Wednesday, 30 October 2013

All Hallows' Eve

Just a little post to say in case you haven't noticed, Halloween is nearly upon us! It's that time of year again where you can dig out your scary costumes, eat all the sweeties you want and tell ghostly stories by torch light.

When I was little, every year without fail my sister and I would make bin bag witches' dresses (helped by our Mummy of course!). These would inevitably be one black bag with arms and a head hole cut, tied at the waist with another black bag fashioned into a belt. Then we'd get the stapler and cover our dresses in paper stars and other such witchy things. We'd carve pumpkins too and Mum would sometimes make pumpkin soup from the slimy insides (Lu and I never dared try it!).

As we got older, our bin bag dresses got left behind, but I haven't forgotten how to carve a pumpkin. Therefore my housemate and I got creative and carved these two little beauties. (This is perhaps the most adventurous carving I have ever done- in case you can't quite guess, one is a cat and the other is the Boogie Man...)

Happy Halloween everyone!

At the weekend, I popped off to a little Halloween party. I thought you might all like to see my make up- I went as a Day of the Dead skull! The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday where people take the time to remember the deceased. It's also coincidentally celebrated around the same time as Halloween!

The Nightjar, Shoreditch

Finally, this Saturday, I visited a bar in which I've been dying to go to for around a year now. Nightjar is a speakeasy style bar- you enter through a discrete door guarded by a bouncer, before going down a narrow staircase which opens out into an ambiently dim bar, where little tables lit by candle light are filled with fantastical creations, and the soft sound of jazz hangs in the air. It's soon apparent that Nightjar isn't just any old ordinary cocktail bar.

Marcus and I were shown to our seat by a friendly waitress who soon bought us menus, a little bowl of salted popcorn and small glasses of water infused with cucumber, melon and lemongrass. We then began the task of working our way through the menu- there was an unbelievable amount of choice! The cocktails are split into 'pre-prohibition,' 'prohibition,' 'post-war,' and 'Nightjar signatures' and so in the end, we decided to take it era by era, starting from pre-prohibition. I was incredibly excited- I'd heard that the cocktails here not only tasted amazing but also were presented in the most imaginative ways and so I couldn't wait to see what I'd ordered!

My first drink was a  pre-prohibition 'Baltimore Eggnog' and it was delicious! It came beautifully served with a little finger pastry on top and tiny blobs of cream. Marcus ordered a 'Amaro Fizz' which was made with buffalo milk! We happily sipped away at our (and each other's!) drinks, chatting and soaking in our surroundings. There was an excitable air to the bar as everyone was checking out each others drinks as they arrived, admiring their garnishes and asking strangers what it was exactly they'd ordered.

Some time later, we moved on to our second drink. Marcus' was a prohibition 'Marmalade No.2' (served to look like a marmalade pot, complete with candied fruit) where as (after consulting our waitress) I'd skipped ahead to the jollier looking post-war cocktails. My drink was truly a surprise when it arrived. It was called the 'Jungle Bird' and came encased in a giant iced metal chicken! It was also the most interestingly flavoured of the night, probably down to it containing butternut squash and a curry leaf infusion! It had an interestingly sweet vegetably flavour, sweetened slightly by the mint which garnished it.

After realising we'd been sitting at our tables for nearly two hours, we asked the waitress if it would be possible to stay for longer. (The tables are reserved for two-hour periods). We were happily obliged and moved to a table closer to the bar. There, we ordered perhaps the most decorative of our cocktails that night, our Nightjar signatures.

After much debate with our waitress, I ordered a 'Beyond the Sea' which interestingly claimed to contain 'oyster leaf infusion' and 'sea air'. When it arrived, I was thrilled to see it had arrived in a foaming sea shell, on top of a little japanese style box. It tastes slightly bitter (you could imagine it going perfectly with sushi) and trying to drink it was definitely an experience! Marcus ordered a 'Cold Buttered Rum' which came complete with a small funnel of warm coconut oil which slowly infused down into the drink. It was delicious!

Finally, some three hours later, we had finished our drinks and got ready to leave. As we exited, the first notes from that night's live jazz band started to fill the air. It felt as if we'd truly just stepped out of the 1920s.

I enjoyed everything about Nightjar. The atmosphere was perfect, the drinks miniature works of art and the staff friendly, accommodating and well informed. Despite the initial two hour time limit on our table, I didn't feel at all rushed, yet was pleased to find that the staff did their best to fit us in when our time was up. I enjoyed my visit immensely and it was everything I had hoped it would be.

