Saturday, 30 August 2014

Eastway Brunch, Andaz Liverpool Street

Catching up with friends and family over brunch and one too many Bloody Marys is always a weekend highlight. London's restaurant scene is constantly changing, so I try to explore as many new places as I can during my weekends. So when Andaz Liverpool Street's new Eastway brunch debuted, I hopped on my Brompton bike and cycled east to mingle with East London's hipsters and try out the latest brunch in town.
Eastway is an East End brasserie inside the Andaz Liverpool Street hotel, which is a stone's throw from Liverpool Street station. I've told you before about this fab hotel during a previous weekend visit to East London. When I first walked in to the new Eastway brunch I couldn't help but gravitate towards the most glorious Bloody Mary Bar I have ever seen. Behold!
Buffet style brunches are not usually my top pick, but this was not the case at the Bloody Hell It's DIY Bloody Mary Bar! Imagine numerous types of infused vodkas to choose from along with an entire counter of locally sourced accompaniments, spices, extras and a resident vodka expert, Christos Lagkadinos, to help you make the perfect afternoon tipple. Pure Bloody Mary Bliss!
Chris really knows how to create a sensational Bloody Mary like you've never tasted before. I would typically steer clear of Jack Daniels BBQ sauce, bacon, rosemary and onions in my Bloody Mary, but as I soon learned, if your drink is being concocted by Chris, then you are in very good hands. As the sign on the counter suggested, this Bloody Mary truly did spice up my life!
With a showstopper Bloody Mary in hand to kick start brunch, we read through the newspaper styled Eastway brunch menu trying to decipher what to try from the tantalising selection. The menu cleverly offers something for everyone from traditional breakfast classics to more innovative dishes.
We sampled one of Eastway's signature brunch dishes, the Love it Or 'Ate It' Chicken (£15), a Marmite glazed confit chicken leg with tomatoes and a side of spiced rosemary and bacon waffles. I'm not usually wild for Marmite, but this I had to try.
Wing and waffles - it's what's for breakfast!
You can't come to this area of London and not try Eggs on Brick Lane (£12), a finger licking combination of mild curried potatoes on a dosa pancake with poached eggs and smoked tomato chutney. This delicious dish cleverly pays tribute to the popular Brick Lane curry houses. I never realised how well Indian spices compliment eggs before. 
Last but not least, we also tried Eggs Sanchez (£12), which consists of two perfectly poached eggs with chorizo, rocket and guacamole served on top an English muffin with hollandaise sauce. In case you haven't tried this combo before, guacamole and hollandaise sauce paired together is to die for - I'm embarrassed to admit this plate was spotless minutes later!
As we sipped our post brunch coffee and discussed the longer cycle route home we would need after such a caloric brunch, ta da, the most gorgeously presented selection of Petits Fours (£5) arrived. They were almost too pretty to eat... almost!
I have no idea how the chef managed to create the miniature iced banoffee pie with banana fritters, but it is like no other pudding I have ever tasted. Further reason to come back again for more! You don't have to bike home afterwards, but after such a fabulous brunch we barely noticed the miles drifting home on cloud nine.
For a crowd pleasing brunch that won't disappoint, I couldn't recommend Eastway more highly. The food is delicious, the Bloody Mary bar is off the charts, the staff are delightful and the prices are competitive for London. I will definitely be back for more.
The new Eastway brunch is available Saturday and Sunday from 10AM - 4pm. Go on then, let Eastway's new brunch spice up your life, East's Way!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Insta-Dogs: The Popular Pooches of Instagram

Over the past few months I have progressively become more and more addicted to Instagram. I love having visual updates from my friends all around the world with a click of an app and unashamedly being able to see personal pictures of famous celebrities (and more!). I never envisioned myself obsessing over dogs, but before I knew it I was regularly 'checking in on' several doggy accounts on Instagram that had me oohing, ahhing, and cracking up. Turns out Insta (as I like to call it), is also a massive cyber community of adorable dogs striking ridiculous poses with hilarious captions. Who let the dogs out on Instagram?!
I'm not sure what the owners of these dogs do for a living, but they must have professional cameras, a lot of time on their hands, patience and humour. Insta's top doggy accounts have 1,000's of followers and most of them take the time to reply to the endless comments each picture generates. Sounds like a full time job to me! If you're new to Instagram or Insta's prime pooches, then simply follow these accounts to have entertaining four legged pal pictures at your finger tips on a daily basis:

