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Foodie event: #NationalBurgerDay 2014 review

Well, following up from my excited post about National Burger Day, I thought I better update about how it all went down. As a quick overview, it was burger-y and tequila-y.

I got to Battersea Power Station, where it was being held, by way of Kensington and Chelsea. I really really hate west London – especially Chelsea/Kensington and Fulham (sorry Dugs). The slow-moving bus didn’t help my rage towards the area.

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Anyway, got there I did and the smell of burgers was wafting through the air. As soon as we arrived I saw Jamie, who had had a massive hand in organising the event – and it was her birthday. Amazing party or what? She gave me a quick overview of what was what and I went on my merry way.

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Andrew was keen to try out Club Gascon‘s foie gras and summer truffle burger. Service was quick, as was the eating as the burger was pretty tiny. I found it almost headache inducingly rich – the foie gras melted in the mouth though and I loved the salad dressed with truffle. One tiny fella was enough though!

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Then it was off to my favourite: Bleecker St Burger. It’s well recognised that Bleecker does the best burger in London. It’s very exciting that they’re now opening a shop in Old Spitalfields Market to complement their food truck. Bleecker staff are always fab too – so friendly and passionate. Bleecker were doing a pizza/burger hybrid. This was 50-day dry-aged beef patty, melted mozzarella, marinana sauce, grated parmesan, chilli flakes and basil mayo. HIYA!

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Then it was on to get our pints of Meantime Lager, which came with the tickets.

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Drink responsibly.

Next up we went to find Duggers, where we sat on the world’s tiniest table and caught up over our beers. Duggers had the thing sussed and we soon got our respective “other halves” (ugh) getting us burgers while we sat and drank.

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It was really good, although all the burgers were tiny across the board at the event. As Andrew and I were splitting them there just wasn’t enough of any of them to get really into them. However, this guy was spicy and meaty and good. It was aged beef patty, 10-hour roast chipotle beef short rib, bone marrow, habanero salsa, American cheese and chipotle ketchup.

Next up was Andrew’s favourite burger from last year: Disco Burger. Andrew loves a bit of fruit in savoury food, so this was his dream burger: dry-aged Dexter beef, bun sauce, mature cheese, pickled onions, pineapple bacon jam. FIT.

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This was the burger of the night. It was so beautifully balanced. Meaty, sweet, juicy. I don’t know what that “bun sauce” is, but I want to bathe in it.

We then queued for an hour for Dip & Flip burgers. However, five people from the front a lady appeared and said, “We’ve run out of roast beef so we’re putting bacon on instead”. Discontent spread like wildfire. The man behind me lost the plot, but summarised most people’s feelings: “Roast beef is YOUR THING. I COULD GO ANYWHERE FOR A BACON BURGER”. The lady from Dip & Flip laughed at him and walked off. We also left the queue.

Suffering from extreme queue rage, we then hit up the chilliback shots. This is a shot of tequila with a shot of brine from pickled chillies as a chaser. Firey.

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Eat your heart out, The Londoner.

I now felt full and a bit sick, but Andrew was determined for one last burger. I was unable to face another queue, so we went to where the shortest queue was: Byron.

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He didn’t get an adequate shot of the burger, but he wasn’t impressive. I think it was a bit lack lustre compared to the others, and he said it had a bad after taste. I took one bite and conceded that it wasn’t very exciting. Sorry Byron – normally I love you!

The night was drawing in, so after a quick tour and a few slushie cocktails we bid a retreat.

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All images © Andrew Phillimore. Please seek permission before reproducing.

#NationalBurgerDay 2014

So National Burger Day is upon us once more, and I for one am very excited indeed.

National Burger Day was set up last year by the lovely people (and huge burger fans) at the lifestyle newsletter Mr Hyde. It was a rip roaring success. You can read all about it here.

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This year looks sure to be bigger and better than last, with loads more participants and events going on around the country.

The key event for me will be the evening event in Battersea. Mr Hyde has teamed up with the good folk at Tweat Up to create an event that is surely every burger lover’s dream. All the best London burger creators (and fans!) will be at the event, with loads of them serving up new twists on their already insanely good patty delights.

Here’s the menu if you don’t believe me:

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In the words of Proudlock: YEAH BOI!

Some of the burger purveyors have been giving sneaky peeks at their burgers. Here’s a little selection:

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Bleecker Street’s pizza burger. Image © Bleecker Street
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Slider Bar’s spicy little number. Image © Slider Bar

OK, I’ll stop. But I am exciting to see the grand unveiling of Byron’s latest special at the event.

