Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Bee's Knees Barnyard...

Barnyard in a nutshell is small but perfectly formed, when I come to think of it a lot like Mini Mouse! Serving up oh-so-delicious grub with a first come, first serve policy so no ridonkulous two-month waiting lists to sit out.

Chef, Ollie Dabbous’ second venture, his first being the notoriously hard to get into but utterly impressive, Dabbous. Myself, Mini Mouse and two fabulous friends, were lucky enough to bag ourselves a table at Dabbous when it first opened and were blown away by the tasting menu – I knew I was in for something a little more low-key with Barnyard but none the less I was pretty excited to taste-test Dabbous’ latest foodie creation!

Located on bustling Charlotte Street, I headed there on a Thursday night with a few work pals for a much needed team night out! Apparently the queues have been pretty out of control but we were lucky enough to be seated immediately on the upper mezzanine level, ideal spot for people watching!

So décor - we’re talking industrial chic meets rustic barn vibes – peeling wallpaper, bricks, corrugated iron walls, low hanging metal lights and chunky distressed wooden worktops. Basically my dream kind of interior. 






The restaurant does show its softer side too with jugs of beautiful flowers scattered around the barn... 



First up and most importantly … a strong drink! We were instantly drawn to the fun sounding shandies, from the ‘Barnyard’ made up of homemade lemonade, gin and abro larger to ‘Hedgerow shandy’ which was a pink grapefruit, tonic, sloe gin and wyld wood cider concoction! We all opted for the shandy of our dreams and merrily kept them coming! 


Their also offering a seriously impressive array of boozy milkshakes - strawberry and elderflower, popcorn, malt and blueberry pancake to name a few, all of which come spiked with a good dose of alcohol from bourbon to tequila – my kinda shake!

The menu is made up of lots of small plates to share, all grouped under food type e.g. cow, beef, eggs etc. – always a winner if the portions are big enough as it means that you get to taste a little bit of everything, escaping the dreaded food envy feeling! Thankfully the portions were on the manly scale so no rationing necessary! Our dishes all pretty much arrived at the same time – a big fan of that – and were beautifully presented in blue and white enamel dishes adding to the casual dining experience Dabbous is shooting for.

We ordered up just about everything on the menu. Starting with warm cornbread that came presented in a brown paper bag stamped with the date – heavenly buttery bread that had us all oohing and ahhing. A good sign of what lay ahead…




Then the food just kept on coming and coming from seriously moreish homemade sausage rolls with piccalilli…




…to grilled spring lamb with mint sauce, peas and radishes… 




Green asparagus with soft boiled egg, chervil & sunflower seeds… 



We also devoured crispy chicken wings with smoked paprika, garlic & lemon which were, in true KFC-style, finger lickin’ good, corn on the cob with gorgeously salty butter and of course good old fashioned French fries!

After all of that we were about ready to pop but we couldn’t leave without trying some of the puds on offer so we waved our waiter over and ordered up a few potions of the naughty but nice popcorn ice cream with smoked fudge sauce and then Eton Mess which is always delish! 



One word – epic. Add this gem to the little black book pronto – go, immediately!


Barnyard 
18 Charlotte Street
Fitzrovia
London 
W1T 2LY
020 7580 3842


Monday, 29 September 2014

Five Minutes with Salt Ashes

If you cast your mind back to the gloomy, dark days of early February, you may recall we brought a much-needed dose of disco to your desk with a bit of blog love for an brand new artist - Veiga Sanchez, AKA Salt Ashes


We fell hard for her first single, 'Somebody', back in the spring, and it's been top of our summer playlists ever since. Now that autumn's drawing-in, and we're all in need of a bit of a push to get out of our onesies and onto the dancefloor, what better time to have Salt Ashes back in a blaze of shimmery, synth deliciousness with her second single, 'If You Let Me Go'?

We managed to grab Veiga for a quick chat last week to talk monikers, music and dancing til your feet bleed...

Where did the name Salt Ashes come from (and why not stick with your beyond awesome real name?!)?

The name Salt Ashes kind of attached itself to me and I couldn’t shake it off. I saw it scratched on the side of an old boat on the seafront in Brighton and it wouldn’t leave me… eventually it felt right to use it as a stage name as to me it summarises my writing and mood. I didn’t know my name was that ‘cool’! But, I like changing my name, it keeps life interesting. Maybe I’ll change it again one day…

If you had to elevator pitch your sound to someone who's never heard your music before, how would your spiel go? 

"Electronic, dark, disco dirt, synth-love that will hopefully make you want to dance and scream in the dark."