Piggy and Polly are two beyond adorable white French bulldogs that are soo cute, they almost look fake! 
The two frenchies are most frequently snapped snuggling amongst crisp white bedsheets or modelling various collars, hoodies, leashes, sunglasses and bow ties. They're basically the French Bulldog equivalent of Kate Moss really...
If I was Piggy and Polly's owner, I would probably spoil them rotten and take them everywhere with me too! How could you ever say no to these faces?
When they aren't busy catching up on beauty sleep, Piggy and Polly accompany their owners on errands and coffee runs (in Goop-esque picture perfect cafés) while continuing to loyally look ridiculously loveable in their pictures. I call dibs on a pup in their first litter!

As a self confessed passionate pug lover and owner, I couldn't believe my eyes when I first stumbled on the Pugs of Instagram account, which acts as an online resource to showcase pictures of pugs around the world on Insta. Whoever is behind this account, I salute you!
Pugs of Instagram has over 490,850 followers, who like me, regularly check for the latest loveable puggy snaps of the day. If you're looking for some new pug pals to follow on Insta, then you have come to the right place!

One of the first pugs I started following thanks to Pugs of Instagram was the adorable Biscuit the pug, all the way from Sydney, Australia. 
He has a great sense of humour, is undeniably adorable, and I feel like I've virtually watched him slowly grow up from a young pup thanks to Instagram (yes, I know I sound like a total stalker!). Fellow Londoners, if you cannot have a dog, this could be the next best virtual solution!
Follow Biscuit and his friends at the dog park as his mum Daisy tries to keep him out of trouble. He's even currently running an online Insta campaign to help safely return his missing pug pal Molly back to her home. 

Thanks Biscuit for allowing us to share a glimpse into your pug life Down Under. Looks pretty sweet to me! 

Every time I login to Instagram I can't help but check Digby Van Winkle's latest picture for a laugh. Digby and Alo, two Griffons from Wellington, New Zealand are hands down two of the most funny and photogenic dogs to hit the cyber world.
These charmers must have a very large dress up box, as they seem to constantly be wearing different outfits and accessories in their pictures- much to my delight! I don't know how their owner (who also sells really cute doggie bling on Etsy) gets them to pose like this, but whatever their secret is, it's working. Keep up the good work Digby and Alo!

Have you ever heard of a Chiweenie dog before? I hadn't either, until I stumbled upon the Instagram page of Tuna, a Chihuahua and Dachshund mix. 
Once a rescue dog at a farmers market in Los Angeles, Tuna is now an internet sensation with over 912,000 Insta followers and his own clothing line, with a portion of the proceeds going to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Whoever said an overbite and a crumpled chin wasn't adorable didn't know what they were talking about!
Though some might perceive him as being an underdog, Tuna's unconventional cuteness has resulted in an out-pour of cyber love and affection from his fans around the world. As his Insta name suggests, Tuna really is melting hearts! See more about Tuna here.

Another doggy Instagram phenomenon I can't get enough of is Harlow and Sage (and Indiana), two inseparable little and large four legged companions who have the time of their lives being best friends. Harlow the Weimaraner's former best friend Sage sadly died of old age last year, so along came Indiana the Dachshund  = a match made in heaven.
I love watching what Harlow and Indiana do best together on Insta: bringing to life in pictures and videos that it really is a dog's life. 
Their Insta videos are goofy, sweet and absolutely priceless. Did I mention they have a book deal in the works too? For more about Harlow and Indiana, take a peek here.
If you have also fallen in love with a dog on Instagram, or if you are a dog on Instagram that you think I should follow then please let me know. We might be enjoying the dog days of summer, but these poochy Insta accounts are so doggone cute that you'll stayed entertained for months to come - woof!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Essential Festival Survival Packing List

