#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

The Blue Legume, Muswell Hill

After my Go Ape adventure I was still feeling a little shaky and nervous, and was in absolutely no mood to cook.

The Blue Legume, Muswell HillNo need for a better excuse needed, then, to head to the newest addition to the North London chain The Blue Legume, in Muswell Hill.

I’m hoping that the name is an homage to the totally crap classic ’80s film (which is only saved by the fact that Brooke Shields’ eyebrow game is strong), but I could be making that up completely. With outlets in Islington, Crouch End, Stoke Newington and Muswell Hill, The Blue Legume serves Mediterranean fare in a casual, bistro-style atmosphere. I can’t vouch for these myself, but Zomato have featured them in their ‘Wonderful Waffles‘ collection, so I’m guessing they’re pretty great at breakfasts.

The Blue Legume, Muswell HillMy boyfriend and I split a carafe of wine, which was really reasonable (around £7) – they had quite a wide selection, too.

Prawn Linguine, The Blue Legume, Muswell HillMy boyfriend went for a seafood linguini – mixed seafood, although his seemed to be mostly prawns.

Mixed Seafood Risotto, The Blue Legume, Muswell HillIt was quite a contrast to my mixed seafood risotto, which was about as perfect as seafood risottos get. The perfect amount of bite, seasoned perfectly, with a good mixture of different kinds of seafood – and for under a tenner, really quite reasonable indeed.

Mixed Seafood Risotto, The Blue Legume, Muswell HillThe service was a little more on the slow side than I would’ve liked, but overall I couldn’t fault the experience – The Blue Legume is great for simple, tasty food and wine without breaking the bank.

I’ve noticed on weeknights that they’ve been doing a deal – paella and a jug of sangria for two for £25, which is something I’ll definitely have to check out soon!

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

Have you been to any of the Blue Legumes? Be sure to comment below, and don’t forget to follow me on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

The Blue Legume Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

OXO Tower Restaurant

One of the best things about living in London is the food – you can almost any kind of cuisine you fancy, and there are so many quirky, interesting places to discover. Despite dining out a fair bit, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what London has to offer.

OXO Tower Restaurant, LondonOf course, it was absolutely typical that when my Japanese family came to town last week, that I was in a massive panic. Despite the countless number of restaurants in London, I was rushing around like a headless chicken trying to find somewhere that was absolutely perfect.

For the perfect meal, I required:

1. A table for six at 7.30 on a Friday night (I began the frantic search on Wednesday afternoon)

2. Delicious food

3. A fantastic view of my favourite city looking its finest

I found all three at the OXO Tower Restaurant. The OXO Tower has been an iconic London landmark since the ’30s, but fell into disrepair until the Coin Street Community Builders, a social enterprise, gave it a new lease of life in the ’90s, when the restaurant first opened.

OXO Tower Restaurant, LondonOXO Tower Restaurant, LondonOne of the first things to mention is the fact that the view is insanely good. St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Thames in the summer is definitely a winning combination, which kept my extremely snap-happy family thrilled.

OXO Tower Restaurant, LondonThe sommelier chose the wine for us – a lovely white (although I can’t for the life of me remember what it was)! Needless to say all his choices were excellent (and mostly dry, the way I like it).

For my starter, in honor of having my Japanese relatives around, I went for the marinated tuna with soy, mirin, sake and cucumber gel.

Marinated tuna, soy, mirin and sake, cucumber gel, OXO Tower Restaurant, LondonMarinated tuna, soy, mirin and sake, cucumber gel, OXO Tower Restaurant, LondonIt was beautifully presented, with subtle flavours, although I wasn’t a massive fan of the cucumber gel (I’m not a fan of gels). My uncle went for the chilled melon and ginger soup, which was served with Innes sheep’s curd, San Daniele ham, and a black olive parmesan grissini. I thought the choice was rather a brave one – probably not one I would have made. He really enjoyed it though, and liked the combination of flavours – the melon and ham in particular.

Chilled melon and ginger soup, innes sheeps curd, San Daniele ham, black olive parmesan grissini, OXO Tower Restaurant, LondonCured wild sea trout, baby cucumbers, purple potato blinis, samphire and eggs, OXO Tower Restaurant, LondonMy biggest regret of the evening was not ordering the starter my boyfriend had – the cured sea trout with baby cucumbers, purple potato blinis, samphire and eggs was really, really divine. The smokiness of the trout went so well with the freshness of the cucumbers and samphire, while the eggs gave it a stronger depth of flavour – it’s on my list for next time.