Just a small word of warning however: book in advanced! I booked three weeks previously in order to secure my table on a Saturday night!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Shrimpy's at The King's Cross Filling Station

On Friday evening, my mother met me off my train at St Pancras** and we toddled off for dinner and some mother-daughter quality time.

Now, my mother is quite hip. She always knows all the fun, popular places that spring up around London and so she took me off to Shrimpy's at The Kings Cross Filling Station. From the outside, The Filling Station is a towering, translucent, waved form, with neon letters guarding the roof- you'd never guess the ghostly walls concealed a restaurant! However, as you go around the side, the walls give way to a large space where the old petrol station once was. Now, the kiosk is a tiny little restaurant and the space where the pumps once stood is an al fresco bar with a pretty view of the river.

As we entered Shrimpy's, we were greeted to a roar of laughter- there was a large table filled with a rather energetic group of diners all playing charades! Bar them however, since it was still rather early for dinner, the restaurant was fairly empty. We were shown to a pretty little table with an elegant table covering and crystal glasses. We sat down and took in our surroundings.

I loved the decor. There were quirky illustrations painted onto the walls (there where appearances from iconic figures such as Coco Chanel), cacti lining the window and giant gold pineapple lamps adorning the bar. Even the menus had lovely little drawings throughout. After taking this all in, we scanned the cocktail menu and gave our orders to the attentive waitress. We were sitting close to the bar and so I had a great view as my drink was shook up just feet away.

Once we had a chance to sample our cocktails (both delicious!), our food started arriving. The menu had looked so enticing we'd gone for three courses each, vowing to share our dishes. I had ordered Prawn fritters with a green chilli and lime dipping sauce where as Mum had gone for the seabass ceviche with plantains. Mine was yummy, but the sauce on the seabass was so good that we ended up asking for a spoon to slurp up every last drop!

Then came our second course. I had ordered the soft shell crab burger (somewhat a signature dish I was told), which came battered (legs and all) between two buns. The sauce in the burger was delicious and I enjoyed munching my way through it. Mum went for the Seared Ahi (basically a large tuna) with a  carrot and tequila salad. This dish was extremely colourful and the carrots tasted amazing!

Finally, we battled on to pudding. The menu boasted a banana and peanut butter sandwich which sounded like a bizarre pudding to serve at a restaurant and so I gave it a go. I wasn't disappointed- I was served two slices of rich brioche, layered with a peanutty sauce, fresh banana slices and ice cream, all sprinkled with almonds. Despite already being a touch on the full side, I managed to gobble down the entire thing!
Mum went for the Meringue with a hibiscus syrup, chantilly and pineapple (essentially it was a fancy eton mess!). This was also delicious and served beautifully, with a large fan of dried pineapple on top.

I really enjoyed my visit to Shrimpy's. The food was delicious, the waitresses helpful and the decor was fun yet sophisticated. It was the perfect venue for a catch up and a relaxed dinner. Despite the venue being small, it didn't feel cramped or too busy, even when as it got later, all the tables became full. I would highly recommend going and giving Shrimpy's a visit!

**A slight exaggeration. Mum was fairly late and so I was waiting around for a while. Giggling, Mum said it was reminiscent of when she'd forget she needed to collect my sister and I from the school gates when we were little!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

University Farmers' Market

Every now and then, my university puts on a little farmers' market outside the front of the Student's Union. A couple of stalls get set up, mostly selling delicious, freshly cooked burgers and hot dogs, along with cuts of local meat, ready to cook home made pies and cakes.

After one of our lectures today, Jocelyn and I raced back to the SU to get in line for some food. We'd been drawn in earlier by the smell of gently sizzling meat and it had all we'd been able to think about for the past hour! Finally, we got to the front of the queue and were eagerly awaiting our food. I went for a hot dog with locally sourced sausages (loaded with onions of course) and Jossi went for a beef burger. Before long we were happily tucking in.

We hope there weren't really 'penguin pies'!

Having a farmers' market (or any market for that matter) on campus is such a great idea as it gives you access to lovely, fresh food of a good quality. For general student shopping it may be a bit on the pricey side, but at my uni there's always a queue for the BBQ-ing food and plenty of interest in the other stands. The only problem is our union seems to rarely hold such an event. Now, where I go to uni, the local market (which is huge!) is right in the middle of town, but student housing tends to be much further away (sometimes up to a 40min bus drive!). This unfortunately makes shopping at the market not all that practical when you're faced with a long journey home. This surely opens up a lot of potential for having more regular stalls on campus where there are a few thousand hungry students desperate to get some food and save themselves the walk? The stall holders definitely seemed up for it, so maybe it's just a matter of convincing the SU?

