26 September 2014

NOISE: London Philharmonic Orchestra

 What would a year in London be without a visit or two to the London Philharmonic Orchestra? As a student (even at the age of 30) you are able to take part in a fabulous scheme called NOISE that sponsor a handful of concerts per year with incredible bargain prices. Like I said how can you refuse or ignore the opportunity? This Wednesday, 24 September, I rented out a box for myself and three others at the Royal Festival Hall where we listened to Magnus Lindberg's Chorale, Prokofiev's Piano Concert No. 3, and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 3. And are you ready for the outrageous price? We paid £16 for a box for four of us!! Yes -- £16 thanks to the NOISE scheme for students. A bargain unrivalled.
The Royal Festival Hall is broken into two sides - blue and green. Our box was on the blue side and when there are pianists (as was the case on the 24th) - he or she will be seating facing the green side whereas the blue side will be able to see the actual instrument.
With the NOISE scheme, at specific concerts the students can purchase a ticket for ANY seat in the concert hall at £4 a piece and those who are students/under 26 can purchase best available at £8 a piece. It is an incredible value. It is especially fun to grab a group of your classmates and friends and rent out a couple boxes to share for an evening of great music, lovely companionship and good times. How can you say no to the value of culture and at that price?
 The 24th was the opening of the season and there was a special Q&A (free) with the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Vladimir Jurowski and LPO's new Composer-in-Residence, Magnus Lindberg. Pre-concert performances and post-concert events are common and no tickets are required so do check the website or Facebook for further information about what is on offer for the evening you come out to see the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Natasha, Yana, Pascaline and I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and the audience seemed to be just as enthralled as us to be sure if the amount of applause is any indication. We did find that the principal conductor, Vladimir Jurowski, was longwinded when giving his pre-concert explanation -- we wanted to hear the orchestra play. And when they played it was magical. The chosen programme for the evening showcased many different talented artists.  There was also the lovely piano concerto by Prokoflev that was expertly played by the talented Jean-Efflam Bavouzet who wowed throughout both the orchestral piece and his encore number.
 So if you are a student or under 26 sign up for the newsletter here on their website and get in the know for when the next NOISE concert will be happening. You can also message me on @Twitter and Facebook if you want more details. If you are not a student you will still be able to find excellent priced seats from £9-£65 throughout the concert hall and there is a great discount available if you book a series of concerts which you will want to do when you learn that the 2014-2015 is all about the amazing Rachmaninoff!
So grab those tickets and/or sign up for the newsletter and a toast to a season of fabulous music and amazing cultural opportunities right here in London!

20 September 2014

Masters Super Fish

With dad being in town, it seemed only fitting that we help ourselves to some fish and chips. Since we were going to the Philharmonic at the Royal Festival Hall we Googled for a fish and chips restaurant near the Southbank and landed on Masters Super Fish which received rave reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp. 
You enter by way of the takeaway kiosk and find your way to the dining room next door where you are welcome to seat yourselves at any available table. Windows look out on the main street and invite natural light into the room and the wall is partially papered with currency from different countries.
 After ordering from the selection of fish, a plate of bread and shrimp are brought to the table. I found the eyes on the shrimp rather disconcerting and it was amusing as dad and I tried to get to the meat but at least I tried something new.
 Soon our dinners arrived and talk about HUGE portions. The waitress also brought around bowls of pickles and onions for us to choose from if we wished.
The fish was fresh, moist and delicious and the chips were tasty. It was a definite treat and although we have never sampled a large number of fish and chips options in London, we were well pleased and for the price and amount of food we were served I would definitely recommend Masters Super Fish if anyone was fancying fish and chips in the Southbank/Waterloo area.
Address: 191 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8UX

