Thursday, 22 June 2017

BLACK CHECK

Dress / Topshop 
Shoes / New Look

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

ORIENTAL TOUCH

Earrings / ASOS
Dress / Zara
Shoes / Urban Outfitters

Monday, 19 June 2017

LILAC RUFFLES

Dress / ASOS
Earrings / Topshop
Boots / Mango

Thursday, 15 June 2017

ITALIAN BLOOM

Top / Missy Empire
Dress / Outerspace
Earrings / Zara
Shoes / Mango
Sunglasses / Quay Australia

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

ROME - A GUIDE


I very much enjoyed my first trip to Rome during my early university days. With my travel budget being my student loan and ever so inexperienced when it came to seeking out the more sophisticated and grown up things in life, I had an amazing long weekend in the city and got my first taste of La Dolce Vita. However it was not those memories that led me and my favourite travel buddy from Finland, Emmi, (we go on some sort of travel adventure once a year with New York last year and hopefully all things working out Tokyo next year) to embark on another visit to this fantastic and history laden city. No, it was a film, and not any film but the stunningly shot 'La Grande Bellezza' or 'The Great Beauty' in English by Paolo Sorrentino, that inspired us.

How can a film make you book a holiday you may ask? Well these 120 minutes or so of beautiful cinema are a love letter to Rome, following the life of a suave middle aged gentlemen celebrating his life, loves, wine and food as he roams the cobbled streets of this ancient city. We wanted to be at his extravagant parties overlooking the Colosseum, sipping on Aperol Spritz's while admiring the effortless style of the locals and we wanted that real feeling of La Dolce Vita that every scene oozed. Fortunately for us the Rome we did find did not let us down once we got to experience what the film eluded to for ourselves, in fact being a few years older and wiser on this trip (and also being slightly obsessed with meticulously researching the best places to eat and drink before any trip abroad) I not only enjoyed Rome, I completely and utterly fell in love with it.

I don't like being a tourist when I explore a new city so don't expect this to be a guide to the major sights. I like to wander around, delve into the true life of a city, meet locals and if I do pass a few famous landmarks along the way even better (especially if you choose to see them at unusual times but more on that later). It really won't make or break my trip if I make it into the Colosseum after queuing for 3 hours and you definitely wont find me at a tourist trap of a restaurant by the Trevi fountain (which is magical but can be seen and done with after about 2 minutes) just to tick off what a guide book may classify as "the Rome experience" which is why below you will find what made this trip so truly magical to me, a compilation of stunning places, restaurants and bars and everything in-between that I hope you take the time to visit if you ever go to Rome yourself. I for sure will be back because Rome to me you are indeed "the great beauty".

THE TOP 5

1. Aperitivo @ Freni E Frizioni

Located in the centre of Travestere, one of the most beautiful parts of the city full of restaurants, bars and picturesque cobbled lanes and courtyards, and in view of the Tiber river that divides Rome into two distinctive parts, is this utter, utter gem of a place. Housed in a former garage it is really not the inside of this bar that counts. Indeed the crowds of cool creative people from all around the world quickly spill into the square outside in the evening and create an infectious buzz while you sip your chosen beverage in the sunshine. However what's even more spectacular about this place is their aperitivo spread.

Yes, most Italian bars will serve you some sort of nibble, be it a bowl of peanuts, when you order a drink but here they take it to the next and utterly delicious level. In fact once you have purchased your drink you are eligible to as many helpings as your heart desires from their fantastic mainly vegetarian / vegan buffet. Plastic plate in hand you can pile on as much of their delicious salads, which vary from amazing pesto pasta to berlotti beans in garlic sauce to curried rice, as you like and top it with freshly made hummus, fluffy homemade bread or pickled beetroot. This was not shitty buffet food or an afterthought of how to cheaply line your patron's stomachs, no this was absolutely amazing food that you happen to get completely free with you 5 euro glass of prosecco or 8 euro expertly prepared cocktail.

Come here on a Friday or Saturday night, stuff your face with delicious veggie fare, drink, be merry and make friends with people that are having an equally fantastic time. This place is unique, it is worth the hype and I wish something like it could exist in London but if I'm honest I don't think it really could. Frenzi E Frizioni encompasses for me what Rome is all about and if you go to one place for a drink make it this one.
 
2. A Walk Through Rome's Rose & Orange Garden On The Aventine Hill
Sometimes you find the best things by accident or chance. On the Sunday of our trip Emmi and I had planned a little excursion to the Seaside town of Santa Marinella, a half an hour train ride away from the city, yearning for some beach time. However with trains only running every two hours and us not sure whether the beach would really be worth loosing precious time on our full last day there for we decided to rethink the itinerary. Following a quick walk around the San Lorenzo neighbourhood, which was recommended by many blogs as the cool student quarter but turned out to be pretty dead on a Sunday afternoon, and after assessing a ridiculously long queue outside the Colosseum that stressed me out by just looking at it, I decided to think on my feet. 