Sadly for some of you suckers, the tickets for the event have now sold out. However, loads of restaurants nationwide are participating, offering customers 20% off their bills.

To find somewhere local to you, just visit www.nationalburgerday.co.uk and get your voucher.

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Top 5… Dream honeymoon destinations

I am in desperate need of a holiday – today I almost cried when my alarm went off at 6.30am heralding the allotted hour for my fitness bootcamp class. I am so tired I fear that if I blink for too long I might slip into a deep sleep. I feel like words have dried up on my keyboard and my brain is flatlining – I am spent.

So my mind has turned to dreaming of our honeymoon. Andrew and I have incurable wanderlust. It’s what first bonded us – our first conversation in the pub was all the places we want to travel to (turns out they were all the same countries). We travelled non-stop for eight months when we first got together, but that was eight years ago now. Since then we’ve idly discussed our honeymoon, but now we can start the dreaming in earnest.

And at the moment it is just dreaming. We don’t need to book it just yet – our wedding is almost exactly a year away, so we don’t need to look at prices yet. We can just look at pictures and pretend six-star hotels are part of our every day lives.

So, join me why don’t you? Here’s a list of my top five honeymoon destinations:

1. Alila Villas, Uluwatu – Bali

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I’ve never been to Indonesia, but would absolutely love to go with Bali on the top of my list. Beautiful beaches, temples to explore and excellent surfing are just a few of the reasons I’d love to go. We want an active yet relaxing honeymoon, so this seems perfect.

This hotel in particular just looks amazing. Each of the pool villas has it’s own, err, pool plus a view of the Indian Ocean. They are constructed from natural materials including wood and lava stone (oooh!) and the interiors are sleek and contemporary while also looking cosy.

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2. Shangri-La Villingili Resort – Male, Maldives

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I know it’s ecologically dubious to go to these overwater bungalows, but man do they scream honeymoon or what? Maldives is a bit of a honeymoon cliché , but for good reason: crystal clear waters, white-sand beaches and blazing hot sunshine. 

The diving is also meant to be great in the Maldives, which would tick off our “active” spec. The rest of the time I think I’d be quite happy to laze around the private pool or in the overwater hammock.

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3. Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica

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Costa Rica is at the very top of my list of places I want to go. Everyone I know who has been there has raved about it with such fervour it’s like they’re paid commission by the tourist board. It has everything: rainforests, beaches, surfing, culture. It’s basically my ideal honeymoon destination. Andrew’s brother is in fact there right now on his honeymoon, so we’re worried about ~copying~, but hey ho!

This resort is apparently the nicest in Costa Rica. It seems a shame to go somewhere like Costa Rica and stay in an American-style resort – it’s not “us” at all, but this place does seem to tick a lot of boxes with the luxury. They also have loads of activities including paddle boarding, zip lining, volcano hiking plus an amazing stargazing experience – we are total stargazers. Maybe we could stay here for a while (a month?!) and then get some more local flavour by going elsewhere as well…?

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4. Le Sirenuse – Positano, Italy

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Slightly closer to home (which is good, as it means shorter travel time and no jet lag) is Positano in Italy. I’ve always loved the sound of the Almafi Coast anyway, but watching The Trip has really brought my desire to go to the fore. It looks incredible – the food, the weather, the scenery! Perfection!

This is meant to be the best hotel in Positano, according to Condé Nast Traveller (and who am I to argue with them?). This soaking tub looks pretty honeymoon perfect to me.

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5. North Islands – Seychelles

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OK, so this is totally over budget. If you’re into this kind of thing (I’m not at all), William and Kate spent their honeymoon here. To say it’s isolated is an understatement. You have to get a private helicopter here. But once you’re there…? WOW. Just, well, just look at these photos. I feel a bit like crying.

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The thing that really sung to me though was that this resort is based on a Robinson and Crusoe type scenario. The villas are made from naturally-fallen woods of the takamaka, rosewood and ylang ylang tree. Andrew has always dreamed of living on a deserted island – this would be his dream with plenty of luxury for me. The mile-long island is easy to get around – you’re given mountain bikes and an electric buggy. And the food is meant to be insane! There is a menu, but you can also go off piste. The chef will make whatever you want.  And it’s only €1,690 per night to stay. BARGAIN!