Pub Review: Holly Bush Hampstead

Last Sunday, my dad was in town and we had to have a proper Sunday lunch, right? Well we were not disappointed after having The Holly Bush in Hampstead recommended to us by the lovely Collette
While we had made reservations, I am not convinced it was necessary as at one o'clock there were plenty of tables unclaimed. Also, oddly enough you cannot make Sunday reservations on the website but rather you have to go through Open Table.
 Seated at a table inside we were surrounded by lovely panelled walls and there were atmospheric candles on each table with flowers and aqua blue water glasses. While I missed the openness of my favourite pub, the Flask in Highgate, I appreciated the small touches such as the bottle of tap water brought to the table (as apposed to a pitcher). I reckon this would be the perfect place to visit during the Christmas season.
 We each ordered a Sunday roast - Dad got the chicken and I ordered the sirloin. Both arrived quickly along with a bowl of vegetables to be shared family style.
The Yorkshire Pudding was massive (!) and so delicious! The meat was succulent and tasty and the vegetables were plentiful. 
My two complaints would be: one, that the portion of gravy on both our plates was minuscule and I had to flag down our waiter (something of a chore considering he did not look our way nor check on us despite the 1/2 full dining room) but he was more then willing to bring us a small pitcher of gravy when asked. Secondly, the meat might have been succulent and tasty but the sirloin was also quite difficult to cut with the provided utensils.
For the prices (£18.50 for the sirloin and £16.50 for the chicken) you would hope for choicier cuts of meat and better service. But really it was a lovely luncheon and the Yorkshire Pudding was amazing and the manager (?) who greeted us at the door was very kind and gracious in his welcome.
Would I recommend the Holly Bush? Perhaps during the Christmas season as I hear it is lovely all decked out with Holly Bush. And if someone was hankering for some amazing Yorkshire Pudding. But it does not compare to my all-time favourite pub, The Flask, in Highgate where the service, prices and food are great all around.

18 September 2014

Book Review: NOURISH Mind, Body & Soul

Readers, I have a treat for you tonight! Tonight I was invited to the book launch for Nourish and wanted to share my review for the upcoming book, Nourish: Mind, Body & Soul, by Amber Rose, Sadie Frost and Holly Davidson.
We've all read countless cooking, health, and self-help books but here we have all three wrapped up in one beautiful hardcover book! Written by the trio of Amber Rose, Sadie Frost and Holly Davidson, the book allows each lady to share their own personal story and several chapters each on their topic of expertise loaded with wisdom and beautiful pictures. Amber provides the recipes sure to nourish the body, Sadie offers her yoga and well woman tips that are sure to nourish the mind, and Holly shares exercises to help strengthen the body. It is quite ingenious bringing what could have been three solid and helpful books in their own right and blending them into one book for a third of the price.
 Amber Rose (http://www.amber-rose.co.uk) is a chef and baker with a previous book that came out in 2013 called Love, Bake, Nourish featuring healthier cakes, bakes and puddings. Her section of Nourish provides easy to follow recipes and suggested menus for nourishment and cleansing. 
Follow her on: Twitter.
Sadie Frost is a talented actress, producer and fashion designer in addition to being a mum to four children. Who better to take well woman advice from but this lovely woman who looks the picture of health and who's balance of lifestyle is so inspiring? She provides in-detail yoga (with helpful photographs of the poses), breathing, and meditation guidance in Nourish in addition to some fantastic looking beauty recipes.
Follow her on: Twitter.
Holly Davidson (http://www.hollyactive.com) is Sadie's sister and a personal trainer and self proclaimed lifestyle guru in London. Her section in Nourish focuses on fitness and provides exercises that most any woman should be able to achieve and each exercise come with helpful photographs of Holly performing said exercise. She also teamed up with Amber Rose to give advice for a week of cleansing and toning one's body. Have a peek at her Twitter account for inspiration words.
Follow her on: Twitter.
The upcoming book for today's women written by three lovely female experts in nourishment for the mind, body and soul is definitely worth a read for any woman who is serious about bettering herself with healthier recipes, release of stress, beauty recipes, and toning exercises. Considering you get what would amount to three separate books for the price of one in a beautiful hardbound book with glossy photographs and inspiring words -- this book is a steal! Do yourself a favour, ladies, and pre-order a copy of Nourish: Mind, Body & Soul for yourself and/or a girlfriend. Would make a great gift.
Nourish: Mind, Body & Soul is due out on the 25th of September and is available on Amazon (us and uk) websites for $19.60 and £13.59 respectively.
Disclaimer: All opinions are my own and I am not being compensated for this review.

