Thanksgiving at Balthazar (Covent Garden)

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This year, the bloke and I went to Balthazar restaurant (brasserie) for our Thanksgiving lunch. Balthazar is located in Covent Garden in London and is inspired by French dining, although the first branch opened in New York City. The interior reminds me of a cafe or restaurant in Paris with high ceilings and ceiling-to-floor mirrors and vintage chic typography. The restaurant offer a special Thanksgiving menu each year, and I enjoyed the Matthew Williamson fashion afternoon tea that I recently had so decided to try it this year. Last year, we went to Christopher's (also in Covent Garden about a block away) for Thanksgiving, but I was not impressed. 


Apologies for the photographs in advance, but I find it very difficult to photograph in Balthazar (or even touch up the photographs later) because of the lighting, and this makes the food look less appetizing than it was.



We arrived for our reservation at mid-day, and we noted that only a few other diners had the Thanksgiving menu. Others were having the standard menu, and the restaurant is always a popular one. When we left at 14:00, the restaurant had nearly full capacity.


We opted to try the special Thanksgiving-themed cocktail, which is known as 'Gingerbread Fizz'. It contained vanilla Vodka, gingerbread liquor, lemon juice, and egg white. The cocktails were easy-to-drink with a subtle taste that reminded me of winter. 


For starters, we both ordered the "spiced roasted butternut squash soup". This was served with corn bread, or it should have been. Similar to my experience last year at Christopher's, they forgot to bring out the corn bread and we finished our soup before it was brought out. The corn bread was spicy with hot pepper and did not taste like the corn bread from 'home', but it was still good. We both enjoyed the soup. The alternative to soup was a winter kale salad.


At last, the main course arrived. We both ordered the Thanksgiving turkey (in keeping with tradition), but the other option was cod with parmasan crust. The turkey was served with orange and chestnut stuffing, corn fritter, potato and butternut squash gratin, and parsnips. We were also meant to receive cranberry sauce, but the staff also forgot to bring it out. Neither of us are big fans of cranberry sauce, so we did not bother to ask for it.


I loved the corn fritter and the potato and butternut squash gratin. We also ordered roasted Brussel sprouts and chestnuts as a side. I actually struggled to eat everything. 


Desserts followed. I asked after simple pumpkin pie, but I was told that they did not have any. Instead, I decided to try the pumpkin cheesecake while the bloke had the pecan pie with maple syrup ice cream. I did not like the cheesecake, so we traded desserts. The pecan pie was very good.


After we finished our desserts, we were offered tea or coffee with petits fours. These consisted of coconut macaroons, dark chocolates, and a pastry tart. I'm not sure what the pastry/tart flavour was, but it tasted a little like maple.

I regret that I was not able to eat as much as I'd like, even though I did not have any dinner the night before. Would I go back? I would go back to Balthazar to try other items on the menu. There were a couple of problems, but overall, we had a nice meal and the service was attentive after initial problems at the beginning.

Amusing Pub Boards & Signs in London

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Today's post features amusing shop and pub boards and signs in London. When I worked in east London, I spent my lunch break wandering around. I would often come across a amusing board, which some of the pubs put out with a message o drawing written in chalk. Typically, the signs below are from the following venues: The Bell on Middlesex Street, Owl and Pussycat on Redchurch Street, one of the bagel shops at the top of Brick Lane, The Wheatsheaf on Rivington Street, and one of the shops at the northwest side of Spitalfields Market. Of course, these can be seen all over London. Below is a selection of the amusing signs.


"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

"If you have a drink in The Bell and no one sees you really have a drink?"

"The Bell. You are NOT in Shoreditch. All hipsters must be accompanied by an adult. No fingerless gloves. No male cleavage. Any unaccompanied hipsters will be drowned in the mainstream."

During one of the tube strikes. "Don't care how you get here. Just get here if you can."

"Beers burgers and hot dogs"

"Love your bean"

This was about the photograph leak that involved many celebrities. "If you are also #livid about the nude photographs leak, come and show your solidarity by having a drink!"

"Dry January. Wet January. Boring. Fun"

"You have made it through January. Treat yourself!"

"F**K Love. All you need are shoes". (With an drawing of what looks like Grumpy Cat.)

A flow chart - "Sleep late. Wake up tired. Promise to go to bed early. Internet. Coffee"

"Is everything okay? No/Yes. Then come in and have a drink."

