Russell’s Restaurant

I never knew about Essex’s ‘TOWIE’ stereotype until I went to University. My grandparents live there, and I would spend months there as a child in the summer. For me, Essex has some really beautiful countryside, and I absolutely loved spending time there, especially in my grandparent’s garden where they would grow absolutely everything. And I mean everything – chillies, pak choi, pumpkins, tomatoes – my grandparents usually only have to pick up milk, meat and the paper when they go down to the shops, and all the fresh produce is absolutely delicious.

There are so many amazing hidden gems in Essex, and Russell’s Restaurant in Chelmsford is one of them.

Russell's RestaurantRussell's RestaurantThe building dates back to 1372, and is a converted barn. Before it was a restaurant, it was a woodshed, where my grandfather would go to buy wood. The restaurant has kept some of the original features, like the beams and high vaulted ceiling, which gives it a very rustic feel.

The food is mostly French inspired, but mostly locally sourced (something I always like to see!)

For my starter, I had the seared king scallops, which were served with a pea and asparagus compote, black pudding and black truffle oil.

Russell's Restaurant - Seared King Scallops, Pea & Asparagus Compote,  Diced Black Pudding, drizzled with Black Truffle OilRussell's Restaurant - Seared King Scallops, Pea & Asparagus Compote,  Diced Black Pudding, drizzled with Black Truffle OilScallops are one of my favourite things, and if it’s on a menu it’s a pretty safe bet that I’ll be ordering it. These, in my opinion, were perfect – which is very high praise, as scallops are really easy to get wrong. These were perfectly seared and crisp on the outside, but really juicy inside – not at all stringy (which is the worst!) and the combination of asparagus, black pudding and truffle oil was divine.

Russell's Restaurant - Seared King Scallops, Pea & Asparagus Compote,  Diced Black Pudding, drizzled with Black Truffle OilMy dinner date had the chicken liver parfait, a pate served on toasted brioche with a sultana and sauternes jus.

Russell's Restaurant - Chicken Liver Parfait A smooth Pâté served on Toasted Brioche finished with a Sultana and Sauternes JusThis was followed by a main course of duck – a seared Gressingham duck breast served with duck rillette bon bons, roasted pommes de cocotte potato and sauteed pak choi with cumberland jus.

Russell's Restaurant - Seared Gressingham Duck Breast, Duck Rillette Bon Bons,  Roasted Pommes Cocotte Potato, Sauté Pak Choi, Cumberland JusRussell's Restaurant - Seared Gressingham Duck Breast, Duck Rillette Bon Bons,  Roasted Pommes Cocotte Potato, Sauté Pak Choi, Cumberland JusThe duck was beautifully cooked, and the meat was meltingly tender.

Russell's Restaurant - Seared Gressingham Duck Breast, Duck Rillette Bon Bons,  Roasted Pommes Cocotte Potato, Sauté Pak Choi, Cumberland JusFor my main course, I went for the Tournedos Rossini, served medium rare. The aged fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef was served on top of a potato and parsnip rosti, and was topped with seared foie gras, baby spinach, truffle oil and a wild mushroom jus. Basically, it was a whole list of my favourite ingredients on top of one another, and it was delicious. The flavours were delectable, and the whole dish was presented impeccably.

Russell's Restaurant - Tournedos Rossini, Aged Fillet of Aberdeen Angus Beef, Crisp Potato & Parsnip Rosti, Seared Foie Gras, Baby Spinach, Truffle Oil & Wild Mushroom JusAfter dinner I went for a coffee followed by a coconut and Malibu pannacotta topped with toasted coconut and sweet candied pineapple.

Russell's Restaurant - Coconut & Malibu Pannacotta Topped with Toasted Coconut, Sweet Candied PineappleRussell's Restaurant - Coconut & Malibu Pannacotta Topped with Toasted Coconut, Sweet Candied PineappleThe standard of the food and service is really impressive – and the venue has a lot of character, and for the quality of the meal, the price is really quite reasonable.

4 Stars (4 / 5)

Have you ever been to Russell’s Restaurant? Comment below, and be sure to follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!

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Porto, Portugal

Our last full day in Portugal was spent exploring the city of Porto.

