30 before 30 - progress · Food · Sports · Swimming

17. Swim in the thermal baths at Bath

Top tip: go in the week! We queued for about 1 1/2 hours (it was worth it, though..)

Dan and I made a day trip out of Bath and it was bloody brilliant. We meandered our way through the city looking at all the tourist sites – of course we had to take a photo at the Royal Crescent! – and after coffee and a bit more wandering we joined the queue for the Royal Spa baths.

It took ages to get in but for some reason neither of us minded that too much! You can book in advance during the week, so I’d recommend doing that if you don’t mind taking a day off work. The steam rooms are currently closed for refurbishment, which means that you get a complimentary ticket to revisit before the end of the year, so that makes it pretty good value for money too.

There are two pools that you can visit at the moment, we stayed in both for absolutely ages. The Minerva Bath is located in the basement of the building and has currents and jets and a jacuzzi – fantastic!

Minerva bath

The rooftop pool is the reason I wanted to visit, though: I’ve never seen a photo of it which doesn’t look beautiful! And it completely surpassed our expectations. The views over the city were just incredible, and watching the steam rising from the pool was very relaxing. The pool was clean and warm and I could have stayed there all day. I loved it and I’m so glad that I made the effort to tick off this one!

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The two pictures above are taken from here – funnily enough you can’t take pictures when inside!

After the spa we grabbed a snack whilst watching a very large man drinking a 6 pint carton of milk. Lovely. We then went to the Dark Horse cocktail bar (thanks for the great tip, Alex!) and Yak Yeti Yak for a quick and really delicious dinner (thanks Celeste!) before heading back to the train station happy, relaxed, a little bit exhausted, and very much in love with Bath. Now to find a way to move there..!

30 before 30 - progress · Food

10. Make an edible lemon meringue pie

When I was a teenager I thought that lemon meringue pie was the most sophisticated dessert in the world, closely followed by Vienetta. (Don’t judge me – I did grow up in Reading!) So, being the sophisticated person that I am, it’s always seemed to me that I should be able to make this without any problem.

I would say I’ve tried to make it at least ten times, and every single time has been a catastrophic failure: not even a it-just-tasted-sort-of-bad failure, I’ve literally had to throw it in the bin every time. It takes hours to make and just about every bit of equipment in the kitchen, so it’s incredibly bloody annoying when it goes wrong.

This week, however, I’ve made a bit of a breakthrough and discovered the secret ingredient – getting my sis to help!! And I’ve only gone and made an edible lemon meringue pie!! It looks sort of weird, it tastes… alright, so I’m going to put this one down as an unparalleled success. Mostly because that means (thank god) that I never have to make one again!

Here’s a quick step-by-step with some grainy, horrible looking photos for you all to be amazed by:

Step 1: make pastry, put in flan dish (or, in my case, cake tin – oops!). I’m not including a photo here as it looked so godawful. Bake blind – yeah I’ve got baking beans! I’m a pro!!

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Step 2: Mix together a disgusting amount of butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, double cream, and an entire can of condensed milk. Vile. (oh hi, glamorous assistant!)

Step 3: Pour into the cooked pastry case then put back in the oven. Eat all the leftover mixture. Feel very, very sick.

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Step 4: Make the meringue, using entirely different ingredients to the recipe, and spend ages arguing over whether or not your peaks are stiff enough (nice little innuendo for you there).

Step 5: Spoon the meringue over the pie, bake for ten mins, then realise you’ve eaten far too much sugar to even contemplate eating a piece.

..and that’s all there is to it!

Thank you so much for your help and patience Jane! xxx

30 before 30 - progress · Food · Volunteering

20. Go to a festival

I used to go to Reading Festival as a teenager, but it’s been a long, long time since I went to a proper music festival. When I wrote my list I originally intended this entry to be a music festival, but looking at line-ups over the summer left me feeling uninspired. So when my gorgeous sister Jane texted to ask if I fancied a weekend at Edinburgh Fringe Festival with her, Charlie and Max, I jumped at the chance! Edinburgh Festival’s been on my wish-list for a long time, and it was so great!

We stayed right on the Royal Mile in a huge flat which ticked off a number of Scottish stereotypes, most notably the obsession with tartan. There were plenty of other stereotypes we were able to tick off in the surrounding streets, such as bagpipe players and haggis (yuck!!):

Luckily for me, all of my companions had previously attended the Festival so were very happy to take charge and decide our itinerary, book shows, suggest restaurants and pubs, and generally make my time there incredibly straightforward. As an insane control freak letting go does not come naturally to me, but I had such a good time – note to self, chill the f- out!!

We saw some incredible shows, such as BabushkaMax and Ivan and The Pianist, did a tour of the Edinburgh Gin Distillery, drank a lot, ate a lot, and laughed more than I’ve done for months. The weather was sunny for the whole of our trip, and the atmosphere of the city was brilliant – it was so much fun to wander the streets and be able to pop in to shows that caught our eye, and explore bits of the city we wouldn’t necessarily visit on an average tourist trip.

