Saturday, 16 September 2017

Eating in London #8 - Four to Eight, Covent Garden

As I sit down to write this, I feel like I need to take some long and deep breaths - in through the nose…and out through the mouth - because wowza, looking back over the last few weeks, London has been testing. I haven’t particularly alluded to a huge amount on my social media, mainly because I tend to use this blog to word vomit my thoughts and feelings and Twitter for my political musings aka hating on Trump and Brexit, but yep, London has been serving up some curveballs. Over the past month I’ve been applying and applying…and applying some more for jobs, left a job I had and after a few days of unemployment, the working Gods decided enough was enough and landed me with a role I really wanted. 

So YAY, but phewwwwwwwwwww.

In amongst this, and seriously, it could not have come at a better time, I was invited to try out the new brunch menu at Four to Eight in Covent Garden and erm, I’m not an utter fool so of course I jumped at the chance! 

Brunch + me = as good a match as Gemma Collins + memes.





When you think of a brunch menu, you think eggs, you think avocado (you know you have, it’s okay, we can be basic together), you think of that Instagram flat lay and yawn, yep, another day in London, another brunch. Like many cafes across the capital though, Four to Eight have said (well I don’t actually know if they have said but I’m making a strong ole assumption) that enough is enough of the same old, same old and, with minimal ingredients, have innovated their offering to create a unique and luxurious menu fit for the royals. 

And if it’s good enough for Kate, it’s good enough for me.

We decided to take a unique route ourselves with the menu and ordered a whole lot of things involving…boards. As well as a selection of warm bread, we ordered the cheese selection which came with five Italian cheeses on a bed of crackers as well as  a salumi selection which had an assortment of three cured meats. In addition to this because obviously that doesn’t sound like enough for two women of total heights of 5ft3, we ordered the prawn and vegetable tempura which was in the end, and in my own humble opinion, a fabulous choice to accompany ‘the boards’.










Quite literally one hour after the food had arrived, we still found ourselves grazing away because oh boy, the portion sizes were quite something and of course, I have no self-control so couldn't stop eating. Accompanying these unbelievable generous portions of food, was of course, a cocktail or three and I swear on the last bottle of prosecco on this earth's life, their peach bellini is perhaps one of the best I've had...ever.

And if you know anything about me, you know I've done some solid market research to produce this finding. Solid, prosecco related research.




I have to say for the quality of the food, which was utterly devine, the brunch menu is incredibly fairly priced. Whilst it may not be the cheapest place around Central London, you'd really struggle to find a better valued restaurant as the portion sizes are incredibly generous (dangerous for anyone with little self control I have to say..) and the food itself is stunning. The decor is sleek, the staff are lovely and the cocktails are so good that, wait, blink, and you've ordered three more (it just happens, it's not anyone's fault...). Overall, if you're looking for a brunch in London that's different from the rest... This place is definitely worth a try.

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Friday, 18 August 2017

4 amazing restaurants to visit in Durban

The city of Durban is known for tropical temperatures and beautiful beaches and as one of the only coastlines in the country whereby it won't physically hurt to put a toe in the ocean (kind of kidding, kind of not), it's a popular holiday destination for both South Africans and international tourists.

It's not just the beaches though, that bring people in their droves to Durban but the food scene and oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, quite the scene it is! From incredible spicy Indian curries to the infamous bunny chow, the city is renowned for its diverse range of foods on offer and let me tell you, after a week in this place, your jeans might be a little snug but your tummy will be rumbling with pure happiness.

Endless and unadulterated happiness. 

Now, Durban isn't the easiest city to navigate around and when I say it isn't easy, it took us around 30 minutes of googling, a walk along the beachfront and an Uber journey...to find a coffee shop with wifi. 

And I like to think that my Google skills aren't that bad.

We relied quite heavily on that old fashioned way of communicating where you actually have to talk to people and ask if they have any recommendations (ugh, doesn't it make you shudder, lol joking) but so you don't have to go through that, I've compiled a little old list of a few of my favourite places we visited...


Mali’s Indian Restaurant 
Named as the number one restaurant in the entire city, Mali’s Indian restaurant is the ultimate place to visit for all your curry dreams (totally a thing) to come true. It looks like, well, in all honesty, not much from the outside and you could definitely be forgiven for walking straight past it however there’s that old peach of saying, ‘never judge a restaurant by its exterior’ (that’s not the saying I hear you cry? Well it is now!) because who needs something to look at when you’re about to indulge your taste buds in the number one Indian dishes in Durban? Not me.