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Top 5… Reasons why I love London

Quite often when people who don’t live in London talk to me about how I live in London they often say, “I could never live in London,” in such a horrified tone it’s as if I have told them my pastime is eating babies or licking tramps toes.

More often than not I shrug my shoulders. Horses for courses, isn’t it. Some people want to live in the middle of nowhere, some people want to live in the town they grew up in, some people don’t want to live in any one place. Me? I want to live in London because I love it here. I don’t feel the need to justify my lifestyle choices to people just as I don’t expect them to justify theirs to me. Having said that, here’s five of the many reasons why I love London.

1. The people

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Yes, that’s right, the people. Londoners get a bad wrap; people say they’re mean, moody and impatient. And yeah, we can be, but that’s only because we have to traverse hoards of kids of school trips, provide travel advise to tourists and sweat on the tube during our daily commutes. We aren’t bad peoples deep down, and there is no better place in the world for people watching than London. All of human life is here: there’s so many different people doing different things and for the most part we’re living harmoniously together (just move down the carriage and we’ll all be friends, yeah?). I love how London embraces people from all walks of life and rarely questions what people are up to – want to walk down the street singing at the top of your voice? Go for it. Want to do the waltz to the busker in Leicester Square tube – knock yourself out.

2. The restaurants

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No massive news to most, but London’s restaurant scene is a constantly evolving, innovative place these days. Gone are the days of bad British food – people who say this haven’t been to London in time. Fancy an amazing Turkish meal cooked authentically? Pop over to Green Lanes and you have more options than you could wish for. Want some wicked-good curry in the most lively restaurant you can imagine? Tayyabs is for you. Sushi, veggie, raw, falafel-only, dim sum, Vietnamese, French-style burgers, food trucks, market stalls – there’s everything and anything you want here. I love that whatever I want, there’ll be somewhere I can go within about 30 minutes travel and fill my boots. And sure, a lot of cities have lots of restaurants (next person to show off about getting a Bill’s in their town gets a punch in the face, though), but the thriving nature of London’s dining scene means anything sub-par doesn’t survive and every restaurant is kept on their toes. It breeds creativity and innovation and I love it.

3. I became an adult here

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A handful of people I lived with in the crazy houseshare…

My first real job was in London, and after two years of commuting to Kent where I lived, I moved up here. I moved into a flatshare, which was a nightmare of horrific proportions (every time a bus went past – and we were on the main bus route in north London – it knocked out the TV reception. Also there were no windows in the house and the outside was painted gloss brown) and quickly moved out and into another one. Since then I have progressed in my career, moved in with my boyfriend, bought a flat and got engaged. I’ve made friends for life, including one who will be my bridesmaid next summer, and had lots of ups and downs. This is where my whole adult life has been. When I was at uni in Liverpool, sure I was 18 but I was a pseudo-adult (real adults are able to get out of bed before 10am); before that I was at school and lived at home, aka very much not an adult. London will always have that place in my heart that no other city will have.

4. It’s iconic

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London has led the way in so many direction, not least of all style and fashion. It’s also got some incredible designs – the architecture is truly breath-taking and the skyline is instantly recognisable with the sharp spire of the Shard next to the beautiful dome of St Paul’s cathedral. Even the transport is unique; black cabs, Routemasters and underground roundels are all synonymous with the city. Glance at a tube map and you instantly think ‘London’ – nothing else looks like it. And what a beautiful piece of design work the tube map is. It’s so inspiring to be constantly faced with all the beauty and creativity you see every day in London.

5. It’s where I got engaged

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I’m sure you’re all bored of hearing about my engagement now, but London will forever be in my heart because it’s here I got engaged. It was a very London-based affair, with the final down-on-one-knee bit happening right by a London street sign. As I only plan on getting engaged the once, it’s incredibly special to me and something I’ll always remember.

This blog was inspired by the good people at Redrow London.

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Top 5… Anti-Love Films for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day draws apace like the consumerist behemoth that it is. And although I am in a happy relationship, I can honestly say: fuck that shit.

If you’re not in a relationship, V-Day (as it is rather disgustingly referred to as by those who don’t know any better) is all up in your grill making it seem like everyone else has their lives together and are in these smug, happy relationships and you’re the only one, alone with cold soup for dinner, watching Roy Cropper have an existential crisis. I know this isn’t actually what single life is like, but this is what Valentine’s Day tries to make single life seem like.

