Turning 26 may not have been the most glamorous of birthdays (I guess the next big one will be the big 3-0 which is a terrifying thought!!) but it did present me with the chance to get a little spoiled by some of my amazing friends who took me to a few eating and drinking spots that had been on my to try list for quite some time, occasions like this better than any physical present to me!
Right on the top of this list was Dandelyan in the rather classy Mondrian hotel, located on the southbank of the Thames. I had been desperate to go not only because it’s been voted best bar in the world numerous times since in its opening but also because of its drool worthy and Wes Anderson inspired interior which I had spotted all over the internet with its plush pink and dark green accents. Having banged on about it on many occasions to one of my friends said friend decided to treat me to a pre birthday cocktail on a Wednesday night here and I have to say as I walked there from my office I had very high (and probably slightly too high) expectations of what Dandelyan was going to be like.
Don’t get me wrong the interior is very nice, all shiny brass, slick furniture and low lighting, but the pink sofas that made this place so insta famous make up a rather small corner of a big bar space, is reserved for big groups and somehow doesn’t have quite the impact at night as in the clearly well lit publicity shots that circulate on Pinterest interior boards.
The menu at dandelyon is inspired by the botanical world and though cocktails are far from cheap (we are talking a hefty £13.5 for a very petite portioned cocktail) they do taste and look utterly delightful. This isn’t a place to get drunk at, it is a place to enjoy every sip of your expertly made cocktail in the same way that I guess you marvel at a Michelin stared dish. Indeed my “Flower of Five” - Belvedere Pink Grapefruit with passion fruit flower, leather, lemon and Bramble Gin Liqueur was one of the best cocktails I have ever had, far too quickly drunk from a small martini glass adorned with a flower and probably not quite in my top 3 ever considering the value for money but no doubt still great.
It definitely is a place for a special occasion and has a uniquely sophisticated air about it and perhaps had I not expected so much beforehand it would have scored even higher with me. Would I go back? Sure as the menu offers a lot more I’d like to try and I couldn’t ask my friend to pay for more than one of these pricy numbers but is it the best bar in the world? Probably not.
Somehow I managed to avoid Thai food for many, many years but looking back wouldn’t really be able to tell you why. Maybe it was one of those subconscious dislikes one develops as a child after a bad experience or maybe it was because it wasn’t really widely available around me growing up, Thai cuisine not as commonly found in Germany as say it’s Italian or Turkish counterparts. In any case until very recently I would have very happily and quite ignorantly turned away a red Thai curry or pad Thai in favour of another Asian dining alternative like Japanese or Chinese. However I stood to be converted...
Thai cuisine indeed, when made properly, is incredibly tasty, not too greasy and full of fresh flavours...and to my surprise not too tricky to make at home authentically.
Of course there are few factors to consider before you attempt the most famous of all Thai takeaway dishes, the pad Thai, at home. Firstly you need an authentic and reliable recipe to go by. A lot of things that come up after conducting a quick google search for pad Thai recipes are far from the real deal and don’t even get me started on those meal kits you can get at the supermarket - yes they may contain a sauce that calls itself authentic but the fact that it has a shelf life of a year really doesn’t scream out fresh to me. Not that I am against it full stop, if you fancy a pad Thai “style” dinner that doesn’t require much effort than this will do the trick. I have however always been of the cooking persuasion of wanting to recreate a dish as convincingly and authentically as I can, getting as close to the original that I love as possible and in a way getting quite competitive in the processes, nailing the prep and execution of an unfamiliar dish.
It was only natural then that when I stumbled across a pad Thai recipe from my all time favourite Thai restaurant in London, Rosa’s, in The Independent to promote their new cookbook that I had to give it my best shot. Ok, some of you may say what’s the point of you making it when you can order the same thing but there is something hugely gratifying about cooking it yourself plus it allows you to tweak the dish to your tastebuds. It also somehow just tastes that tiny bit better fresh out of the wok than when delivered via deliveroo and if you can be bothered to make the effort (and heck I will still be ordering it from Rosa’s once a while when I’m stretched for time or too hungover to even walk to Sainsbury’s) because it is worth it.