Career highlight to date?

Playing The Great Escape. I’ve been to that festival for years, with it being in my hometown, always picturing myself on one of the stages so to play it was an awesome highlight. 

What are your top tracks of the year so far? 

 'Time' by Jungle



“All I Need (Roman Flügel Remix) by Daniel Avery



 The ZHU Remix of "West Coast" by Lana Del Rey

 

Any hot tips for us of new artists to watch for?

I love MØ. She’s been around a little while but most people I speak to still haven’t heard of her which is crazy. The production is awesome and edgy and her lyrics are pretty cool. It’s been pointed out that there’s a slight Lana Del Rey resemblance in her vocal, but this girl has got her own vibe going on and her live show is sick and should be seen. 



Describe your perfect day?

A perfect day for me would be waking up and dancing round my kitchen with shades on and not stopping until my feet bleed. I like getting lost in my own world…no distractions but beats.

If you had to choose three Desert Island Discs, what would they be?

I Feel Love by Giorgio Moroder, Hold Tight by Change and Jöga by Bjork. 

What's next?

My video for the single will be released soon and in the mean time I’m writing and still creating more and more which will never stop I hope. 

Salt Ashes' second single, 'If You Let Me Go', is out on 20th October.

And, because we're good to you like that, here's a sneak peek...




Friday, 26 September 2014

This Week The Mice Have Mostly Been...

... working, working and a bit more working in Hong Kong and packing-up and zipping off on holiday in London.

So, because HK Mouse is utterly useless (and a touch lazy) without her little co-Mice, today's post is going to be short and sweet. We're wishing you all a wonderful weekend and we'll see you on Monday for some proper blog love but right now...



x
The Mice

Thursday, 25 September 2014

H&M Studio Collection...

I'm not sure about you fellow UKers, but I'm starting to become a little weary of this bipolar weather. One moment the sun is shining with temperatures hitting the mid-twenties, and the next we're being woken by extreme roaring thunder and relentless rain! I've never felt so confused when faced with my wardrobe each morning, and last week four days out of five I got it totally wrong! 

Not only is it confusing each morning, but every time I decide to go shopping...which at the moment is most lunchtimes! As I flick through all the new season pieces I'm faced with reams of roll necks, chunky knit jumpers, textured cardi coats and cosy cashmere...winter is officially here on the high street! 

No idea what you should be buying...ME NEITHER, so for now I've decided the only way forward is layers! You can't be caught short and when the sun does decide to put his hat on, you can peel a layer off and breathe!

So when I stumbled upon H&M's Studio Collection, my reaction? Hello oh so perfect pieces for our layering tactical direction! It's crammed full of beading, embellishment, sheer fabrics, multi textures, velvet, laces...basically everything to make a beautiful outfit that can be layered up or paired down with bare legs and chunky boots. Middle Mouse snapped up the silk blend lace shorts last week and I've got my eye on the low v-back chiffon maxi and asymmetric mermaid dress (as I've named it!). 

You can shop the range online right here or in selected stores - it launched earlier this month but panic not, they seem to have bought enough to go round!  


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Willow Organic Beauty: Conscious Products with the Wow Factor

If you're a regular follower of our blog, there's one thing you'll have clocked by now, all three of us are suckers for beauty products of the pampering variety. We're pretty tough critics though, our products of choice have to smell delicious, feel luxurious and most importantly work beauty miracles. Striking that balance, and in an ethical and environmentally friendly way, is tricky business let us tell you.

Our bathrooms are filled to the brim with all of our favourite beauty goodies, ready and waiting for us to select from every morning and night - here's a sneak peek at mine so that you can see for yourself… 



Although I have my firm favourites - Jo Malone, ESPA, L-Occitane, Clarins, Elemis to name just a few, there's always room for more...! A new luxury organic skincare range came into my life recently, and it's one I'm pretty excited to share with you all … it's called Willow Organic Beauty.

I don't know about you, but I'm always very sceptical when told 'this product is organic'. But is it? Truly, truly organic? Often it's only a certain percentage organic, which surely pretty much negates the whole point. Not this brand - this brand is the real deal. What's more, Willow doesn't test on animals and all the packaging is environmentally friendly. Can you see the Willow halo gleaming through your screen?

All products are made in England and boast soft, subtle scents that aren't going to battle it out with your signature perfume - win win!

Sounds too good to be true? Looking for the catch? Us too, but there really isn't one.