If you are in a relationship, Valentine’s Day is a guilt trip riddled with meaningless sentiment that you could do without. I am all in favour of people being in loved and proclaiming it so (as long as it’s not a. vomit-inducing or b. on Facebook – let’s keep these proclamations to weddings and birthdays, yo). I don’t want to be guilt tripped into telling my boyfriend I love him. And I certainly don’t want to do it over a three-course set menu in an average restaurant while at the same time swapping cards adorned with grey teddy bears with blue noses. It’s so unimaginative and generic, which to me is the antithesis of what love is. But if you’re not doing anything and someone annoyingly trills at you, “Sooo, what’re your plans for Valentine’s Day?” and you say you’re not doing anything  you’re met with a sympathetic look that says, “Your relationship is over”. What’s wrong with a bit of ruddy spontaneity and declaring your love as and when you see fit? I know the answer: nothing.

I don’t want it. I don’t want any part of it. Get out of my God damned face, Valentine’s Day.

So, with my thoughts on that covered off, I’ve compiled a list of films that are anti rom-coms. Sure, they’re about love but they’re realistic and will remind you relationships aren’t all flowers and love hearts. And Ashton Kutcher doesn’t start in a single one of them. So if you’re looking for something to do this Valentine’s Day and don’t fancy all the consumerist BS, I suggest you give one of these a go…

1. Closer

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Perhaps one of the most depressing takes on love in modern cinema, Closer sees a cast of four systematically break each other’s hearts and become embroiled in bitter tit-for-tat mind games. Starring Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, Jude Law and Julia Roberts, it is perfectly acted and is at times funny, sad and romantic. Andrew and I went to see this at the cinema on our first date – it was like a warning. Luckily I have not had cause to don a pink wig or emigrate… yet.

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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I think the vast majority of us have gone through a phase of wanting to delete the memory of someone from their brain; to erase the hurt or the constant over-thinking. This film explores what would happen if you could do that, with a bitter-sweet outcome. Joel (Jim Carey – but don’t hate the film for that) decides to wipe his ex (Kate Winslet) from his memory, but changes his mind mid-wipe and then tries to remember her as much as he can. Quite sweet, really.

3. 500 Days of Summer

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Bit of a divider of opinion, this film. It’s also toe-curlingly twee. Zooey Deschanel plays Jess Day a kooky lady who gets falled in love with (that’s a term) by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Funny, sweet and ultimately ending in heartbreak, this film makes you never want to fall in love. And might also make you want to kick Deschanel’s head off (and steal her hair to wear as wig. Creepy?!).

4. Brokeback Mountain

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They’re macho cowboys who are totally in love with each other, but can’t be together. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking, and food for though: even if you are eating your cold soup with Coronation Street, at least you’re not one of these guys.

5. American Beauty

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Kevin Spacey makes everything better, every single time – even when you don’t need things to be better. He’s like a brilliant, exciting Uncle who is fun to be around but ultimately makes you feel safe. Or is that just me? Anyway, Spacey plays a doomed suburban Dad who becomes infatuated with his daughter’s bestie, meanwhile the kid who lives next door isn’t having a laugh riot either.

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Top 5… Aims for 2014

So 2014 is in full swing now, and I’ve got some plans for it. I thought writing them down here and sharing them with the whole wide internet would make me more accountable when sticking to them. Here goes…

1. Be less busy

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At the end of last year I got in a bit of a state. I had made arrangements to do something every day and every night for about three weeks. At the end of it, I was a wreck. After a stern word from my mother and Andrew, I realised I try to cram too many things into my schedule because I’m the kind of person who wants to do everything. The result is I end up strung out and emosh. But not in 2014. I plan to block out several weekend days a month where I do nothing, and spend more time at home in the evenings after work too. So far I’ve stuck to it and I feel much more on top of things, organised and think that when I do see people I am less frantic/stressed/tired, so they get a better version of me. Win/win.

2. Travel

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I know, this is pretty standard, but I really want to travel a bit more. Not necessarily great long trips (although that would be nice, too!), but weekend trips, little jaunts – that kind of thing. So far I have penciled in a trip to the south of France to go wild swimming, and I think my whole family – there are 12 of us now! – are going on a summer holiday to Italy. I’d also like to visit Budapest, and my dream would be to go to Costa Rica, but that’s not going to happen in 2014 I don’t think. Boo.