We yearned to get away from the crowds and find something picturesque that, I have to admit being a stupid BLOGGER (dirty word I know) would also work well for some blog pics. A quick google search of "most beautiful open spaces in Rome" later I found a Guardian article that mentioned the Orange gardens and within minutes we were citymappering our way there, it looking like just the kind of place we had in mind and I am happy to report it not only managed to exceed our expectations and wow us like we never expected even before we got there.

Indeed to get to the orange garden we had to walk through Rome's rather stunning rose garden first. Only open from April to late June, it showcases a unique collection of rose breeds, cultivated in the most pristine garden and though only 10 minutes walk away from tourist hell, instantly transported us into a completely different, calm and serene world, surrounded by equally excited nuns, inspecting and sniffing the beautiful roses just like us.

We were understandable already pretty chuffed with how this day was turning out even before we had actually made it to the orange garden, however once we got there we were nearly lost for words by the beauty that faced us. This place was just...it's hard to put it into words and to convey it's beauty to you without having seen it with your own eyes. Low hanging orange trees, a stunning view over Rome, water fountains and benches filled with people equally in awe of the timeless beauty of this spot. It was almost other-worldly in it's complete detachment from the modern world, like a beautiful painting you can actually walk into. As it turned out this spot was also a location in 'The Great Beauty' which we only realised after and though it may not be found in your standard guide book it was truly one of the most incredible places I have ever been to in my life and even just thinking about it makes my heart bounce a little.

3. Traditional Roman Pasta @ Da Enzo
Of course Rome is filled with hundreds if not thousands of restaurants serving pasta and pizza but one has to dig a little deeper to avoid tourist traps that serve pretty mediocre, unauthentic and overpriced fare to anyone that looks like they won't know the difference. I did a lot of research via food blogs and friends before the trip and one name kept on popping up when it came to fantastic pasta, Da Enzo. After giving them a quick Insta location stalk it became pretty clear that this place was the real deal and led to me reserving us a dinner spot here a week before our arrival, something I'd highly recommend doing for anyone wanting to eat well in Rome to avoid long waiting times and ensure a fantastic meal on every night of your trip. 

Da Enzo is a proper a whole in the wall trattoria with only a few tables squeezed inside and a queue already sneaking out the door before the place had even opened. Yes, it is still pretty touristy but these are tourists that have done their foodie research and in the end of the day the dishes served here do the real talking. Order the artichoke if its in season, we had two types one simply grilled and one in a divine mint sauce and then of course get the pasta for your main. I had the Cacio E Pepe, the most famous Roman pasta dish, which may sound pretty boring- being literally pecorino cheese, pepper and pasta, yet when done to perfection is absolutely incredible and as matter of fact far from easy to make. Emmi was equally stunned by her dish of Gricia- pork cheek (which she claimed to have been the best pork of her life), pecorino, rigatoni and egg, and we couldn't help but sit in near silence while we tried to fully appreciate every forkful, washed down with their amazing house white which came at 8 euros a caraffe. Of course what we paid for the entire meal seemed almost like a joke (50 euros for starters, mains, desert and wine if you care to know) considering what we would have paid for the same in London and for days after we were still talking about just how fantastically simple and delicious everything here was. This place has that true authentic Italian flair and for me is a must visit for anyone seeking outstanding pasta in Rome.

4. The Best Pizza In Town @ La Gatta Mangiona
This was not an entirely new discovery, being the foodie highlight of my first Rome trip and I am more than happy to report that it is just as good as I remembered. A good 45 minute walk away from the centre, La Gatta Mangiona is much more of a local Roman favourite than a tourist hot spot, with us being the only none Italians there on both occasions I visited. That is not to say this place isn't popular- no, Romans are very much aware that they serve some of the best pizza this city has to offer here with not a single table free on a Sunday eve just half an hour after opening. I of course was clever enough to book a table here as well beforehand so we got to sit down at one of their lovely outdoor tables to enjoy the evening sun. Though service may not be quite as smooth as in places used to more none Italian visitors the food served here is not only ridiculously cheap but across the board simply outstanding. 

You may undoubtedly be about to demolish a huge pizza here but make sure you don't skip starters. We ordered a whole selection, with the suppli, a Roman street food classic of cheesy deep fried rice balls, being absolute must tries as well as their deep fried selection of vegetables. The pizza of course is out of this world not only in terms of the dough (crispy, slightly chewy and thin) but also the stunning toppings. Go for one of their 'bianche' options, a base without tomato sauce, and be prepared to never think of pizza in the same way again. I loved my pizza topped with smoked salmon, potato and fiordilatte so much on my first visit so many years ago that I had to order it again, more than a couple of times having thought about just how good it was ever since, and was not let down. 

