8 Ways to Celebrate Singapore’s 50th Anniversary (OneTravel)

Singapore Golden Jubilee

2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the tiny city-state of Singapore becoming an independent republic. To celebrate its Golden Jubilee, a range of activities is in the works.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest and most anticipated.

Read my complete post at OneTravel.

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Big Night Out at Balans, Westfield London

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Photo by Kemey Lafond

Balans is on a mission to revamp its eateries with its Westfield London outlet being the first to receive a spruce up. An invitation to drop by for a look and meal at its updated “Soho Society” digs resulted in a tasty night out for Kemey and me – made all the more pleasant by outstandingly prompt service.

I hadn’t been to a Balans in a very long time before the other weekend, and I’d never been to the Westfield London location. So, I can’t compare the place to what it used to look like. Still, Designer Simon Costin’s clever curation of the space was a little bit Soho, a little Wonderland with plenty of comfort in between – augmenting our dining experience more than overshadowing it.

And what a dining experience it was! I loved my Cornstar Martini (Tito’s popcorn-infused vodka, dry vermouth, salted popcorn, £8.20) and thought it proved to be a smart aperitif to be followed by a starter course of “Chicken Thrice-Fried” with shichimi mayonnaise (£6). I thoroughly savoured the opportunity to have a ribeye (with triple cooked chips and Béarnaise, £21), while warm doughnuts (I substituted a scoop of vanilla ice cream for whipped cream and plum compote, £6) ended the meal on a yummy note. Kemey was pleased with her selections too, especially her main course of gnocchi (butternut squash, field mushroom, sage, £9) and her dessert of white chocolate cheesecake (£6).

Prices were more than reasonable for the quality and quanity (as well as for the area). Service was on the ball, friendly and helpful.

Balans Soho Society is located at Unit 1032, Ariel Way, Westfield Shopping Centre, W12 7GA. Balans has locations in Soho, Kensington and Westfield Stratford City too (as well as an outlet in Miami). Find out more at balans.co.uk.

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Gourmet Burger Kitchen Presents the St Morish

GBK St Morish

Off piste with your current burger options? Gourmet Burger Kitchen has recently introduced a new ski season inspired limited edition cheeseburger which might prove to be the summit of your wintertime noshing. For Alpine delights in mountainous bites, go for the St Morish next time you’re craving a burger this winter.

This prime beef and Swiss raclette cheeseburger served on a brioche bun is amply stacked with truffled mushrooms, “baconaisse”, chilli chocolate ketchup and onion jam. It’s super yummy, and despite such an overloaded melange of ingredients the resulting flavour is morishly cohesive. I loved trying this tasty ensemble (at GBK’s comfy N1 Centre location near Angel Station) and especially enjoyed having my St Morish as part of an Après Ski Bundle (£14.95, including a choice of fries and a drink). Rosemary skinny fries and a Nutella milkshake proved ideal sidekicks for this burger. I was happy to have asked for a small pot of truffle mayo on the side too!

No word on when exactly the St Morish will be slalomed off the GBK menu. But for burger fans, it’s worth wishing for a longer than usual winter!

Gourmet Burger Kitchen has locations across the UK. Find out more at gbk.co.uk.

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Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge Added to National Geographic’s Top List of Lodges (OneTravel)

Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve - Hippo

I’m just back from a few days of luxury safari at Earth Lodge in the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in South Africa. Yes, I was only there for a four nights. To be sure, I would have been delighted to stay a whole lot longer. But in all honesty four nights was plenty of time for me to completely unwind, to enjoy the lodge’s facilities and its gorgeous surroundings, and even get see Africa’s “Big Five” while exploring the reserve with a tracker and guide in the comfort of a open top Land Cruiser.

The lodge was amazing. And obviously the chance to see lions, elephants, rhinos, giraffes and so many other wild animals in their natural habitat was an absolute thrill …

Read my complete post at OneTravel.

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London Daily Photo: Darwin

LDP 2015.02.12 - Darwin

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Romance Is “In the Bag” with Brompton Food Market

Brompton Food Market bags

Leila Dukes loves eating out at restaurants, but there’s one day of the year when she reckons it’s best to avoid them at all costs.

Restaurants on Valentine’s Day are invariably horrific: the overpriced set menus, the gaudy decorations, the forced phoniness of it all. No thank you! Chefs, waiters and kitchen staff hate it too; it’s much easier to cater for a restaurant full of friendly groups of four and six than dozens of lonely little tables for two.

If only this celebration of love and romance was in midsummer and we could revel in outdoor picnics, feeding each other strawberries and snoozing in the sun.

Best to stay in, get cosy and enjoy a genuinely intimate, relaxing feast together. The lovely, talented lot at the Brompton Food Market agree, and have come up with the brilliant idea to deliver a Valentine’s Day meal kit to London’s lovebirds. It’s not just for smug married types – they’re also offering the deal for one, AND a bottle of house wine thrown in for singles. All the prep is done to very high, cheffy standards so all you have to do is cook it as per the instructions.

The bags arrived with all the components and instructions to put together a classic, elegant, aphrodisiac-packed four course meal for two.

Brompton Food Market steaks

Food is definitely the way to my heart, and this menu is the type of thing that would get me shouting undying love from the rooftops:

Lobster cocktail, blood orange dressing, romaine lettuce, baguette … peppered rare breed fillet steak, truffled mash, creamed spinach and nutmeg, red wine gravy … or … monkfish, truffled mash, creamed spinach and nutmeg, butter chive sauce. Lemon and passion fruit posset, tropical fruit salad. La Tur soft cheese with truffle honey and oat cakes. You can also order specially selected wine as part of the kit.