3. Worry less

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I am a big worrier. It’s very annoying for everyone. One of the things Andrew says to me most is, “Zos, just chill out!” (which is kind of annoying – I don’t want to worry!). But I think there are a couple of things I worry about more than I should, so I am going to focus on not worrying about them. They’re not even important things, and not worth my energy.

4. Focus on my career

I had a pretty good year work-wise last year, and the most enjoyable in my career. However, instead of sitting back and letting things happen, I’m going to go out and grab opportunities. I love what I do now, and I want to build on my achievements from last year. So far in 2014, this is going well. However, I need to finish making my ~professional website~.

5. Be more organised

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I am pretty organised anyway, but it makes me feel much more relaxed if I have things planned a little. This is mostly Andrew and mine’s schedule, which sometimes is a little hectic (see above!) and jumbled. And also we’re terrible at planning meals and often end up grabbing things that are bad for us at our Sainsbury’s Local. With this in mind, we have set up a corner of our kitchen for organising our lives (see picture above). We’ll see how long this lasts before it descends into drawing immature pictures…!

I have lots more plans for 2014, but these are the little ones I am happy to share for now.

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Top 5… New Restaurant Openings in Early 2014

So 2014 has got off to a great start (ignoring the fact our roof has a leak and my train has been late every day this week). I’m not drinking in January, and people are actually sponsoring me to do this. And there’s lots to look forward to in 2014, including lots of lovely, new restaurants opening in London for me, you and the rest of London to try out.

I thought I’d compile a list of the five places I am most looking forward to visiting (in no particular order of preference) in early 2014…

1. Q Grill, Chalk Farm Road, Camden

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Q Grill will be offering a London slant on the now-ubiquitous-in-the-London-scene American barbecue restaurant. From the team behind Islington’s Fish and Chip Shop, Q Grill will see chef Phil Eagle from Hix fame serving up a range of “raw, charred and smoked favourites” including moonshine-battered shrimp, queen scallop ceviche and pecan wood-roasted chicken. There will also be a strong line in cocktails, with American spirits playing front and centre roles. With a 150-cover capacity, Q Grill is going to be a big player in 2014. Opens January 25th, 33 Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8AJ

2. The Big Easy, Maiden Lane, Covent Garden

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The Big Easy “Bar.B.Q and Crabshack” already has an outpost on the King’s Road, but February 2014 will see them opening a second branch in the heart of Covent Garden. Similarly to the aforementioned Q Grill, The Big Easy will be serving up a range of American-style barbecue dishes. Their signature dishes in Chelsea include canadian lobster; fresh crab and shrimp; a  classic chophouse burger; and surf and turf. With a huge following out west, The Big Easy is sure to be a huge hit in central London too. If you sign up on their website (link above) then you can receive more info and get an invite to their 50 per cent off soft launch. Opens February 2014, 12 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, WC2E 7NA

3. Brooklyn Bowl London, O2 Arena

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Slightly more than “just” a restaurant, Brooklyn Bowl, the acclaimed NYC nightlife destination hailed by Rolling Stone as “one of the most incredible places on earth,” is opening its first branch this side of the pond. The venue will be in The O2 (stay with me on this, guys!) and will be a medium-sized concert venue with 12 lanes of bowling (some of which you can hire in a private area, if you hunger for more clandestine bowling…). Food will come from the Bromberg Bros. team and will include oyster po’ bos, cajun catfish, egg shooters and fried chicken. Beerheads will be kept happy with beers from the local Meantime Brewing Company. Opens January 16th, O2 Arena, Peninsula Square, SE10 0DX.

4. Oslo, Hackney Central

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Enough American-style cuisine! All things Nordic are set to be a big blimmin’ deal for 2014, so this opening in the old Hackney Central train station is coming just at the right time. Oslo will be an all-day eatery that turns into a live music venue in the evening, with a late license ’til 3am. Alright then! Food-wise, head chef Dave Ahern will be fronting a menu that takes on strong Nordic influences. Expect pickling, smoking, curing… and I hope some kind of mushroom sauces, lingonberry… meatballs? Come on Dave, be a pal. As a massive fan of Scandinavian culture, I am very excited about this opening. Oslo opens on January 17th, 1a Amhurst Road, Hackney, E8 1LL.