I had the butter chicken and holy actual moly, I feel like I can taste it now, my mouth is watering, my eyes are filling u- that could also be because it seems like such a long time since I was there but still! Emotional!

The food is utterly stunning, the staff are super friendly and very knowledgeable about each and every dish (my BFF has a nut allergy and they were fab!) and the prices make your eyes buldge, but in the nice way as it’s incredibly affordable for the quality with dishes around??

Basically, you’d be really blooming silly not to check it out.



Afro’s Chicken 
When I asked on Twitter for any recommendations from people #intheknow about places we had to try out in Durban, soooo many people mentioned Afro’s Chicken. Walking one bright mid-morning down the beachfront, in silence and with sunglasses firmly on because damn how bright is it and more importantly, how much did we drink last night, we saw their yellow sign and yep you guessed it, we used being hungover as an excuse to try a-l-l the food and pfft, well done us for drinking too much red wine the previous night because wowza, this chicken is GOOD.

There isn’t really much more I can say about chicken, because well, it’s just great and I better not find your little derriere in McDonald’s instead of this place and...just go okay. Also, for those of you who a) don’t like fries (you okay hun?) or b) just fancy something a little lighter, get yourself the chicken and mango salad and thank me later.



House of Curries 
Do you like bread? Do you like curry? Do you like indulging in food, like a lot? If the answer to these three questions is yes, and actually even if it’s no, pull yourself together because you aren’t missing out on this - you need to try Durban’s infamous dish, bunny chow. Basically, a bunny chow is a hollowed out loaf of bread...with curry in and it is honestly, utterly brilliant and I wish it was acceptable to eat it everyday in winter months because it’s the cosiest, carbiest meal you could wish to indulge in.

House of Curries itself isn’t anything particularly special in terms of interiors, think more plastic chairs and tables (although quite a lot of Durban’s cafes and restaurants adopt this approach to seating), but the staff are lovely and the food is great. It’s also on Florida Road so if you’re feeling a drink or 5, that’s the place to be.

Source
The Chairman
If you’re wanting a little bit of glitz and glamour, The Chairman is the place to go aka you literally walk down a red carpet to enter the place. We decided to #treatourselves (we say this every time we go out basically but who doesn’t) and got a bottle of fizz accompanied with a Caribbean pizza which were both fabulous however it’s the general ambience and, of course, the stunning jazz music that endears you to this place.

Dimly lit with fairy lights in a vintage setting, the environment is luxurious whilst being relaxing and the service is absoltuely out of this world - you definitely feel like an A-lister at this place.

Sooooo, there you go - get eating and thank me later!


Have you been to Durban? Where are your favourite places to eat and drink?

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Thursday, 10 August 2017

REVIEW // Brush & Bubbles, London

Creativity is something that comes so naturally to some, ideas and inspiration bounce off the walls of the brain, an artistic streak quite literally, runs through the body. It can relax and destress a person, excite and fulfill them - creativity, for many, is what keeps them going, keeps them hustling.

Now, I like to think of myself as creative, I mean hey, I’m like totally creating content over here, however when it comes to an artistic streak, when it comes to holding an actual paintbrush in my actual human hand, I have about as much talent as a wounded deer.

And that’s actually an insult to the poor deer.

Anyway.

Holding a paintbrush is quite the unnatural activity for me however holding a glass brimming with prosecco is pretty much what my hands were made for so when my BFF told me about a ‘Brush and Bubbles’ class in London, I simply had to give it go.

I envisaged myself sat there, blank canvas in front of me with brush in my left hand, fizz in my right and with one sip, I would paint something so wondrous, so magical, that people around me would marvel, oh how they’d marvel at my talents.

And then I woke up and remembered that I can’t bloody paint so what the flipping flip was I thinking signing up to an art class?



Brush and Bubbles is described as an art class which ‘brings people together and encourages creativity’. It is about meeting up with friends, having a good old chat whilst painting and, well, drinking and honestly, it was just a really lovely day.

The class begins with the two lovely ladies, Lara and Tiffany, meeting everyone with huge, friendly smiles and a glass of prosecco. Run by a resident artist and over a period of 2 and a half hours, you are given step by step instructions on how to create your very own gorgeous canvas painting and it’s so much fun!