Veal sirlion, ratatouille stuffed courgette flower, baby artichokes and green tapenade, OXO Tower Restaurant, LondonOXO Tower Restaurant, LondonI opted for the veal sirloin for my main course, which was served with a courgette flower stuffed with ratatouille, baby artichokes and green tapenade. The veal was ever so slightly overdone for my taste, but the courgette and ratatouille was a triumph – something I want to recreate at home at some point!

For some reason, everyone else went for the sea bass as their main, which was served with garlic gnocchi, enoki mushrooms, ice lettuce, almond, and sorrel.

Sea Bass, new seasons garlic gnocchi, brown enoki mushrooms, ice lettuce, almond and sorrel, OXO Tower Restaurant, LondonSea Bass, new seasons garlic gnocchi, brown enoki mushrooms, ice lettuce, almond and sorrel, OXO Tower Restaurant, LondonThey were onto something though, as they seem to really excel at the seafood dishes at the OXO Tower Restaurant. The sea bass was cooked really well, and the rest of the dish tied things together beautifully – the nuttiness of the mushrooms contrasted nicely with the rest of the dish.

OXO Tower Restaurant, LondonThe meal was slightly let down by the rather odd assortment of desserts. Although presented nicely, my dessert of sour cherry cream served with almond tuile and macarons seemed to be thrown together randomly, and didn’t do anything for me. I would’ve been happy with a larger macaron, and without the odd sour cherry cream altogether.

Sour Cherry Cream, Almond Tuile, Macarons, Oxo Tower Restaurant, LondonSour Cherry Cream, Almond Tuile, Macarons, Oxo Tower Restaurant, LondonMy boyfriend got the raspberry and pistachio pannacotta, which was also presented a bit strangely – in my opinion, the best desserts are always the simplest, and I felt that they may have overcomplicated things by making it more arty rather unnecessarily.

Raspberry and Pistachio Panncotta, Oxo Tower Restaurant, LondonOverall, it was a lovely evening, and I couldn’t have picked a better place for a stunning meal in London. It’s worth even just going to the bar for a drink alone, and my guests really enjoyed it, saying it was the best meal that they had in London. The simple, subtle and uncomplicated flavours were a really big hit, and really suited their palate.

The experience was slightly let down by the desserts, but other than that it was a fantastic meal and I’d definitely be going again!

3.75 Stars (3.75 / 5)

The OXO Tower Restaurant is located on Barge House Street, South Bank, London, SE1 9PH.

OXO Tower Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

“You Can’t Sit With Us!” Mean Girls at the Floating Cinema

Last week, my Japanese cousin and I were souvenir shopping in Covent Garden, looking for a present for his girlfriend back in Tokyo. His English isn’t great, and he wanted the present gift-wrapped, so I was translating what the shopgirl was saying into Japanese for him. As she was busy wrapping up the gift, the very sweet but slightly vacant shopgirl pipes up, asking me where I learned to speak that language.

“Oh,” I replied, “we’re Japanese. He’s my cousin – our mothers are sisters.”

She blinked, before replying: “Yeah, but where did you learn to speak that language?”

It was this moment that totally reminded me of that scene with Karen from one of my all time favourite movies, Mean Girls:

The Sunday before last, the lovely people at Currys and Joe Blogs invited me to a very special screening of Mean Girls for #CurrysMovieNight.

Currys Movie Night, Cinema on a Barge, Mean Girls Screening, The Floating Cinema, LondonWhat was so special about it? Well, not only was it a screening of one of the best films of all time, but it was on a barge. The Floating Cinema is sponsored by the BFI, a traveling movie theatre on a barge providing a completely unique experience. We all clambered aboard and set sail down the canals by Kings Cross.

Currys Movie Night, Cinema on a Barge, Mean Girls Screening, The Floating Cinema, LondonCurrys Movie Night, Cinema on a Barge, Mean Girls Screening, The Floating Cinema, LondonDespite it being Sunday, I still wore pink – luckily I wasn’t the only one, as Erica is also clearly a Plastic (and we were both floral, too!)

Currys Movie Night, Cinema on a Barge, Mean Girls Screening, The Floating Cinema, LondonIt was a great evening – unlimited popcorn and prosecco, with excellent company. I popped out slightly before the end to see where we’d gotten to, and the atmosphere was really lovely – the only problem was that I was enjoying the film so much it was hard to tear my eyes away from the screen!

Currys Movie Night, Cinema on a Barge, Mean Girls Screening, The Floating Cinema, LondonCurrys Movie Night, Cinema on a Barge, Mean Girls Screening, The Floating Cinema, LondonIt was a really relaxing and unique blogger event, and unlike Cady I was rather sad to leave ‘girl world’ behind at the end of it!