Porto, PortugalAfter spending days in the heart of the Alentejo it was great getting back to the hustle and bustle of city life!

Porto, PortugalPorto, PortugalPorto, PortugalPorto is absolutely stunning. It’s a great mixture of the old and the new, and it’s all quite romantic by the river – the funicular railway is a highlight, too.

Porto, PortugalSandeman, Porto, PortugalIt would seem almost rude to go to Porto without tasting some port, so we spent an afternoon doing a tour of the Sandeman cellars. We spent the extra €3 and went on the 1790 tour over the classic visit (€9). I’m so glad we did – at the end of the tour, we were taken into a nicer room, and got to try some of the more premium ports. I didn’t think I was much of a port fan before, but I’ve definitely been converted – some of the tawnys were exquisite.

Yes, it is unbelievably touristy, but it was so much fun – and for €16, it’s a really reasonable day out.

Porto, PortugalSandeman, Porto, PortugalSandeman, Porto, PortugalSandeman, Porto, PortugalSandeman, Porto, PortugalPorto, PortugalPorto, PortugalAs for dinner? We avoided the riverside like the plague – the combination of dodgy accordion music, and the abundance of over-priced, bland-tasting tourist trap restaurants made us look elsewhere. I’m so glad that we did – because we found a little local gem in Miss’Opo.

Miss'OpoPorto, PortugalThe decor is very minimalist and on-trend, and the seasonal menu of small plates are really quirky and unique.

Porto, PortugalThe small plates were delicious, particularly the sashimi and the Moroccan chicken, but the highlight was definitely the desserts.

Porto, PortugalSashimi, Porto, PortugalIt’s unusual, as I don’t usually go for the desserts, but these were really spectacular. I had a melissa and raspberry ice cream, and my boyfriend had a frozen banana pie with a minty marscapone.

Porto, PortugalPorto, PortugalMiss’Opo is located on Rua dos Caldeireiros, 100, Baixa, Porto.

4 Stars (4 / 5)

The next day, we woke up early and drove three hours to get our flight back to the UK from Lisbon. I had such a brilliant time in Porto, and Portugal in particular and would definitely recommend it for a few weeks away!

Have you been to Porto? Where are some of your favourite spots? Let me know by commenting below, and be sure to follow me on  Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!

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July Beauty Favourites

I haven’t done a beauty post in months – I’ve mostly been travelling around and stuffing my face! I’ve also been trying to be a little more restrictive with my beauty spending – trying to curb it as my mum embarrassingly pointed out during her visit, of the 35 bottles of shampoo, shower gel, moisturiser and conditioner in the bathroom, only one of them belonged to my boyfriend! Living in a tiny studio apartment means that I have to be clever with space.

Which brings me to my first July beauty favourite, which was also my birthday present from my lovely boyfriend – a brand new battlestation!

Ikea Brimnes Dressing TableThis one is the Ikea Brimnes dressing table, which is brilliant for our tiny flat. It’s got a mirror that opens up, and quite a bit of storage space for all my makeup and looks great, too! The best part is the inside of the drawers are red, which means it won’t look too messy with all the brushes and tools I keep inside.

Islandbell July Beauty FavouritesIslandbell July Beauty FavouritesI got my hands on some of these products when I was back in New York, but I have absolutely been loving these in July!

In the top left you’ll find the Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick Compact in Bronze. I picked this one up at Sephora, and it’s really delicately shimmery with an almost rose-gold sheen to it. It’s so versatile, and when I’m going away for the weekend I usually take this compact, using it as a bronzer and an eyeshadow – it’s really pretty, subtle and great for summer.

Next up is the Real Techniques Bold Metals Flat Contour Brush. Not only does it look amazing on my dressing table, but it’s such good value for money. This one costs a little more than the usual Real Techniques range, but is brilliant for blending and contouring – it’s just the right length, and the bristles are packed in really tight. It’s definitely one of the brushes I reach for the most!

Inside the little Lush tin is the Honey I Washed My Hair shampoo bar from, unsurprisingly, Lush. I tried their conditioner bars before, and wasn’t a massive fan (I think my hair is far too thick for that) but the shampoo bars are ridiculously good. This one is my favourite so far – it smells like honey and toffee, and has a really satisfying lather – and it saves on unnecessary packaging too. What’s not to like? I’ve had mine for about two months now, so you get a lot of uses out if it (provided that someone doesn’t break off massive chunks at a time!)

