#TravelexTourist: Sketch Afternoon Tea & Icebar, London

I had been back in London for about a week, and I had the post-holiday blues bad – particularly as I’d managed to get a month off over Christmas and New Year to travel around Cambodia and Japan. So when the Travelex team got in touch to see if I wanted to play tourist in London, I was over the moon – particularly as they’d given me some dosh to spend, too.

#TravelexTouristThis was no ordinary dosh – I got my US dollars loaded onto my fancy new Travelex cash passport – a multi-currency, pre-paid Mastercard that I could top up online, and use like a regular bank card. The best part about it is that I can order different currencies on it, so when I go back to Japan, or on a European adventure, I only have to take one card with me (and not have to worry about mine getting lost or stolen!)

Liberty, #TravelexTourist#TravelexTourist#TravelexTouristSo, Cash Passport in hand, we decided to start the day off doing the most touristy thing we could think of to do in London – afternoon tea.

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristI’ve been desperate to go to Sketch for ages. Not only do they apparently do one of the best gluten-free afternoon teas in London, it’s also the gallery of David Shrigley – one of my favourite artists.

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristI wouldn’t be surprised if this is the most instagrammed room in London – it was absolutely beautiful.

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristThere was so much attention to detail – everything from the menus, to the crockery – even the uniforms for the waitstaff (which I would wear in a heartbeat).

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristAs for cost, it’s a little on the steep side, but for the location, and the wow factor of the venue alone – combined with the sheer amount of food, I do believe it’s worth it. Not something I’d do every day, but definitely worth popping in for a special occasion.

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristYou get a lot of food – unlimited refills of tea, sandwiches, cakes and scones, the latter being the best part of the gluten free menu.

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristEven the bathrooms were outstanding (to the point where I was slightly concerned that they were toilets at all, instead of part of the artwork).

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristWe didn’t manage to finish our tea completely, but the lovely waitstaff packed the last of our cakes for us, which we got to enjoy later that weekend. I was given a pin with my Cash Passport card, and it worked seamlessly (which is always slightly nerve-wracking with a new card!)

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristWe were so stuffed by the end of it that we were tempted to go home and have a nap. Somehow we managed to roll ourselves out of there and made our way to Covent Garden for a little window shopping, and enjoy some of the uncharacteristically good January weather.

#TravelexTouristPiccadilly Circus, London, #TravelexTouristCovent Garden, London, #TravelexTouristWe slowly walked off our food babies and made our way to Heddon Street for an appointment at the Icebar.

Ice Bar Cocktails, London, #TravelexTouristUnlike Sketch, Icebar is pretty much what it says on the tin – a bar made of ice. Cold, -5°C Swedish ice, to be precise.

Ice Bar Cocktails, London, #TravelexTouristIce Bar, London, #TravelexTouristWe got kitted out in thermal capes and gloves, and were served cocktails served in glasses made entirely of ice – it was awesome.

Ice Bar, London, #TravelexTouristIce Bar Cocktails, London, #TravelexTouristIce Bar Cocktails, London, #TravelexTouristThe walls, the chairs, the bar – everything was ice, and had been carved beautifully. My favourite part was the skull, which had a brain carved into it and everything!

Ice Bar Cocktails, London, #TravelexTouristnFor the price of a ticket, you get given a cocktail and can stay in the room for 45 minutes before you have to leave. Is it gimmicky? Yes, absolutely – but it is really fun, and you do feel surprisingly toasty in your thermal cape.

The entire day made me appreciate the fun and interesting things to do that London has to offer, and definitely helped to keep the January Blues at bay! I can’t thank Travelex enough for the opportunity to play tourist for the day – I had a brillliant time.

Where is your favourite place to have afternoon tea? Have you been  to the Icebar before? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

I was given a preloaded Travelex Cash Passport for the purposes of review – all opinions are my own, and I wouldn’t blog about it if I didn’t love the service!

sketch Gallery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Weekend in Kamakura

After three glorious weeks in the Cambodian sun, I had to pack up my suitcase and prepare for a completely different climate all together.