I’m already planning my trip back next year – but there is one thing I think I’d do differently next time, and that is not attempt a run whilst I’m there. A 10k through Edinburgh was very picturesque, but my god it was hilly!! My legs hated me!! Anyway, thank you so much for the best weekend, Jane, Max and Charlie, you’re awesome! xx

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30 before 30 - progress · Food · Uncategorized

28. One month of local/independent shops

My local/independent month is over! I’ve documented it all below. A few things that I’m taking away from this:

  • Getting to know local suppliers is a great way to feel like you’re part of a community, and they tend to have some really amazing produce
  • I go out for food far too much!
  • Supermarket bread has nothing on bread from a bakery or deli – there’s a reason that delis and bakeries charge about 3x the price, it’s completely worth paying the extra
  • I found it moderately difficult at times, but I can’t imagine how hard this would have been outside of London – I definitely had it easy

Overall I really enjoyed this month, and it’s definitely changed some of my shopping habits for the better. Thank you so much to all you lovely people who have been dragged to unusual places with me in May!

  1. Week Four

My final week was tough as I really just wanted to go clothes shopping – but I wanted this to be a challenge! I went to some really great places this week:

  • The Black Penny, Holborn – as this blog probably makes clear, I am a big fan of going out for brunch! I would apologise for the giant picture but it’s very much deserved as the food in this place was pretty bloody good. Would definitely recommend!
  • Nenno Pizza, King’s Cross – I asked Gareth J. if Honest Burgers counted as a local/independent place, he gave me a look of disdain, so we ended up here instead. And I’m really glad we did! Super friendly staff, lovely pizza (I had pear and gorgonzola on mine, amazing but incredibly smelly), really reasonable prices.

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  • Senate House Cafe – it really pains me to put this on here, as it’s one of my secret London places! This cafe backs on to the British Museum, is absolutely stupidly cheap because it’s part of the student library building, and always has enough space for you to sit outside in the summer. It’s not glamorous in the slightest, but it’s so good when you need a dirty student lunch – hence this jacket potato! Sometimes the simplest meals are the best! (and yes I had crisps and a jacket potato – so what?!)

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  • Tombo, South Kensington – I came to this Japanese cafe with gorgeous Sophie before we went to watch Gladiator at the Royal Albert Hall (a-maaaazing!!). The food was good, but the service was beyond appalling. So slow that we didn’t actually have chance to finish our food and had to run to get to the Albert Hall in time. Such a pity as this place could be brilliant!
  • Brasserie Zedel with my favourite past and present Christie’s girls: Ali, Alex, Charlotte and Rebecca. So nice to have a catch up! I don’t miss my old job but I certainly miss these girls!! Zedel is always consistently brilliant: I had macaroni cheese and was dreaming about it for days afterwards. Ridiculously decadent. I forgot to take any food pictures, so here’s a quick snap of the opulent dining room instead!

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  • Alchemy Indian food market, South Bank – I worked at my company’s South Bank gallery on the Saturday of my final week, so pottered down to the street food market in my lunch break. It was Indian themed when I went, and there were so many treasures! I had an amazing paneer wrap.20160528_143404
  • Vietnamese food on Kingsland Road, then Highness Cafe – a lovely tea room in Highbury, with Jane. I’d just done a 10k run so a peanut butter chocolate brownie was exactly what I needed!

2. Week Three

I’m getting really used to this now! There are some things that I definitely don’t think I’ll go back to buying from supermarkets – bread, eggs, fruit and vegetables in particular. Not so sure about toiletries, though – the mark-up for the same products in my local shops is quite high. Here’s what this week has looked like:

  • Doughnuts from Dunn’s Bakery after the Crouch End 10k – my local bakery donated 3,000 doughnuts to the running festival! Best thing to be handed when I passed the finish line!20160515_103534
  •  Sunday Barnsbury – post-run brunch. I go on about this place so much when I see people that there’s really no need to say anything about it here, except that if I could marry a plate of food this would definitely be the one I’d choose.20160515_153349
  • The Grafton in Kentish Town, after a long long walk along the canal and around Primrose Hill. I really do love North London at this time of year.
  • Breakfast at Store St Espresso – best way to start a working week! Huge portions and amazing coffee, I’m very lucky to have this so close to where I work.20160516_092019
  • Cocktails and burgers at Bar 55, Camden. Oh Bar 55, you will forever hold a place in my early 20s heart! Far too many trips to this place when I used to live round the corner.20160516_192633
  • Lunch from Jerusalem Falafel, who have a little stand on Berwick Street. This place has massive queues for a reason, it’s absolutely brilliant.20160520_131501
  • Wolkite Kitfo in Holloway – Ethiopian food, and so so tasty. I wish I could make simple ingredients taste like this. Jane and Charlie, I’ll definitely be taking you here soon!
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  • A Portugese cafe (whose name I can’t remember!) and Scratch Bar at Battersea Arts Centre. South of the river..! I love Battersea Arts Centre, and it’s being so sympathetically restored after the devastating fire last year. A great place to potter around on a weekend.

