Last weekend I went to the cinema to see Endless Love. Even though the plot was quite predictable from start to finish, it was still a cute film. Seeing the film reminded me of my fascination with Gabriella Wilde whose style I have loved and followed ever since I saw her wearing that purple leather coat.
Source: all images from Pinterest
In the film she wore the more incredible red strapless dress (above) and it's now my mission in life to find something similar.
Friday 14th February marked my return to the London Lancaster Hotel - a hotel I have had the pleasure of staying with before as many of our awards nights are hosted there. However this time it was for leisure not work, which made a nice change. This time I stayed in a Double Deluxe room on one of the highest floors of the hotel which made for stunning views of London. For me personally, the best thing about the rooms are the beds. Nice and firm, but at the same time you sink into the bed in the most satisfying of ways. I made a conscious effort not to sit or lie down before dinner, as otherwise I knew there was no way I was leaving that bed!
For the last two years I've stayed at the London Lancaster Hotel with work, and as our awards nights are already catered for, I've never actually had the chance to try out any of their restaurants. They have a Thai restaurant ("Nipa Thai") which looked very ornate and would be the perfect backdrop for a romantic meal. Not a huge fan of Thai food, this swayed me towards the Island Grill. Because "grill" is a magic word. It usually equates to a meat feast which is fine by me. The Island Grill had a far more casual feel than their Thai restaurant. I think it even accepts "walk ins" if you're not a guest at the hotel, as people were constantly streaming through a side door. My only criticism about the restaurant was that it felt very cold. Kudos to the restaurant staff, as they did pull a curtain across the door. However the door was constantly open and closed so it did get a bit draughty. My advice would be to wear something warm if you were to eat here. My little pink dress with three quarter sleeves wasn't the warmest of things to be wearing!
What was great about the Island Grill was the sheer amount of choice. It took us ages to decide and our waiter never once rushed us. An impressive choice of starters, sharing sides for the table like tear 'n' share bread, and plenty of fish and meat options for the main course. There were some vegetarian options but not many. But then if you're veggie, I don't think a "grill" or steakhouse would be your first choice of restaurant for a meal! Despite the chilly feel to the restaurant, there was a lovely atmosphere on Valentine's Day. Red candles, red flowers, balloons, little chocolate hearts in red foil and dimmed lighting.
To start, we had the scallops and pancetta served on a bed of puy lentils:
The scallops were up there as some of the best I'd ever tasted. Cooked to perfection and a great contrast against the crispiness of the pancetta. Our only disappointment was that we only had two scallops each - most other places we've been to have given us three, and as these were sooo good, an extra one would have been nice. I'm not usually a fan of lentils but these were actually really tasty and the sauce was perfect with the frise salad.
For the main course we had the duck served on a bed of wilted spinach with roasted parsnips and beetroot:
Perfection. I thought the scallops were good, but damn. The duck actually had me speechless. Cue big smiles, some silence, a pause... and then a very audible "damn that's good". Cooked medium, the duck had the perfect amount of pinkness. A really generous amount of meat, very tasty, very rich, and I struggled to finish the accompanying frites. To drink, we had a bottle of Argentinian Malbec - one of my favourite wines and the perfect accompaniment for grilled meat.
Their dessert menu was a little disappointing considering it was 14th February so we opted out. Plus we had had more than enough to eat at that stage. So we sat and enjoyed the rest of the wine and went back to the room instead. In the lift back to the fifteen floor we noticed that the London Lancaster Hotel has a Thai themed afternoon tea which may be interesting to try one day.
The London Lancaster does a lovely breakfast, but this time I opted out for a change. One of my favourite places in London for breakfast / brunch is only 4 mins away by train so it seemed silly not to go as we were so nearby. We left the hotel a little later than planned - I just couldn't leave that gorgeous bed - and by the time we got to the café, queues were already snaking out the door and there was a 45 minute wait for a table. Heart breaking. Instead we sauntered further down Oxford Street to one of our favourite places for burgers. First meal of the day... burgers. Does it get any better than that?
The rain put a dampener on our plans for our day in London so instead we went shopping and headed back to watch The Perks of Being a Wallflower. A beautiful film which I ended up enjoying more than the book. On Sunday we made veggie curry, ate enough for about 4 people, and spent most of the day in bed watching films. A bit of a lazy weekend, but absolutely perfect.
Roses are red, violets are blue... But must roses be red? There are so many different colours out there. Plus different colours have different meanings. Yellow for joy, happiness and friendship. White for remembrance or new beginnings. Orange for passion and desire. And red - no surprise here - represents love. As nice as it is to feel loved. why not be a little more imaginative? Why give roses when you can give... unicorns?
Are bouquets of flowers becoming "old hat"? Obviously flowers have a shelf life whereas these little bundles of fluff do not. And are red roses becoming "boring"? Or do they remain a classic? If you're bored of red roses, why not go for these?
If your partner has a sweet tooth, perhaps look at bouquets of the edible variety. The Unique Gift Store has amazing variety. Choose between Galaxy, Lindt Lindors, Ferrero Rochers, Thorntons and many more. And the best thing? The majority of their bouquets still look like flowers if you didn't want to stray too far from the traditional floral bouquet...
Even if you hate Valentine's Day with a passion, ALDO's Valentine's collection will melt even the coldest of hearts. Featuring mostly a candy / pastel colour palette - with black thrown in for any 'pastel-phobes'... - it's a sweet and whimsical collection which you can't help but coo over. Love heart bags, story book inspired clutch bags, delicate jewellery, perfume bottle bags... And how cute is the toi & moi necklace?!!