Kamakura Hachimangu ShrineI wasn’t really that prepared, to be honest. After a few weeks of the heat I’d completely forgotten that, you know, I’d probably need my coat, prompting a mad dash back to Phnom Penh half a day earlier than I was supposed to from Kep. Oops.

I also would not recommend flying with Vietnam Airlines – almost every single flight I took with them was delayed (by five hours), and the service was not great. I did get a few rather hilarious stories out of the experience, though, so if you’re at all interested I’ll add that to the end of the post!*.

I finally arrived in Haneda Airport in just about one piece about 30 hours after I had left Phnom Penh. My family in Tokyo live in Shinagawa, which is really convenient to get to from Haneda – only half an hour away by train. The first thing I’d do before coming to Japan is getting the JR Pass – it’s a little pricey, but such good value, and you will save so much money once you are there by getting one. You can only get one outside of Japan, so it’s worth doing before you go. A 7-day pass set me back £154, and it was well worth every penny – I got mine here.

I arrived on the 31st of December, and spent about half an hour in Tokyo picking up my boyfriend (who had landed that morning) before I was on another train – this time, to Kamakura.

Kamakura is one of my favourite places in the entire world. It was the de-facto capital of Japan, years and years ago, and is absolutely beautiful. My grandparents would spend their weeks in Tokyo, where my grandfather would work, and almost every weekend they’d come back to Kamakura, which is around an hour away from Tokyo by train.

As far as cities go, it’s a pretty small one, but is full of some of the most amazing architecture in Japan, in my opinion, as well as being surrounded by natural beauty. It’s close to the sea, but there are several forests – and I can even get a great view of Mt. Fuji from my grandparent’s house in the Highlands.

Mt. Fuji, Kamakura, JapanNew Year’s is a massive deal in Japan – it’s kind of like how Christmas is in the UK – very family-orientated, and everything is shut. I was only in Kamakura for three days this trip, unfortunately, and spent it less on getting out there to look for things to blog, but more on spending time with family (sorry). I do think it’s a stunning place to visit, though, and I know it really well, so I just thought I would share some of my favourite places to go, see, and eat!

What to Do

Kamakura is filled with stunning temples – the biggest and most famous being Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, which is a five minute walk from Kamakura Station. I’m slightly biased towards this temple,  as this is the one I always go to to get my blessings (and my grandfather was a temple elder there when he was alive). Built in 1063, it is absolutely breathtaking. At New Year, around 30,000 people will gather to pay their respects, and it was absolutely rammed when I went. Being Japan, of course, it was the most civilised crowd ever, but if you are claustrophobic I strongly suggest not going there on January 1st!

New Year's Day, Kamakura Hachimangu Shrine, JapanNew Year Plaques, Kamakura Hachimangu Shrine, JapanKamakura Hachimangu Shrine, JapanHachimangu is filled with interesting street food vendors, too – so it’s worth checking them out if you’re a fan of street food – Japanese street food is awesome.

Kamakura, Hachimangu ShrineChoco Bananas, Kamakura, JapanChoco Bananas, Kamakura, JapanAnother place I’d strongly recommend is Hokokuji, a beautiful old temple surrounded by a bamboo forest. It was unfortunately closed at new year, so I didn’t make it this time round, but it is one of the most serene places I’ve ever been.

Going to Kotoku-in to see the Daibutsu (giant Buddha) is definitely one to tick off of your bucket list – there are regular buses going straight there from Kamakura station, and is really worth seeing. It’s hard to believe that the buddha was built in 1252 (and you can go inside it, too).

Daibutsu, Kamakura, JapanGiant Buddha, Daibutsu, Kamakura, JapanKamakuraA few honorable mentions, that I didn’t have time for this trip: The beach (in the summer months, of course); Zenarai Benzaiten shrine, where you go to wash your money so you can get rich; taking the Enoden electric railway along the coast for a great view of the sea; the Shakado pass; and the yagura tombs.