On a Monday... "Monday Blues 'n' Monday Booze"

It was a very rainy few days. "Rain. Wah!"

"Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder."

"I don't want to get technical or anything but according to chemistry, alcohol is a solution."

A drawing of the Ralph Wiggum Valentine's Day card (with the train) that appeared on The Simpsons "I choo-choo-choose you" 

"Something witty and thought-provoking (That's what my boss told me to write on the chalkboard)"

On a Wednesday - "If it's fun you seek, don't be a geek. Come in and wet your beak and celebrate the middle of the week."

"Finally a bloody well change in this psychotic season."

"Free beer. Topless bartenders. And false advertising."

"Bitches welcome (also male dogs)"

A drawing of a cat advertising pub quiz.

"Life support."

Have you snapped any amusing photographs of signs and boards in London?

Pizza at Franco Manca (Westfield Stratford)

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Franco Manca's pizza is one of London's pizzarias that gets raving reviews, and I've been wanting to visit. Its first restaurant was located in Brixton underneath the rail arches, and it did so well that it opened a further fifteen branches across London. I visited the branch at Westfield Stratford simply because I was in the area. 


Franco Manca's pizzas are made from slow-rising sourdough bread which take 20 hours to rise. The pizzas are then baked in wood-burning brick ovens built by specialists from Naples, the birthplace of pizza. This type of oven ensures that the bread and crust is perfect and not soggy.


The Franco Manca stall is located on the top level in the foodcourt of Westfield Stratford, so it's a great place to visit as you're pretty much guaranteed a seat somewhere in the foodcourt. 


I ordered the cheese pizza, and the bloke ordered one with salami. I loved the pizza and there was the correct proportion of toppings and cheese to crust, which is a bonus. The crust was also very good; sometimes I leave my crusts, but the pizza was so good that I managed to devour the whole pizza. I would visit again, and I would love to visit one of the actual restaurants instead of the kiosk in Westfield Stratford.

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to my readers in America! I shall be celebrating the day as it is my favourite 'holiday' with its build-up to the season, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, good food, and family. Typing of good food with an autumn theme, I've decided to post about one of my best recent foodie discoveries in London. It is a small bakery known simply as Knead. Knead are located at Broadway Market's School Yard Market on Saturdays. They sell a range of baked goods, spreads, warmed crumpets and warmed English muffins. A perfect treat is to head over to visit them and have a warmed treat while browsing the market. So far, I have made two trips to see them.


Knead sell toasted English muffins and different flavours of crumpets. When I visited, two of the flavours of crumpets were cinnamon and pumpkin. I love both flavours. Muffins and crumpets can be bought to take away or warmed up and smothered with the spread of your choice. Spreads include different flavours of curd, peanut butters (chocolate, caramel, or plain), and maple buttercream. The maple spread was absolutely delicious with the pumpkin crumpet. I had the chocolate peanut butter on the other crumpet, and it was very good but I lost the subtle taste of cinnamon with the peanut spread. I also sampled the English muffin with lime and coconut curd, and it was also tasty.


I spoke briefly with the two ladies who were selling the products, and they informed me that all baked items are made fresh to sell the day before. Of course, this makes for busy days baking and then selling. 


On my second visit, I discovered the little pies for sale. I was told all of the different flavours, but I cannot remember what they all were now. I was interested in the pumpkin pie as I love pumpkin, but it's not really used a lot in baking in England. I also read an article after my first visit that Knead make one of London's nicest pumpkin pies, so I was happy to see miniature pumpkin pies available to buy on my second visit. I bought one and I can vouch for it as it was delicious and I wished that I had bought another one.


I was also given a sample of their pecan pie, which my mother would have loved. The pecan pie tasted delicious, though it's never been my favouirte type of pie. My mother is partial to them, though! I was told that the pecan pie is made with pecans (of course), chocolate and Bourbon. It was delicious, and it didn't taste 'alcoholic' at all with the Bourbon. 


Last but not least, Knead sell their popular peanut butters and curds at their stall. I bought the dark chocolate peanut butter, and I was informed that it was a best-seller.


Knead are a regular on Saturdays at Schoolyard Market (Broadway Market). They also sell to Selfridges and other cafes from time-to-time. The best way to see where they are selling is to look at their Facebook page here: or Twitter here:

Lush Christmas 2015

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Halloween had not arrived before most shops have put out their Christmas items, and I felt that it was too early to post about Christmas until November. I went to Lush at the beginning of October and had a wander around to see what was on offer in the Christmas products this year. To see Lush's Christmas offerings from last year, view my post here. I saw that some items from last year have returned, and there's a few new items. Overall, there seems to be more items on offer this year. I didn't buy anything this year because I don't have access to a bath in the new house and this has to wait until I can afford to get some work done to install one.