The starter was luxurious yet light enough to save room for the rich courses to come. Generous chunks of beautifully firm, juicy lobster meat were enrobed in a silky sauce, offset by a crunchy salad and a punchy dressing of seasonal blood orange.

The only bit of cooking required is to get a heavy pan very hot and sear the peppered fillet steaks briefly on each side.

The sides of truffle mash and nutmeg-y spinach just needed to be reheated – they complemented the meat beautifully.We managed to find room for lemon posset for pudding … And polished off the final course of ripe La Tur cheese, oat biscuits and truffle honey snuggled up on the sofa. You can’t do that in a restaurant!

Everything was very easy to put together and the portion sizes were well judged. Even though my artistic plating up skills could do with some work, it all looked, smelled and tasted fabulous. Every component of every dish was restaurant quality; excellent ingredients prepared with skill and seasoned to perfection.

Whether you’re in a new relationship or have been together for years, this was the perfect Valentine’s Day date. It’s fun getting everything ready together and honestly, we felt the same sense of satisfaction as we would have done if the meal had taken hours of work. Best of all, we didn’t have to schlep home after the meal. If things do escalate romantically as one would hope after such a gorgeous meal, the bedroom is just down the hall… nudge nudge, wink wink!

The Valentine’s Day kit is available from Brompton Food Market, £70.00 plus delivery. Place your orders now in time for V Day this weekend!

Find out more at bromptonfoodmarket.co.uk.

Written by Leila Dukes. For Leila, “food is always connected to history, influenced by previous generations, different countries and customs, friends & family … it’s about learning, teaching, sharing, and celebrating. This review also appears on her blog, Swallower of Lives.

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London Daily Photo: St Pancras

LDP 2015.02.11 - St Pancras

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Sabi Sabi Safari

Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve - Earth Lodge

People who know me well are aware that I spent a good chunk of my mid 20s (during the 90s) rambling through much of Southern Africa and even doing a patch of volunteer work in Mozambique. It was a big time in my life, yielding a lifetime of memories and helping shape the more upright and decent qualities of my personality. It’s been more years than I care to mention – with loads of travel in between – but I finally made it back to Southern Africa with a press trip to the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in South Africa. And let me tell you it was worth the wait!

Although this recent visit was only a five-day trip, the experience blew me away. The inconceivably wide-open spaces, the abundance of wildlife, the kind and easy-going folks … the absolutely gorgeous food: everything came together in such a beautiful way to bridge my recollections from back in the day when I was a wide-eyed backpacker with an insatiable desire to go everywhere with the contemplations of the writer I am today, still keen to continue exploring the world as widely and as often as I am able.

Yes, I admit that’s a lot of rather baroque hooey coming from the usually much more laconic me. But that’s what Sabi Sabi seems to have done to the soul.

Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve - Rhinos

Making eye contact with a lion metres away from my seat in a topless Land Cruiser … lounging in a private plunge pool in the buff while smoking a Cuban and staring off into the unfenced and utterly vast savannah … losing track of how many rhinos and elephants I’d seen in the span of a couple of hours … having a multi course feast prepared by a Michelin starred chef and paired with some of the best South African wines available … getting one to most relaxing massages I’ve had in too long awhile … Sabi Sabi turned me into a blathering mess of wow.

Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve - Earth Lodge

To be sure, I could carry on blathering about all sorts of wows from my stay at Sabi Sabi’s luxurious and eco friendly Earth Lodge. Indeed, I intend to. I’ll be writing about Sabi Sabi for a variety of outlets and certainly will post links to all my pieces here on the blog.

Chef Eric Chavot at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

A key aspect of my trip to be covered in upcoming pieces was my opportunity to witness the launch of the new consultant chef partnership with Eric Chavot at the Earth Lodge. I’d met Eric once before and was already a fan of cuisine Chavot – he’s about as convivial (and, honestly, wacky) a Michelin starred chef as ever you’re apt to meet. And his Mayfair brasserie presented one of the most gorgeous restaurant meals I’ve yet to have in London. As for the food pre and post Chavot at Earth Lodge. Now that Eric’s back at work in his London kitchen, other high profile chefs are due also to share their expertise with the Sabi Sabi staff (rumours about Neil Perry dropping by were not dismissed as unfounded).

So, return to one of my favourite parts of the planet for a luxury safari with one of London’s best chefs and then come back home and write about it? Duh, okay. Talk about a no brainer – and one seemingly designed to meld perfectly with how and why I like to live my lucky life.

If you’re of the bucket listing persuasion, by all means add going on safari to the top of those to-dos – and strongly consider making the choice to do it in impeccable Sabi Sabi style.

Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve - Lion

Keep an eye out for more bits by me about this gloriously ultra luxurious sliver of refinement deep within the South African bush. Until then, make note of these services that helped me get the most out of my Sabi Sabi Safari.

Addison Lee

I used the handy dandy Addison Lee app to get a car to/fro Heathrow for my flights to Joburg.

Africa Collection

I flew economy with South African Airways. Both flights were comfortable and overnight. The flights were booked through Africa Collection. With more than 200 years of experience, this specialist provider of tailor-made holidays offers packages to Sabi Sabi as well as a range of destinations in in Southern Africa, East Africa and the Indian Ocean islands.

Federal Air

Internal flights via OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and Sabi Sabi were with Federal Air, the pioneer and founder of South Africa’s premier shuttle service. With more than 20 year experience within the airline industry. Pilots were super cool. The lounge at OR Tambo was a lovely place to chill between flights will plenty of creature comforts, snacks and free WiFi.

