Saturday, 23 November 2013

REVIEW: 'Revenge Wears Prada' by Lauren Weisberger

Despite having studied the classics, I still have a penchant for 'chick lit'. I love indulging in a novel which is set in London of New York, starring fabulous young women, a couple of rotten but dashingly attractive men, and the unsuspecting heartthrob who reveals himself at the end after pages of heartbreak, glamorous events and designer heels.

Lauren Weisberger's books were my first step into this 'Carrie Bradshaw-eqsue' world. I started reading Chasing Harry Winston and Everyone Worth Knowing before I picked up The Devil Wears Prada. The books, whilst not the most mentally stimulating, fed my need for gossip-filled fiction; the glamour, the grown-up issues, the romance. It was a sparkly, drama filled life which I could escape to after school, or on my breaks from studying at university. The Devil Wears Prada became one of my favourite books, and subsequently one of my favourite films.

When I heard there was to be a sequel, I just had to get my hands on it. I waited until my degree had finished, and after I'd finished 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' I leapt straight into this book!

Revenge Wears Prada picks up on Andy's life ten years after that incident in Paris with the she-devil herself, Miranda Priestly. The dramatic exit left the readers convinced that Miranda had been kicked out of Andy's life for good. Except that isn't the case, and now she's back to allegedly wreak havoc on Andy's life once again, like any self-respecting villain.

Ten years later, Andy is doing well for herself. In typical Chick-Lit fashion, she's got the man, the job and the wedding - or so it seems. Of course, the path is never smooth running, and after a few slow pages I was introduced to the sort of drama that only seems to happen in New York.

The book was smooth running, in the sense that I didn't feel there were any major page-turning events. Yes, as I just said, there is drama - but I didn't feel the same pace and tension as I did in the first book - or even in the film. I was able to leave the book for a few days before continuing, unlike other books which I felt the need to be reading constantly, whenever I had a free moment!

Miranda herself doesn't seem to have the same presence. With it's title, I expected huge episodes of screaming, fights and backstabbing which would turn the central character's lives upside down, a la Devil Wears Prada. Miranda's presence is not as devilish as I had hoped, and although she is extremely difficult and, truthfully, a bit of a bitch, I don't think she's quite the menace the title leads you to believe. Here, Miranda doesn't work alone.

Now, don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the book and look forward to re-reading it in time. It's easy going, enjoyable and a great way to get stuck into a book which isn't too heavy on the brain. However, it is very much a sequel, and would not do as well if it was a stand-alone tale.

I really recommend it if you enjoy 'Chick Lit' which is enjoyable albeit a little predictable, but if you expect fireworks and drama to rival Weisberger's first account of Andy's life, you might be a little disappointed.


Thursday, 21 November 2013

Soap & Glory Birthday Haul

I've always loved  Soap and Glory products, ever since I was given my first gift set when I was about 18. I've not been able to treat myself to their full size products, and have stuck with presents and mini samples to keep myself happy!

For my birthday last week, my lovely new housemates bought me three Soap and Glory goodies - such a lovely surprise and very generous of them! I was so excited to use them, and I knew that I'd love them before I'd even tried them!

Here's what I got:

 Foam Call Dual-Use Shower & Bath Body Wash -- Mist You Madly Body Spray -- Calm One Calm All Bubble Bath

I can already tell that these will last me a long time - the bottles are huge!


1. Mist You Madly Body Spray

I have had a Soap & Glory body spray before; the bottle was purple, and it seems you can only get it in gift sets, which is a shame as I loved it so much. So I was excited to get a new scent to try out! This is very floral and a little musky, which I think is perfect for this time of year as anything too fresh and fruity wouldn't work well with the festive period. The bottle is light and looks great on my shelves, and seems to be easy to carry which is a plus for someone like me who always seems to be on a train or bus! The scent is long-lasting and not as intense as perfume so perfect for every-day use. A winner!