Above is the Peeping Santa Bubble Bar and Lord of Misrule shower gel. Okay, Lord of Misrule is actually from their Halloween range, but the bright green colour looks Christmasy next to the bubble bar. 


The purple Bah Humbug Bubble Bar and Yog Nog bath bomb are also on offer. The Golden Wonder bath bomb (shaped like a golden gift) includes two bath bombs inside it, which changes colour in the bath. 


The Experimenter is the multi-faceted bath bomb on the right, and it was inspired by films. Above is a pink flamingo bubble bar stick, and the last item is the Butter Bear bath bomb. Butter bear was a favourite last year with a lot of people. 


One of my favourites from last year was the Holly Golightly bubble bar, which is silver with holly leaves. In addition, the peppermint-smelling Candy Mountain bubble bar can be purchased. The 'So White' bath bomb in the background has appeared for the past few years and smells like crisp apple to me and is one of my favourites.


A new bath bomb for the season is known as 'Frozen', and the colours remind me of the animated film of the same name and the dress that one of the main characters wears. Next to it is the Halloween offering, the Sparkly Pumpkin bubble bar, which I did try last year.


The Father Christmas bath bomb is back as well as Luxury Lush Pud, which is the multi-coloured bath bomb at the front. One of my favourites is the melting angel bath bomb, which appeared last year and is back this year. Star Dust is another bath bomb, on the other side, and this is new for this year. 


The Magic of Christmas is a stirrable bubble-bar which contains spices and an extra bit of sparkle. I wish that I could try this as it's a new one this year.


Another new offering this year is the gold shimmery 'Five Gold Rings', which are bubble bars on strings.


This year, the new Christmas soap is known as 'Old Father Time' and looks like a clock. The inside of the soap is colourful. 


Two soaps from last year also returned. Reindeer Rock soap returned, but it was designed a little differently this year. Yog Nog also returned. Fret not if you're also a fan of Snow Cake or Baked Alaska. These are my favourites, and I use Snow Cake all year around as I love the scent. These soaps were also for sale.


In addition, the peppermint-smelling soap pictured as the pink and green soap above (May Pole) could also pass as a Christmas product.

In addition to these products, there were also some Christmas jelly soaps that I did not get to photograph. I am really looking forward to getting a new bathroom and bath in place so I can start to enjoy using bath products again.

Earlier this month, we went to Yorkshire for the morning to pick up Merlin. We left very early in the morning so that we could have a look around before our appointment. We certainly picked a dreary morning for a look around as the rain was pretty constant. We stopped off at Thorton-le-Dale and Goathland before driving through the moors to Whitby and then stopping off at Hutton-le-Hole for lunch. All of the villages are located in and near the North Yorkshire Moors.


Thornton-le-Dale was our first stop, and we arrived at 9:00 in the morning. The rain had eased off slightly, and we stopped here to have a drink and snack. The town has a small creek running along the sides of the main roads across through the middle of the town, and there's a very old tree in the middle of the town. We stopped off at Baldersons Cafe, which boasts a tearoom, cafe, and garden. The cafe is quite spacious inside to accommodate several diners, and a walk-in-bakery is also located next door.


I had an almond tart and rose lemonade. I loved the almond tart; it was so delicious. I would certainly visit again for a more substantial meal or afternoon tea. According to the information in the menu, this family business started in 1895 and are very popular in the area. In the second World War, they gave out tea and scones to soldiers.


There was plenty of seating available in the cafe. I assume that it does get quite busy on nice days.


After the snack, we had a quick walk around, but it was too early for many of the shops to be open. We walked over a bridge to a park area where we saw a pond.



Ducks were being fed, but they hurried away when they saw us walk toward them.




We headed on through the moors, and the rain was pouring down then. We decided to stop at Goathland, which is a beautiful area with many sheep and a hotel. There's a lot of walking trails here. I got soaked when I went out to get some photographs of sheep.



I didn't stay long getting sheep photos, and we were soon off to Whitby. We obviously did not have time to get out and look around, but I've been to Whitby once before and saw the abbey. That was thirteen years ago now, so it would have been good to have a proper look around but we just did not have time. I got some photographs from the harbour.