One last thing to bear in mind is that you will need to visit an Asian supermarket as some ingredients are little obscure (dried turnip anyone?) but are so, so worth seeking out as they make the dish truly authentic. Plus once you have all the basic Asian store cupboard ingredients like palm sugar and tamarind you can easily make this dish again and again as the other components needed are pretty standard and easily found in even the smallest Sainsbury’s Local (I’m talking rice noodles, eggs, peanut, bean sprouts and some prawns).
The sauce is prepared super quickly and I had all things chopped up ready by the time my friend arrived for supper. After a few glasses of wine all that was left to do was to heat up the wok (I would recommend using one instead of a pan), scrambling your eggs and chucking all the other bits in! The end result was pretty much one of the best pad Thais I’ve ever had (if I do say so myself) and had a real depth of flavour that had me talking about how I had conquered this Thai classic for days after!
I say challenge yourself a little and give this one a go! I for one have firmly added it to my recipe repertoire that’s for sure!
4 eggs, beaten 300g rice noodles, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes, then drained 8-10 prawns, shelled, deveined and heads removed 2 tbsp dried turnip (available from Asian supermarkets) 2 handfuls of bean sprouts Chilli powder, to taste (optional) Bunch of Chinese chives or 2 spring onions, chopped 4 tbsp roasted peanuts, crushed Lime wedges, to serve
First make the pad thai sauce. Soak the tamarind pulp in 6 tablespoons of warm water, then stir until it becomes a thick liquid. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a wok, add the shallots and stir-fry until almost golden brown. Carefully add the tamarind (in case it spits) and cook for 1 minute to reduce slightly.
Add the palm sugar, stirring to break it up, then stir in the fish sauce and continue to cook over a high heat for 1 minute until it has thickened slightly. Transfer the pad thai sauce to a bowl and set aside. This recipe makes enough sauce for about 4 servings, so store any leftover pad thai sauce in an airtight container and use within 4 weeks.
Now prepare the noodles. Scramble the beaten eggs in a hot wok with the remaining oil, then add the noodles and stir-fry until the egg breaks up and the noodles are soft. Add the prawns and dried turnip and stir-fry until the prawns are nearly cooked. Mix in 8 tablespoons of the reserved pad thai sauce and continue to stir-fry until the noodles take on a nice golden-brown colour. Add the bean sprouts, chilli powder (if using), Chinese chives and crushed peanuts and keep stir-frying for another 2 minutes. Transfer the noodles to 2 serving plates and serve immediately with lime wedges.
One makes many mistakes growing up and undoubtedly a lot of mine involved some seriously bad style and make up decisions. Of course you could argue that these were all necessary on the path to finding my own identity and helped me evolve to my current look but although my dress sense found it’s groove over the years even until recently I really struggled to get my make up “right”.
In fact I had never really learnt how to put on a proper face of make up (my mum was of the persuasion of once in a while putting on some mascara and sometimes some ill advised bright lipstick in contrast to her fair Scandinavian complexion), nor am I of the generation that really got into YouTube and its seemingly endless streams of beauty tutorials. This ultimately meant that until a few weeks ago I may have used make up every day, and probably too much of it at that, but didn’t really know what I was doing and if what I was doing was even the right thing to make the most of my face.
I wanted to change that as part of my New Year's resolutions for 2018 and eventually stumbled across Bobbi Browns How To lessons, quick and free one to one tutorials at one of their beautiful shops around the country in which one of their expert make up artists takes you through all the make up basics in a half an hour session.
There is no obligation to buy anything although I used the opportunity of having a real expert on hand to invest in some real essentials, which as it turns out I had been seriously missing in my life. I picked up so many little tips and tricks and also realised that I was putting the wrong focus on the wrong areas in my face, learning some real basics that I shamefully just hadn’t been aware of before (blusher - no idea what it did or what I was missing out on by not having one).