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Big Hair Party at Maggie’s

Styling area

A disco ball, flashing neon lights, and leopard print décor. While a trip to Maggie’s may not include any real time travel, members’ nights promise to whisk you off the streets of 21st century Chelsea and into the flashy nightclub scene of the 1980s. At Maggie’s January soirée, Maddie Salters was thrilled to find that the age of PEZ and Pac Man was alive and kicking it on the dance floor. Here are some of her thoughts about her experience at Maggie’s aptly-named Big Hair Party.

The vibe at Maggie’s was contagious. Stepping off the black-lit stairs into a den of album covers and cassette tapes, there was a ready box of wigs available for guests at coat check. Bleach-blonde mullets and glittering Jheri curls were up for grabs. While it was a shame to have to pass on the opportunity, I’d been especially looking forward to the club’s team-up with Michael John salon for the evening, which promised to provide partygoers with the biggest, baddest hair around. But first, libations.

Wandering up to the bar – where a glittering portrait of the club’s namesake and 80’s icon Margaret Thatcher looked out onto a dance floor filled with patrons in sweatbands swaying to beats provided by a flash drummer – I took advantage of the club’s bespoke drinks. A Golden Mullet (£13), Maggie’s infusion of peach, orange, cranberry over Cîroc vodka, made for a smooth starter. My friend’s Bangs of Beauty (£13) was a stouter sip, a fizzy blend of angostura bitters and ginger beer, soothed over with more Cîroc. Bartenders clad in solid sequin dresses presided over a plate of fondant treats by LaDiDa London, and while “Jessie’s Girl” thrummed in the background, I bit into my couture culinary experience- Cosmopolitan and Bailey’s Chocolate cakes.

Any night that begins with someone asking, “Do you think the cupcakes are alcoholic?” is bound to be memorable. Sufficiently sated, I headed for the Michael John pop-up salon at the back of the club, where in a haze of hairspray and Polaroids, the talented technicians of one of London’s top boutiques teased a few inches, crimps, and extensions into my hair. Now I looked the part, and could enjoy a night of cosmic disco and cocktails.

Maggie’s isn’t your typical romp, and not the place to go for a quick pint. If you’re looking for something fresh and out of the ordinary, or have been wondering how to incorporate your jean jacket into a night out, then ditch the pub and apply for membership. Kitsch is nearly ecclesiastic in this space, with Rubik’s Cube table service and Rodger Rabbit restrooms, but Maggie’s also furnishes all the modern essentials, with free-for-use premium colognes and toiletries for freshening up, and a DJ sound system that would have made Tron glow green with envy.

If you’re in the mood to meet great people while getting your boogie down and your hair up in unapologetically 80’s ambiance, then this is your jam. The nostalgia bomb of the Big Hair Party hit hard enough to leave me lip-synching to WHAM! days later.

Maggies is located at 329 Fulham Road SW10 9QL. Learn more at maggies-club.com.

Written by Maddie Salters, a native New Yorker who has lived abroad for half of her life – from cities spanning Montreal to Osaka. While there’s still a lot on her “to trek” list, she has currently landed with both feet firmly in London. As a seasoned travel writer and cultural essayist, you can find her work on TripAdvisor, and in print in Wanderlust Magazine and other international publications.

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Gordon Ramsay’s Heddon Street Kitchen, Mayfair

Heddon St Grog

Here’s a thorough and nuanced look at Gordon Ramsay’s latest eatery to open in London, Heddon Street Kitchen. The post comes compliments of Leila Dukes, who’s back in full force on the foodie scene after a rather eventful end of 2014.

Last Autumn, “wedmin” (and a few weeks of last minute carb-dodging before the big day) meant I neglected to keep up with my always-growing list of must visit new restaurants with my usual vigour.

One of the places that has been on my radar for several months is Heddon Street Kitchen, the latest in Gordon Ramsay’s international portfolio. Mr “Big Sweary” has a dozen or so restaurants in London and this newest offering promises informal Modern European food in Heddon Street, a pedestrianised section of Mayfair which is being dubbed “Regent Street’s Food Quarter”.

The restaurant has received a mixed reception since opening, and I was looking forward to sampling it for myself now the venue has had a few months to bed in to the London dining scene.

The atmosphere is buzzing; the crowds of people did not seem to be put off by any negative reviews. The industrial chic vibe is offset with cosy tables and banquette seating, plus some inviting details dotted around such as retro desk lamps and piles of rolled up blankets.

Our assembled group of food bloggers kicked off with cocktails. Brits Spritz reminded me of a combination of a classic Aperol Spritz and Pimms fruit cup, combining Kamm & Sons, elderflower cordial, soda and Prosecco. The Lady Regent was an elegant and refreshing blend of Hendricks gin, Ruinquinquin peach, elderflower, lemon and mint, garnished with a single rose petal. Most memorable was the Heddon St Grog – a quirky metal tankard brimming with Bacardi Oakheart, Cherry Heering, pineapple, lemon, Bitters, sugar, Innis & Gunn original beer.

We then shared platters of hot and cold starters so we could sample a variety of dishes from the menu. The spicy tuna tartare, chilli garlic, sesame oil, wonton crisps (£12) was incredibly moreish and just the type of thing I would be happy picking at throughout the evening over cocktails with friends. Similarly, the California maki roll with snow crab mix, avocado, tobiko made a great bar snack – I’ve had better sushi not too far from this restaurant, but it was tasty enough. The Fried Rock Oysters with fennel and lemon confit salad (£13.50) were popular, but in my humble opinion, I don’t see the point of deep frying oysters, or smothering them in accompaniments. This rare treat is far better ice cold, raw and freshly shucked for that pure taste of the sea.

