something yummy for breakfast and sipping my coffee a little slower than usual.

Hidden among the idyllic Clifton houses is a little Italian restaurant called Rosemarino. It's unpretentious, homely and contemporary, and it's the perfect place to begin a slow, happy Saturday.

Jess was visiting a couple of weekends ago and we had a lot to catch up on. It was so nice to see her – the last time was when we were in New York! – exchange stories and reflect on the changes in our lives over the past year. Food and friends = perfect Saturday. 

Eggs benedict is a firm favourite of mine, but I often avoid it as most places serve it with ham and I prefer bacon. Rosemarino's take on this classic dish, however, involved speck, which is utterly delicious, so I had to have it.

Jess had the mushrooms on focaccia – would you just look at that sauce? Even if you hate mushrooms, let's just pretend for a minute that you don't because DAMN.

Rosemarino has the answer to all life's problems, I'm sure of it. Or maybe that's just how I feel after eating their food. Either way, I love the place. The staff are friendly, the atmosphere is relaxed and the food delicious and affordable. It's also pretty photogenic. What more could a girl ask for?


14 February 2017

A Five-Year-Old's Valentine's Day

Flowers, chocolates, Krispy Kremes and a cheesy card… it’s 100% my thing. Even when I’m single, even when I don’t feel anything for anyone in particular, I love Valentine’s Day. I’ll tell you why.

My story begins on the 14th February 1998. It was a Saturday and I was in my parents’ bedroom when a card was delivered – a card for me! It was from my neighbour and school friend. I was besotted with him and even though he didn’t sign his name I knew it was from him. He had sellotaped a red-foiled chocolate heart to the inside of the card.

“It’s from him. It’s definitely from him,” I said.
“How do you know?” my mum said.
“Because he gave our teacher the same chocolate heart yesterday!”

I had observed that, and even been slightly jealous of our teacher. Now I was beaming.

He had signed it with a big question mark. Guess who?

Then, my sister, Emily, took me to the shop to buy a card and bag of white mice. I hid behind a nearby wall while she posted it through his letterbox, we ran home and it was never spoken of again.

All Valentine’s days since that one in 1998 have been like Christmas. I get an exciting, unexpected, magical feeling of the unknown.

What is the point in Valentine’s Day? Growing up I believed it to be a chance to tell the person you like that you like them without revealing your identity. That was the most exciting part of my first Valentine – the gamble of sending my reply to the right person. Wouldn’t you be thrilled to receive an anonymous love note through your letterbox today?

There are more upfront ways of telling someone you like them, but where’s the fun in that? Even after 36 years of marriage my left-handed dad writes his card to my mum with his right hand, and leaves it by the front door as if delivered by a secret admirer.

There are many other Valentine’s days I could recall, but this was the best, and the precedent for all the rest. I sound like a total dreamer, but it makes me glad I’ll never be someone who doesn’t believe in Valentine’s Day. Aren’t there worse things to be cynical about?


31 January 2017

The Ox - Clifton, Bristol

Listen up guys and gals – I have some serious news to share. Ok, not serious serious, but seriously good. I have legit just had the best steak of my life. So great it was, that instead of lying down on my sofa with my yuyu and fluffy blanket to soothe the food baby that's growing inside of me, I'm writing this, hot off the press. I am having utterly ridiculous, out-of-this-world, best-steak-ever kind of feels right now. I don't think I'll enjoy any other food ever again.

You might have heard of The Ox if you're from my neck of the woods. If not, it's basically a top notch steak restaurant that opened in Clifton late 2015 (correct me if I'm wrong!) They also serve the "best Sunday roast in Clifton" so, naturally, it's been on my list of places to eat since it opened. A severe case of January blues forced me to get my bum into gear and down to the Clifton restaurant, and, I have to say, it cured my sadness. So, I guess you could say I'll never go vegan.

From start to finish I could not fault my visit to The Ox. The staff were exceptionally welcoming, friendly, professionally trained and knowledgeable about the menu. They recommended what wine to have with which steak, and how best each steak is cooked and served. And, as you can see, the decor was divine, so that made my time there even more enjoyable.

Like every time I visit a restaurant for the first time, I spent most of the day eyeing up the menu. In the end I always go back to what catches my eye first, and this time it was the fillet steak.
Our waitress recommended this to be cooked medium-rare, and it was utter perfection. I had it with their green peppercorn sauce which was incredible, but even on its own the steak was unreal.

