Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Sluttery Travels: Film, Fizz and Facials at One Aldwych

Nestled at the far edge of Theatreland, just a few steps away from Somerset House, One Aldwych is something of a landmark London building, with its flatiron-inspired shape and huge double-height lobby and bar area (a throwback to its days as a newspaper office).

The hotel itself has perhaps lived in the shadows of more avant-garde rivals (like the Alice in Wonderland-esque Sanderson, and the decadent Zetter Townhouse), but on my visit I was there to discover some of its hidden gems. 

On the face of it, One Aldwych is a classic 5 star business hotel. It's smart, classic, timeless and inoffensive, with well-appointed rooms, good facilities, and a killer location. Decor is tasteful but not too adventurous, with lots of whites, blues, greys, calming colours and - apparently - a 400 piece art collection. Staff are attentive and friendly, sofas are plentiful, wifi is free, and rooms are well soundproofed.

But hidden behind the contemporary facade are some amazing little secrets. The spa, for example, where a relaxing vitamin C facial left my skin glowing and my mood elevated. The indoor pool, has underwater music and barely any patrons. And the bar is a joy, where cocktails come in glass teapots steaming with dry ice, nuts and snacks are refilled continuously, and ladies who lunch pile up to try the incredible-looking afternoon tea.

Our trip included a chance to experience Film & Fizz. For just over £45 each you get to see a (recent) film in the hotel’s luxurious screening room, with a glass of champagne and popcorn, followed by dinner in one of the hotel’s two restaurants. Our Sunday afternoon screening was so quiet it felt very much like we’d stumbled upon our own private cinema. Watching films this way was far more peaceful than going to your local Vue, and the champagne was a nice touch (my only gripe was that once the film started, nobody was on hand to provide the top-ups I would have happily paid for). 

Dinner following the film is from a selected menu, but we easily found something we fancied for each of the three courses. The terrine was good, the lamb and polenta was beautiful (though why is everyone so obsessed with polenta at the moment?) and the fruit meringue the perfect finish. The mezzanine restaurant is comfy and quiet and the sommelier was able to do the impossible, and find us a white wine that went with lamb. The deal doesn’t include wine, which can push prices up, so I’d advise splashing out on a cocktail before dinner rather than buying a bottle if you're on a budget. The Charlie is worth every penny for show if nothing else!

Film & Fizz is basically one of London’s best posh dates. Break the ice with a cocktail, watch a good film, then have something to talk about over dinner. Being in the hotel means you can then add on whatever you want, like the ultimate hot date pick and mix. Start off with a spa treatment, finish with late night drinks or even book a night in the hotel to keep that date going!

If you do end up staying over, it's worth bearing in mind the breakfast is one of the best I’ve ever had in a London hotel. Let's just say they don't scrimp on the smoked salmon!

Room rates at One Aldwych start at £264. Film and Fizz is £47.50 per person. Click here for future screeningsWe were guests of One Aldwych, but we may have splashed out on a few extra cocktails!

Design Porn: Thibaud Herem

I've had a design crush on French illustrator Thibaud Herem ever since Frances bought me his Herb Lester London Writing Map. He's the clever chap behind the architectural colouring book Draw Me A House and when he's not busy playing colouring in (definitely not going over the lines), he's drawing cool stuff for folk like Anya Hindmarch and Esquire.

Today I've been exploring the rest of his work and I've found that a lot of the pieces are available to buy as prints. Obviously I want all of the London prints.

Some of my best night's out in London have been at KOKO. I got to see The Pretenders play a fantastic gig here in 2006. It was one of the first nightclubs I visited in London, back when it was Camden Palace (I wore much more eye make-up then). I have a bit of a soft spot for its scruffy, misplaced grandeur.

Have you been to The George on Strand? It's been there since around 1723 and it's probably one of the most beautiful pubs in London. And perhaps the skinniest.

The Michelin Building is one of the most famous in London. It was built in 1911 and was originally used as a tyre depot. Now it's the home of The Conran Shop.

The Radiator Building is a fine example of London's Art Deco. It's on Great Marlborough Street/Argyll Street and was built in 1929. If memory serves it has a forgettable cafe housed in the lower floor now. All of the cafes in this stretch of London seem to be forgettable.

Thibaud Herem's prints are £80 each but you'll find lots of them in his new London Deco book (27% off at Foyles, bargain). I like that Thibauld always looks like he's always having fun with his work. His illustrations are so detailed and beautiful, but with smatterings of history and interesting focal points. Thibauld only draws things he loves and his work is all the better for it.

Sluttishly Savoury: Ginger & Lime Chicken Burgers

It's been pretty glorious weather where I live recently. The smell of optimistic barbecuing has filled the air, and the menfolk have whipped off their tops. One of these is a consistently good thing (barbecues), and one can be a little hit or miss (naked torsos). Ah well. You win some, you lose some, eh? The upshot is, I now want to eat nothing but burgers, come rain or shine.