Since then my beauty routine has become a lot less stressful, able to achieve a more professional finish in less time then ever and has also awakened a real interest in me to learn more about beauty.Below some of my new make up essentials that I think every girl should invest in:
I have super dry skin so for me this base is absolutely key so that the make up applied doesn’t just look caked on but actually soaks in and covers properly. I love the fresh scent and none oily consistency of this and have made it a ritual to put it on first thing in the morning. Highly recommended.
I love this skin foundation stick by Bobbi Brown as it feels a lot less heavy than your conventional cream foundation and it has a good even finish all day long. The older I get the more I also value a decent concealer as I am prone to dark circles under my eyes (I am a notoriously bad sleeper), with this one blending in wonderfully with the foundation.
Before my little make up tutorial I was using B.B. cream and foundation but had no idea that one needed to add a bit of shape and colour to ones face with a stroke of blusher to stop looking rather one dimensional and monotone coloured. It may only be a small extra step to add to your make up routine but for me it has made a huge difference! Mascara is of course quite basic and I have been using it for years but make sure you find one to suit your eyelashes. I for one have really long eyelashes so need a brush shape that separates and curls them rather than lengthens them.
What I learnt in terms of using eyeshadows really was a game changer. I had always heavily relied on applying a black eyeliner to highlight my eyes, going through some questionably phases of literally having a Nike sized tick on my eyelid. During my make up lesson however I learnt that I could make my eyes stand out in a much more natural, subtle yet equally effective way. It’s all about finding earthy shades that suit you and applying them to frame the eye. I’m still learning the blending and am experimenting with different shades but the Naked Palette by Urban Decay that had been lying around my room forever (hence why its slightly dishevelled appearance) has proved the perfect starting kit to make me an (eventual) expert in the field of eyeshadows. I haven’t picked up my eyeliner since and can’t say that I miss it yet!
Unless you are a millionaire or are very fortunate to have inherited an amazing flat in London it is very unlikely that you have buckets of space to waste when it comes to your living situation. Most people will have to fit their entire life into one room so you may as well be clever about it! I used to have 2 huge rails of clothing out which ended up wasted a quarter of the room. Did I wear all of what was hung up? Of course not! Which is why I condensed the rails into one, freeing up an entire corner of my room, sold lots on Depop (making money that I used for redecoration bits and bobs) and folded up neatly all the seasonal stuff I wasn't going to wear for another half year to store in my build-in wardrobe. To my pleasant surprise by the end of this operation my core capsule wardrobe was cut down to one neat (and colour coordinated) rail and my mind felt a lot more free without so much unnecessary crap in my life and room.
Don’t stop at your clothes!
I did the same for my vast collection of custom jewellery and sunglasses that previously rather lavishly inhabited the entire and only desk in my room. It may have looked cool but it only really collected dust and again cost me actual functionality of the room, making it near impossible to use the desk for anything but showing off my bling.
A quick bin of whatever pieces I was never going to wear again / were broken and an Ikea shop later I moved all my remaining sunglasses and jewellery into a stylish little grey cardboard drawer set and within few minutes had not only gained a new workspace to type my blog posts up at but an actual place to eat my dinner that wasn’t my bed or sofa. The biggest upside to this new attitude? Once you learn what it means to have less clutter you also stop buying stuff for the sake of it and begin to sell what you don’t need. I for one am all about less is more now.
My new interior direction may sound more grown up but it doesn’t have to mean that my room is less stylish. Indeed for me it was all about finding cool little room accessories to add that finishing touch. I absolutely adore my amazing framed prints from Junique, who have a fantastic selection of affordable art online. I also bought some great little plant pots for a couple of quid from trusty Tiger and to fill them headed to Columbia Road flower market on a Sunday (top tip go around 3-4pm to get the real bargains), buying myself some easy maintenance succulents and cacti that have, I am happy too announce, survived so far!!! They might not scream STATEMENT but these pieces have injected some subtle personal touches into the room without deterring from the Scandi chic look I was going for!
Invest where it’s worth investing in!
Next on my to buy list: a decent mattress, as my back is seriously suffering from the old one in my room, and some proper duck down pillows. Yes, expensive and boring purchases but the older I get the more I realise they are the ones worth making!