2.   Foam Call Dual-Use Shower & Bath Body Wash

I've used travel-sized bottles of S&G's Clean on Me shower gel which I love, so I couldn't wait to have something a little different. There's a LOT in this bottle so it's very long lasting, and the pump dispenser makes it easy to use and limits the amount you use which is great if you tend to use too much shower gel in one shower! Though this would not travel easily, its nice to have a special gel to keep at home.

This shower gel is a little fruitier than my usual gel, with its zesty ingredients making it perfect for that morning 'wake up' shower. A little went a long way, especially when I used my exfoliating gloves, and though it didn't foam up as much as my beloved Imperial Leather Foamburst gel it was very good and my skin felt great afterwards.

3. Calm One Calm All Bubble Bath

I never seem to have bubble bath to hand on a chilly Sunday night, which sadly means I rarely take the time to have a lovely relaxing bath. This gorgeous bottle however now means I have plenty of excuses to take a lovely long luxurious bath in the evenings! This bubble bath had the classic S&G sent of mallow, which meant I was relaxed and calm. It also produced a good amount of bubbles, and I didn't have to use a lot, meaning the bottle will last me a long time. This will definitely become a Sunday night essential!

I can't wait to treat myself to one of their famous body butters (My friend Cally at Clothes Circus has a few and I want to get my hands on some too!) - I also love their Hand Food, which will keep my hands soft in the cold cold weather.

Are you a Soap and Glory fan too? Let me know if you have any other recommendations, or even rival brands!


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

November Nails

I've been lusting after some new nail varnish for months. I really wanted to get my hands on
something different, and have been hoping to try out some matte nail varnish while its still on trend. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to receive four gorgeous nail varnishes for my birthday!

And here they are:

From left to right:
  1. Barry M Matte Nail Paint in #2 Crush
  2. Barry M Matte Nail Paint in #5 Mocha
  3. Rimmel London 60 Seconds Nail Varnish in #621 Mary Mary Quite Contrary
  4. Topshop Matte Nails in Mystic.

So, let's see what I thought of them!

1. Barry M Matte Nail Paint in #2 Crush

 This caught my eye weeks ago on a trip to boots, so I was overjoyed to unwrap it! As you can tell, the colour is perfect for me - a lovely burgundy! Application was very easy and it was perfect with one coat! The matte finish is beautiful and really understated. This is already a firm favourite! I can imagine it would be perfect with a hint of gold glitter on the tips for Christmas. I love Barry M, and this certainly lived up to my expectations.

2. Barry M Matte Nail Paint in #5 Mocha

Mocha is another matte varnish I had my eye on and, like the Crush, was easy to apply and provided full coverage with just one layer. Due to the matte finish it comes out in a slightly darker colour, but it lovely and neutral and I know this will just about match anything! I love mink coloured varnishes and this one will regularly make its way onto my nails. Well done again Barry M!

3.Rimmel London 60 Seconds Nail Varnish in #621 Mary Mary Quite Contrary

This varnish is the only one out of the group which is a) not matte and b) not a colour I would automatically go for myself. This has a lovely lilac hue, making it off-white and therefore slightly less scary in my eyes than the bright white nails which are everywhere at the moment! The application wasn't as smooth as Barry M - it took two to three coats to get it opaque and even, but this didn't put me off. The outcome is a lovely light nail which is perfect for the season! I am so pleased to have been given something which is slightly out of my beauty comfort zone since now I will be wearing this an awful lot. Another new favourite!

 4. Topshop Matte Nails in Mystic


I love Topshop nail varnishes - this one looks slightly pink, but really it is more of a right red when applied in two or three coats. It's easy to apply and does take a few layers to get it perfect. It's not quite as matte as the Barry M Nail Paints though that may be because I used a base coat first - I plan to try it without a base coat next time. However, I love the colour, and it stays on my nails for a good few days. Again, another favourite!

Here are all of the varnishes applied (excuse my poor nail-painting skills!). All are applied with a base coat:

The Topshop Matte Nail Varnish has shown up as quite shiny in the photo on the right, but it is more matte in real life, and this may be due to wearing a base coat beneath it. However, when I wore the Topshop Matte varnish to work I got a lot of compliments!  I don't think photographs do the varnishes justice, so I do recommend you try them out if you can!