My top choice was the Tamarind spiced chicken wings (£8.50), which had a perfect crunchy crust, tender flesh and lip-smacking, tangy sauce. Another winner was the potted salt beef brisket, grain mustard and piccalilli, buckwheat crackers (£9.50) – the bold, salty and meaty flavours of the meat were a brilliant foil to the punchy piccalilli accompaniment. I couldn’t stop piling it onto the nutty buckwheat crackers. Roasted veal carpaccio with dill pickles and tuna dressing (£12.50) was an interesting combination and while it was pleasant enough, was not a finely balanced dish as the dressing overpowered the delicate flavour and texture of the veal.

Moving on to the mains, we sampled bites of a variety of options, starting withslow-roasted saddleback pork belly, spiced apple sauce (£16). Like several of the dishes at Heddon Street Kitchen, I couldn’t help but think that I’ve enjoyed better, cheaper versions not too far from this restaurant. The meat was a touch dry and mealy, which is surprising for such a fatty cut. Similarly Herdwick lamb cutlets (£26) were fine, but could have done with more “zip” in flavour, either from a marinade or a smokier finish from the grill.

The spiced plaice, piperade, chorizo, cauliflower purée and parsley oil(£22) was a divisive dish: it was my favourite of the mains while others felt it didn’t go particularly well with the other dishes we sampled. Typically, the dish I most looked forward to was one of the most disappointing. The best mac & cheese should make you want to bury your face in it; I abandoned the Macaroni cheese with garlic roasted crumbs (£5) after a couple of forkfuls. Someone on the table queried whether the chefs may have forgotten to put cheese in – not a good sign.

The highlight of the evening was hands down the Chocolat fondant (£8). We held our breaths as the first spoon went in, the moment of truth – sure enough, molten chocolate goo spilled out joyfully over the plate. A perfect example of this favourite dessert.

I almost overlooked it but the Pineapple carpaccio (£7) quietly stole the show. Shaved slices of the aromatic fruit were served with a syrup infused with star anise and chilli – it was the most delicious way to round off the evening’s indulgences with something light yet interesting. I have made a mental note to recreate this at home; it would be an amazing, refreshing dessert after a curry night.

So to summarise, there were some hits, some misses, a pleasant evening of food all in all with nothing particularly astonishingly good or bad. While I would advise heading elsewhere if you want to be wowed by a truly unique dining experience, Heddon Street Kitchen is spot on for catching up with group of friends over cocktails and crowd-pleasing bites.

Heddon Street Kitchen is located at 3-9 Heddon Street, W1B 4BN. Find out more at heddonstreetkitchen.co.uk.

Written by Leila Dukes. For Leila, “food is always connected to history, influenced by previous generations, different countries and customs, friends & family … it’s about learning, teaching, sharing, and celebrating. This review also appears on her blog, Swallower of Lives.

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Recipe: Elvis Oats

Recipe: Elvis Oats - DSC_3012

As “blogger of the month” for Pip & Nut, I thought I’d come up with a few recipes using its creamy peanut butter. Here’s one for a hearty breakfast that I like to call Elvis Oats. You know about those peanut butter, banana, honey, and bacon sandwiches that Elvis Presley loved so much to eat, right? And I’m sure you’re aware of the sad tale of how the King of Rock ‘n Roll, died “on his throne”. If only Elvis had been a more regular guy, he might still have been rocking with us today. What if there had been a way for the king to have enjoyed his preferred royal dish while adding some much needed fibre to his diet? That’s where my recipe for Elvis Oats comes in. It’s a fibre-filled homage to Elvis’ favourite treat that’s delicious, a little bit indulgent and especially filling.

You can use any kind of oats you wish for this recipe, but I recommend making it with oat bran. It’s more nutritious and contains loads more dietary fibre. I reckon it’s a tad tastier too.

Keep in mind that minus the bacon this recipe is vegan – and still really yummy. To retain that bacon-y kick without adding any actual bacon to your oats, try substituting a pinch of smoked paprika.

ELVIS OATS

Yum

Ingredients (for one serving)

• B About 100g of oat bran;
• Water as required (about one cup);
• Heaping tablespoon of peanut butter;
• Chopped banana;
• 2 strips of pre-cooked streaky bacon (I recommend smoked bacon);
• Honey to taste.

Method

• Place the oat bran, peanut butter, banana, and most of the honey (save enough to drizzle over the bacon) in a bowl;
• Bring your water to a boil;
• Pour the water over the items in your bowl until and mix thoroughly until you get the consistency you prefer – soupy, clumpy, goopy;
• Top with the bacon (if you’re adding the bacon right out of the pan/off the grill you’ll probably want to remove excess grease with a kitchen towel) and drizzle the rest of the honey across it.

Serve

Voila: a bowl of oat bran! Enjoy your breakfast.

About Pip & Nut

New to the shelf Pip & Nut natural food brand offers a range of three nutty and nutritious spreads available in 250g jars (RRP £4.29) and 30g squeeze packs (RRP £1.19/pack or £4.50 for a multi-pack of five) at Selfridges and other fine retailers:

• Peanut Butter, a naturally nutritious smooth nut butter, made from just-roasted peanuts and spiked with a sprinkling of sea salt;
• Almond Butter, the finest Californian almonds, blended to a silky smooth texture, enhanced with a dash of sea salt;
• Almond & Coconut Butter, made from roasted almonds and toasted coconut, sweetened slightly with all-natural agave syrup and spiked with a sprinkling of sea salt, an indulgent treat that’s delicious spooned straight from the jar.