5. Polpetto, Soho

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Fresh off the back of various successful 2013 openings, including Ape & Bird, the Polpo team are opening – or should that be re-opening – Polpetto on Berwick Street, Soho. Having been hugely over-subscribed for when it was first open, the new venue will seat many more people craving it’s Italian food. The same head chef, Florence Knight, from its previous incarnation, is on board at new Polpetto so expect much more of the same: delicious Italian sharing-y food, but with the added bonus of actually being able to score a reservation. Opens January 2014, 11 Berwick Street, W1F 0PL.

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Top 5… Cosy Pubs in London

As I have said before, rather recently, I love cosy pubs at this time of year. I love nothing more than heading to a warm pub, settling into a nook and drinking wine, chatting with good friends and watching people come and go.

I’ve compiled a list of my top 5 pubs to do this in, incase you want to do similar.

1. The Swimmer at the Grafton Arms

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The fire at The Swimmer

This pub is pretty close to where I live, and very much makes up part of my regular pub list. It’s tucked away behind the grim Seven Sister’s road, and is an absolute gem. It has board games, generous and yummy food, a good wine list, an open fire and even a sort-of adopted pub cat called Tallulah.

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A pic of me and one of my besties (he’ll love being called THAT!) last Christmas at The Swimmer

 

It lacks any pretension and is just a good, honest boozer without being stinky or too local. I absolutely love it here and will no-doubt be having Christmas sessions in here before long.

13 Eburne Road, N7 6AR

2. The Flask, Hampstead

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A few of us have a traditional walk on Hampstead Heath on New Year’s Day. Nothing blows the cobwebs away like climbing Parliament Hill to enjoy the view!

After a chilly walk, we normally head to The Flask in Hampstead for a mulled wine and a chat about our resolutions. It’s a small pub, but always has a lovely warm welcome. Again, it’s nothing fancy but I love that about it.

14 Flask Walk, NW3 1HE

3. Smokehouse

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Smokehouse, Islington

You can read a more extensive review here, but this pub is the epitome of cosy. A friendly welcome, lots of people have a good time, and again, an open fire. It helps that the beer and wine list could have you busy for several days of non-stop drinking and the food is amazing – all conspiring to make you say, “I’ll just have one more, then I really must go…”

63-69 Canonbury Road, N1 2DG

4. The Hunter S Bar

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Low lighting, fun decor and a warm, bustling atmosphere help this pub feel super-cosy. The taxidermy animals dotted about and the various different seating layouts make it quirky without staying into tedious hipster territory. The food is also great, with everything made fresh in-house every day and a wide and interesting menu.

194 Southgate Rd,  N1 3HT

5. The Dove

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I’ve spent many an evening here, growing foggy while enjoying the wine list. However, The Dove’s forte is Belgium beers, and their list is probably one of the most impressive in London. The pub itself is cosy and constantly busy, with the tables set close together and the unisex loos – everything is very intimate.

24/28 Broadway Market, E8 4QJ

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Top 5… Christmassy Things to do in London

I am a bit of a grumpy lady about people celebrating Christmas too early. Christmas adverts in September, the festive music in the shops in October and special offers on mince pies in the supermarkets in November. NO! December is the month of Christmas. Even then, putting up a tree in the first week of advent seems a bit premature to me. I fear suffering from Christmas burn-out, so by the time Christmas Eve (REAL Christmas) rolls around nothing feels special any more.

Having said that, I love Christmas a lot. And now we’re past my Christmas embargo date, I am feeling well excited about all the Christmas things I have planned. With that in mind, I have compiled a list of my favourite things to do over Christmas in London.

1. Ice Skating

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Every year Andrew and I go ice skating just before Christmas. It seems so romantic. But in actual fact, ice skates seem to have been designed by a sadistic cobbler, and I feel queazy at the thought of putting my foot in a cold, damp boot that’s been on loads of other people. That’s before you get on the ice, and realise you’re more Bambi than Torvill. “We hate ice skating,” Andrew and I say to each other, “why have we come? We suck at it and it’s beyond painful!”

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However, we always go out of duty. It’s now a horrible Christmas tradition, but I kind of love it.

There are lots of places to go ice skating in London, and I have sampled a lot. My favourite would be Somerset House, followed by the Tower of London.

Afterwards I prescribe a strong mulled wine to rid yourself of the aches, pains and cold that you will have acquired.

2. Choosing a Christmas Decoration

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My Mum and I have a festive tradition where we go out together with the sole purpose of choosing one new decoration for our – well, my parents’ now I suppose – tree. We’ve done this together ever since I can remember. We spend a long time oooh-ing and ahhh-ing over all the pretty (and hideous) sparkly thing, before selecting one and scampering off for a cup of tea.