Where to Eat

I didn’t go to too many restaurants this time, as I was busy getting osechi ryori (traditional Japanese new year fare) at home. A lot of places were also closed around New Year, so we had to make do with stockpiling amazing fatty tuna sashimi, and doing a lot of cooking for ourselves, too!

Osechi Ryouri, New Year's Meal, JapanOsechi Ryouri, New Year's Meal, Japan4Osechi Ryouri, New Year's Meal, JapanSashimi, Kamakura, JapanKamakura does have some amazing places – and things – to eat. I highly recommend the shops and little izakayas (Japanese pubs) down Komachi-dori, which is just off of your left as you leave Kamakura Station.

They are all pretty great, but that’s where I got this donburi bowl of maguro tuna, natto (fermented soybeans) and raw egg. The way eggs and chickens are reared in Japan is of such a high standard that you can safely eat eggs and chickens raw, unlike the UK. Raw eggs in particular are a big part of Japanese cuisine, and something I miss the most when I’m back in the UK. Natto is an acquired taste. I absolutely love the stuff, and have loads in my freezer, but I’ve yet to meet a non-Japanese person who likes it. If you do, let me know!

Natto, Maguro and Raw Egg Topped Rice, Kamakura, JapanThe absolute best omelette rice IN THE ENTIRE WORLD can be found at Cafe Vivement Dimanche – it’s a must.

If you’re walking along Komachi-dori, it is absolutely imperative that you get ice cream, because I’m under the impression that you can’t get better ice cream anywhere else. Sweet potato ice cream might sound totally crazy, but it is my absolute favourite, and I’ve never seen it anywhere else. You can’t miss it – it’s purple, like sweet potatoes are in Japan – and has the most beautiful, subtle flavour.

Sweet Potato Ice Cream, Kamakura, JapanSweet Potato Ice Cream, Kamakura, JapanSweet Potato Ice Cream, Kamakura, JapanSweet Potato Ice Cream, Kamakura, JapanIf the thought of it freaks you out too much, you can always get matcha ice cream from the same place, or go a few doors down and try a black sesame one, too. It’s pretty great.

Black Sesame Ice Cream, Kamakura, JapanWhere to Shop

Basically, Komachi-dori is where it’s at in terms of shopping – the Ghibli store is a must (one of the first on your right), and the whole street is full of places selling traditional souvenirs. If you’re looking to take back confectionery, the Hatosabure Kamakura Dove Cookies are really iconic, and worth taking back.

It was so wonderful to go for a visit, and I’d totally recommend Kamakura as a place to check out when you’re in Japan. It’s authentic, without being spoiled by tourism – a stunning place that everyone should go to at least once!

Have you ever been to Japan? What were some of your favourite places? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

*The first story was the rather hilarious, but perhaps only to me. On our first 5 hour delayed flight, I asked the much older gentleman who was also delayed coming in to Phnom Penh whether he wanted to email his son, who was meant to be picking him up from the airport. He didn’t have an email address, so I offered to send his son an email from my own address. I had to take a picture of the old man and attach it to the email, to prove I wasn’t an extremely unimaginative prankster, and I felt like someone that has kidnapped someone for ransom. This same old man, by the way, managed to sneak a ONE LITER BOTTLE of shower gel – not only through HEATHROW SECURITY, but also through Hanoi airport, too. It was only when we were going through security in Ho Chi Minh that anyone called him out on the “no liquids over 100mls” thing. Doesn’t fill me with confidence, really.

The second story was just so bizarre I felt as though I was hallucinating throughout. I was upgraded to premium economy on my flight from Hanoi to Tokyo, and was sat next to an old Vietnamese man. I had been reading a book on my iPad, watching movies with my Bose headphones, and using my own neck pillow. Every time I would get up to use the loo (it was a long flight, so this happened quite a few times) the old man would have taken one of the three from my seat, and would be using it. I guess he thought they came with the plane and I was just hogging it all, but it was so funny and really awkward having to get all my belongings back from him every time!