I got coerced into ordering dessert, too. I chose the PX rum & raisin affogato, expecting it to come with a shot of espresso (as standard, right?) but it was just the sherry. This turned out to be extraordinarily delicious. Dispersed in the ice cream were these huge raisins, and, with each spoonful, came the warming aftertaste of the sherry. YUM.

Before my visit to The Ox I hadn't been much of a steak person, but now I totally get it. Good quality, responsibly-sourced meat served to this standard is something I wholeheartedly believe in. I felt full and happy – and isn't that exactly how you should at the end of a meal? 

A little on the pricier side, The Ox is a special treat kind of restaurant - for me, anyway! Still, I can't wait to go back again and try some of their other dishes (maybe on my birthday?). Have you been to The Ox? What would you recommend?


16 January 2017

12 Books for 2017

How are your new year's resolutions going? I have to admit, mine have largely been ignored for the first two weeks of 2017. January always hits me hard, it seems more so each year, but I'm slowly coming out of the fog and reigniting my determination to make some positive changes in my life.

One of my resolutions for 2017 (and for 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013...) is to read more. I feel like I have been making this resolution my whole life, but that's fine – I can never read enough. Twelve books for the year may not sound like much, but when you work a full time job and fit in a social life too (not optional) there isn't much time left for reading.

My bedroom is small, and I've got stacks of books waiting for me. Having recently watched a documentary on minimalism (check it out on Netflix, and thanks to Tania for recommending!) I feel like now is the time to get some things in order. I want to love these books. They will be read.


We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler
I began reading this in December but didn't get to the end, even over the Christmas period when I had heaps of free time. This book is not what I was expecting but I love the style of writing and its slow pace.


Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig
Another half-read book from 2016, Reasons to Stay Alive is one that resonates with so many, I must finish it. Matt Haig writes in such a way that makes me feel like my depression/anxiety is the most normal thing in the world. It's a great eye-opener for anyone who has or hasn't been affected by mental illness.


A History of Britain in 21 Women – Jenni Murray
I spotted this at the Cheltenham Literature Festival back in October, and made a note to order it for my best friend, Bethan's, Christmas present. It turns out my mum had the same idea for me and I was so excited to find this in my stocking on Christmas Day.


Swing Time – Zadie Smith 
Another Christmas gift (if you're ever gonna buy me a present, a book is always a winner), this time from my best uni pal Chloe. We both adore Zadie Smith, and it's been a good few years since I read anything of hers so I cannot wait to get stuck into Swing Time.


A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers
Ahh, Eggers, my old friend. It's been a while. Four years, in fact. I'm a huge fan of Eggers' work, so to think I've had this book on my shelf since my uni days and not finished it is abominable. I will read this work of fiction/non-fiction (who really knows) from start to finish in May – my birthday month!


Yes Please – Amy Poehler 
I still don't really know who Amy Poehler is, or what she stands for, but I have seen numerous recommendation for Yes Please pop up all over the internet, and I found this book in Rise for £3(!) so obviously I bought it. I feel like this will probably be quite an easy, holiday read – perfect for June.


NW – Zadie Smith
When I saw this had been made into a TV adaptation I knew I had to read NW (anyone else feel like they have to do it in that order?) 


Quiet Power – Susan Cain
Fellow introverts, take note. If you're a long-time reader of my blog you'll know I am a huge fan of Susan Cain and her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. It's not just for us quiet ones, either, but a breath of fresh air in this overcrowded world, and I have high hopes for her follow-up, Quiet Power.


Thank God it's Monday – Mark Greene
Our viewpoint on work is quite narrow. You're either expected love your job or you hate it, and that's the end of it. Mark Greene explores faith in the workplace in a series of books I have been meaning to read for a good three years (are you beginning to see a pattern here?) and at a time in my life when I'm beginning to wonder exactly what direction I want to take my career in, Thank God it's Monday seems like a good place to start.

October, November & December

The Lord of the Rings trilogy – J R R Tolkien 
A 23rd birthday gift from an old flame, and such a beautiful edition, too, I am saving this trilogy for my favourite time of year. As the days get shorter I'll be more inclined to spend evenings at home, and when it's dark I need escapism – something I am sure LOTR will provide.

As much as being around people is good for my mental wellbeing, so is switching off and fully falling into a book. The effect a good book can have on me is so wonderfully relaxing I don't know why I don't force myself to do it more. I'm all about that instant gratification and it can be so hard to ignore the buzz we get from interactive technology, of always being connected to something. I'm afraid to be alone, but maybe this year I should learn to love what's good for me.

What are your books for 2017? Have you read any of the above titles? My aim is to read all 12 of these before the year is out but if you have any recommendations for extra reading please send them my way!
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