Wednesday, 13 November 2019

WHITE CHOCOLATE BIRTHDAY CAKE BATTER FUDGE


This is another super easy 'make ahead' type of dessert that you can whip up in a matter of minutes and which is sure to impress anyone that samples it!

All ingredients are readily available but the end result doesn’t only look super cute, I mean what doesn’t with added sprinkles, but tastes amazing, literally like a heavenly, fudgy white chocolate birthday cake concoction.

Make sure to make this the night before so it has plenty of time to set and use decent quality white chocolate to stop it from being too sickly. I served this as a dessert for one of my Friday night dinner (although I was nibbling on the rests all weekend afterwards) but this would also make a great gift if packaged up nicely!

One for sure to be added to my ever growing sweet tooth pleasing recipe repertoire.

INGREDIENTS
  • 100g birthday cake mix powder (I used this Betty Crocker one I found at Waitrose)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 250g white chocolate, broken up into pieces
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • A bag of coloured sprinkles to be distributed on top!

METHOD
  • Line a 7-8 inch square baking dish with aluminium foil or parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Put a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add sweetened condensed milk, butter, white chocolate and stir until smooth.
  • Add white cake mix and vanilla extract. Whisk slowly for a minute or two until it starts to bubble, and then remove from heat.
  • Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
  • While still warm, add sprinkles across the top and press them lightly into the surface.
  • Refrigerate overnight to firm up.
  • Using a rigid spatula, loosen the fudge from the edge of the pan, cut pieces and lift out for serving. Enjoy!

Friday, 8 November 2019

STATEMENT JUMPER


Jumper / Stylenanda
Shorts / Gudrun Sjoden
Boots / Mango

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

STICKS'N'SUSHI SOHO REVIEWED










Finding tasty and well made sushi in London is far from easy. Of course there is the Itsu or Wasabi kind which I personally do not consider to be proper sushi and if you are happy to splash several hundreds of pounds I am sure you can find a tiny sushi bar where they fly in their chefs from Japan and the dinner is a once in a lifetime kind of experience, but I had so far struggled to find a sophisticated and atmospheric spot for sushi in London that also delivers in terms of the quality of fish used and sushi making expertise.  A perfect balance between authenticity, affordability and fun dining which I was lucky enough to experience at the newly opened Sticks'n'Sushi in Soho.

Sticks'n'Sushi had been on my radar ever since they opened their first London outpost a couple of years ago in Wimbledon but until last weekend I had never quite managed to make it there. The stylish chain of restaurants, now with 9 joints across the UK, originally hails from Denmark where it was founded by Danish-Japanese brothers Jens and Kim Rahbek Hansen in 1994, and you can definitely get hint of the Scandi chic fused with fantastic Japanese cooking from the minute that you enter. Indeed that makes Sticks'n'Sushi so special in my eyes. It may be a “chain” in the sense it has several outposts and pretty spot on branding but it doesn’t feel like it when you dine there, indeed for the very fair price you pay the whole affair feels more Nobu than Wagamamas and every little detail has been considered to make it a memorable dining experience.

I visited their brand new Soho restaurant which is located at the Soho end of Carnaby street, an area that has had a total transformation in the last half year, being turned from a bit of a no man’s land between the famous shopping street and Soho proper into a hotspot for design, with a newly opened Ganni flagship store and an array of cool boutiques and now of course also a fab new place for dinner! Location thus couldn’t be better if you are in central, though it feels still tucked away enough to avoid the worst tourist crowds and once you enter the slick and serene dining space you will anyways forget that you are a 5 minute walk away from the nightmare that is Piccadilly Circus. 

Indeed the mostly black dining room with neon light accents and origami inspired ceiling adornments, is an oasis of stylish calm and I was instantly greeted with a welcoming smile by one of their staff, a fantastic level of service that was continued throughout the meal. I especially loved the hot towels they brought before we started our meal (and they may or may not have been rather sweet when I managed to spill my entire cocktail across the table but let’s not delve into that further..)