Farm to Table, Phnom Penh

Farm to Table, Phnom PenhIf you’re looking for fresh, delicious and organic food in Phnom Penh, then I highly recommend heading on down to Farm to Table.

Farm to Table, Phnom PenhFarm to Table, Phnom PenhThe same team running the popular clean eating shop Artillery are behind Farm to Table, a tranquil eatery in the heart of the trendy Boeung Keng Kang (BKK) neighbourhood.

Farm to Table, Phnom PenhFarm to Table, Phnom PenhFarm to Table, Phnom PenhAll of the food is reliably sourced, and deliciously fresh – the salads are safe to eat too, something I usually avoid when I’m traveling in the region.

The courtyard is charming, shaded by the trees – and the makeshift toy kitchen and tractor make it perfect for taking little ones along, too.

Kid's Meal Quesadilla, Farm to Table, Phnom PenhThe Cobb Salad, Farm to Table, Phnom PenhThe Cobb Salad, Farm to Table, Phnom PenhThe food is absolutely gorgeous. The Cobb Salad above is topped with a fried egg, and they have a great selection of fresh juice, including coconut water and sugar cane.

Full Breakfast, Farm to Table, Phnom PenhFull Breakfast, Farm to Table, Phnom PenhThey also do a mean breakfast, served with what is described as a salsa, but is actually more like a flavoured oil – the only thing I wasn’t a fan of in the whole place.

Duck Confit, Farm to Table, Phnom PenhDuck Confit, Farm to Table, Phnom PenhI went for the duck confit, served with a fried egg, blistered tomatoes, baby potatoes and a balsamic vinegar reduction.

Grilled White Tuna, Farm to Table, Phnom PenhThe grilled white tuna salad was served with crushed potato, fresh herbs and ratatouille, with fish sourced from Sihanoukville.

Farm to Table, Phnom PenhFarm to Table, Phnom PenhThe dishes are simple – but perfectly done, of really high quality, and are delicious. Farm to Table often do great lunch deals, too, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area. You can be sure to tuck into a satisfying, tasty and filling lunch at Farm to Table (without any of the regret).

Farm to Table, Phnom PenhAnd who knows, you might even make a couple of friends when you’re there, too!

Farm to Table is at No 16, Street 260, BKK1, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Have you ever been to a Farm to Table restaurant before? What are some of your favourite organic eateries? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

The British Street Food Awards

I attended the British Street Food Awards a few weeks ago – you might have seen my previous post about winning tickets here!

The British Street Food Festival 2015: The RoaderyThe British Street Food Festival 2015: O2 Millennium Dome13 of the best street food traders in the UK gathered at the O2 over the weekend of the 4th of December to compete.

The British Street Food Festival 2015: The Fish HutThe British Street Food Festival 2015: CiderThe British Street Food Festival 2015: The Cheeky Indian

It was mildly chilly out, but there was plenty to keep us warm in terms of mulled wine and delicious food!

The British Street Food Festival 2015The British Street Food Festival 2015: Chillies

There was so much fantastic food on offer, but here are a few of my personal winners:

Sub Cult, Rodeo Sub

The British Street Food Festival 2015: Sub Cult, Rodeo Sub: Hung Beef, Shallot Marmalade, Truffle MayonnaiseThis sub was amazingly good – 28-day hung beef, provolone cheese, pickles, spinach and black truffle mayo in a delicious brioche bun. All of the subs from Sub Cult looked delicious, and this was a definitely favourite.

The Cheeky Italian, Poutine

The British Street Food Festival 2015: The Cheeky Italian Poutine

I mean, just look at that poutine. For those of you not familiar with poutine, it’s a Canadian dish (originally from Quebec) of fries, cheese curds and gravy. The Cheeky Italian version was served with beef shin, and is practically a work of art. Delicious.

