Saturday, 14 July 2012

London Love Letters from Oasis

I was walking to work the other day and I did an actual cartoon-style double take.

At what? I hear you cry!

A hottie? They're a VERY rare sight in Canary Wharf so when you see them they take you by surprise? But, no!
A celeb? Nope... apart from at the regular book signings in the mall, I've only ever spied one celebrity in Canary Wharf and even then it was a lame one.
A pop up cake/cocktail/tapas/champagne stall? Not this time.
It was at the new window display in Oasis and their London Love Letters collection. Initially my eye was drawn to the minty-green skater dress as I've been on a three month-long mission to find a suitably ostentatious, but classy outfit for a very special up-coming wedding in this precise colour, mainly so I can use my new favourite bag. Alas my search has been largely unsuccessful thus far. I say largely, as I have found many dresses that fit the style and colour brief perfectly. Unfortunately they don't fit the price tag brief. I've seen so many dresses that cost upwards of four figures that my sense of normality has gone completely awry, much like when I was in wedding mode, and I've started thinking that £399 for a dress is actually a bit of a bargain. Well, it would be more reasonable if it were at least made of some kind of natural fabric, but no, it was 100% polyester!
Anyway, I digress, after my cartoon-style double take I made a quick detour off course to look at the minty-green dress and did a quick fly round the shop to investigate all the lovely pieces.

How cute is it?

How much do I want all of the dresses?
SO much.
But would I get the wear out of them? Probably not. It's not really appropriate to turn up to work in a short frothy dress with postcards all over it, well not in my office anyway, and I'm sure the novelty of the quirky print would wear off after one or two wears, but still, I'm me and I want it. Especially the silky, creamy shift dress with the buildings. I'm wondering if I can engineer an event that requires an outfit plastered with London scenery...
Olympics opening ceremony party.
But we have a grown up house now, and I have to spend all my cash monies on skimming the ceilings, block paving my driveway, and re-fitting the bathroom. So I'll probably take the sensible option and just buy the scarf and wait for the sale to kick in.
Being sensible sucks.

I want a dress with Big Ben on it.


Thursday, 12 July 2012

My (crazy) month: June

Where did it go? How is it almost half way through July? Time flies when you’re having fun I suppose. And time also flies when you are the busiest you’ve ever been. I feel like I should do a quick post to explain why I haven’t had much time for blogging recently (aside from the fact that I haven’t had any wifi for the last two weeks) and provide a little catch up. Also, check out my Instagram feed for all the details in picture form.

Work went ker-aaaaay-zeeee with several massive events and projects, there were more birthday celebrations than you can shake a stick at and, what was that other thing? Oh yes…
Well technically we did the actual moving out in May and the actual moving in on the first day of July (with possibly the most painful hangover known to humankind), but June itself was spent living in my parents’ spare room and doing all the house moving admin. I’m not going to sugar coat it. It was HARD. It was frustrating, it was stressful, it was draining and it got uh-ger-ly. But we all survived and came out the other side unscathed. Well most of us. There was an injury of sorts...


Anyway, enough about the hideous dramas associated with house buying and selling and a bit more about the fun stuff we did in June.

I started the month with two weddings, a thirtieth birthday, an after party and a Diamond Jubilee party. I was pretty chuffed with the outfits I managed to put together, in my homeless state, as well.

Later that same week we celebrated one of my besties, Claire from Wacey Style, getting engaged. Prosecco, canapés and lots of ooooooh-ing and aaaaaah-ing at her beautiful bling. Check out her engagement story here! I was also excited to finally get a partner in the regular "OH! SISTERS!" shot with the Disney Princesses at the Two for Ones as my sister-in-law Kate came along to play.

I treated myself to a well-earned day of rest with a facial and a full body massage and I finally got to sit still for ten minutes with tea, cake, sofa snuggling and made my boy treat me to a thai takeaway. I felt absolutely 0% guilty about my self indulgent laziness! The following week another bestie turned 30 and we had a refined affair with dinner in a local hotspot, The Blue Bridge in Writtle. Sadly, the Beckhams weren’t there that evening. Hmph (and sorry for that link).

I got a little bit excited when the lovely Rebecca posted my review of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal on her blog, Florence Finds. I think three of my friends booked tables after that! I think the restaurant owes Rebecca some commission!