Our last stop was Hutton-le-Hole, another attractive village with creeks running through the town on one side and beautiful cottages. We had lunch here at The Crown pub and restaurant, and we enjoyed our meal. The rain was pouring down, and it was also very windy and cold. There was a nice fire inside while we enjoyed our meals. 


I had chicken with potato dauphanoise, and the bloke had a steak pie. The meals came with vegetables served in different dishes so that we could help ourselves.



For dessert, I had Eton Mess. This came very well-presented and contained ice cream, whipped cream, fruite puree, and it was topped off with chocolate and shortbread stars.


The sun actually came out as we were finishing up, so we were able to enjoy it on our short drive a few miles away. I got a couple of nice photographs of Hutton-le-Hole before we left.




Have you been to any of these villages in North Yorkshire?

Race of Champions 2015 London

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On Friday evening, the bloke and I went to see the Race of Champions in London at the Olympic Stadium. This is the first time we have been inside the Olympic Stadium, although memories were made when we had a visit to the Olympic Park during the Olympic games in 2012. This visit to the Olympic Park was very different. During the Olympic games, we were blessed with warm, summery weather. This visit, we had to wrap up warm, and even though I wrapped up warmly, I was still freezing.



The evening started with some warm-up laps and children's competitions.


I bought some macaroons in Westfield Stratford before the race, so we had these to munch on. 


Next up was the obstacles that celebrities had to do for entertainment.


Then, the cars with their countries and drivers came out to do a parade lap.



On the half-time, we watched motorcycles doing stunts.


After the semi-final, one of the drivers drove around and waved at the crowd.


The moon was also quite bright, and I could see some of the craters on it. This made me think of the 'Man on the Moon' John Lewis Christmas advertisement that is out this year.


We also saw a Formula1 car come out and do a few laps.


The United Kingdom team and the Germany team were in the final.


In the end, it was won by the United Kingdom team. I got a photograph of the interviews at the end of the race.


After the race, the action was not over yet as BBC's 'Top Gear' decided to put on a race for their upcoming series. The show is now hosted by Chris Evans, and he gave commentary and interviewed the drivers.


I hope you've enjoyed the photographs.

Street Art by Said Dokins & Oliver Switch

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As mentioned over the past few weeks, Mexican street artists have taken over London. I've already covered work by Stinkfish, Acaro and Mazatl and collaborations with Mazatl and Fusca. This post covers another Mexican street artist, Said Dokins. Said has been in London for a few weeks now, and I've noticed his work around the city in several places. His work is comprised of beautiful typography with colour to create works of art. The newest mural is on Hanbury Street and is titled 'Alive'. 



The same wall has changed frequently recently, and Ampparito was another artist to have his work painted up with an image of bait. The artist is from Spain, and his work only lasted a few days before it was painted over with the work below.


Street artist Oliver Switch also painted on the wall a portrait of musician Raury. I normally do not post advertising on this blog, but I thought that this piece was really stunning. This was replaced by Said Dokins' piece.



The work on this wall has not lasted long this year, so be quick to visit.

I received the "Enchanted Spells" Selfridges Beauty Advent calendar last year, and Selfridge's have a new one this year with similar products. I wanted to review all of the products before posting as I did not have time to try each new product each day, and I had to open up the first few days all at once after I had returned from holiday. Each window contains a secret "spell" as to what the item is, and I typically guessed correctly on each day what the type of product would be. The packaging for the advent calendar looks like a large book.


1. Yves Saint Laurent Opium perfume: This perfume is described as having a spicy Oriental scent, and it is a blend of various spices (clove, bay leaf, coriander, pepper), floral (jasmine, rose), and wood tones (sandalwood, cedar, myrrh). This perfume is not something that I would typically wear as I do not tend to use spicer tones, but it is nice and is a strong scent.

2. Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser: This facial cleanser claims to clean make-up off skin and provide deep cleaning without drying out the skin or stripping the skin of its natural oils.

3. Lancôme's Rénergie Multi-Lift cream: This anti-aging cream promises to create a youthful complexion. It absorbs into the skin and does not feel greasy. I like the product when compared with other similar products.

4. Lancôme Galatéis Douceur: This is a facial cleanser and make-up remover. The product has a nice scent, and it left my face feeling soft and clean. It isn't too harsh, and I used it to remove my eye makeup without it stinging my eyes.