On the top right you’ll find the Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit. Used with the Real Techniques contour brush, you can (almost) change the shape of your face. Okay, so maybe that is a massive exaggeration, but it’s seriously amazing how a little bit of clever contouring can make your face seem a little less ball-like, in my case. At £39, it’s not dirt cheap, so I still stick to the Beauty UK Cosmetics Ultimate Contour Palette during the week, and save this one for special occasions.

Also from Anastasia Beverly Hills is the Dipbrow in Chocolate. I’ve been using this with the Zoeva 317 wing brush to fill in my eyebrows, and it’s become a holy grail product. The cream-to-powder formula is really, really good, making my eyebrows that bit more defined and helping to frame my face. I’m wearing all the Anastasia Beverly Hills products in the photos below – one smiling, and one where I look a bit grumpy – but so you can really see the difference products make!

Islandbell July Beauty FavouritesIslandbell July Beauty FavouritesI’ve had a few drugstore favourites this month, too! Rimmel London’s Kate range of lipsticks have always been one of my favourites, as I don’t really tend to wear lipstick, but they do a few really good nudes. This month, I picked up Rimmel Kate Lipstick Nude in Shade 43. It’s got a really creamy formula, and the colour is the perfect nude colour for me. I also picked it up in shade 40, but it was far too light and made me look really weird (that is, more than I do usually).

Kate Moss Nude Lipstick, Maybelline 24-hour color tattoo eyeshadow creamy beige and on and on bronze, le roche posay sunscreenI’ve gotten really into cream-to-powder eyeshadows too, and have been alternating using Maybelline Colour Tattoo 24 Hour Eyeshadow in Creamy Beige and On and On Bronze. It is really long-lasting, even without using a primer, so it’s a great one to put on and forget about during the week. In the photo below, I’m wearing creamy beige.

Islandbell July Beauty FavouritesI also turned the big 2-4 in July, and in the past month I seem to have turned into my mother. For my entire life, she’s been obsessed with putting factor 50 on her face everyday, and she could easily pass for twenty years younger than she is. She’s clearly doing something right, so I’ve been taking a leaf out of her book and have been putting a layer of La Roche Posay Anthelios XL SPF 50+ Ultra-Light Fluid on every day as part of my daily routine. The name is a mouthful, and almost impossible to pronounce, but it’s been a godsend – it’s so light you can’t feel it, doesn’t make you feel greasy or break you out, but keeps your face protected all day. Win!

Lush Yuzu and Cocoa, Fushi Cellulite Oil, La Roche Posay SunscreenFor skincare, I’ve been really liking the Lush shower gel in Yuzu and Cocoa. It smells like chocolate orange, and is refreshing and comforting at the same time. The only problem I have with it is that I want to eat it!

Fushi Really Good Cellulite OilMy next beauty favourite is the Fushi Really Good Cellulite Oil*. After my beach holiday earlier this year, I’ve been really trying to get in better shape – going to more exercise classes and eating healthier, too. I’ve been supplementing that with this cellulite oil from Fushi, which smells like peppermint. It’s got green coffee bean extract, which is supposed to be really great for combating cellulite! I do feel like it’s making my skin softer, and that it’s working, but most of all I’m just really enjoying using a body oil as it’s not usually part of my daily routine!

Have you used any of these products? What were your favourites last month? Comment below, and don’t forget to follow me on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

* I was sent the Fushi product to review – but was under no obligation to blog about it if I didn’t like it!

Evora, Portugal

After our day trip to Sintra, we drove deep into the Alentejo where we spent several days staying in a remote countryside AirBnB that had very dodgy internet. It did have a beautiful pool, and was surrounded by stunning countryside, and feeling slightly disconnected from everything just felt so good.

Evora, PortugalEvora, PortugalEvora, PortugalEvora
Evora, PortugalWe spent around 4 days there alone, sleeping in, swimming, cooking dinner and reading – doing absolutely nothing at all. It was amazing – but not particularly blog-worthy!

Evora, PortugalSo on the fifth day we decided to do something vaguely cultural, and went to the beautiful city of Evora. Another stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site, Evora is an incredibly well-preserved old town with a beautiful city centre.