#CurrysMovieNight: Mean Girls at the Floating Cinema#CurrysMovieNight: Mean Girls at the Floating CinemaNot too sad though – I was lucky enough to have won the Instagram prize for the evening – some Vue Cinema Vouchers that I’m really excited to use! The winning photo is below:

Watching #meangirls on a #London #barge tonight. Best #Sunday ever? Probably. #currysmovienight

A photo posted by Erin Longhurst (@erinniimi) on

I had an absolutely fabulous night – you can find out more about the night on the Currys site here! (Pictured below: Army of Skanks)

Currys Movie Night, Cinema on a Barge, Mean Girls Screening, The Floating Cinema, LondonWhat’s your favourite part in Mean Girls? Be sure to comment below, and don’t forget to follow me on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

N.B. – Anything vaguely un-PC in the post above is most definitely a quote from the film (see: Army of Skanks comment above!)

Kirsty’s Free-From Meals

I want to start off by saying that I’m really not a ready-meal type of girl.

Kirsty's Gluten Free Ready MealsTo me, nothing beats a home-cooked meal, and growing up I was lucky to be able to count on one hand the number of times I had a ready-meal. My mom especially is such an avid and talented foodie, that we usually either ate one of her creations or went out on one of our various food missions (we went through the New York Times‘ Top 10 Steak Tartar restaurant list in a month, one summer).

That, and the fact that for the most part, they’re ridiculously overpriced, and never quite taste as good.

Having said that though, I totally understand the appeal of it. After a long day at work, especially in the winter, the thought of cooking is utterly exhausting in itself.

Kirsty's Gluten Free Ready MealsWhen you’re on a gluten-free diet, your options are even more limited, and you can get in a bit of a rut of cheese and gluten-free oat biscuits or pesto (gluten-free) pasta.

So when the lovely people behind Kirsty’s contacted me to see whether I wanted to try their range of gluten-free and free-from ready meals, I was intrigued to say the least.

Kirsty’s has a range of gluten, dairy and wheat-free ready meals ideal for coeliacs and people with food intolerances. For those of us that love a good Dragons Den success story, Kirsty successfully pitched her business to Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne (who are usually the sceptical grumpy ones, aren’t they?) Kirsty’s meals are also aimed towards those doing the 5:2, which I (very occasionally) dabble in.

From the range, I tried the Thai Chilli Chicken with Rice Noodles, The Cottage Pie with Sweet Potato Mash, and Sausage with Sweet Potato Mash.

Kirsty's Gluten Free Ready Meals - Asian Chicken NoodlesI have the tiniest kitchen in the entire world, and therefore don’t have a microwave, so I prepared all of these in the oven.

The first meal I tried, the Thai Chilli Chicken Noodles were my least favourite of the lot. I did enjoy the flavours of lemongrass, and the hint of fish sauce, but I wasn’t overly keen on the texture. This was the ‘lightest’ of the meal choices, and while it was perfectly pleasant I think if I’m opting for a ready meal then pretending to be healthy probably isn’t what I’m feeling. However, I also cook with this kind of rice noodle on a regular basis, and the texture is never going to be quite the same as when it’s made fresh. However, I did like the flavours and I did appreciate how much veg they packed in (which is quite unusual for a ready meal).

Kirsty's Gluten Free Ready Meals - Asian Chicken NoodlesThe next dish was my boyfriend’s favourite (and he’s not on a gf diet). It was the cottage pie with sweet potato mash, and was probably the most attractive looking of the three meals.

Kirsty's Gluten Free Ready Meals - Sweet Potato Mash Cottage PieA sweet potato and carrot mash topped beef mince with carrots and peas in a gluten-free gravy sauce. My boyfriend really enjoyed this one – I did enjoy the mash, but I always have mixed feelings about minced meat unless I’ve prepared it myself, so I can’t say this was my personal favourite, but it was surprisingly tasty and perfect comfort food (but without all of the guilt)

Kirsty's Gluten Free Ready Meals - Sweet Potato Cottage PieGluten free cottage pieThe third meal was my personal favourite – gluten-free bangers and mash. The mash was, again, carrot and sweet potato, but the sausages crisped well in the oven and the onion gravy was simple but tasty.

Kirsty's Gluten Free Ready Meals - Sausage and Sweet Potato MashWhile I don’t think I’ll be making a regular thing out of ordering ready-meals, now I know this range is out there I can definitely see myself popping one in my Ocado order in December when work gets a bit more hectic before the holidays! It’s tasty comfort food, without feeling to guilty or unhealthy, and at only £3 it’s definitely an option I’ll be considering.

Kirsty's Gluten Free Ready Meals - Sausage and Sweet Potato MashTo find out more about Kirsty’s you should check out their YouTube channel which just launched recently here.

Have you ever tried anything from Kirsty’s free from range? Comment below, and don’t forget to follow me on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!