Anyway, how does it work where you guys are? Do any of you have regular market stalls at university/work/school? Would you use them if you did? Please tell me about your experiences where you are so I can use them to try and proposition my own uni!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show

I first heard about The Rocky Horror Show a few years ago when my friend said she was going to the theatre to see a "Kinda musical horror film."Following this, she whipped a corset and some fishnets out of her bag and asked if I thought it was appropriate attire for the show. I was a little surprised but was assured that "The entire crowd dresses like this!" I took her word for it and promptly went home and watched the film version, where I was whisked away into a world of suspender supporting men and wacky dance moves. Since then, I've been desperate to see the film brought to life on stage. Last Friday, I finally got my chance!

We got our tickets rather last minute and so we weren't all that prepared. We grabbed what we could out of my wardrobe and Marcus and I got ready slightly apprehensively- what if no one actually dressed up to go watch the show? What if we were the only ones? Bravely, we dabbed on our glitter and I hoisted up my stockings before leaving the house wrapped tightly in my trench coat. However when we arrived at the theatre, our fears fell away as we glimpsed a man walking around in nothing but stockings and a shirt! Soon, another followed, garbed in a feather boa and lacy corset. Then there was a hen party, all dressed in matching tutus and sparkly top hats. Suddenly, if anything, I felt rather underdressed! We took our seats just as the music started and the show began.

Getting ready for the show- I'm corseted up and M is covered in glitter! 

The show was fantastic. The entire cast (staring Dani Harmer, Phillip Franks and Oliver Thornton), threw themselves into their characters, making you believe you were really there in that old, scary castle surrounded by cross dressing eccentrics. But what was really great was how the entire audience got involved. When the music for "The Time Warp" started up, many people jumped to their feet to dance along. The Narrator (Franks)  dealt with hecklers amazingly, making the entire audience break down in laughter at his quick witted responses.

During the interval, Marcus and I headed to the lobby where we met some of the other show-goers. One rather enthusiastic individual had dressed up as Rocky (gold hot pants and all!) and was prancing around the bar, much to the amusement of many of the people waiting for drinks. Everyone was chatting with each other, admiring each other's costumes and requesting photos. I've never seen a theatre audience get quite so friendly with each other! However, before long we were heading back to our seats.

The second half of the show was as lively as the first. The heckles continued and the actors performed their parts brilliantly. Finally, the show came to an end with another round of 'The Time Warp' (everybody was singing along and doing all the movements!) and a last rendition of "Sweet Transvestite', to much excitement of the crowd.

The Rocky Horror Show is a bit of a cult classic. It obviously has a wide following of enthusiastic individuals and it is these patrons who help make the show feel so electrically lively. I couldn't recommend it highly enough so don your hold ups and get down to a production near you!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Robin Hood Marathon, Nottingham

A couple of weeks ago, some of the girls from my cheerleading squad and I were asked to cheer on those running in the Robin Hood Marathon. Therefore in the early hours Sunday morning we put on our pinkest lipstick, tied our bows in our hair and crawled sleepily into cars which drove us down to Nottingham.

Once there, we were given little cute outfits (with pompoms!) and were placed up and down the route. We then got ready to cheer our hearts out and encourage the brave runners on to glory.

Our first placement was quite near the start of the race so we got to see many of the runners, still with their happy smiles firmly in place, power past us. However our second placement was much closer to the end of the route and by this point, only the hardiest had survived. It was amazing to see the amount of effort people put into the marathon- some runners looked as if they could keel over where they stood but still they pushed on, whether at a jog or a walk. It was an impressive sight to behold indeed! What made it rather special however was seeing how a little encouragement could spark people back to life. We'd see a runner looking as if they were about to stop but after a big cheer from us and other spectators, they all managed to pick up their feet and push on forwards.

Around 4pm the last runner made it across the finish line to huge applause from the remaining spectators. The look on his face was one of relief and happiness and it struck me then that the runners were a good metaphor for life. On your own, there may become a point where it's just too hard to push on. But with a little encouragement from others, you'll have the support to get to the end.

A huge congratulations to everyone who ran in the marathon on Sunday and an especially big well done to all those who didn't just do it for themselves, but for charity! You were all truly inspirational.