Evora, PortugalEvora, PortugalEvora, PortugalWe spent the whole day sightseeing, visiting some beautiful churches like the Graca Church and the Cathedral of Evora, from where you can get a stunning rooftop view of the whole city.

Evora, PortugalEvora, PortugalThe city centre is really picturesque, and it’s just nice walking around looking at all the fabulous buildings with an ice cream in hand – as well as doing some souvenir shopping! Evora didn’t seem to be as heaving with tourists as some of the other places we visited, so it was a great place to get that out of the way. Evora, PortugalOf course, no day trip is complete without a local restaurant review – and this one really tops the list of my favourite places I ate out in this trip!

Evora, PortugalRestaurante 14 pras 9  is on the Rua Pedro Simoes and looks rather unassuming from the outside. The cryptically named restaurant makes a lot of sense once you’re inside (let’s just say, even a broken clock is right twice  a day), and is heaving with customers, mostly locals, which is always a good sign.

One thing I found really reassuring was that the menu said it catered for those with allergies (as well as those who were gluten-intolerant), which is always comforting! I went for a pretty standard dish of steak, egg and chips.

Evora, PortugalIt might not seem particularly exciting, but the dish came with the most incredible wine-based sauce, and was definitely one of the best things I ate out there – it was divine.

Evora, PortugalMy boyfriend went for the Seafood Acorda, which was a house speciality. When we looked it up once we got home, the closest translation we found was ‘seafood and bread soup’, which sounds completely unappetising. I would say it was more like a massive bowl of stuffing, with seafood – it smelled absolutely incredible, and it seemed to go down a treat!

Evora, PortugalEvora, PortugalEvora, PortugalIt was a really lovely meal, in a lovely city – if you ever get the chance to spend a day there I highly recommend it!

Restaurante 14 pras 9: 4 Stars (4 / 5)

Have you been to Evora? Let me know what you think by commenting below, or letting me know on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!

A Very English Film Night at the Sanctum Soho

I never used to consider myself to be very English. Yes, I’m only half, and I’ve spent most of my life living in New York and elsewhere, but recently it’s begun to creep up on me how English I really am.

Like the weekend before last, when I was in my friend’s box at Ascot, I had a very English rude and sweary outburst when I lost a tenner on a horse (which might be about as English as you can get). Or the fact that I now use the word tosser other than to describe someone who might be dressing my salad.

The venue tonight for #ETfilmnight !

A photo posted by Erin Longhurst (@erinniimi) on

Sanctum Soho CinemaSo I was in excellent company a couple of weeks ago when I invited along to a thoroughly English reception, followed by a typically British film at the Sanctum Hotel Soho’s Cinema room by the lovely people at Englishtown.

Sanctum Soho CinemaEnglishtown is part of Education First, and is an online learning course for people who want to learn English.

Sanctum Soho CinemaThey brought together a group of London-based bloggers, who were mostly ex-pats or culturally confused third culture kids like me! It was really nice to meet others who had adopted London as their home – it’s always nice to be around people who are just as enthusiastic and love living in London as much as you do, and not getting asked the question I always get asked at blogger events – but why did you leave New York?

19616351213_b567aa4f19_bI got chatting away to Lili, Erica, Jasmin and Sara (who blogs over at Hello the Mushroom, who took the photo above!) while sampling the very British canapes like coronation chicken, bangers and mash, and fish and chips – with a special gluten free one for me!

Sanctum Soho CinemaThe cocktails were very English too – gin and elderflower, pimms and diamond dubonnet (gin, dubonnet, cider and orange bitters) – all dangerously delicious (and hangover inducing, no doubt).

Sanctum Soho CinemaThe cinema room at the Sanctum is amazing – it feels really intimate, with really comfy leather mermaid chairs. After the reception all the anglophiles snuggled down to a British comedy (Austin Powers, of course) with our goody bags of gin, after eights and, of course, popcorn! It’s been ages since I’ve seen the film, and a lot of the jokes that went over my head at 12 (like the militant wing of the Salvation Army – hilarious!) made it such a great night.

Thank you so much to Englishtown and Talented Talkers for having me – it was such a great night!

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