Find out more at pipandnut.com.

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London Daily Photo: Go Home

LDP 2015.02.10 - Go Home

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Support The Sick Children’s Trust by throwing a Big Chocolate Tea Party (Great British Chefs)

DSC_4475

When he’s not busy making some of Britain’s best chocolate, Master Chocolatier Paul A Young volunteers his time as Vice President of The Sick Children’s Trust. The trust provides free, high quality accommodation, as well as emotional and practical support, for families with seriously ill children in hospital. There are ten Sick Children’s Trust “Home from Home” facilities across Britain, all of which are based in major paediatric hospitals across the UK.

It costs the trust £28 to provide a room in one of its homes for a whole family for one night. Do you think you could come up with £28 for this worthy cause, while enjoying a
chocolatey good time with family and friends?

Read my complete post at Great British Chefs.

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Give Me Space: Does Urban Storage Have to be a Complicated Hassle?

LDP 2013.04.01 - Wits End

Let’s face it. London is a fantastic city to call home, but too often homes here aren’t such fantastic places for storing your stuff.

Most Londoners I know are sharing a residence with housemates or managing the best they can on their own or with a partner or family … and in the vast majority of cases they have little or no storage space. And it seems that the more convenient the location or newer the property, the less likely they are to have even the most basic of facilities for putting things away and keeping them safe.

Moving house, redecorating, going out of town for business (and trying not to leave a big mess for your partner to deal with) … there are plenty of reasons to move your things around and get them out of the way, if only in the short term. I’ve been hit with a load of these situations myself lately. Going with most options for stowing your stuff can be costly and complicated. But as I’m finding out, urban storage doesn’t necessarily have to be such a hassle.

DSC06282

Yep, Kemey and I moved to a new place near the end of last year – and we are still in the midst of what seems like a never-ending renovations project (of our own masochistic doing!). And, sure, I’m hitting the road more and more and my blog gains readers and my profile as a writer continues to grow. So, we’ve been “in the market” for a good solution for our storage needs, and when we came across SpaceWays we were both really impressed with its flexible, customer-focused approach to help urbanites make better use of their space with taking up too much of their time.

SpaceWays replaces expensive and inconvenient self-storage with on-demand full-service storage via durable boxes delivered to your doorstep that you fill with your things. These boxes and your oversized items get picked up for free and stored in secure facilities, and then returned whenever you need them. Pricing is transparent and starts at the low price of £3 per month.

SpaceWays Box

Over the next few months, I’m going to give SpaceWays a go and share my experience with the service over a few posts. I’m also going to run a competition offering one lucky reader free storage of three boxes for six months with SpaceWays, along with free pick up  and delivery of your items. Interested in clearing some of your own clutter and trying SpaceWays’ service … for free?

To be in with a chance to win six months of SpaceWays storage for free, simply tweet the following:

RT to win six months free storage with @Space_Ways, courtesy of @tikichris: http://bit.ly/16JoUva #GiveMeSpace

T&C

I’ll pick one winner at random on Friday 1 May at 11.30am BST. The winner will be entitled to six months of free storage. To be eligible to win, you need to have an address within the M25 (this could be a student hall, hotel, house, flat, place of business) where your items can be picked up and returned.

Find out more about SpaceWays at spaceways.co.uk.

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London Daily Photo: Rip Your Heart Out

LDP 2015.02.09 - Rip Your Heart Out

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Plan Your Romantic Day in London (OneTravel)

DSC00056

Will you be planning Valentine’s Day with your sweetie in London?

Make it a day to remember with this list of a few of the most romantic settings …

Read my complete post at OneTravel.

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Koshu of Japan 2015

Koshu of Japan 2015

Last week saw the return of the annual UK Trade and Press Tasting of Koshu wines from the Yamanashi Prefecture of Japan to The Westbury Hotel in Mayfair. Lucky to have scored a place at the event’s food and wine matching seminar, I’m pleased to share with you some of my faves from the tasting.

If it’s of Japanese origin and ingestible, it’s currently very much en vogue and most likely on the minds of innumerable London foodies. And with good reason! Whether we’re talking about down and dirty street food or high end and haut cuisine, there’s some super tasty Japanese food and drink to be enjoyed in town these days. Since the end of last year, I’ve been all but blown away but the number of quality eateries I’ve come across.

So, with a seemingly unquenchable desire to taste the best Japan has to offer, this year might be turn out to be the year for Koshu in London.

Fresh and delicate with pronounced acidity, Koshu wines go especially well with Japanese cuisine but also most seafood, just about any raw or smoked fish, and even good ole fish ‘n chips. An ideal pairing from last week’s tasting was 2013 Suntory Tomi no Oka Koshu with smoked eel with cucumber and creamed horseradish. I really liked sampling Grace Wine’s offerings too. The 2014 Private Reserve Katsunuma was particularly bright and balanced.

On the downside, Koshu is expensive. The high price makes sense given that land is at such a premium in populous Japan and that these wines are actually a quality product. Still it might not make sense budget wise when listed next to comparable non-Japanese wines or other Japanese drink such at saki, whisky or beer. Still, it’s well worth a try. I’m certainly keen for more.

Look for Koshu at finer Japanese restaurants and boutique wine shops. There’s a limited selection at Selfridges too.