09 September 2014

Mitch Winehouse: But Beautiful Album Launch

Last night, I was honoured to join Collette Cooper and her friends at the charming Mitch Winehouse's album launch party at PizzaExpress' Jazz Club Soho off Dean Street. What a delightful and entertaining evening. I am so delighted I was able to attend. Big thanks to Collette and Mitch for having me.
 Upon arrival, I received this lovely badge (see photo below) from the Amy Winehouse Foundation. You can get your own badge for £2 from the foundation's shop in addition to other goodies while supporting a good cause.
 And what a charming venue it was. At 10 Dean Street in SoHo you will find a PizzaExpress unlike any other with a jazz club in the basement. There is an intimate stage, a well stocked bar, and a mixture of long rectangle tables and smaller circular tables for all different group sizes.
Starved, I was thrilled to see we had several delicious sounding choices of pizza for dinner and an ample selection of drinks to choose from. I went with an Elderflower Presse which was the perfect amount to compliment my meal.
And following Collette's fabulous choice, I went with the Florentina Classic sans the mozzarella cheese (avoiding dairy wherever possible) and what a treat it was! I ate the entire thing it was so scrumptious. Who knew an egg was the perfect topping for a pizza? Thanks Collette for being so genius. ;) And for those of you who are avoiding gluten, you will be happy to hear that there are gluten free pizza crusts available.
 On to the charming man of the hour, Mr. Mitch Winehouse, who was as gracious a host and as charming as I remember from the previous times I have met him and heard him perform (here and here). I felt so blessed to be there for this joyous occasion.
 As befit the occasion, Mitch and his great and entertaining band played/sang several songs from his upcoming album But Beautiful which is to be released on the 29th of September. Proceeds from the album will be going towards the Amy Winehouse Foundation which was set up "to prevent the effects of drug and alcohol misuse on young people.”
As charming a crooner and entertainer as Mitch is when singing, he is just as charming and delightful when telling stories about his special girl and how she helped him choose the songs that we are soon to enjoy on his sophomore album. I have no doubt she would give her dad two big thumbs up -- it is a lovely compilation of favourites and covered in love.
As I mentioned in my previous post about Mitch's performance at the Hippodrome, a new song was written by his friend and the legendary Don Black specifically for the album. It is charming, cute, fun and is sure to be enjoyed by everyone. Two greats collaborating on a number makes for a big smile from this admirer. :)
Friends if you enjoy jazz, classics, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and the old school crooners - you will surely enjoy this album. Bravo, Mitch! Keep up the good work!
Again my thanks and gratitude to Collette and Mitch for including me in this fantastic and charming evening.

Sunday at the Queens Primrose Hill

This past Sunday, my new flatmate, Pascaline, and I visited the Queens pub in Primrose Hill for a relaxing Sunday evening roast and chance to listen to the lush Collette Cooper and band perform a couple numbers from her upcoming album, City of Sin.
 Many thanks to Pascaline for buying my dinner and lemonade. We had the Sunday roast which was delicious -- the yorkshire pudding in particular was worth every bite and o so moist. The only complaint (albeit small) would be that the meat was very tough and hard to cut with the provided knife and the portion of gravy could have been doubled to last the entire meal. But all in all it was a great treat so many thanks to Pascaline for dinner and the Queens pub for a fab Sunday roast.
Very excited to have moved in with Pascaline this month and looking forward to furthering our friendship and making many more great memories.
 While we were eating the lovely Collette's band started playing. They are a lovely and entertaining ensemble.
Finally we were excited to see Collette come on stage and perform several numbers from her upcoming album (due out early 2015) -- she truly does have a one of a kind voice and her lyrics are both witty and catchy. In fact Pascaline and I were humming/singing "Big Fat Liar" to ourselves on the way home. :)
Unfortunately we were both tired so we headed home early but what a fun Sunday night at the Queens pub where we were royally entertained by the lovely Collette Cooper. Thanks again Pascaline for dinner and Collette for inviting us to hear her and the band play.  xx
PS: Collette will be on Soho Radio this Thursday (11 September) doing a live set so tune in! She should be on the air (internet radio) from 2:45pm (GMT) with the awesome DJ/host Bernie Katz!