NB: this is not a sponsored post. I simply walked into ALDO one lunch time, spotted the collection, and knew I wanted to write about it. Being quite the book lover, I couldn't resist the story book clutch. I chose the pastel coloured one because the black isn't as nice when you see it in person. It's the perfect sized little clutch bag which I intend on using on Valentine's Day paired with my new dress which I first spoke about here. Quite a girly look for me, but I feel I can get away with it on Valentine's Day of all days! ;)
I'll be honest... the colour pink does nothing for me. Don't get me wrong, I don't have a strong aversion to it. After all, some of the best things in life are pink - pink lemonade anyone? But pink clothing on me just looks... wrong. The other day I was having a browse on the Missguided website and I can't explain how or why, but I was drawn to anything and everything pink:
I don't know what's wrong with me. Maybe I'm just getting caught up with everything leading up to Valentine's Day. There are so many pinks and reds in the shops at the moment, maybe I've been subconsciously brainwashed. Or maybe it's the sheer amount of baby pink coats I've seen cropping up all over the blogosphere and in magazines. I am planning my next shop as we speak. So far my basket is composed of pastels and muted shades - a colour palette inspired by Love Heart sweets it seems. Whether I'm ready for it or not, my girly / whimsical side is definitely emerging. Watch this space...
Having eaten at Rani's for years, this review is long overdue. When most people eat in London they veer towards larger chains or places in the City. Having lived in London for most of my life, I have learnt that some of the best places you have to travel a little out of London for. And Rani's is a brilliant example of this. Rani's is a family run vegetarian Indian restaurant based in North London. If you are living or staying in another part of London, the best way to reach it is going to Finchley Central station which is on the Northern Line. It's literally an 8 minute walk down the road from the station, so it couldn't be any easier.
Now, I am by no means a vegetarian. I am in fact quite the carnivore. But hand on heart, this is my favourite place to get a curry. I would go veggie at the drop of a hat if all veggie food tasted as good as this!
Rani's offers an à la carte menu, a buffet (but only on certain days of the week, please refer to their website) and takeway. In all my years of going there, I have only ever tried their buffet and I seriously recommend it. Curry wise, I'm not the most adventurous of people and no matter where I go, I always order the same dish. Rani's buffet is an excellent way of trying new things that I normally wouldn't have braved. The only possible criticism I can think of is the choice. If you like a buffet that has something different every time you go, then Rani's probably isn't for you. They tend to have the same dishes every time we visit. But for me, this is no bad thing. The flavours and textures of these dishes are incredible - my favourite being their paneer curry - so if I went and the paneer wasn't there, I would be disappointed. For me personally, their buffet selection can't be faulted.
Last night we all had three plates worth of food and we were more than satisfied. For our first plate, we had a selection from their table of starters. I really can't name what these were - some of the ingredients were a bit of a mystery. But there something with a fluffy, cake-like consistency which we were advised to pair with one of their home-made chutneys, root vegetables sprinkled with spices, an assortment of bhajees (potato, onion and cauliflower) and fresh pooris.
Main course wise, there was spiced paneer in a tomato sauce, banana curry, Kenyan aubergine and potato curry with ground peanuts and a Kenyan green bean and broad bean curry, amongst others.
I was a bit sceptical about banana curry, but it was actually really tasty! The textures of the aubergine dish are beautiful - fluffy potato with flavoursome aubergine and a lovely crunch from the peanuts. My favourite dish by far is still the Murcha Paneer. Bright red in colour, it has quite the spice and spice is something I normally can't handle. But as this is a flavoursome spice rather than a blow-your-mouth-off kind of spice, I can actually go back for numerous servings.
The drinks menu is pretty standard. Soft drinks, alcoholic drinks and their popular Lassi. They offer massive pitchers of fruit juice which at £6 is great value for money when you take into account what a glass of fruit juice will normally cost you! With a choice of passion fruit, apple, orange, mango, pineapple, cranberry and many others, there's something for everyone.
Being a family run business, there is a lovely homely feel to the restaurant which is why we like to go eat in rather than get takeaway. The interior is mostly decorated in red and gold with drapes, curtains and arches leading into the adjoining rooms. Even when they are at capacity, it never feels too noisy or too packed. There is very calming music piped throughout the restaurant so you can't help but feel relaxed. One of the tracks last night sounded like the start to Avicii's Wake Me Up which was amusing. Then there was a sitar and we knew it wasn't Avicii!
The staff here are all very friendly and make you feel welcome. We have never had any complaints.
For the à la carte menu, I feel that most of the main dishes are the typical sort of price you would pay anywhere else. The starters however feel a little pricier. I have never paid £4.50 for bhajees anywhere else. But I guess it depends how big the bhajees are from the à la carte menu. Or how many you get. The buffet is about £16 per head, I believe. This does feel quite expensive to me - bearing in mind how many main course dishes are actually on offer. Last night x5 buffets plus drinks came to just shy of £100 which felt like a lot. If the buffet was a few pounds cheaper per person, then we'd be able to go eat there more often rather than just on special occasions.
Rani's is a hidden gem that doesn't have nearly enough exposure, which is why I wanted to write this review to spread awareness. Eat here for friendly staff, a chilled atmosphere and very tasty textures and combinations of ingredients that you may not normally try - banana curry anyone?
A few years back they faced being closed down due to extortionate rent prices and I remember there being a petition to keep them open. We have always fully supported them, and judging by them still being there today and their growth (they have since expanded into the shop unit next door), it seems we weren't the only happy customers raving about them and their food. Give them a try. Their menu can be found via their website (link provided below).
Rani Restaurant , 7 Long Lane, Finchley, London, N3 2PR.