Find out lots more at koshuofjapan.co.uk.

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London Daily Photo: Chatsworth Road

LDP 2015.02.08 - Chatsworth Road

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Clementine Communications Showcase: Good Stuff!

Crunchy Heart

Good stuff and lots of it! Here’s the low down on a few of the many fine things to sip or savour which I’ve recently come across during the Clementine Communications‘ showcase of clients at the end of last month and thought were worth sharing with you. Enjoy.

Corkers Crisps

Made with “East Anglian spuds” on a family farm in the fenlands of Cambridgeshire, Corkers Crisps are a little crisper and tastier than most other brands I’ve come across. I really liked Corkers’ Gressingham Duck and Hoisin Sauce flavoured crisps.

Cramele Recas

One of the biggest wine producers in Romania and the country’s top exporter of bottled wine, Cremele Recas produces a range of wines for practically all palates and price points. And if you haven’t come across Romanian wines yet, stop your snickering! There are some great quaffs for phenomenal value heading this way from the east. I particularly enjoyed tasting La Putere, a medium bodied red made with Romanian native varietal Feteasca Neagra, for its complex nose and earthy notes.

La Maison du Chocolat

In time for Valentine’s, La Maison du Chocolat has launched a selection of four “Caramel Sensations” including one with a Woody Accent (plain dark chocolate ganache, pure cru Criollo from Venezuela); another yielding a Fruity Revelation (dark chocolate ganache with pineapples from Costa Rica and fresh ginger); a Caramel Fusion (milk chocolate ganache with an infusion of red Rooibos tea and maple syrup); and a Crunchy Heart (dark chocolate heart with a praliné, Piedmontese hazelnuts and slivers of caramelised biscuits). I loved sampling a whole quartet!

Monroe Overdry Prosecco DOC Extra Dry Special Edition

“Forgiving, food-friendly, guest-friendly, easy-going, value-conscious, and festive” Monroe Overdry Prosecco D.O.C. Extra Dry Special Edition sparkling is made from grapes grown by a number of growers on the hills vineyards around Treviso in Veneto region, northern Italy. I reckon this brand would make a brilliant choice for an aperitif or to be served alongside canapés.

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London Daily Photo: Hoe Street

LDP 2015.02.07 - Hoe Street

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Get a Free Hot Chocolate at Hotel Chocolat Cafes All Valentine’s Week!

Get a Free Hot Chocolate at Hotel Chocolat Cafes All Valentine’s Week!

To show my readers how much I appreciate each and every one of you for supporting my blog, I’ve come up with a sweetheart of an offer that’s good all Valentine’s Week: FREE hot chocolate from Hotel Chocolat!

Yep, that’s right! All week at any Hotel Chocolat Café, when you mention “tikichris” (and show a screen grab or printout of this page), you can add a hot chocolate to any purchase at no extra charge. And if you’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying one of Hotel Chocolat’s hot chocolate, let me tell you they are yuuuuummy!

So while you’re doing your Valentine’s shopping, make sure to treat yourself as well.

Get your free hot chocolate at these locations across the UK:

T&C

This offer is valid from Monday 9th to Sunday the 15th of February only at Hotel Chocolat locations that serve hot chocolate. Limit one hot chocolate per purchase per day. For offer to be redeemed a screen grab or printout of this page must be presented.

Find out more about Hotel Chocolat at hotelchocolat.com.

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Happy Waitangi Day, New Zealand! (OneTravel)

Waitangi Day

February 6th is Waitangi Day, a national holiday in New Zealand which commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the nation’s founding document, in 1840. Signed by representatives of the British Crown and various Maori chiefs from the North Island of New Zealand, the treaty established a British governor for New Zealand while recognizing Maori ownership of their lands and properties and gave Maori the rights of British subjects.

Waitangi Day was first officially commemorated in 1934, and it has been a public holiday since 1974.

Read my complete post at OneTravel.

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London Daily Photo: Hoe Street Dreams

LDP 2015.02.06 - Hoe Street Dreams

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eHarmony Promo Code + a Chance to Win a Month’s Worth of Popcorn

COMPETITION IS NOW OVER AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN CONTACTED. THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING TIKICHRIS. PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR LOTS MORE FUN AND FREEBIES TO COME!

As mentioned in a previous post, eHarmony has launched a new #LoveCinema campaign. To help them spread the word, I’ve team up with the popular dating site and with Metcalfe’s Skinny Topcorn to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a month’s worth of popcorn for free. I’ve also got a generous promo code to share that gives anyone signing up to eHarmony a 12 month membership at £9.95 a month – a 38% discount on the sites’ standard 12 month membership (and 75% off the monthly rate).

To be in with a chance to win 12 packets (two each of six flavours) of Metcalfe’s Skinny Topcorn, simply tweet the following:

RT to win a month’s worth of @MetcalfesSkinny #popcorn compliments of @eHarmonyUK + @tikichris: http://bit.ly/1CAwczh #LoveCinema

Please take a moment to read the terms and conditions before tweeting!

T&C

I’ll pick one winner at random on Monday 9 February at 11.30am BST. The winner will receive 12 packets (two each of six flavours) of Metcalfe’s Skinny Topcorn. To be eligible to win, you need to have an address in the UK where the prize can be posted. Good luck.

eHarmony promo code

Now … for that promo code:

Use promo code “TIKICHRIS” for eHarmony 12 month membership at £9.95 a month – 38% discount on the standard 12 month membership and 75% off the monthly rate. The code is valid until the end of this month (February 2015) and can be redeemed at eharmony.co.uk/tikichris.