So let's put the products to the test. We tried four items from Willow Organic's special edition A/W 14 Butterfly Range and thought we'd share our honest thoughts with you all. 
A lovely little extra about this collection is for every product sold, £1 goes to the Butterfly Conservation - the UK charity dedicated to protecting native British flutterbies - gorgeous touch. 

Here goes. First up...

The Pink Himalayan Body Scrub
£34 

Rosehip, almond & barbary fig scent - fresh, fruity and just the right amount of exfoliator. There's nothing worse that emerging out of the shower red-skinned because the scrub is that touch too fierce! The Willow scrub leaves your skin smooth and buffed without being overly-abrasive. As Goldilocks would say - this one is justtttttt right!


£37 

Matchy, matchy with the above scrub - bag the pair for the ultimate indulgence in and out of the shower. This product's name couldn't be more true - slather it on while your skin's still damp after your shower and you really do glow! Body oil, in my opinion, is the only body moisturiser worth spending money on. It keeps your skin feeling gorgeous all day long and gives you that subtle summery sheen - heaven!


£18 

Silky smooth with a fairy-like texture - I'm in love and slightly obsessed! I'm a bit of a lip balm addict, so I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say I know a stellar one when I find it. This ticks all the right boxes and smells divine too - the perfect handbag pick-me-up! 



£44 

A stunning serum boasting notes of comfrey, nettle and orange. It really does feel as super hydrating and firming as the packaging promises. I have high hopes that it will keep my eyes looking youthful and sparkly and it certainly adds an extra pampering edge to my usual beauty routine.



A whole host of luxe beautifiers that actually work and are organic and have a conscience to boot? What more excuse do you need to give those credit cards a mid-week flex? Ready, steady, shop....

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Flavour Full Stop: Great Grub in a Box

Sick and tired of boring stir fry and chicken salads? Running out of inspiration for tonight's dinner? Have a dinner party coming up and no idea what to make? Well we have the perfect solution for all your dilemmas (well, for UK peeps at least)....Flavour Full Stop Boxes of course!! 

Flavour Full Stop is a new brand with the aim to create new and exciting food experiences into everyone's home each month...and that they really do! A huge part of the concept that we loved was the fact each box is a surprise to the subscriber, it is only when you receive your package that you will find out the contents! Each box contains 6 full sized artisan products (both food and drink) all sourced from around the UK. 

Firstly when your box arrives it's all neatly packaged up and opening it is like a little treasure trove. Middle Mouse and I ripped open the lid to be faced with a box stuffed full of crinkled packaging with a whole heap of little gems hidden within it! A little booklet is also enclosed explaining the theme of the box, telling the story behind each product, the location within the UK it was sourced and helpful ideas/recipes of how to make the most of each one of them! I told you it would solve all your problems...

- Ingredients : TICK
- A dinner party theme : TICK
- Interesting stories to impress your guests with : TICK
- Delicious and easy recipes: TICK

The lovely people behind the brand contacted us after reading the blog and sensing our love for food, kindly sent us a September box to trial, which was themed Indian Summer. Last weekend I was feeling under the weather so we decided to stay in and cook up a storm at London Towers and put our box to good use! 

Our box comprised of...

The Tiny Takeaway - a small paper takeaway bag with four paper parcels inside filled with the perfect mix of spices and seasoning to make four authentic Indian dishes with additional ingredients required and an easy to follow recipe printed on the outside of each. This included:

Spicy Tatties
Spicy Rice
Madras Curry
Rogan Josh Curry 

Love Pickle - a chilli tomato pickle perfect with poppadoms and nan bread

Easy Naan Bread Kit - a pre weighed and mixed bag of ingredients to make the perfect naan bread! 

Mango Hot Chilli Sauce - a spicy mango sauce bursting full of flavour 

Cardamom Bitters - the perfect addition to make a mean martini!

Cardamom and Vanilla Chocolate - obviously every banquet needs a pudding...! 



The Indian Summer box was right up our street - firstly we've all been eating curry since we were teeny tiny and were brought up understanding that it was a special treat (to this day we still get super excited about the prospect) so, points were immediately awarded for the fab theme! Secondly, the whole concept is so much fun as you've no idea what's in the box, so get the excitement of a present-like package plus the challenge to take on new things we'd probably never have attempted otherwise (hello making naan breads!). Best of all, Flavour Full Stop make everything so easy that even a complete novice could cope! 












The result - AMAZING...the flavours were crazily good, it felt like we should have slaved over a stove for hours to create such delicious dishes! We really felt that we'd stretched ourselves and learnt new things and it totally opens your eyes to how easy cooking outside of the box can be...we'll definitely think twice before ordering a greasy, sub-standard takeaway curry again! 