It's that magical time of year when there's a plethora of British festivals to choose from - snap up tickets fast and you can still see some of the most exclusive bands and performers on the planet whilst enjoying the English summer. Sunshine, the great outdoors, and live music - what's not to love?! I partied last weekend away with festival dyed sheep at Latitude festival in Suffolk, which was an absolute blast, but I learned the hard way that packing well for a festival is essential to your overall experience.
Weather conditions can change very fast and when you're staying in a tent, you want to ensure you have everything you need to get through the weekend in as much comfort as possible. I first met gal pals Harriet and Tamsin at Latitude festival two years ago. They are brilliant company and always look chic throughout a festival come rain or shine - or even when hugging a tree! 
As seasoned festival goers, I picked Tamsin and Harriet's brains to create the essential Festival Survival Packing List, to ensure you have all the necessities to get you through a festival this summer. Here are some items you cannot leave the house without!
  • A Festival Bag - to keep all your precious possessions with you at all time. Extra bonus if it's waterproof and features a cross body strap to free up your arms. 
  • Dry Shampoo - when decent showers are limited, this spray on haircare product is the best solution to looking well coiffed.
  • Waterproof Jacket - it wouldn't be a proper English festival without an inevitable downpour when you are least expecting it. A lightweight poncho or waterproof jacket is an absolute must have. 
  • Sensible Footwear - bring at least two pairs of old shoes you don't really care about getting damaged (or never being the same again post festival). Remember to pack wellies -walking in the sticky and oozy mud in sandals is not fun - take my word for it!
  • Wet Wipes & Loo Roll - not the most glamorous of bathroom accessories, but these are definitely essential items you will regret not bringing. One trip to a festival portaloo will bring this truth home real fast.
  • Face Paint, Novelty Glasses & Festival Flair - probably one of my favourite aspects of a festival is the opportunity to dress as crazy and wacky as you like. You can't go wrong with glittery face paint, neon body paint and pink Vegas showgirl style lashes! Bring your cheap and cheerful sunglasses rather than an expensive pair to avoid disappointment.
  • Bin Bags - don't underestimate the importance of a bin bag! They come in very handy during downpours and when packing up all your possessions at the end of a festival. My friend Anna has even made a poncho out of one.
  • A Handheld Mirror & Towels - these items are not provided at festivals and you will miss them if you don't have them. Simple as that!
  • Battery Powered Charger - Skip the lines and the overpriced cost of charging your phone or camera with a battery powered charger. Just remember to charge it pre-festival otherwise you won't catch a snap of Lily Allen up close and personal!
  • Air Bed & Flag For Your Tent - go one up on the price point for an air bed in your tent. Your body will thank you for it. Attach a recognisable flag to your tent to make locating it amongst the 1,000s of other tents that much easier.
  • Insect Repellant & Sunscreen - lather up on sunscreen during the day and insect repellant at night. A festival is that much more enjoyable sunburn and mosquito bite free. Aloe vera or after sun is handy to have too!
Whether you're headed to Wilderness festival or Burning Man this summer, I hope these packing tips come in handy - enjoy the fun and music!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Vienna, City of Fabulous Cakes & More

Last weekend I had the chance to explore the beautiful capital of Austria. It's true what they say about visiting Vienna: you will eat endless amounts of cakes, you will be tempted to buy a ball gown and gloves for the upcoming ball season, and when you aren't wandering around one of the many impressive museums, re-fuelling with a large tasty schnitzel is a must. 
Schnitzel: it's what the Austrian doctor ordered
72 hours isn't nearly enough time to see all the sights of Vienna. If you are thinking of heading to Vienna soon, here is what I recommend packing into your itinerary:

LET THEM EAT CAKE
I've never been to a city where cake eating was a daily ritual and necessity - and  yet, the people of Vienna are very trim and energetic. Must be something in the Viennese coffee! Here are some tasty treats you cannot leave Vienna without trying.
Apfelstrudel - one of your five a day?
Sachertorte is such a typically Viennese pudding that it should really be pictured on their bank notes. There are different recipe variations, but essentially Sachertorte is a double sponge cake with a layer of apricot jam underneath thick chocolate icing. It is delicious! Hotel Sacher is an institution in Vienna but it is also a tourist trap. When I saw a line out the door of visitors waiting to buy a piece of Sachertorte, I went to Demel instead for my afternoon Viennese cake fix. 
Originally founded in 1876, Demel is a world famous Viennese chocolatier, pastry, and cake shop. Vienna takes its coffee very seriously and there are more than a dozen different types of coffee available in Demel's bustling cafe. The selection of cakes, chocolates and pastries are incredible, but save room for the signature violet and blueberry ice cream! If you're lucky enough to have a sneak peek downstairs, you will encounter a land of couture Demel cakes worth a staggering amount with A-lister client testimonials on the wall from the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Muhammad Ali, Elizabeth Taylor and more. The cakes are almost too pretty to eat:
SHOP
There are plenty of luxury designer shops and chain fashion stores to choose from in Vienna's 1st district, but my attention turned to local designer Lena Hoschek. A former intern of Vivienne Westwood, Lena's designs are fabulously flirty and feminine with influences from the 1960's. 
Photo credit: lenahoschek.com
Just trying on one of her yellow and white picnic chic dresses made me feel like Mad Men's Betty Draper. The search for the perfect summer party dress is now over! Realising my credit card sadly couldn't take any more damage from Lena Hoschek's latest collection, I headed over to the super hipster 7th district and perused some vintage shops...  
...where I quickly realised that the 80's are back - Vienna Calling anyone?!
Sadly these leopard wedge Gaga-esque beauties weren't available in my size:
Bring a sweet treat back home to your loved ones with Austrian Mozartkugeln Chocolates, which are sold in every shape imaginable and make great presents. There are chocolate stores all over Vienna, but I always find myself shopping for goodies in a local grocery store no matter where I travel. 
The Vienna grocery store chocolate selection!
RELAX
Yes, I am drinking the Park Hyatt hotel Kool Aid as their PR, but it's hard to beat staying in the brand new Park Hyatt Vienna, which opened last month. The hotel is exquisite from top to toe and the location is very central. 
The 100-year-old building was formerly a bank, so there are lots of historical Viennese influences discreetly displayed throughout the hotel. History buffs will have a field day here! The charming hanging artwork pictured in my room is actually an enlarged typically Viennese brooch.
For a dining experience you won't forget, try The Bank restaurant, which is elegant and glamorous in appearance with a WOW, I want to try everything! menu to match. I feasted on grilled beef tenderloin Rossini with madeira sauce and summer truffle on top of potato gratin. It was easily the best steak I have ever had.  
Even if you aren't necessarily a spa person, you have to check-in to the hotel's Arany Spa for a swim in the golden brick lined pool, where the bank's vault was once located. This is as close to gold as I will probably ever get!
Fashionistas will love the hotel's very chic Coco Chanel inspired mirrored staircase. 
Make your way up the stairs in the afternoon to find an array of cakes, pastries, chocolates and more. I'm telling you, it is a mystery that everyone in Vienna is so thin!
Lemon drizzle cake with cherries and eclair
Three flavours of summer truffles, swoon!
EXPLORE
Vienna is home to so many historical buildings and museums that it's hard to know where to start.  If you're tight on time and weather permits, I would suggest walking around the city for a dose of culture and fresh air. St Stephen's Cathedral is absolutely marvellous and well worth a visit. It's in the centre of the city with a massive spire, so you can't miss it! 
We beat the afternoon heat in the Belvedere museum and admired one of the latest 'must-see' exhibitions in the museum's Austrian gallery, Gustav Klimt's The Kiss. It's there until the end of August 2014, so go quickly to avoid disappointment! 
I was most impressed with the stunning Austrian Parliament Building on Ringstraße boulevard and can only imagine how gorgeous it must be inside.
You can't help but love Vienna's fashionable street cart horses, which wear these colourful headpieces to keep the flies at bay- the stylish way! For a dose of serious horsey culture, book a tour of the remarkable Spanish Riding School in advance as tickets sell out quick. 
After a day of sightseeing, you can treat yourself to a super healthy vegan, rice milk, coconut milk or oat milk ice cream at Veganista, which is the health-conscious hangout in the 7th district's Neustiftgasse street. The basil flavour (aka 'Basilikum' in Austrian) is one of their specialty flavours. 
A trip to Vienna wouldn't be complete without a coffee stop in the historic 130 year old Cafe Central, which is famed for once being a popular meeting place amongst Vienna's poets, artists, writers and philosophers. The building's remarkable architecture will take you back in time and the menu isn't too shabby either.

Vienna offers so much: history oozing from every corner, some of the world's best music, delicious food, a vast selection of museums to explore and brilliant shopping. I can't wait to return for a longer visit and hopefully one day attend a Viennese ball. I may have to lay off the chocolates if I want to fit into my ballgown though!
Tschüss!