I love each of the varnishes I was given (thank you so much to those that gave them to me if you're reading!)

Have you tried any of these varnishes? What did you think? Let me know what you'll be wearing on your nails this winter!


Saturday, 16 November 2013

London Life: The British Museum

I recently posted about my trip to the Natural History Museum. Well, that week in London was filled with culture, as two days later we ventured out to another of the city’s landmarks, the British Museum. This was one attraction I’d never been to before. It seemed oddly out-of-the-way to most other places and to be honest I completely forgot about it until that morning my boyfriend suggested it might make a nice day out.

In the morning, we headed out slightly later than planned for brunch. This is a story I will blog about later, as I have another little review to write! However, once we’d finally eaten we headed to the British Museum and the view, as you can imagine, delighted me!

I love big, archaic and impressive buildings and this came a close second to the Natural History Museum. The exterior matched the interior, and before I’d even entered the museum I felt as though there were some impressive artefacts to be seen!

I loved the central area of the building, which greeted me as I walked through the door. My little iPhone camera (it’s all I’ve got at the moment!) doesn’t do it justice at all! Fortunately it was a fairly nice day; a little cloudy, but the sunshine made an appearance, which made the ‘inner sanctum’ of the museum nice and light and airy. It was, needless to say, impressive.

Firstly, we headed to the Ancient Egyptian section. We knew we wouldn’t have time to see the whole place and so chose eras which we knew would interest us the most. Here we were able to see various statues, hieroglyphic slabs and even the legendary Rosetta Stone. It was surreal to be so close to so many ancient objects – all so far away from their original home.

We then moved onto the Greeks, which was equally as exciting – the statues which were presented to us were stunning and the scale was incredibly impressive. What made it more unbelievable was the acute attention to detail for every single piece. We noted this when we were looking at the feet of one particular statue, and couldn’t believe how realistic each muscle curve, joint and even toenail was. I thought about how, today, we’d never be able to produce anything quite like this. The skill of masonry and art on this scale has been bypassed with a more modern style, and this is what makes the ancient worlds of the Greeks and Romans even more impressive.

Moving on, we glimpsed golden shields from the Bronze Age, thousands of coins and stamps carved from gemstones, and pots which looked as though they could have been made just yesterday. I was eager to see the Mummy room. This somewhat morbid interest was realised but, as we moved around the room, I watched tourists taking photographs of the corpses and mummified bodies. I was struck at how bizarre it is; to place what was once a human being behind glass. It interests me, yes, but I couldn’t bear to take photographs. I felt as though some respect should be shown, though I understand that looking at them in the first place may contradict that slightly. It was fascinating, though, no matter how many thousands of years ago it was. It emphasised how humans have always grieved. With early coffins on display as well, I really felt quite sad.

After many hours wandering around artefacts, we decided that our legs were starting to ache and that our stomachs were grumbling, and headed home. I had a great time though and would love to go back for a second look, or maybe to see a special exhibition.

If you haven’t been to the British Museum before, it really is very interesting. I really love history and culture and it was a lovely day out, especially with the rainy weather.  I would warn you, however, that there is a lot to see – so don’t push it! Take it easy, and take it all in.


Thursday, 14 November 2013

Lou Lou's Vintage Fair, Southampton

Don't you just love it when you stumble across something unexpected, but it turns out to be exactly the sort of thing you wanted, even though you didn't know it?

That's what happened to me on Saturday 2nd November. I was walking into town on my way to buy my sister's birthday present, when I happened to see a sign advertising a Vintage Fair at the Guildhall, opening in just five minutes. I couldn't believe my luck - for years I was unable to attend these vintage fairs thanks to deadlines, meetings or even trips home. Here I was, however, with time on my hands, £2 in my pocket, and an opportunity staring me right in the face. Needless to say, I just couldn't resist!

Upon entry I was struck with fifties music and stalls bursting with old-time goodies. Beautiful ladies with pinned hair were conducting make-overs and tutorials; men in bow-ties were exchanging money for vintage jackets and ties; and ladies in floral dresses were selling some of the most beautiful cupcakes I'd ever seen.