Anyways, while I waited for my friend to arrive I perused the extensive food menu (which comes with picture of every dish, a fact I LOVE as it saved me from having to scan the dining room to check what other people have ordered - I mean I want to know what I am getting before I am ordering it after all!) as well as their drinks list and boy do they nail that as well! 

Cocktails in fact were another stand out element alongside the fantastic sushi, Japanese inspired but not in a gimmicky way. You can really see they had a team of expert bartenders work on these before they made the menu and every cocktail I sampled was pitch perfect in terms of composition, presentation and flavouring. My favourite? The Rozu martini - Haku vodka shaken with raspberries, lychee, lemon, egg white and rose blossom water as well as the refreshing Blossom Spritz - a floral mix of Finlandia vodka, hibiscus tea, goji berries, lavender & yuzu, topped up with Prosecco, although the entire menu was so enticing sounding it was almost impossible to choose and made it easy to be a little more adventurous than my usual standard white wine order.

Now onto the most important part of any meal out…the food! You have several options and ways of dining at Sticks'n'Sushi. There are set menu options for different budgets which include a mix of starters, sashimi, sticks (grilled meat, fish or veg on wooden sticks) and of course sushi which is great if you want a taste of everything without having to think to much, or you can go a la carte like we did on this occasion, ordering your way across starters and then moving on to the fab sushi platters they also offer. 

Starter highlights included the raw marinated Suzuki (Japanese sea bass), served with chives, truffle oil and shiso which was a silky dream, the Kani Korokke- crab croquettes with wasabi Cesar and their Shake Carpaccio- marinated raw salmon with miso aioli and trout roe, in a chives and lime marinade. As you can tell Sticks'n'Sushi doesn’t do 100% Japanese only cuisine but here the fusion with Western elements like truffle really works as it is never done in an OTT way and the quality of ingredients at the core of each dish is kept consistently on point.

We then proceeded to, perhaps, go a little cray on the sushi order but heck everything looked so amazing, I didn’t mind the fact that I was ready to be rolled out by the end of the meal. Indeed our ‘Table For Two’ sushi platter was a great 'best of'of your classic nigiri and maki, with some outstanding spicy tuna rolls to boot. Presentation like for the rest of the meal was flawless and the wasabi so fresh it left us gasping for air when applied to generously. 

Our Maki Maki platter was equally dreamy, with a great mix of their signature rolls, with my favourite being the ‘Hells Kitchen’ roll - a tasty combo of tempura shrimp, avocado and spicy sauce, topped with tuna and barbecue sauce, closely followed by the ‘Shake Aioli’ roll- snow peas, avocado, miso aioli and cucumber, topped with seared salmon and trout roe. This was inventive, fantastic sushi that delivered on every front and undoubtedly was the best I have had in London, Sticks'n'Sushi may have expanded quickly in recent years but now I know why and not an ounce of their commitment to high quality and great food has gotten lost along the way.

We barely had space left to breath but could not say no to at least a little bit of dessert which worked a dream as Sticks'n'Sushi takes a tapas style approach to all things sweet. Each little dessert is £3.5, three for £10 (which was perfect between two very full humans) or £30 for a taste of all of them which is great if you are with a group. What do you get to try? A tantalising mix of interesting desserts, once again beautifully playing on Japanese flavourings and updating them for Western palette in 2019. 

I adored the dark chocolate truffles with caramel centre and coated in toasted sesame as well as the rather luxurious white chocolate mousse topped with liquorice and raspberry foam while my dining companion adored her Matcha financier. Again these were presented and executed flawlessly and definitely were no afterthought like desserts can be in some fusion restaurants.