The British Street Food Festival 2015: The Cheeky Italian Poutine

The Crema Caravan, Creme Brulee

The British Street Food Festival 2015: Crema Caravan Creme Brulee

The Crema Caravan serve perfect creme brulees from their adorable food truck, and is without a doubt the cutest food vendor at the event. They make Crema Catalana burnt to order, too!

Disappointing Eats:

As a massive fan of pigs ears, I was so excited to try Angus and Mitchell’s pig tail, which was served with a slice of pickled apple. I don’t know whether it was my portion, but I found it to be really gristly and fatty, which was disappointing as I was looking forward to it – that might just be my personal taste, though.

The British Street Food Festival 2015: Angus and Mitchell Pig Tail

It was such a great event – getting all of the best British street food traders in one place – what could be better?

You can find out more about the official winners here! What’s your favourite kind of street food?

The British Street Food Festival 2015: The Cheeky Italian Sweet Potato Fries

Be sure to comment below, or follow me on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

Gluten Free Baking & Living’s Crowdfunding Campaign

For me, the transition to living a gluten-free lifestyle hasn’t been particularly dramatic. I feel 100 times better, and a lot of my favourite foods (like rice, and oats) are naturally gluten free anyway.

GFBFlour-004There are things I miss though. Like baguettes, or deliciously chewy ginger biscuits. There are some things that just can’t be achieved with the gluten free flours currently available widely.

GFBFlour-063GFBFlour-019Which is were Gluten Free Baking & Living come in. Ian and Deborah, who are based in Harrogate, run gluten free baking courses throughout the country, and have developed their own range of amazing gluten free flours. They’ve just started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money so they can develop a couple more, and so they can be widely produced. I got to ask them a few questions, and find out a little bit more about it!

GFBFlour-012Could you tell me a little more about you, and your gluten free journey?

We’re Ian and Deborah Thackeray, the founders of Gluten Free Baking and Living. Ian was diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2012, and we began searching for gluten free products that were as good as we were used to eating before! We really struggled to find gluten free baked goods in the supermarket that were up to scratch, so started creating our own – and the rest is history!

GFBFlour-011Tell me a little more about your company, Gluten Free Baking & Living!

 We run gluten free baking courses in Harrogate, London and the Wirral, where we teach people how to make delicious GF cooking in their own home. We developed our flour blends through the courses to get the best results – and we think they’re great – so much so that we’re raising funds to develop the blends further.

What is your favourite gluten-free baking recipe?

 It’s so hard to choose a favourite! It’s got to be something sweet – cinnamon nut muffins have become a hit in our household.

GFBFlour-031What do you recommend baking with the flour?

 You can bake all your favourites with the flour – it’s the perfect base for great gluten free baguettes, bread, pastry, scones and cakes, through to béchamel sauce, crepes suzette, choux and puff pastry and all things in between.

GFBFlour-076What makes this flour different to what’s currently available?

 Our flour has a much higher protein content, and by using a blend of different flours, such as teff, sorghum and tapioca, we find our flour simply performs much better than what’s currently out there.

 What are your ambitions for the product?

We’re incredibly proud of the blends we’ve developed, and think others who are gluten free are going to love them too! We’d love to see the flours become commercially available in retailers soon, so that more and more people can enjoy them.

 You’re currently fundraising on Indiegogo. What will the money raised be used for?

We’re raising funds to develop a brown bread flour blend, and Italian stoneground gluten free flour – a first for the UK market. All the funds we raise will be invested in developing and marketing these blends, so we can get the range off the ground.

GFBFlour-021Sounds great! How can I get involved?

Please support our campaign – http://igg.me/at/gluten-free-flour-co/x/6324484 and visit us on Facebook, we’ve got some great perks to give away, including the flours themselves and recipe books. Thanks for your support!

Be sure to support Ian and Deborah’s crowdfunding campaign, and help their make dream a reality! Personally, I’m always in favour, and am passionate about promoting high-quality and delicious ingredients. They have some great incentives too!

Do you do any gluten free baking? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on  TwitterFacebook or Instagram!