When you are first shown what the finished piece will look like, you hear the nervous giggles and the exhaling of air which can basically be translated as ‘how the bloody hell am I, a person with no artistic talent, meant to create THAT’. Fear not though, and seriously don’t be put off, because the steps are simple, the teaching is super relaxed and it actually doesn’t matter whether you’re set to be the next Van Gogh or if the only use you can conjure up of a brush is to sweep the floor - the ladies really do mean it when they say ‘no experience necessary’.

Source - Rosie Willan
No pictures please, no meet and greets...

Source - Brush and Bubbles

The hustle and bustle of London can be intense sometimes - great but intense - and this was just the perfect way to relax and wind down after a long week. Whether it be your own #treatyourself present, a birthday gift or simply a new and different thing to try out with friends, I couldn’t recommend spending a few hours at a Brush and Bubbles class more. With a glass of fizz in hand and a paintbrush in the other, with the freedom to chat to those around you or take some time for yourself to just chill and create, it really is a fun, relaxing and unique experience - and hey, it’s a whole lot cheaper than therapy!
                                                                                              
                                                                                              
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INFO
Where are the classes held?
I attended the class at View94 in Putney however they also hold classes in Covent Garden & Chelsea.

When are the classes held?
They are currently held on a Saturday, with one session 11am-1:30pm and the other 2:30pm-5pm.

How much is it?
The price of the class is £29.99 which includes a glass of prosecco, unlimited paint (!) and your very own canvas art to take home with you.

To book tickets or get more information, click here.


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Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Eating in London #7 | MNKY House, Mayfair

Moving to London was exciting for so many reasons - the fast paced lifestyle (we don’t talk about the tube at rush hour), being immersed in such a diverse and lively city (let’s move past the 3am Mcdonald’s trips) and, the people because as bad a reputation as London gets, the UK’s capital is for the most part a rather friendly bunch. Of course, if you’ve followed this blog for awhile you’re probably yawning at this point, maybe you’re about to be a sassy so and so being all like ‘er yeah Charlotte, get to the actual point you’re excited’ because we both know that perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of city life in London for me is...food.

And a whole lot of it.

From sushi, ramen and noodles to tapas and tortillas, restaurants dedicated to chicken to cafes serving solely avocado, there really is something for absolutely every tastebud in London. With this in mind however, and with my bank balance going into a pre-meditated ‘crouching with head in hands position’, there has had to be a strict (ish, okay not at all) limit to eating out habits, so my BFF and I have made it a once a week treat.

Ugh, okay we try and do once a week but if we’re walking along the street and we mistakenly slip into an establishment that just happens to sell and serve food right to us, then we really can’t be at fault.

We just can’t.

Apparently, travelling the world together for a year and living together in London just wasn’t enough for the universe, as we both actually managed to secure jobs on...the exact same day so to celebrate (another rule in the ‘eating out limit’, celebrations don’t count), we headed to Soho with some of Rosie’s family.

Soho is notorious for being pretty difficult to a) find the place you need and b) to find a seat in those places without booking or waiting a while so we decided to roll the dice and pick somewhere on Open Table - a website which shows you restaurants nearby which have free tables - and luckily, we managed to get a table at the infamous MNKY House.

Situated in Mayfair, MNKY House is a luxury Latin American bar and restaurant with a musical twist - a live DJ playing until the early hours of the morning. As one of the area’s most vibrant eateries, MNKY House provides guests with a real taste of Latin American food, using high quality and local ingredients to produce authentic yet modern dishes in a fine dining setting.

So, have they got it right?

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a handful of lovely and attentive staff members who led us through the cosy bar area downstairs into the main restaurant where we were joined by, yep you guessed it, a monkey or three.


The menu is extensive without being too much, it is quirky without being pretentious and everything sounded so delicious that it was a true team effort to decide on our dishes of choice. After a hard task of decision making (I know, but someone’s got to do it), we chose a selection of dishes to share...and they were all utterly stunning.

Source
Each dish, from the glazed soy chicken marinated in tasty spices to the prawn ceviche tortillas, was utterly delicious and made every taste bud in your mouth stand up and take note. The beef sirloin was brimming with juices, cooked to absolute perfection whilst the yellowtail was delicate and fruity in a stunning orange, passionfruit, ginger and jacama sauce.



Our waiter was nothing short of amazing - not only was his knowledge of the menu absolutely superb but when a certain someone decided it would be a good idea to put an entire chili in her mouth...and the rest of the table followed suit, he practically ran to the kitchen and brought us a glass of milk. If that isn’t service for some particularly strange guests, I don’t know what is…!