Happy dating ☺

COMPETITION IS NOW OVER AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN CONTACTED. THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING TIKICHRIS. PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR LOTS MORE FUN AND FREEBIES TO COME!

Check out more tikichris competitions.

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London Daily Photo: Power Giant

LDP 2015.02.05 - POWER GIANT

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Recipe: Peanut Butter and Pickle Chicken Melt with Sriracha Dijon Dip

Recipe: Peanut Butter and Pickle Chicken Melt with Sriracha Dijon Dip

As “blogger of the month” for Pip & Nut, I thought I’d come up with a few recipes using its creamy peanut butter. Here’s my first go: a peanut butter and pickle chicken melt with sriracha Dijon dip. Sound like a mouthful? That’s the idea! But if the prospect of blending peanut butter, pickle, cheese, chicken, hot sauce, mustard, and honey into one bite seems a little odd or even off putting, I’d suggest you at least try this mighty ensemble – you might be surprised how yummy (and not really all the unusual) it tastes. And if you reckon such a sandwich may well indeed do the trick to appease mega-flavour craving taste buds, you could find it’s actually even better than you imagine.

It’s worth pointing out that the peanut butter I use for the recipe is all natural, not too salty and has no added sweeteners or preservatives. So, results could vary if you use other brands. Also, I like to pickle brine my chicken before cooking it for maximum flavor.

PEANUT BUTTER AND PICKLE CHICKEN MELT WITH SRIRACHA DIJON DIP 

Yum

Ingredients for the Melt (makes one sandwich)

• Butter to taste;
• A couple of pinches of salt;
• Mature Cheddar to taste;
• Thinly sliced sweet and sour pickled gherkins to taste;
• Creamy peanut butter to taste (highly recommend using Pip & Nut);
• Chicken fillet, already cooked and preferably still warm (note: I like to pickle brine mine overnight);
• 2 slices of bread (I recommend white bloomer or sourdough for this recipe).

Ingredients for the Sriracha Dijon Dip

• Dijon to taste;
• Sriracha to taste (I reckon Huy Fong brand is the best);
• Honey to taste.

Method for the Melt

• Place a frying pan on medium-low heat, add a pat of butter and let it melt;
• Add a pinch of salt to the butter;
• Place one slice of bread in the pan;
• Top with a layer Cheddar;
• Once the cheese starts to melt, top with the chicken and then the pickles;
• Top with another layer of Cheddar;
• Spread a generous scoop of peanut butter evenly across one side of another piece of bread and add (peanut butter side down) to the sandwich;
• Press the sandwich firmly together at least once;
• When the bottom piece of bread is lightly browned, take the sandwich off the grill long enough to add a small pat of butter to the pan and have it melt;
• Add a pinch of salt to the butter;
• Flip the sandwich and place it back in the pan;
• Press the sandwich firmly together;
• Cook until the second layer of cheese is melted and outside of the bottom slice of bread is lightly browned.

Method for the Dip

This is so easy to do! Mix equal parts of Dijon, sriiracha and honey. One heaping tablespoon each per sandwich is a good starting point. It’s a smart idea to have the dip already made or to prepare it while cooking the sandwich so you can have it ready to go while the sandwich is hot and cheese still warm and gooey.

Serve

Serve halved with the dip on the side. Consider having a salad with it as well.

Recipe: Peanut Butter and Pickle Chicken Melt with Sriracha Dijon Dip

About Pip & Nut

New to the shelf Pip & Nut natural food brand offers a range of three nutty and nutritious spreads available in 250g jars and 30g squeeze packs at Selfridges and other fine retailers:

• Peanut Butter, a naturally nutritious smooth nut butter, made from just-roasted peanuts and spiked with a sprinkling of sea salt;
• Almond Butter, the finest Californian almonds, blended to a silky smooth texture, enhanced with a dash of sea salt;
• Almond & Coconut Butter, made from roasted almonds and toasted coconut, sweetened slightly with all-natural agave syrup and spiked with a sprinkling of sea salt, an indulgent treat that’s delicious spooned straight from the jar.

Find out more at pipandnut.com.

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London Daily Photo: Overground

LDP 2015.02.04 - Overground

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New Afternoon Tea at the Intercontinental London Park Lane? It’s a Guiltless Pleasure.

DSC_4433

The Intercontinental London Park Lane’s Wellington Lounge has launched a new “Guiltless” afternoon tea that’s free of refined sugar and chock-full of natural nutrient-filled ingredients instead. The idea behind the new menu, which can be adapted to suite any dietary requirements including gluten and dairy free, is to show that “guiltless should still be delicious.” Guess who paid a visit to Park Lane over the weekend to give this new offering a taste (and absolutely loved it)? Guilty!

Yes, the folks at the Park Lane Intercontinental have done it again: wowed my senses in one of London’s most elegantly comfortable public settings … and with gracious and polite service to boot! This new vegetarian (without ever stating so) afternoon tea was a delight and yet another point to be added to a now rather lengthy set of reasons to recommend the hotel as an ideal destination for making the most of your time in the West End.

A selection of sandwiches was presented on Colombian gluten-free bread. I really liked the thyme-roasted butternut with balsamic caviar and fresh dill. Wholemeal scones were yummy too and accompanied by red berries compote and crème fraîche. Cakes included red velvet, flourless chocolate and mint, polenta and almond, and an especially delicious blueberry and yoghurt chiffon.