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Last year we went to Heal’s, which has the most amazing array of festive decorations (and homewares – man, I love Heal’s). It feels and smells so festive in there, and Paul A. Young has also just opened a cafe next door – ideal for our victory afternoon tea.

3. Christmas Markets

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Winter Wonderland and Southbank Christmas Markets are my favourites, but there are all kinds of festive outdoor adventures to be had in London. I love wrapping up warm, linking arms with a buddy and carefully choosing where to buy a festive feast from. And it’s all the better when it’s washed down with a heady mulled wine before getting on a fairground ride of dubious safety standards.

4. Getting Cosy in Pubs

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I love pubs anyway. They’re such a uniquely British thing, I think. Sure, everywhere has bars, but the British pub is something that just can’t be replicated anywhere else.

And in December they really come into their own. Walk in out of the cold into a blast of buzz, warmth and the scent of mulled wine. Huddle into a booth with friends and watch the sky grow dark by 4pm while knocking back festive drinks, all while you’re being warmed by an open fire. Extra great points if there’s a pub dog in the mix.

This year I’m going to the Draper’s Arms for a Christmas carol sing-a-long with friends. I cannot think of anything more festive.

5. The Nutcracker

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Every year my Mum and I go to the Nutcracker, either by the English National Ballet at the Coliseum or at the Royal Opera House. I love getting swept away in the Christmassy story and gasping at the amazing costumes.

I also love seeing all the other families who have come to watch for a Christmas treat. It feels so magical and special. I cannot wait to go this year.

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Top 5… Tips for People Moving

I have a HUGE backlog of posts I need to write up, but you see the problem is that I’ve just moved and my life is chaotic to say the least.

I know there’s the old trite thing about moving/buying a house is one of the most stressful things you can do. But I can only take from it that the people who say these things have never edited a magazine that has a ridiculous deadline, or organised a school sports day, or backpacked around a county where you can’t speak the language and you’ve just had $800 stolen. Buying a house is stressful, but it’s hardly the most stressful thing.

Anyway, because I’ve been engrossed in the tedium of packing, unpacking et al, I haven’t caught up on my posts. And I am still not going to. In lieu of a decent post I am going to tell you the top five things that I have learnt from moving home (to make it less stressful).

1. Ask for help – bribery is OK

These are some of our amazing friends who helped us move once. The guy on the left's face says it all...
These are some of our amazing friends who helped us move once. The guy on the left’s face says it all… One of these people is now recovering from a hernia operation. Whoops.

One thing guaranteed in life is that you’re probably going to have to move house at some point. Therefore, let’s get together and help one another. I couldn’t have moved if it wasn’t for the help of my parents, Andrew’s brother and future sis-in-law and our friends. Many hands make light work, guys. Sure, it might mean that in future you have to get up early one Saturday morning to return the favour, but that’s part of being friends, yeah? (Going forward, maybe start selecting friends based on how much “Stuff” they have, going forward. Friends with little clutter = BFFs, Friends with loads of crap = Time to be “phased out”) We obviously bribed our nearest and dearest with offers of breakfasts and roasts on us in return for their help. And don’t worry Toby and Rob, we’re aware we still owe you both a full English…

2. Find a Good Man ‘n’ Van

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I think being a man and van would be my worst job ever. You drive a van (stressful) and then have to help slightly hysterical home movers (me) move all their worldly possessions and then unload it all (tiring). Anyway, the service offered by mans and their vans is varying to say the least. What you don’t want is some dude in a clapped out van who turns up, lets you loads your stuff in, slams the door and drives off to the next place, then lets you unload for £100. No thank you. We managed to find a lovely guy who helped carry stuff, load, unload and all the while he never complained about how much stuff we had or that our bed is bloody massive (OK, he did slightly complain about that). If you’re London-based, I thoroughly recommend this company. If you’re not London-based, ask friends/family for recommendations.

3. Get a Nectar Card

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This is mostly for homeowners, I guess, as I hope those who move into rental properties don’t have to do much DIY, but anyway… We’ve spent shed loads of money in Homebase recently. I basically could work there now, I know the shop floor lay out so well. Paint? Dulux? Aisle 1. Step ladder? At the back in Aisle 9. Yeah! (God, that is so pathetic). Anyway, the only bonus – and it is a crap one at that – is that we have a Nectar card and have been collecting Nectar points. I have then spent all of these Nectar points on champagne and ice cream.