Unfortunately, we were a little too early to really get the feel for the place once the DJ had started as we moved upstairs to the bar (shocker, I know) however the atmosphere was great throughout and the ambience was really relaxed, chilled and comfortable. Despite the area, it wasn’t particularly posey or pretentious, but a restaurant with high energy and vibrancy, with a definite ‘New York’ feeling to it.

From the divine dishes to the quirky decor to the attentive staff, MNKY House was a fantastic place to spend a Friday evening. Whilst it’s a special occasion kinda place, it’s definitely somewhere that provides you with an authentic dining experience and is certainly not just a ‘bums on seat, food on plate and leave’ restaurant. If you’re thinking about heading to MNKY House soon, I really couldn’t recommend it more - plus, the Pornstar Martinis go down a real treat too!


Add me on Snapchat - charlottehall95

Friday, 28 July 2017

Adjusting to life after travelling

For the past few weeks, I’ve opened up a draft post to start writing about a restaurant in Soho, a cafe in Covent Garden...and then stopped. I’ve repeated the same action over and over again and I’ve simply put it down to being a little too tired or a little too, ahem, lazy. ‘You’ve just gotten a bout of writer’s block, Charlotte, it’s nothing new’ I’ve told myself, whilst reaching over for a bar of Dairy Milk and switching the Kardashians on..but over the past couple of days, I don’t think it is a block.

I think it’s not wanting to let go.

After arriving back in the UK after a year away, the first couple of weeks were a blur of hugs and tears, family and friends, trips and tales. People who have been in the same position in the past warn of preparing for the adjustment period, for the low to hit you, for the sense of ‘real life’ to kick back in.

Looking back now though, I don’t agree. It’s not the first couple of weeks you need to prepare for. Night upon night in your own bed is blissful, face to face chats with family are special, revelling in the home comforts you have dreamt about is just, lovely. It’s not those first couple of weeks when everything is novelty including yourself, it’s now.

It’s two months in.

I’m now in London. I live with my best friend, I have a job, I no longer have the niggling panic that my dog has forgotten who I am - in many senses of the word, I’m settled. I’m back on my feet. I’m in a very privileged position to have gotten to this point so quickly and I am very thankful but sometimes, sometimes I sit back and wonder if that year ever actually happened.

And I panic.

Where has the travelling me gone? I liked her. She gained confidence, she began to realise her worth, she, of course, drank far too much and made embarrassing errors but she was so carefree. She was free.

What if I forget things that happened? Really amazing times or special experiences? Did I really call Cape Town my home? It was all so blase, it was all so...obvious but now, now I want to grab those days and weeks and months and hold on to them so tight that the air is squeezed out of them.


Of course, once the taunting part of my brain settles down for a welcome slumber (can you just like, never come back?), I know that of course, those times are never gone, they did actually happen in actual real life. But once you’ve gotten back from a trip like that, you are quite literally re-building your life from pretty much scratch.

People have gotten used to a life where you catch up through a phone or a computer, and you’ve gotten used to that too. It’s about making space in your life again for more than just you and your travelling companion and people making room for you too. It’s not easy, adjusting to normal life again.

(I don’t call it entering the ‘real world’ again or adjusting to ‘real life’ because I don’t agree. You don’t think being stranded at the top of Signal Hill in Cape Town at night is real? Oh boy, it’s real all right.)

I suppose me now, writing this post, is adjusting. Acknowledging that I’m back but that it’s okay to give yourself time on some days to sit, to reminisce, to, well, be sad it’s over. And actually know that the travelling me hasn’t been lost along the way, I’ve just gotten used to this me now.

Sometimes I want to scream ‘this doesn’t maaaattteerrrrrrrr’ or ‘why do you CARE about this’, but I know it’s unfair. Sometimes I want to book a flight to Johannesburg for the weekend just to make sure everything is still there, that I didn’t just make this up in my mind, but I know that I didn’t. Sometimes, I just want to sit with my damn best friend and look at photos of ourselves and our friends we made and the food we ate and the places we visited and be damn self obsessed, okay.

I will always be so thankful for having had that time for myself. I know I’m a much, much better person for it and I’ve taken so many things from the good times and the bad. And now? Well now it’s time to take those experiences from the past and use them moving forward, in the present and the future.

Oh yes, and of course I have to plan my next trip, right?

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