I wandered around the room a number of times, making sure I'd seen everything. There were stalls with faux fur stoles, leather jackets and some Christmas jumpers which, I admit, were calling to me! There were monopoly-themed coasters, petticoats, and silk scarves galore. There was the most delicate stall full of quirky handmade necklaces featuring the mechanics of watches and tiny cameos, and trinkets and treasures from days gone by. I was spoiled for choice and I wanted to get my sister the perfect present - I had a feeling I'd find something there.

Partway through my visit some ladies entered the stage to perform some vintage dances; I'll be honest, I can't remember the group's name, but they really seemed to love performing and the customers enjoyed seeing something different too - I even recognised a dance or two from Hairspray! It was a lovely touch.

Apologies for the low quality photo - I need to upgrade from my iPhone camera!
I wasn't the only one there documenting my visit; I spied a number of other bloggers doing their thing, taking arty photos with digital DSLRs. I'm not quite up to that standard yet, and am on a tight budget - so I felt a little awkward with my little iPhone!

Finally, I decided on something for my sister - I found a great bargain in the shape of a vintage Levis flannel shirt for just £15 from Vulgar, part of the ASOS Marketplace (you can find Vulgar online HERE) - It was perfect from the moment I saw it and I couldn't wait to wrap it up and give it to her. She absolutely loved it (to my relief!) - I just wish I'd had some extra cash to spend on myself!
My sister's perfect present!
After gazing longingly at the cupcakes, then thinking of my waistline, I left the Guildhall. I'm so glad I stumbled across the fair, and it was fun to do something different with my morning, and the perfect place to find a unique present. I'll certainly be looking out for the next one!

Did you happen to go to Lou Lou's Vintage Fair on the 2nd November? Leave your blog posts in the comment section, I'd love to see them!


Monday, 11 November 2013

London Life: Barrica Tapas Bar

When you walk the streets of London, you are able to eat whatever you want. The streets are lined with Japanese sushi bars, Italian delis, French patisseries and Moroccan restaurants. You can sample the tastes of the world without even boarding a plane. One of my favourite lifestyle bloggers, The Londoner, perfectly demonstrates the wealth of taste at your fingertips – and I highly recommend you check out her reviews!

Whenever I am in the capital I find it hard to budget when it comes to food; I would happily spend my cash on pancakes for brunch or cute boutique cupcakes, but can barely face spending the same amount on shoes (even if mine have holes in them!). I find, therefore, that I really have to restrain myself! However, very occasionally I will indulge in something a little different – especially if the company is right.

I recently blogged about my visit to the National History Museum with my boyfriend and mentioned that we went out for a last minute dinner afterwards. Well, the time has come to write up a little review of our meal, and I think you’re in for a treat!

Having been to Barcelona together a few years ago, we are both fans of Spanish food; so when we saw Barrica Tapas Bar advertised on the Time Out app, we jumped at the opportunity and booked a table with just enough time to get the tube there.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by a warm restaurant, full with diners and drinkers alike. We were seated right by the entrance on a high table by an incredibly friendly waitress, and had plenty of time to peruse the menu. I was dubious about being sat directly by the door – it was a chilly night, and I have had experiences of suffering with a cold draft in similar situations at other restaurants. However, with the restaurant full, there were few people coming and going, and I never once had a problem with where we were sitting.

A sneaky photo of inside Barrica - in all its cosy glory.
Barrica is not the sort of place to go if you do not like busy restaurants. It is a very Spanish experience, with a busy bar area and plenty of tables. The dining experience in Barcelona was the same, with staff tearing around the restaurant with small dishes of meats and hot treats and regulars laughing loudly on stools and chairs. It is not unpleasant, however, but rather cosy and enjoyable. We did worry that the service might be slow, and though we did have to wait to place our first drinks order, we appreciated the time to browse the delicious menu and take in the atmosphere. We didn’t feel neglected at all, which was really wonderful.