4. Drink

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Perhaps the only thing that got me through this move was alcohol. It kept me motivated while packing, and having a rewarding glass of champagne after moving day was brilliant. I realise this makes me sound like an alcoholic, but this is my reality. (P.S. I’m not an alcoholic)

5. Don’t EVER move

Seriously. It’s rubbish. Don’t do it.

Facebook

Top 5… Annoying People on Facebook

Remember a time before Facebook was released to the masses, and society was a nice, normal place where people from primary school didn’t scream in your face about potty training their child? Yeah, I can barely remember it either so full is my mind of constant updates of what someone I met once’s cat is wearing today. Facebook has completely changed the way we interact with one another, and I for one pretty much hate it. Yeah, I still have a profile, obviously, but I can still hate it.

I like Facebook for it being able to connect me to loved ones that are far away, and for us to share events, pictures, jokes without it having to be a big, formal ordeal. It is useful for reminding me of birthdays, which I am prone to forget. And I suppose it’s useful for communicating things sometimes.

However, as I might’ve said before, I still predominantly hate it. I hate it because of other people – the same reason why I hate most things. Other people have ruined Facebook. Here are the top five offenders, in my mind.

1. People I don’t care about sharing strong, and often offensive, views I don’t care for

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BF (Before Facebook) I didn’t know that Mike from accounts was a filthy biggot, or that Michaela from primary school was a devout Christian who felt the need to preach to everyone, every day. Now, with the advent of Facebook, it’s all up in my grill all of the time.

Yeah, I have the facility to hide people, but I only do that in extreme circumstances. This is because I live in constant fear of seeing people in real life and them saying “I’m married/had a kid/whatever, didn’t you see it on Facebook?”. I don’t know what to say then. I literally panic, go red and hope to have a heart attack immediately so I don’t have to answer. Why? Because, dear reader, I am a terrible liar – there’s nothing I am shitter at than lying. So basically because of my lack of ability to think on the spot and make up lies, I cannot hide these people and my life is plagued with people’s stupid (to me) opinions. It takes all types you say? Don’t mean I want it on my feed, buddy.

(See also: those who invite me to join groups like “ALL DISABLED PEOPLE SHOULD BE FORCED TO WORK. SCROUNGERS! LOL. YOLO. ” – yeah, not the target audience for that type of thing, thanks all the same. Welcome to the cold, stark world of not being my pal on FB anymore…)

2. “It’s a times like these you find out who your real friends are” et al

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Christ! Put a sock in it, love. These attention seekers are the worst. I find these passive aggressive updates, which are obviously aimed at some poor sucker on the person’s FB friends list who has probably made a minor indiscretion, awful. I actually cringe every time I read one. Why do people think these things are a good idea?!

If you have a serious problem with your friend, which you hope to resolve, posting cryptic crap on FB is not going to get you to your ultimate goal. If you’re looking for attention, you might get that from some of your more nosey FB friends in the form of “U OK hun?”, but essentially they’re just after some gossip to fill in the ad break between Corrie.

FB is not going to help in this situation. Ever. Chalk the whole thing down to experience and move on. Get some new friends. Whatever, just step away from FB.

3. “I LOVE YOU, WHERE WOULD I BE WITHOUT YOU?” etc

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This doesn’t have to be between those in a romantic relationship with one another, it can be between family members, friends um… that’s pretty much all the kinds of people isn’t it? Anyway, whatever the relationship it’s still nauseating. And I find it fake, and for mostly other people’s benefit.

If you like them so much, take it to a private channel where you can bleat at them all the live-long day.

4. Perma-holidayers

Basically this one is born out of pure jealousy on my part, but doesn’t it seem that some people are just on holiday all. the. time. When do they work? How do they afford this crazy lifestyle if they’re on holiday all the time?

I content myself with the fact that after soaking up so many rays they will look like this old age (look, I’m not saying I’m a good person myself here!):

Magda, from Something About Mary
Magda, from Something About Mary

5. People who use the word “frape”

You need to get a new word for that, guys. That particular portmanteau is pretty offensive.

 

Honourable mentions: Religious views, inspiration quotes, loads of video posts, private messaging in general, daily updates on some mundane aspect of your life.

P.S. Sorry to all my FB friends, I am sure I do all of these things at one time or another. Apart from the last one.

 

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