I got my wellies out of storage (what a stroke of luck we could find them!) at the weekend for some field dancing at LOVEBOX in honour of another friend’s 30th birthday. I had every intention of seeing lots of the acts, but ended up taking pictures of my friend in a giant Hunter welly, sticking a false moustache to my fave and dancing on a stage with a bunch of drag queens in a fake NYC club tent until someone dragged me to see Groove Armada. We also coined our new girls-only-night-out motto of “Drink. Rave. Attack!” I’ll let you work out what that means.

A little tiny bit of downtime followed, only to ramp back up again for a full on weekend to celebrate some more birthdays. Friday afternoon saw copious cocktail consumption at Pearl atthe Chancery Court Hotel on a girly lunch date, Saturday was filled with a big family brunch and a walking tour of the city of Westminster, a spot of lunch and then a Grim Reaper tour in east London, all in honour of my mum’s birthday. Sunday was a day full of cake, bubbles and Barbie cars as we celebrated my beautiful god daughter’s fourth birthday followed by my last family roast dinner before “leaving home” for the second time in my life.

On Thursday 28th June we finally took ownership of our new home, exactly 6 months to the day after we started our property search and putting our flat on the market. On the Friday Mr G went to collect the keys and went in with a crack team of cleaners (my mum and my mother-in-law) to get it all spick and span for me to swing by after work and check out my new home.

It felt strange, exciting and a bit emotional. I wrote about it.

That night we celebrated with prosecco and macaroons. Of course!
On the last day of June we celebrated yet another 30th birthday with another bestie, Kim B (we actually are the Essex answer to the Spice Girls you know!) which involved ridiculous amounts of prosecco and bespoke (and at some points, two-for-one) cocktails at The Marylebone. That place is lethal I tell you. After drinking dangerous amounts of cocktails we (apparently, so my camera tells me) made our way to Proud Camden for some dodgy sofa dancing, floor crawling and lots and LOTS of falling over on cobbles, sofas, steps and (mainly me) flat floors.

We shall talk no further on this subject (mainly because I can’t!).
**I know the next two days aren’t technically June but despite my OCD, I’ll tell you about them quickly anyway**

The next day, with THE world’s worst hangover, I held it together just long enough to put on leggings, Uggs (in july!!!), a hoodie and sunnies and project manage both our families moving our entire life back out of storage and various garages and sheds and in to our new home. We said a small thank you and christened Mr G’s spaceship-sized 30th birthday BBQ. Sadly, as we had no bed at this stage, we took ourselves back to our temporary camp site at my parents’ house and collapsed by about 9pm.

Monday saw us move all the final bits and bobs in to the house, build our bed and do a lot of sitting on the floor as various people stopped by to check out the new pad. I left Mr G alone to undertake one last celebratory event with Kim B consisting of Thai green curry and cupcakes before spending our first night alone in our new home.

I want to say “ahhhh bliss”, but really it’s a bit “ahhhhh, mess” right now.

The bliss bit is on its way…

…and i’ll be blogging about every last step!

Ciao ciao June. Hello July!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Out and about: Pearl at the Chancery Court Hotel

At the end of June my mum celebrated her birthday and seeing as we were long overdue on our regular “god family” catch up we used this as an excuse to get together. We decided against afternoon tea this time, and decided to head somewhere for lunch instead.

In keeping with our penchant for girly venues (check out The Athenaeum, The Soho Hotel and Kensington Roof Gardens and you’ll see what I mean about “girly”) I chose Pearl at the Chancery Court Hotel.

I’d been showed round the newly refurbished hotel rooms and fell head over heels with the understated quirkiness of the styling: love quotes from Shakespeare engraved in the glass dressing table tops, books on lecterns at the end of the corridor with directions to rooms instead of signs and arrows suggesting “rooms 213 – 452 this way à” and each room had a little pewter critter or familiar on a perch outside it, which reminded me of the Dæmons in His Dark Materials. My favourite was the wide-eyed owl, no, the Dodo. Got to love an Alice in Wonderland reference!

Dodo at the door!

corridor directions

Also part of the show round was the Chocolate Afternoon Tea lounge area (which I once used for a corporate seminar, sadly without the chocolate fountains) which I’ll be heading back for someday soon and the girliest restaurant I’ve ever seen: Pearl.