I am no wine expert, but the red wine we had was extremely delicious. Unfortunately, I cannot remember which we ordered, but it was not overpriced and went very well with the food! The waitress who served us was friendly, talkative and not too overbearing; we felt like regulars.
The food was delicious. We mixed some old favourites with a few new flavours, and after it was suggested that we order three tapas dishes each, we went for the following;

Tortilla de Patata (Traditional Spanish Omelette)
Patatas Bravas y Alioli (Bravas Potatoes & Aioli)
Croquetas de Jamon (Ham Croquettes)

Chorizo Extra Bellota (Pork Sausage)
Tostado de Pato Ahumado con Mantequilla de  Grosellas (Smoked Duck Breast on Red Currant Buttered Toast)

We also ordered a delicious pulled meat burger – but unfortunately that is no longer on the online menu, and my memory is terrible…

It was a tough choice – the menu is crammed full of delicious tapas options. I have to admit, I nearly always opt for the vegetarian option. Present me with anything involving goat’s cheese, feta, olives, artichokes and mushrooms and I’ll have it on my plate in a heartbeat. So when it came to this menu, I didn’t want to just go for what I knew. Luckily, my boyfriend chose the burger and the duck which I would never have gone for – and I was glad he did!

We had eaten most of our food by the time I remembered to take a photo - it was that good!
In typical tapas style, each dish was delivered to our table when they were ready. It wasn’t too long to wait, but it was enough time to try each item and really relish it. Before we knew it, we had six dishes on our tiny table clamouring for space in the heady atmosphere. Each dish was amazing, I have to say it. I ate both croquettes since my boyfriend wasn’t a fan (I do love rich, cheesy food!) and I tasted the meat in the burger but left him with the rest. I was tentative about the duck as, aside from a few pancakes at my local Chinese restaurant, I’d never had it – but it was soft, tender, rich and delicious. One piece each was more than enough! The tortilla was divine for something so simple, and the chorizo was up to our high standards. Although the patatas bravas weren’t quite like the ones we both tired on a boat in Barcelona (we both agreed those were the best we’d ever had) they were coated in sauce and crispy on the edges – and piping hot!

We couldn’t quite manage dessert – and decided just to have one more glass of wine (or port) to round of the evening – it was technically a celebration, so we deserved that extra drink! Once we’d paid our bill, we set out to find the nearest tube station and headed home for some ice cream before bed.

The verdict? We loved it. No, it wasn’t quite bruschetta and olives on a boat in the docks of Barcelona – but I can imagine, on the streets of London on a hot summer’s night, it is the perfect place to enjoy authentic Spanish tapas, wine and atmosphere with friends, family, or the one you love.


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

A Lush Christmas: Bombardino

I’m a sucker for Lush products; always have been , always will be. Some people find their scents too overpowering, but I love wandering into stores to see what’s new and to sniff at each and every bath bomb!

I am even more of a fan at Christmas. It used to be a tradition of mine to buy a special Christmas bath bomb and indulge in a very seasonal hot bath on Christmas eve. However, once I became a student, the purse strings were tightened, and I had to put an end to this tradition. This year, however, I am hoping that it will make a come-back – and I have already been window shopping to see what's available!

Now, I haven’t chosen my Christmas Eve bath bomb just yet, but my Mum did treat me to one of Lush's new products a few weeks back. It’s from their Christmas range, but after smelling it I just had to try it there and then. It’s this little chap:

He’s called Bombardino, and according to Lush he is made of Cocoa Butter and Sicilian Lemon Oil and let me tell you, it is just like you have invited a lemon meringue pie to have a bath with you!

After a quick google, I found out that Bombardino is actually a popular Italian winder drink, made with Advocaat or Eggnog and Brandy, served hot with a topping of whipped cream. This not only explains the seemingly obscure name, but also the look of the bath bomb and the use of Sicilian lemon too! It's a sample of a European winter....minus the alcohol, of course.