Overall I can’t recommend Sticks'n'Sushi’s new Soho location enough. We had a fantastic evening in a high end environment without a crazy price tag attached. Scandinavian attention to detail and design meets Japanese skills here, all with a modern flair that makes for very exciting cooking. Amazing cocktails, service, sushi and desserts, all in a stylish environment- you can’t ask for much more and I do hope Sticks'n'Sushi will open an east London outpost soon too, they definitely have a new committed fan here.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

LADY IN GREEN



Dress / ASOS WHITE
Bag / Zara
Shoes / Zara

Thursday, 31 October 2019

A WEEKEND IN STOCKHOLM - WHERE TO EAT, DRINK AND EXPLORE

I’ve always been an admirer of all things Swedish - princess cake is after all my favourite cake of all time, I love a good cinnamon bun, am obsessed with dill crisps and drool over labels like Acne. Yet I had never managed to make the trip over there to experience it all for myself. Good thing then that I stumbled across temptingly cheap flights and have a best friend that loves a little city trip as much as I do, so that before I knew it we had booked ourselves a weekend getaway to its capital Stockholm.

And what a weekend it was! It may not have been cheap, expect to find it pricy even if you are used to London standards (£12.5 aperol spritz’s anyone?!), but I utterly fell in love with the city. It’s clean, beautiful to look at, has amazing food and drink spots of an exceptional quality, and the people are not only super friendly and can speak English perfectly wherever you go but also happen to be across the board very good looking (hello hot scandi men) which was an additional bonus.

In our very short time there we put culture a little bit on the back burner, instead wanting to absorb Stockholm’s atmosphere as much as possible, wondering around the gorgeous streets, pottering the shops and trying as many culinary delights as possible. We really did not want to leave and I for sure would love to go back to see more museum and revisit favourite finds. Stockholm you truly wowed and I left a little bit of my heart in yet another Scandi metropolis. Tack.


HOW TO GET THERE:

RYANAIR (BUT KNOW WHAT YOU ARE SIGNING UP FOR!)
A disclaimer here- when we found our cheap plane tickets, even with added cabin bags our return flights came to £65, I did not really check the airport situation on the Swedish side of things. Indeed I was a little taken aback when I realised we were basically flying into Stockholm’s version of Luton, no where really near the city.

Therefore if you go budget like us and are flying into Skavsta rather than Arlanda airport, which is much closer to the city, just be aware that the journey doesn’t quite end when you land after the 2 hours flight time. Indeed you will have to get on a coach that takes a good 70-80 minutes if you don’t fancy a £90 Uber.

The coach however could be a lot worse - you can buy your tickets beforehand online here (around £24 for the round trip), the coaches are timed to wait for arriving flights and leave about every half an hour (timetable can be viewed here), they are super clean and have USB plugs.

So while not ideal when all you want to do is to start exploring the city, in the end we stocked up on some Swedish snacks to get us in the mood at a perfectly stocked supermarket by arrivals, I recommend OWL dill crisps of course, and tried to make the most of the journey, admiring the Swedish countryside and getting psyched for the weekend ahead! 

A word of warning though on your way back do make sure you get on that coach, you will be hard pushed to find another way to Skavsta unless your purse takes a heavy hit.


WHERE TO STAY:
STORY HOTEL RIDDARGATAN



A 5 minute Uber ride or 20 minute from the main central station into which the coach arrives into was our home for the weekend - the rather chic and industrially inspired Story boutique hotel.

It’s at the perfect location, right in the fancy part of town, Ostermalm, not too close to Stockholm’s answer to Oxford street, surrounded by lots of amazing and fancy restaurants, but still in walking distance to the hipster part of town, Sodermalm. Everything is modern and forward thinking at the hotel and make staying a real delight. Check in is done via a touch screen though staff is available if needed, instead of those annoying room key cards you are given a code for your room and once inside you are able to play your Spotify and Netflix from your phone onto the flat screen tv in the room in seconds.