The tables in Pearl are covered in white cloths and under-lit, yes under-lit*, in the centre, decorated with translucent pink vases containing a single pink stem, and surrounded by large, pink translucent (and possibly slightly iridescent) charger plates. It was pink-tastic without being Barbie-tastic or tacky. Well I don’t think it was tacky, but someone must have as I’m pretty sure I saw it on an episode of Footballers’ Wives long ago…

girly pink plates!

underlit, girly pink tables
But let me tell you about the best bit! The best bit are the strings and strings of soft pink pearls and sparkly pink crystals hanging everywhere – from the light fittings, from windows, from purpose-made stands to separate the sofas in the bar to create more of a booth feel. This is where I probably should have told you about the building’s heritage. Originally the banking halls for Pearl Assurance (hence the name), the bar area is large and spacious with high ceilings a long bar and shiny marble, polished glass or glossy wood on every surface, so sectioning the seating in to smaller areas makes it feel slightly more cosy and intimate whilst still being airy and light. Another interesting fact, not on the website, as far as I can see, but mentioned by the employee who showed me around, the Grand Staircase was used in a recent Bond film. It wasn’t clarified which, but I think I’ve spotted it in Quantum of Solace…

The restaurant was apparently also the filming location for Masterchef: The Professionals finale in 2010.
With the restaurant’s name (until you know the history, above), the minimalist styling and all the pearl décor and an executive head chef named Jun Tanaka you’d be forgiven for thinking that the menu would be full of Asian-style dishes. Well you’d be wrong. The menu is French. But not French in the heavy, creamy, calorific way (sorry, France is not my favourite food region!), but in the fresh, delicate and dainty way. In fact, my choices felt rather healthy – which can’t often be said for French cuisine (sadly, otherwise I’d eat LittleParis Kitchen recipes three times a day, EVERY day!).

We chose to opt for the set lunch menu as it’s waaay cheaper than the a la carte alternative, (although they often appear on with good deals for dinner and a cocktail for a reasonable price) and picked the three course option at a cost of £28.

I chose a starter of veal tongue with tuna mayonnaise (huh? Really? Yes!) which sounded like a ridiculous combination but actually tasted amazing. I was a bit scared about the veal tongue, and tried not to think about it as I ate it (it’s making me shudder now!) but it was tender and melt in the mouth and I soon forgot my offal/unusual-body-part-of-animal aversion.

My starter: veal tongue with tuna mayonnaise
My main dish was roast salmon with lightly spiced lentils pickled carrots and yoghurt dressing. It was delicious. I couldn’t get enough of it. I could have eaten another two portions. The salmon was cooked wonderfully juicy and flavoursome and was perfectly complemented by the hint of spice in the lentils, the tartness carrots and freshness of the yoghurt, all of which added an interesting combination of flavours. It was the kind of dish that warrants the title “simple yet effective”. I want to recreate it in my kitchen at home and eat it every week, and I feel kind of confident that I could, which says something about its simplicity.

My main course: roast salmon

Anyway, a little break, and dessert was on its way. I chose mandarin mousse with white chocolate ice cream. I’m not big on mousse and I’m not big on white chocolate so it was an odd choice for me, but the other option was a hazelnut parfait and I hate nuts! I’m not going to lie, it won’t be going on my Most Amazing Desserts list, and let’s be honest, it’s going to take something pretty special to knock the pineapple tipsy cake off the top spot, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was light, but tasty and hit the spot – you know, that spot that needs hitting with something sweet after a few savoury courses and some wine?

Dessert option 1: mandarin mousse with white chocolate ice cream

Dessert option 2: hazelnut mousse
I want to make mention of the service as well, as the waiters and serving staff were super attentive, helpful, friendly, polite and knowledgeable. No snooty maître d’ here!!

I’d like to head back in the evening or when it’s busier to get a better feel for the atmosphere as it was very quiet when we went in and I do like a bit of buzz in my venues, but for a nice, refined girly lunch being able to chat across a large round table without having to shout was actually rather pleasant! I’d also like to return to check out their chocolate afternoon tea and their lounge bar, which comes complete with a tapas-style buffet. Perfect location for a wintery catch up, with cheese and a glass of red by the fire and chocolate and cake in a squishy sofa… so watch this space!

The afternoon tea buffet - I'll be heading back!
Obviously we rounded off the afternoon with some cocktails in one of my old school Covent Garden haunts, Dirty Martini, before heading home for sofa pyjama snuggles and presents...and a sneaky glass of prosecco... obvs!

*I asked on the show round about the underlit tables and the reason is, that as a listed building the occupiers can’t alter any of the internal structure or permanent décor in specific areas (particularly the old banking halls – now Pearl and the grand staircase), so they can’t add in any more lighting and therefore, under-lit tables were the solution.