I love Cocoa Butter, and have countless products containing it;  it always leaves my skin feeling so so soft! When I knew that it was an ingredient in this bath bomb, I knew that it would be nourishing, indulgent and rich.  The scent of it works really well with the lemon oil too, meaning that it’s not zingy enough to wake you up but fresh enough to enjoy the fruity scent. The beauty of this is that it’s not too festive – I would use this gem all year round!

The other thing that made me smile is that he seems to have little eyes (hence why I’m saying ‘he’ all the time!). Granted most of the Bombardino’s I saw looked slightly evil or mischievous! But I just thought he was so cute and yummy, I couldn't resist choosing him for my bath.  It's also one of the cheaper ones, at £2.50 (sounds a lot but that’s very cheap for Lush!) which is ideal for those of you on a budget or looking for a stocking filler this Christmas!

So, one Saturday night, I settled into my bath, dropped Bombardino in, and found a radio channel broadcasting a poetry recital (I love poetry, so this was a very happy accident!). I instantly felt relaxed, and for a small bath bomb it really lasted a very long time! I wasn’t sure if my eyes were playing tricks, but I think there was some very fine glitter which came swirling out, giving my bath a golden glow, and my skin, as predicted, felt silky smooth afterwards.

I really like this bath bomb and am hoping to buy it again sometime. I can’t wait to try some more of Lush’s Christmas collection, so I think I’ll test a few more products before I bathe with Bombardino once more. However, this really is the guilt-free way of enjoying an indulgent European winter classic!


Monday, 4 November 2013

REVIEW: 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' by Stephen Chbosky

After years of reading texts for my degree I was recently finally able to indulge in reading purely for pleasure, and ventured into my local bookshop with the burning desire to purchase the entire stock. This, unfortunately, was not possible – but I was able to pick two books to rekindle my love affair with fiction once more.

After asking friends on Facebook and twitter for recommendations,  and wanting to take a breather from the heavy classics for a few months, I fell for Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower  and Lauren Weisberger’s Revenge Wears Prada. Watch out for my thoughts on Weisberger’s offering at a later date – but for now I’d like to focus on Chbosky’s offering!
I’d heard a lot about this book from many different people, so I had very high hopes. Having refrained from watching the recent film adaptation, I wanted to read the original text first before spending the night with Emma Watson et al. I had no idea what the story was as I’d been fortunate enough to stay away from any revealing blog posts, twitter feeds and book reviews. So needless to say I went into reading this book completely unaware of what to expect.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I thought at the very beginning, though I found Chbosky’s writing  beautiful and emotionally charged; he has an acute way of capturing anxiety and emotion without using excessively floral language. I think ‘normal’ is the best way to describe it for me, and it depicted the protagonist very well. Nevertheless, I was hooked, and found that I became more and more involved as the book went on. 

Chbosky’s book involves the life and trials of Charlie as he enters into the world of young adulthood after starting High School. Our beloved Wikipedia describes it as a ‘coming-of-age epistolary novel’, which involves the reader following him through experimentation, sexual exploration and emotional struggles.  Charlie’s adolescent confusion is depicted by Chbosky in such a simple way,  yet there is a depth to Charlie’s narration, despite his simplistic and honest tone. The characters are very believable and, at the same time, unusual, and the web of relationships both romantic and platonic reflect the twists and turns of real life.

As the title suggests, Charlie is a wallflower; an observer. However, it seems to me that Chbosky is not only labelling Charlie, but also the reader. As the reader, or the recipient of Charlie’s letters, I felt as though I was watching his life from a distance – unable to change anything, but noticing all the details and particulars of every-day things which would normally remain unnoticed to the average passer-by. We are able to assess Charlie as Charlie assesses his own peers.

The epistolary nature of the book really reminded me of the countless classics I read for my degree. The epistolary novel was popular back in the eighteenth century and was a fantastic way of assessing and exploring society and its faults in its (supposedly) everyday glory. Perks really is a modern classic; bringing traditional literary technique into the present day.