04 September 2014

Through The Looking Glass

Anyone who has seen my Mad Hatter Tea Party post will know that I am a fan of Alice in Wonderland and all things Lewis Carroll. Top that off with my love for food, you knew I would be ecstatic for a chance to attend my first Zomato Meetup where I could eat free food and drink free cocktails and meet foodies like myself.
So humming along to Frank Wildhorn's Wonderland concept album, I grabbed the Overground to Hoxton and made my way to 49 Hackney Road in East London. OR rather, I followed CityMapper's directions to 49 Hackney Road where I met fellow foodie, Sunny In London, equally searching for our destination. The mystery was confounding and a tad bit frustrating especially because our hostess from Zomato, Alexandra, had no cell service at the club. Sunny in London left and I thankfully reached Kritika (the Zomato marketing employee who first introduced me to the brand) who helped me find my way to the correct address. O boy do I have a bone to pick with CityMapper sending me to an address across town (near Columbia Road). That said, if you are likewise game to check out Looking Glass Cocktail Club do not grab directions based on the address but rather use the club's name in your search and that should lead you to the right place.

Moving on... I arrived (thanks again to Kritika and Alexandra) at Looking Glass Cocktail Club half an hour late but was very much delighted to discover the club was literally through a looking glass! The lights were dim and made photography of the food and drinks a bit difficult so please pardon the quality of photos. 

But there were a half dozen or so seating areas with tables where a combination of chairs and couches played court to the tables with dripping candles. The room was spacious even for our good sized crowd and boasted a good sized bar where cocktails could be mixed and poured.
The Looking Glass Cocktail Club serves drinks only (no food) and provided two courtesy cocktails for the enjoyment of the Zomato Meetup. 
They were:

  • Ted's Bellini (with extra kicks from both a dash of fin & Kummel liqueur (flavoured with celery and peach cordial)
  • Jabberwocky (Chivas Regal is lengthened with Dubonnet, Creme de Bergamot, Lapsang amaro, orange juice & shaken into a coupette & garnished with sour cherry)
I particularly found the Jabberwocky to be delicious... Fruity but not too sweet, strong but not too overpowering.

The drinks were complimented for the occasion by five trays of rice paper rolls from MissChu:
  • Tiger prawn and green mango  
  • Egg omelette, carmalised onion and balsamic carmelised onion
  • Sashimi tuna, avocado & wakame
  • Vegan organic tofu, shimeji and enoki mushroom (Not GF)
  • Roast duck & banana flour
My favourite was the tuna... Sashima tuna, avocado and wakame. Delicious! All five were refreshing and tasty with mint leaves. Would be especially good on a hot day, I think.  While they were all refreshing and edible, I would have to say that the flavours all were bland in comparison to the tuna roll so if you are hankering for Vietnamese rice paper rolls, go for the tuna rolls. Delicious. They come in a serving of 2 for £5 and can be ordered for online delivery, pickup or catering.
And the best part of the evening had to be the chance to meet the fellow foodies: Ali (http://londonismyplayground.wordpress.com), Kate (https://www.zomato.com/Lancs), and Snita (http://herfavfood.blogspot.co.uk).

If you similarly enjoy blogging about food, check out Zomato and maybe I will see you at a meetup. My Zomato profile is: https://www.zomato.com/thejoyousliving. And if you find yourself in East London looking for a quirky and entertaining place to grab a drink with your friends, might I suggest Looking Glass Cocktail Club?
Disclaimer: While the food and drink were all complimentary thanks to Zomato's meet up, the reviews are all my own. Thanks again Zomato, Looking Glass Cocktail Club and MissChu.