I adored the slick yet still welcoming interior of our double room- think raw concrete walls , adorned with eclectic, unframed prints, some oriental touches like Chinese vases dotted around the room and bathroom basins in a similar style (reflecting Asian influences that continues in the hotel restaurant Ling Long which serves Asian fusion small plates), lots of plush velvet elements, beautiful wooden floors and a huge comfortable bed. Less is more here in an elegant and Scandi way and it was definitely one of the nicest rooms I have stayed at.

Breakfast is included in the room price and is very decent for that with a buffet that offers smoked salmon, an amazing array of dairy free alternatives including oat milk and lactose free butter, fresh juices, homemade smoothies and even vegan biscuits. It may not reach the heights of freshly made eggs or flat whites but is perfectly fine for a snack to start the day - after all there are buns to be had later on!

The hotel bar is also worth a visit with a distinctively East Village feel and is a favourite with cool locals as well as hotel guests and for us was the perfect pre-drinking spot on our Friday night, dressed up and ready to see what our night would hold.

Story hotel is chic and effortlessly cool without being intimidating, in a top location and with above average staff, level of service and an overall experience I can only recommend, indeed our stay here made the trip even more magical.












GETTING AROUND:
Everywhere on our to see and dine at list was less than an hours walk away which if you love walking like I do is easy peasy and meant we basically walked everyone during our days there. If you aren’t big on walking or get lazy after some drinks and dinner like in our case on a few occasions there are Uber’s of course but their metro system is also excellent and super easy to navigate.


WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK AND WHAT TO DO:

FYI:
Reservations are ESSENTIAL when it comes to dining out in Stockholm, particularly at popular and hyped restaurants like the ones we were planning to visit so go online and book your spot (most websites have an English version which helps), ideally over a week before you get there as I struggled to find any table when it closer to us arriving. They don’t really accommodate walk ins unless you are prepared to wait for a while so plan ahead - I quite enjoyed knowing there was a table waiting for us!


FIRST THINGS FIRST….CAKE @ VETE-KATTEN


Once checked in and freshened up we were in need of some sugar to perk us up after the not so short journey there (including getting on a 5am Stansted Express) and I was ready for some real deal princess cake!

Vete-Katten is an iconic cafe that, yes, is listed in most guide books but for a reason. It is a piece of Stockholm history and a very old school cafe that has been serving excellent baked goods for decades and in this case I could live with being surrounding be fellow short term visitors. The princess cake was outstanding and we also shared the very famous ‘vacuum cleaner’ or dammsugare cake, called a vacuum cleaner because of its resemblance to a 1920s hoover. It is basically the Swedish answer to my much beloved Viennese pink rum cake, basically a cylindrical pastry covered with green marzipan with the ends dipped in chocolate and an interior consisting of a mix of crushed biscuits, butter, cocoa and a good hit of punsch liqueur. It’s boozy, sweet and just amazing, trust me you will make a point of eating it every day of your time in Sweden, we did! Vette-Katten isn’t cool but it doesn’t have to be, stop for cake, soak up the old interiors and don’t regret being in a little bit of tourist trap.


NEXT UP EXPLORING GAMLA STAN AND THE PERFECT SPOT FOR A DRINK @ PASTIS

Gamla Stan is Stockholm’s gorgeous old town which looks all kinds of impressive, especially when you take a stroll around just as the sun is setting. It is a little touristy but not overrun by then and a definite must see, even just to take in the iconic and beautiful buildings and narrow cobbled streets. A lot of cafes around here looked very geared towards that market which is always a big no no for me but we could not help but stop by Pastis for a drink as we wondered by this adorable looking tiny French bistro.

Inside it feels like you have found a piece of Paris in the middle of Stockholm and the whole place feels incredibly cosy and romantic. We only had a glass of Cremant on this occasion but the oysters, moules and frites and other French classics being eaten around us looked very delicious and the whole of Pastis had a moorish garlic smell about it - one I would definitely like to revisit for dinner and a hidden gem in the old town. 


FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER & PRICELESS PEOPLE WATCHING @ RICHE


When I asked my Swedish friends for their top pick when it came to a fun Friday night dinner venue with good food, a vibrant atmosphere and the chance to stay for drinks afterwards everyone told me to go to the same place….Riche! Riche to put it simply is “the place to be seen” in Stockholm and has been for decades and it is where the city’s art, fashion and club crowds gather to eat delicious food and chatter the night away. 

It’s not cheap that is for sure but the people watching is amazing and the crowd is so varied and across all ages which you seldom get in London hot spots (even if you have endure the occasional rich old man that will try and buy you a bottle of Bollinger). The food is no after thought either - their legendary meatballs, served the traditional way with pickled cucumber, mashed potato, cranberries and gravy blew my travel companion Maddie’s mind and are famous beyond the city’s boarders for a reason. My truffle risotto was also utterly stunning and though all main courses are £20+ here I really did not mind paying that kind of money - impeccable food, service and a buzzing atmosphere that made it the perfect venue for our first night in Stockholm.

Once you’ve finished eating make sure to hover around the big bar to the right of the dining room or go their super cool bar next door Lilla Baren where you can even have a little boogie. We stayed a while, spent more than we should have on amazing espresso martinis and had one of the most fun dinners and evenings there of my life. If you have one night in Stockholm go to Riche - you won’t regret it.


SWEAT IT OUT @ BARRY’S STOCKHOLM THE MORNING AFTER
Being only a 7 minute walk away from our hotel I had to of course give Barry’s Stockholm a go for a morning session to sweat out a mild hangover from our Friday night and it did not disappoint! A super modern studio with great facilities and a super good instructor that did the entire class in English - if you are after a work out whilst away like me (crazy but it keeps me sane) Barry’s is as always the place to go!


CINNAMON BUNS IN A LOCAL SETTING @ VALHALLABAGERIET


Quickly showered and dressed we headed to VALHALLABAGERIET. I did A LOT of research on where to find the best cinnamon bun in Stockholm and this local favourite looked so good on Instagram that we simply had to make the journey. It is in quite a residential area, a 30 minute walk from the hotel and there was tourist in sight, just Stockholmers on the look out for a lovely baked good on a cold Saturday morning.

And boy was the cinnamon bun amazing! One of the best I ever had and I loved sitting in such a cosy, authentic bakery where it is about the baking only, no tables, simply a few benches to the side and no fancy coffee but heck when the bun is is so good it who needs anything else?! 



EXPLORE SODERMALM - STOCKHOLM’S ANSWER TO EAST LONDON

From there we headed to Sodermalm, Stockholm’s version of Shoreditch, which was about an hours walk away but took us via very lovely route through the old town and by the waterfront so felt a lot shorter. 


Our first stop once we got there was Kaffebar, a super nice coffee shop that was very hipster friendly with it’s minimal interiors and served some rather excellent coffee. This neighbourhood as a whole has tonnes of cafes and cute boutiques so even if you don’t have a plan just get walking and exploring!


A WINE BREAK @ URBAN DELI


After exploring some shops in the area (Grandpa is worth a look and reminded me a lot of Goodhood) we were ready for a sit down break, getting to nearly 25k steps by this point. We stumbled across the Urban Deli just as our feet could not take anymore and I loved the concept of a deli, organic supermarket and elegant wine bar all in one, something that needs to be done more often in London!

We perched on one of their bar stools, ordered a glass each of their excellent house wine and again loved the diverse and friendly atmosphere we found all around us in Stockholm. Make sure you order the fries with truffle mayo while there - they are beyond!


DINNER @ NYTORGET 6 FOR BRASSERIE VIBES & BUZZING ATMOSPHERE

Nytorget 6 was another spot that was on everyone’s must visit lists when I researched the trip and was the perfect restaurant for a vibrant Saturday dinner. Think French brasserie in terms of interior, with great jazz soundtrack and gorgeous people enjoying a modern Swedish menu.