This is still the best pizza of my life hands down and I will wait to see what can top it. Though pretty stuffed after finishing even the last bite of crust I was adament we needed to order desert. Why? Well they also serve some pretty damn fantastic tiramisu here, made using the same family recipe for decades, a huge slab of pure sweet deliciousness that is hard to to beat even if it meant I had to basically be rolled out of the place. If you don't take my word for that they make the best pizza in Rome here I dare you to go and not agree. I for one will be dreaming of that salmon pizza until my next visit.

5. Cappuccino @ Sant'Eustacio Il CaffeĆ©

New York Times critic William Grimes once said about this place that "…When the need for a real espresso becomes overpowering, buy a ticket to Rome, tell the taxi driver to head straight for the Sant’Eustachio cafe. The espresso will be perfect. A little expensive, but surely worth the trouble.” and he was not wrong. In fact my coffee-snob self would definitely jump on a plane at least once a week to drink the perfectly made cappuccino served here were it not for a lack of funds or my severe fear of flying. Sant'Eustachio has been open since the 1930's and rightly so as this is as close to caffeinated heaven as one can get in my eyes. Try and grab a table outside as the cafe is located at a quiet piazza just minutes away from the Pantheon and watch the world go by. Oh how I wish I could find a cappuccino like this in London.....


HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

SIGHTS

Gardens Of Palazzo Barberini
Stunning secluded garden that belongs to one of the grandest papal palaces in Rome and is yet to be discovered by the tourist masses. You can access the garden for free which makes it the perfect tranquil spot to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet just 10 minutes walk from Rome's most busy streets.


The building in which this contemporary art museum is housed is worth a visit in itself. Designed by the late Zaha Hadid, the stunning space is as much part of the exhibition in it's modern, smooth and unpredictable forms as the exhibits. Escape Rome's heat for a few hours and and learn more about Italian artists and their work in the last century or so and appreciate the sheer genius of Hadid who we sadly lost way too early. 

The Vatican At Night 

Don't pay 30 euros for a 4 hour tour around the Vatican grounds and wait hours in a queue full of obnoxious Americans before you even get in ( I did that on my first trip and honestly there are only so many paintings of popes you can see in one day), instead get yourself down here when the crowds are gone to fully appreciate not only the impressive architecture of the building and skill that was involved in creating it but the sheer scale of the whole thing, you are after all in a different country as long as you are within the Vatican grounds. We headed here around 11:30pm and it left a visual impression on me I won't forget in a hurry with not an annoying selfie stick in sight. 


BARS


A proper local watering hole where young Roman creative types hang out on a Friday night to drink, smoke and have a good time. A hidden gem that came recommended to us by two American architect students who had lived in Rome for a while and who pointed us in Big Star's direction when we asked them where to get a decent drink in Travestere without the tourists. Best Aperol Spritz of the trip at a ridiculously good 5 euro a drink. 


Slightly off the beaten track in up and coming neighbourhood Pignetto (which is still very much on the up and coming rather than established cool side of the scale so don't come here expecting Brooklyn) is this super cute bar with lovely outdoor garden. Again you aren't likely to bump into many tourists here, no this place is clearly cherished by the cool locals who pick it as their venue of choice for their afternoon tipple. If you are in the area a must visit.

Hotel Locarno

If you are after something a little more sophisticated when it comes to enjoying a glass of fine Italian wine head to Hotel Locarno's dreamy courtyard bar. It's an oasis of calm just a few minutes away from the Spanish steps and oozes Italian style. Order yourself a nice little glass of rose (which at 10 euros is bearable considering what you would pay at an equally upscale hotel in London) and watch the effortlessly suave clientele around you start their evening with a couple of drinks. This is the perfect place for your first evening in Rome, hatching plans for the trip ahead in a luxury little spot, away from the hustle and bustle of the main tourists sights. 


GELATO


Made from all organic ingredients Fior Di Luna may be a little more pricey than its Trastevere gelato competitors (3.5 euros for 3 flavours in a cup) but this was without a doubt the most flavourful and creamy gelato of the entire trip. Order the stracciatella and melon and let the flavours explode in your mouth!

Offering a huge range of dairy free options and made from seasonal, fresh ingredients, Fatamorgana prides itself in making gelato with a difference and wins with its unusual flavour combinations. They have a few branches around Rome so be sure to try their fantastic baklava variety and their incredible range of dairy free fruit flavours. 