5. Shu Uemura Skin Purifier: This skin purifier promises to clean and moisturise skin while supporting collagen production.


6. Lancôme's La Vie Est Belle perfume: This is a sweet and powdery scent, and it's not too over-powering. 

7. Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream: This facial cream promises to moisturise the skin. 

8. YSL Forever Youth Liberator: This is an anti-aging serum that helps the skin appear younger and firmer. The product has quite a lot of good reviews and it is costly. This felt cool on my skin, but I need to use it more to see if it does what it claims.

9. Armani Code perfume: This is a light and powdery, slightly floral scent and described as being an Oriental scent. It is made from orange, vanilla, and jasmine. This is a floral but sophisticated scent and would be good for office or going out for a nice dinner. I loved this and would purchase the full size.

10. Lancôme L'Absolu Rouge 6 lipstick: This is a pale pink lipstick which would look good on most skin tones. I liked the product and did not find it to be too lumpy in texture.

11. Lancôme Mascara: This mascara is not too clumpy, and it has a subtle result. The brush is quite a good one, which is important for mascara, in that it separates the lashes before coating them.

12. Armani Diamonds perfume: This is a floral scent with rose, lychee and raspberry notes. Although categorised as floral, it is a grown-up scent and a scent that I'd wear to the office or on a night out.


13. Kiehl's Midnight Recovery: This is an anti-aging product designed to work while you sleep. I've not yet managed to test the product, but Kiehl's products get a lot of praise, so I expect that it does the trick.

14. Lancôme Hypnose Drama Mascara: This is the brand's best-selling mascara and covers the lashes without too much effort with an angled brush.

15. Yves Saint Laurent eye liner: This is a black liner, which is easy to apply and is waterproof. I like the product.

16. Lancôme Genifique Yeux Light Pearl: This product has a metal 'pearl' applicator that is dipped into the cream and massaged onto the eye area. The applicator feels cool to the skin, which refreshes the eye area. I found that the application was slighly difficult and clumps of the cream ended up in my lashes. 

17. Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion: Primer helps maintain the colour of eyeshadow before it's applied, and this product delivers.

18. Lancôme Visionnaire: This product promises to smooth the skin and make pores and wrinkles appear smaller in size. I've not had the chance to try the product yet.

19. Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb perfume: This is a very flowery and powdery scent that contains jasmine, orchid, fressia and rose. The scent is a delicate one and not over-powering. I felt that it did not have the longevity as other similar floral perfumes. I'm not overly impressed with this.

20. Lancôme Bi-Fical: This product is a remover for eye make-up. This product worked really well at clearing off mascara and eye shadow, and I loved that it did not sting my eyes. For me, it's a better product than the Galatéis Douceur product that I reviewed above because it seems to do a better job at removing eye make-up. I may have to purchase this when I run out.

21. Lancôme Lip Lover gloss (in 'bright berry-pink'): This lip gloss is a pink shade, but it's not overly-bright. This seems like a colour that may work well for most skin tones. It is not a sticky gloss and seems to wear well, but it just isn't for me.

22. Lancôme Advanced Genifique: This product promises to make skin appear younger. It's another anti-aging product that I have not yet tried.

23.  Lancôme Lip Lover gloss (in 'framboise etoile'): This is another lip gloss similar to the one behind the #21 window. This is a bright reddish shade of lip gloss. I found that it was too bright for me, and I did not care for it.

24. Kiehl's Creme de Corps: This body cream promises soft skin if used for ten days. I used this on my hands, and it did seem to make a difference, but I was a bit underwhelmed with the product. 

Bom.K's Green Mural on Pedley Street

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French street artist Bom.K is not a stranger to painting in London. In 2012, the artist painted on a high profile wall at the corner of Brick Lane and Hanbury Street, and this was a collaboration with Liliwenn. This year, Bom.K was in London during the Monkier Art Fair where artists exhibit and sell their work. I visited it last year (covered in my post here) but did not get to this year, but I recommend going. 


The new mural is on Pedley Street in the middle of Brick Lane and features a sickly green-like figure and oxygen mask. The use of spray paint and style captures the light and shadow in a unique way, and this is one of the more stunning pieces to grace the same wall this year.


When I walked by this piece a couple of weekends ago, I overheard one of the street artist tour guides telling the group that the mural glows in the dark underneath the street lamp. I don't have any photographs of this, but hopefully one of my readers can confirm.

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