My fish gratin was incredible and filled with chunks of fresh fish and prawns while Maddie, on a mission to really make the most of the Swedish national dish. once again went for meatballs and was not disappointed. Service was wonderful too and we spent a good few hours here absorbing the fun atmosphere. Booking is essential once more and very much worth it!


A SUNDAY STROLL TO LILLEBRORS BAGERI AND THE ACNE ARCHIVE STORE


All packed and checked out I was not done yet with my extensive cinnamon bun research and had come across Lillebrors on Instagram. Their amazing looking pastry selection made it easy for me to convince Maddie that a 45 minute walk there was totally justified, particularly as it happened to be a 4 minute walk from the Acne archive store where we were planning to stop by anyways!

I can safely say that the bakery was the best we went to on the entire trip - it’s a tiny place with no inside seating (though there are benches to perch on outside) and they bake what they bake daily, if that means only cardamon buns and no cinnamon ones like when we went then it is like that but boy do they know how to bake.

The croissants looked out of this world and the aforementioned cardamon bun we settled for was hands down the best bun of my life, fragrant, juicy…just perfect. I would go back to Stockholm for a visit to Lillebros alone and I suggest you make the trip there too, this is baking on another that everyone should experience.

On a less positive note don’t expect too much from the Archive store, firstly it only opens at 12pm on a Sunday and the selection is rather limited with literally no accessories and while prices are lower than your usual Acne they are still not quite sample sale standard. If you are in the hood anyways for the bun do pop by, you may have a better selection than us on this occasion but don’t make the trek for it alone.


BALLS FOR ALL @ MEATBALLS FOR THE PEOPLE



Before embarking on our long journey home via coach, plane and train to make it back to London, we managed to fit one last lovely Sunday lunch in at Meatballs For The People, heading back to the hip streets of Sodermalm.

It’s super cosy space that reminds a lot of the best kind of lovely gastropub back in London and was ideal to hide away from the cold and enjoy our last few hours in Stockholm. As the name suggests they specialise in one thing here and that is meatballs although my veggie version, a kind of Swedish style Falafel, was equally tasting. Once you have chosen your type of balls, and for meat eaters that means you can choose between beef, moose, deer and pork, you can decide how you want them, classic with mash, cranberries and pickled cucumber, pimped up with garlic mash, red wine sauce and bacon or a little different as part of a risotto or pasta bowl.

Service was super attentive and our chosen balls arrived in no time. I really loved that I could have the meatballs without the meat and with that not miss out on such an iconic Swedish dish which makes it the perfect place to cater for all diets!

A special mention has to go to the exceptional crumble we both squeezed in - my blueberry version was topped with the most amazing crumble and fresh vanilla custard while Maddie could also not stop eating hers even though we were ready to pop. Meatballs For The People for me is the perfect mix of traditional Swedish cuisine and a fun and young dining environment, perfect for a bigger group and those like me who want to do Swedish meatballs without the meat!


And for those too lazy to read my ode to the Swedish capital here isa breakdown of my favourite Stockholm discoveries:

BAKERIES
Vete-Katten - A classic, go for the princess cake
Lillebrors - Fantastic bakery, cardamon bun must order

DINNER
Riche - Top spot for Friday night, booking essential, stay for cocktails after
Nytorget 6 - cool brasserie vibes, jazz music, booking essential
Meatballs For The People - casual vibe, good value, balls even for vegetarians

COFFEE
Kaffebar - hipster friendly spot with great coffee
Cafe Pascal - bright coffee spot, opens early

DRINKS
Urban Deli - fab wine bare within a deli, amazing fries with truffle mayo
OST & Chark - another great wine bar within a deli with very affordable wine by the glass and great interiors
Gildas Rum - a cooky cafe with old antique furniture that serves very affordable wine