However, it is the very powerful ending which made me realise why there has been so much hype around this particular work of fiction. Chbosky really hits the reader with some very strong emotions and I was left reeling for a number of days. This alone has made me eager to re-read the book – just weeks after finishing it for the first time. I can really see why people have been urging me to read the book. However, one friend said she found the film to be much more emotional since she was affected by Charlie ‘constantly sobbing’. I don’t feel this is especially strong in the book until the end – and am very interested to see the film to really see how the book can be interpreted.

Perks isn’t too long- it seems to be perfect for anybody who, like me, is intrigued by other people’s reading choices, or those who want something new. However, do not be fooled by the length of the book– it will draw you in and leave you turning the events over in your mind long after the final page has been closed.


Sunday, 3 November 2013

London Life: The Natural History Museum

Every now and then I take a trip to London; to see an exhibition, visit friends or just passing through on a longer journey. However, no matter how many times I go, I still get incredibly excited. London, it seems, is just one of those cities that will steal your heart away each and every time you step foot on its grey pavements and linger on the bridges over the Thames, watching the perpetual movement of both the water and the people.

Now, despite the title of this mini-series, I don't actually live in London: by my fondness for it and close proximity to the city mean that I regularly find myself in London. Recently I went to visit my boyfriend (who does actually live there) for six days. Staying in London for more than 24 hours really enables me to really get a sense of how it would be to live there – which is something I think about regularly as being a possible part of my future – if I get lucky one day! 

At this point, we were both keen to keep things as cheap as possible, so on the third day of my visit we went along to the Natural History Museum. This is somewhere I’d been longing to go back to for years;  I used to go regularly as a child, and it seemed like the perfect free activity for a drizzly autumn day. I’m a big fan of culture in cities; you’ll always find me going into art galleries, museums, theatres and bookshops. The Natural History Museum is in the Kensington area, which means that it’s not far from some really beautiful shops, cafes and restaurants. It’s also right next to the Victoria and Albert museum, though we didn’t really have time to go there on the same day!

The previous day had been extremely busy – I had an interview which was based a long train-ride away – so we didn’t get to the museum until lunchtime. By this time the sky had started to cloud over and it started to rain as we made our way inside. It really was perfect museum weather!

Once inside, we headed straight towards the dinosaur exhibit. I used to be fascinated with Dinosaurs when I was younger, and I’m not afraid to admit a part of me still is. So, understandably, our first stop was to see those 'Terrible Lizards'. I loved seeing all of the fossils and reminding myself of the names of the beasts I’d memorised as a little girl.

We also went into the Darwin Centre’s cocoon – I was dubious about this to begin with, as I wasn't sure what to expect; but we both loved it. It was an exhibition detailing research into bugs, beetles and plant life. With interactive displays, countless creepy-crawlies and even the chance to peer into a lab or two, it was a far cry from the old exhibits I remembered from years ago. We got to see the heart of the museum, and it highlighted the incredible research that goes on there every single day.

You can’t go to the Natural History Museum without seeing the scale model of the blue whale, and we trailed through corridors full of stuffed animals, testing our memory in the human body section. Unfortunately the earth gallery is closed until January, meaning we couldn’t experience earthquake simulations or travel up through the centre of the earth – but what better excuse to return in the new year?

Once we’d exhausted the museum, we wandered through the rain trying to decide what to do next. After a huge and delicious Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate from Starbucks (who knew this was a medium?!) we booked a last minute table at a small Tapas restaurant and headed out into the dark to find our destination for the rest of the evening. But I’ll leave it here; you can read my review of the restaurant in a later blog post! Nothing like a bit of a cliff-hanger, eh?

You can find all the information you need to plan your visit to the Natural History Museum on their website HERE.

Where do you like to go on a rainy autumn day in London?


Saturday, 2 November 2013

7Bone Burger Co.

Last weekend I went out to celebrate one of my my new housemate’s birthdays. I'd only been living with them for a week, but already we were getting on very well and I was looking forward to going out and enjoying an evening of good food with them! We let the birthday girl choose where she wanted to eat since it was her special evening, and after a little bit of thinking she decided that she wanted to try the new burger place in town. This was music to my ears!