As for the actual teas, I enjoyed a trio of exception sips. With my sandwiches, the Assam Mangalam (a black tea with golden tips and an oaky finish) proved a worthy match. Gyokuro (a rare Japanese greens tea grown under bamboo slats) was one of the most characterful and aromatic tea I’ve ever had – and did a bang up job alongside the scones. With my cakes, I enjoyed a smoky Lapsang Souchong (something I’d had before at the hotel and was very much keen to try again).

In addition to all these dainty delectables, service included a uplifting and lift Guiltless cocktail featuring 10 Cane rum, fresh fennel, lime juice and agave syrup.

The Guiltless Afternoon Tea costs £40 per person (minimum two persons), which I reckon is great value (and certainly in line with comparable teas in Central London).

The Wellington Lounge is located in the lobby of the Intercontinental London Park Lane Hotel, One Hamilton Place, Park Lane, W1J 7QY. Reservations for the afternoon teas are recommended. Find out more at wellington-lounge.co.uk.

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London Daily Photo: Fish Island Stencil

LDP 2015.02.03 - Fish Island Stencil

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PB & Me: Pip & Nut Peanut Butter and More!

PB & ME! Pip & Nut Peanut Butter and More!

Putting the nut back in nutritious, Pip & Nut is an all-new natural foods brand offering health conscious shoppers a range of super tasty spreads: peanut butter, almond butter, and coconut almond butter. I love all three … and am pleased to announce that in addition to a bit of pre-launch nibbling and playing around with the P&N product, I’ve been granted the honour of being the brand’s inaugural Blogger of the Month. That’s NUTS!

So, I’m going to spend the next few weeks sharing some recipes I’ve come up with using Pip & Nut peanut butter and generally raving about how yummy the other two spreads are too. But why squirrel away all this delicious nuttiness to myself? In addition to the recipes, I’ll be running a competition a little later in the month giving away some Pip & Nut treats to one lucky reader.

Before I come out of my shell get cracking though, here’s some FYI stuff about Pip & Nut which should explain why I’ve gone nuts for it.

• Pip & Nut’s all-natural, nutritious nut butters are made from just-roasted nuts and a sprinkling of sea salt, with no refined sugar, additives or palm oil.

• High in protein and packed full of vitamin E and magnesium, quality ingredients are key for Pip & Nut, whose founder, Pippa Murray wanted to create a nut butter that was bursting with natural energy. 
A keen marathon runner, Pip sought a tasty protein hit to support her exercise regime, but found the shops lacking in a nut butter with wholesome and basic ingredients.

• A list of early adopter delis and health food shops across London now stocking Pip & Nut products includes Alara, Eat 17 (Walthamstow and Homerton); Hackney Fresh, Harvest E8, Healthy Stuff, L’Epicerie@56, Palm 2, Portobello WholeFoods Ltd, Shopping Garden, Simply Fresh, The Fruit Garden, The People’s Supermarket and Tiosk.

• The brand will soon launch squeezable on-the-go packs, making these nut butters the perfect portable pick-me-up and an excellent source of energy for a bike ride or pre-gym boost or as an “al desko” snack or lunchbox filler. A host of early adopter delis and health food shops across London, including: Alara, Eat 17, Walthamstow & Homerton, Hackney Fresh, Harvest E8, Healthy Stuff, L’Epicerie@56, Palm 2, Portobello WholeFoods Ltd, Shopping Garden, Simply Fresh, The Fruit Garden, The People’s Supermarket and Tiosk.

• It’s all reasonably priced too! The peanut butter (made from just-roasted peanuts and spiked with a sprinkling of sea salt) goes for a RRP of £2.29 for a 250g jar, 79p for a 30g squeeze pack and £3.20 for a 5x30g squeeze multi-pack.

• The almond butter (Californian almonds blended to a silky smooth texture and enhanced with a dash of sea salt) has a RRP of £4.29 for 250g jar, £1.19, 30g squeeze pack and £4.50 for a 5x30g squeeze multi-pack.

• The almond and coconut butter (roasted almonds and toasted coconut, sweetened slightly with all-natural agave syrup and spiked with a sprinkling of sea salt) goes for a RRP of £4.29 for a 250g jar, £1.19 for a 30g squeeze pack and 4.50 for a 5x30g squeeze multi-pack.

Stay tuned for much more nuttiness to come.

Find out more:
pipandnut.com
@pipandnut
facebook.com/pipandnut
instagram.com/pipandnut

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Footbridge Crossing the Hertford Union Canal

LDP 2015.02.02 - Footbridge Crossing the Hertford Union Canal

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Preview: Maggies Bigger Hair Night

Maggies Bigger Hair Night

On Thursday 5 February, Maggie’’s 80s club in Chelsea will partner with luxurious beauty institution, MichaelJohn, in Knightsbridge, to help dust off those closet cobwebs after a ‘dry January’, blowing them and your hair into seasonal style, with an event that honours the ultimate 80s fashion statement, BIG Hair.

Guests will be able to enjoy a selection of complementary Ciroc vodka cocktails while having their makeup and hair done, in preparation for the club night to follow – for which they will get complimentary entry.

Does this sound like your kind of mischief? Maggie’s is located at 329 Fulham Road, SW10 9QL. Find out more at maggies-club.com.

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London Daily Photo: Reflection

LDP 2015.02.01 - Reflection

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Life’s Like a Movie. Make Your Own Ending.

I watched the The Muppet Movie last night for the first time in ages. It’s still one of the most entertaining and inspiring films I’ve ever come across.

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London Daily Photo: White Wallpaper

LDP 2015.01.31 - White Wallpaper

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