Cannoli @ Ciuri Ciuri
Not strictly a Roman speciality (they do originally stem from Sicily) I am a massive canoli fan and try to eat as many as possible every time I'm in Italy. At Ciuri Ciuri you get to pick what goes inside your cannoli, whether you go for ricotta with chocolate chips, pistachio or chocolate, and witness the crisp delicious shell getting filled right in front of you. One of my favourite sweet treats out there, make sure you stop by here one morning for a breakfast treat to have with your cappuchino.

Monday, 12 June 2017

LA DOLCE VITA

Dress / H&M
Earrings / ASOS
Shoes / Russell & Bromley

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Supergirl

Tee / Outerspace
Dress worn as skirt / Outerspace
Shoes / Vans 
Sunglasses / Quay Australia

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

BAD SPORTS TAQUERIA


A short and sweet review this week on my continuing quest to find decent Mexican fare in London, a
quest that is not proving too easy especially when you compare what is available here to New York's incredible offerings when it comes to this type of cuisine. Indeed on my two trips to NYV I was awe struck by the vast choice of Mexican joints there, serving cheap, delicious and authentic tacos and the like.

Of course there are some reliable and tasty options in London when that Mexican craving hits, Wahaca for example may be a bit of a chain by now but nonetheless serves consistently good food that may not be hundred percent authentic but still pretty tasty but until now this town was lacking something a bit more wow in this department.

I may add at this point that I did have an absolutely stellar Mexican meal in London last year at Santo Remedio, a tiny little taco joint owned by a Mexican husband and wife duo in the heart of Shoreditch, that blew me and my taste buds away. However just as I was about to write a review for this very blog it was sadly forced to shut down (though they are actually currently running a crowd funding campaign to help them open at new premises in the not so distant future hooray!) which once again left me searching for that stand out Mexican.

As luck may have it restauranteurs seem to have caught on to this culinary gap in the market which has meant an influx of new openings this year (Breddos and El Pastor to name a few also on my to try list) and I, lazy as I am, immediately made my way to the new opening geographically closest to me.

Bad Sports then, at the Shoreditch end of Hackney Road, may not sound very Mexican by name but it's short and sweet menu certainly is, serving mainly tacos with some unusual sides and of course frozen margaritas, for me an essential part of any Mexican meal. Interiors are pretty sparse and that sense of everything falling just a little bit short of expectations sadly also continued with the food.
By the time we got there which was not late by any means (and I mean it- we got there at 6:30pm on a Sunday) half the tacos had sold out. Being a Pescatarian this meant I could only sample one type of taco, a rather limp tasting king oyster mushroom number with beetroot mole and chilli, which is still more than my dining companion whose beef taco order was completely forgotten about for around 45 minutes and was then cancelled by us once he had managed to actually flag down one of their "too cool for school" waiters, not willing to wait any longer.

Indeed dishes arrived so erratically and with huge gaps between them that half the time we thought we had been completely forgotten about.. I do get the whole "dishes arrive as they are ready" principle but there needs to be a steady stream of food otherwise you just end up siting there waiting and loosing the flow of the meal.

That is not to say that everything was bad. The frozen margaritas for example were on par with the best I have had and incredibly easy to slurp up. The quesadillas filled with pickled chilli were oozing with cheese and proved the perfect accompaniment to our cocktails while a side of spicy pickled cucumbers topped with hot sauce as well as some sweet potato with honey and chamomile butter proved unusual yet delicious flavour combos yet it was all not quite enough to make up for it's other shortcomings.

Perhaps my overall verdict of the meal would have been a lot better had half the menu not been sold out and the service been so passive, there were signs of really clever cooking and modern interpretations of Mexican classics here, but sadly on this visit I was left unconvinced and will for now continue my search for that perfect little Mexican place in London, even if it is just until Santo Remedio opens its doors again.


Monday, 5 June 2017

Club Tropicana

Jumpsuit / Zara
Sunglasses / Quay Australia
Earrings / Zara
Shoes / Topshop

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

NEARLY 10 YEARS ON AND I STILL LOVE WHAT I DO...

Going through my blog this eve to see what I can depop I stumbled across this snippet. It's my first ever piece of coverage in the German Glamour aged a wee 16 and wearing 5preview. The fantastic Emeli who founded the label and is still the head designer there today indeed was the first person to encourage me to take outfits snaps and start a blog after I had sent her a few of me styling up her super cool tees to win a competition, living at the time on a farm in the middle of nowhere in East Sussex. I was dressing then like I do to this day (which some may call a little eccentric or weird) anyway every day so thought why not and followed Emeli's advice which is how stellaswardrobe.com was born.

Nearly 10 years later I still shoot my outfits twice a week without fail. I do not do so to be classed an "influencer" or to gain thousands of followers but because I still love fashion and creating outfits as much as I did in this picture

Monday, 29 May 2017

WHITE TASSELS

Shirt / ASOS
Earrings / Mango
Skirt / 5Preview
Boots / Mango