    3. Week Two

Week Two was quite difficult. I really wanted to buy some new running gear, and couldn’t find anything I liked in independent shops – will have to wait until next month! I bought some CDs and books from my lovely local charity shop, and went back to my local greengrocers and bakers. I also went to a few other places, including:

  • A barbecue at Anneabell’s lovely new house! Absolute pavlova queen, this girl is just too good!!
  • The Wheatsheaf  in Tooting Bec – Happy Birthday Jenny! I loved this half-covered up mural on the wall in the upstairs room20160508_215048
  • Baban’s Naan with Jane. Sneaky post-gym food! This shop near Finsbury Park sells nothing but naan bread for about 50p. I do not understand at all how that can be a viable business model, but it tastes pretty amazing! Quick pub trip to The Woodbine too, we deserved it!!
  • Tap Coffee on Rathbone Place – top marks for super strong coffee to help me through a tired morning at work!
  • The Deli at 80 – I featured these guys last week. They invited Dan and I to come along to their cheese and wine tasting night. So nice to feel connected to the local community – and to try some amazing cheese, wine, and local bread at the same time.
  • Dan and I were pretty hungry after our cheese tasting (haha) so headed to Q&T Vietnamese Kitchen for pho, then Pizzeria Pappagone for ice cream. Definitely didn’t feel hungry after that!! Pappagone does the best ice cream in the whole world, writing this is really making me consider going out to get one!
  • A sneaky lunch time white wine spritzer with Anneabell on the terrace of the Charlotte Street Hotel20160512_125445
  • Hoxton Beach Falafel – so so tasty!! Probably the best falafel I’ve ever had – and coming from a long-term vegetarian, that’s a massive compliment

     

    4. Week One

May is my month of local/independent shops, and I’m really enjoying the challenge so far! It’s making me realise just how much I eat out though – good thing I’m doing a fair amount of exercise for this bloody half marathon!!

Places I’ve been this week:

  • Just about every deli and greengrocers and bakery in Crouch Hill/Finsbury Park/Crouch End! The Deli at 80 and Dunn’s Bakery are particularly good.
  • Pide on Charlotte Street with Jane. Amazing Turkish flatbreads and chickpea salads. The staff were so friendly, helpful and really welcoming. We’re going back ASAP!
  • ICCO on Charlotte Street with gorgeous Ali – because why not eat an entire pizza in your lunch break?! Lovely to have a catch up and hear all your bonkers stories! 20160504_132210.jpg
  • Benefit – absolutely terrifying. I really needed to replace some makeup and couldn’t go to Boots, so went to Benefit’s flagship on Carnaby St. instead. So many staff, so scarily cheerful, and no Advantage Card points. Not a fun experience!!20160503_133229.jpg
  • Oven and Hearth for cocktails and Q&T Vietnamese Kitchen for food in Stroud Green with Jane and Charlie. Special shout out to the AMAZING Dr Horwood for passing his insane exams!!! The food at Q&T was so delicious, and I’m a big fan of anywhere that is BYOB!
  • La Farola on Upper Street for wine and tapas with Tim – so delicious (and I was talking so much) that I forgot to take a picture!
  • 8 Hoxton Square with Alex. I’m going to be dreaming of my food for ages. Buttermilk waffles with poached rhubarb and mascarpone – far too good!!
  • Clapton Craft‘s Kentish Town branch with Dan. Such a cool place. Dad – you would love it here, we’re going next time you and Mum come down to London!!

     

30 before 30 - progress · Food

4. Eat in a Michelin starred restaurant

Restaurant: Arbutus, Frith St., Soho

Date visited: 24th April   My dining companion: David

Food: 9/10    Service: 6/10  Value for money: 9/10 (it’s really cheap for a Michelin starred restaurant!)

Arbutus opened in 2006 and earned its Michelin star in 2007. David and I chose this place because it’s laidback, relatively cheap, and because the menu is traditional enough to appease fussy eaters like David. The chef tries to make the most of seasonal food and the decor is smart and bistro-style.

We liked it. It’s a quiet, relaxed setting and the food is delicious. I can’t imagine that anyone is particularly interested in what I had for dinner, but here’s some pictures anyway. My favourite thing was the gnudi – similar to gnocchi but filled with ricotta.

As much as I love good food, nothing beats catch-ups with those who mean a lot to you. My overriding memory of this meal will be hearing good news from a friend who has been long overdue a bit of luck. And frankly, I could have had the same conversation with him in Nandos.

Michelin starred restaurants, nice as you are, I think you’re wasted on the likes of me!