You've still got time to sign-up for the October box here and if you're not convinced just yet why not try for yourself? The subscription allows you to pick from a 1 month, 3 month or 6 month option...go on, DO IT!!! 



Monday, 22 September 2014

Framura & Cinque Terre

How on earth is it Monday again already?! 

But, if there's one thing guaranteed to lift our lacklustre Monday moods, it's a little bit of holiday daydreaming. So, we thought we'd kick off the week with a travel post. Here's part II of my Italian summer adventures - a week in Framura, a little Ligurian village nestled midway between the Cinque Terre and Portofino.

After the most magical Tuscan wedding, we waved goodbye to the wedding crew and hopped into our hire car to zip across Tuscany and hit the coast for a bit of recuperation.   To break up the journey, we decided to stop at Lucca for a wander and a lazy lunch.









Suitably stuffed full of salami and spaghetti, we jumped back in our Fiat 500 and headed up the coast to our home for the next few days. Having been bitten by the Airbnb bug back in June when we played country bumpkins for the weekend in a barn conversion in Somerset, we decided to give the bland chain hotels and dated B&Bs a miss and instead booked an Airbnb in Framura. Best decision ever! 

Perched at the top of a wiggly, windy road with incredible views out across the water, our apartment was a two bed, two bathroom home away from home. The whole flat was beautifully decorated and super bright and airy with a sun-dappled garden at the back and a huge terrace overlooking the sea at the front. In the weeks leading up to our arrival, our lovely host, Elena emailed us with details of anything and everything we could possibly need to know about the apartment from wifi codes to where to eat, how to find the apartment to the best secret beaches nearby. We arrived and were greeted by Elena's friend who handed over the keys, gave us a mini tour and then left us to dash around exploring our new pad...














Pretty wiped out after three days of wedding celebrations, we decided that we would cook in that night, so off I pottered to the village and the most incredible corner shop ever, where I stocked up on Ciabatta, olives, mozzarella and parma ham as well as all the ingredients for a monster prawn and pesto risotto.

I got home just in time for a couple of sunset glasses of rose and a little grazing on my corner shop spoils before rolling up my sleeves, donning my apron and cooking up a storm.


We ate curled up on the sofa in front of the Big Lebowski (luckily the apartment came fully stocked with enough DVDs, CDs and games to keep even the most ADD child entertained) and within seconds of scraping our dishes clean, we were both yawning and heavy-lidded, ready for a huge sleep.

The next few days passed in a happy, sunny blur of blue skies and too much pasta. We mixed mornings baking out on the terrace drinking coffee and reading magazines with afternoons exploring and even a couple of gelato-burningly energetic walks. 



But, on our first day, after the large Limoncello consumption at the wedding, we decided that it was probably wise to while away the day at Monterosso al Mare lying under an orange and green striped sun umbrella with nothing more stressful on the agenda than kindle reading and deciding where to eat lunch. Total bliss!






In fact, it was so perfect that the next day we decided to seek out another beach for yet more snoozy sunning. Two days of lying supine meant that by day three we were ready to take on the challenge of walking the Cinque Terre - an eight mile hike along the coastal pathway that takes you from village to village. We set off bright and early in an attempt to dodge the hottest part of the day and were rewarded with a relatively deserted trail and some stunning photo ops.








By the time we arrived at the final of the five villages, Riomaggiore, we were ravenous so headed straight to a shady cliffside restaurant where we descended on a huge Italian feast washed down with a few glasses of very well-deserved rose. After lunch we wandered down to the harbour where we spied a man renting out speedboats which seemed a pretty perfect way to round off the afternoon. So, before you could say 'anchors away' we were puttering out of the harbour on a little dinghy heading for a quiet cove along the coast where we bobbed for a couple of hours of swimming and sunsoaking.




On our final day, we woke up to grey skies so decided to scrap the beach day we'd planned and instead hopped in the Fiat 500 and whizzed up the motorway to Portofino for a day of wandering, people watching and deciding which of the mega yachts we'll buy when we make our millions.





When cocktail o'clock rolled around we strolled up the hill to the Hotel Splendido for a few rounds of bellinis and negronis with the most beautiful backdrop.




And then, it was time to pack up our cases, bid a tearful goodbye to gorgeous Framura and head back to Pisa to fly home. But, even as I dragged my case to the car, I was sure that I'd be back before long, so today, on this dull Monday, perhaps it's time to hop over to Skyscanner and take a look at flights to Pisa next summer...


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