7Bone opened up in Portswood, Southampton, within the last couple of months. I’d heard very good things about it, and had been drooling over the online menu, so we toasted her birthday with some bubbly before leaving our house and wandering along the road to the restaurant, hoping that we’d be able to get a table for three at 7pm on a Saturday night.

Upon our arrival the room was, as we expected, packed. Fortunately the manager told us we’d only have to wait for fifteen minutes for a table; she took our number and we went into the pub opposite to get a drink and wait. Just five minutes later to our delight we received a call stating our table was now ready. Hastily downing our drinks as quickly as possible, we rushed over and back into the warm cosy restaurant, ready to indulge in the food we’d heard so much about.

The place itself was very quirky. It almost felt as if we were somewhere in London rather than in the student hub of the city. The d├ęcor was chosen to give it a fashionably run-down, worn feel, with the walls being partially exposed and all sorts of signs and pictures scattered about. The menu, and any updates for the evening, were scrawled onto a chalkboard wall. In all, it felt very relaxed, fun and friendly: exactly what we were looking for! We were soon sat by the window watching passers by, bathed in the warm red glow of an American-style diner sign - if this wasn't a place for comfort food, I don't know what is!

I waited until later in the evening when the restaurant emptied out to get a good photo of the restaurant interior.
The clientele were varied too. There were a number of families, student groups and couples. It seemed to appeal to and cater for anyone who fancies a burger or two – not just for the student population. I definitely felt that I could go there with friends, family or on a date with my boyfriend and it wouldn't feel odd or out of place at all!

The menu was short but very sweet. A selection of burgers with quirky names, pulled pork sandwiches and hot dogs were accompanied by mouthwatering side options and, after a cheeky peek, some enticing puddings. Within moments I had chosen my burger: ‘Robert Johnson: beef patty, cheese, truffled garlic 'shrooms, dirty spread’. All for just £6.50! I for one can't resist anything with mushrooms in it (much to the disgust of many!) and I knew instantly this was the burger for me. We decided to share a portion of chilli fries and original fries between us, ordered a litre of wine and settled down ready for a delicious meal with good company.

The food came very quickly; hence the name fast food I suppose! My burger was served to me in a red plastic basket, and I felt like I’d stepped right into America or a trendy burger joint in London. The bun was fresh and glistening and the smell was so enticing I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into it. When I did, it was incredible; the soft bread, juicy meat and rich cheese and mushrooms melted into my mouth and my taste buds went wild. The truffled garlic mushrooms were divine and really made it special - much better than anything I could ever knock up on a barbecue at home - and the meat was wonderful - slightly more pink than I usually go for, but I didn't care. You will definitely not be presented with a dry and overdone patty - it was perfect.

The 'Robert Johnson' and Chilli Fries - my new favourite

The chilli fries had a little kick to them and made an indulgent change to what most restaurants offer –and the original fries were also very moreish! After a slight delay with the wine (they had trouble cooling it for us - an example of good service!) we giggle over the cute little glasses we’d been given and tucked in. It was only a matter of moments before we sat back in our chairs, wiping our mouths and groaning in satisfaction

We decided to skip pudding at 7Bone and headed to our local gelato bar for a few scoops of delicious ice cream before heading home. However, the dessert menu looked just as inviting as the main menu, and I’d definitely like to go back to sample some!

Rumour has it that the team at 7Bone Burger Co. are looking at introducing vegetarian options and a few specials, which I would most definitely like to try! I have a feeling it may become a favourite haunt of mine over the next year; and not just for burgers, but for Brunch too! Who could resist the thought of  Brioche Eggs Benedict  with cola baked ham and a cup of 'Rosie Lee? They even have their own foodie challenge called the 'Henry VIII', which certainly looks like something out of Man vs Food.

When we finished our meal we left behind a glowing feedback form, which was no surprise to any of us. We had a great night and it was the perfect way to celebrate a birthday on a windy and rainy October night.

If you’re in the area and fancy some real comfort food for very good value, I’d really recommend heading to 7Bone. Great service, friendly and relaxed atmosphere and fantastic food. What’s not to love?