These chicken burgers are packed with zesty, fresh flavours - ginger and lime are brilliant pals, and the sesame-breadcrumb crust provides a bit of interesting crunch. I fried mine, but you could cook them under the grill if you prefer. They're really juicy and delicious - they'd work well as meatballs, too, served with noodles and a little soy sauce.

Ginger & Lime Chicken Burgers (makes 6-8)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: Less than 10 minutes
You will need:
  • 650g chicken or turkey mince
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2- or 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • Juice and pulp of 1 lime
  • Pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1 large egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 100g panko breadcrumbs
  • 50g sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • A generous glug of olive oil for frying
  • Buns
  • Coriander and/or salad leaves to serve (optional)
Make it!
  1. In a large bowl, mix the mince, spring onion, garlic, fresh ginger, ground ginger, lime juice and pulp, chilli flakes, egg, and salt and pepper with your hands. 
  2. Combine the breadcrumbs and sesame seeds in a bowl that's big enough to dip a burger-sized, um, burger into. Put the flour in a separate, similarly-sized bowl. 
  3. In a large frying pan, heat some oil. While it's heating up, make your first burger by taking a dollop of meat mix (the size is up to you - I went supersize!), rolling it into a ball, then flattening it into a disc. Dip into the flour, sparsely coating the outside, and then into the breadcrumbs, making sure all exposed bits of burger are nicely covered. Pop in the pan, and fry for about 5-7 minutes, flipping over halfway through (the length of time you fry for will depend on the size of your burger). Keep making and adding burgers during this time.
  4. Remove each from the pan as it's ready, and drain on a bit of kitchen roll if necessary (I didn't think it was). Serve on buns, with some coriander and salad leaves for greenery.

Scout & Co: Gifts For Kids You'll Want Yourself


I went to see my god daughter over Easter. She's nearly two, and thus deserving of a present. But really, all this weekend proved is that Peppa Pig is her ruling master (along with mummy, naturally.) I went to see Peppa Pig at the theatre with her on Saturday and was treated to the awe-inspiring sight that is a MASSIVE group of children all going "Aaaah, Peppa!" like the aliens in Toy Story might go "The Claaaaaaw!"

Anyway. While I bask in the glow that comes from giving a 23-month-old Peppa Pig addict a Peppa Easter book, I'm planning her next present. Or at least, presents that don't involve Peppa. Funnily enough, everything I've found at Scout & Co is really something I'd quite like myself.

This fabulous wooden Instagram camera would go down a TREAT with a number of design-hungry Instagram addicts I know. However it's not for them - it's for their kids.

I KNOW. Not fair. Not fair at all. But that is the entire point of Scout & Co, a gorgeous online boutique which stocks bright, fabulous toys and accessories for children that are also beautifully designed by a range of brilliant companies. That camera is made by Twig Creative from sustainable wood, cork and leather and costs £24.


We've sung the praises of Robin and Mould a couple of times over the years, and they are just fabulous. Sod the children, these alphabet cat and fox cushions are just lovely, and £20 each. No bloody pigs in sight.

This 3D lion card from Mibo in Hove is in the sale at £2. "Hang on, wut? That's not 3D."

Ok, how about now? YES!

No, really, it comes with a cut-out template to make your very own 3D lion. Also comes in fox and owl varieties, both still at £2. Mibo has also teamed up with Coq en Pâte to make the most beautiful rucksacks with their designs on - utterly gorgeous and £30.

My walls are drowning in beautiful prints and I clearly don't need any more. But oh, this alphabet tree by Hannah Sager Forsberg is just delicious. It's £20, and clearly less use at actually teaching the alphabet than my old Flower Fairies one was, but just so lovely.

While we're on the subject of prints I can't buy for my walls: this! This Pirum Parum poster from Fine Little Day is based on a Swedish nursery rhyme. Check out Apple Papple and the non-nursery rhyme assigned furious tomato posters too, all £28 each.

Robot crayons? For a fiver? That's Laura B and Sian's birthdays sorted nicely.

This Russian Doll wrapping paper from 1973 is just fabulous, and £2.50 a sheet. In fact, all their wrapping paper designs are beautiful - check them out. The Owl and the Pussycat makes me smile for lots of reasons. And oh, those lovely apples and pears!

This game is going to end expensively.

Really though, Scout & Co is a treasure trove of gorgeous designs, and wonderful presents: and when you've finished buying stuff for yourself, there is plenty for children to lap up too.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Sluttishly Sweet: Coconut Nests

There are some people that don't like chocolate. There are also people who eat too much chocolate over the Easter period and never want to look at chocolate again until ... the following week. Or perhaps you've already used up all your chocolate in our clever every flavour chocolate cupcakes

These little coconut nests are the perfect solution. They are incredibly delicious, bite size coconut morsels of joy – crunchy on the outside with soft and pillowy innards. They are embarrassingly easy to make and don't require any special ingredients other than desiccated coconut, available from most local corner shops. Oh, and they have the added bonus of being gluten free. 

Coconut Bites (makes about 16)
Preparation Time: 5mins
Fridge Time: 30mins
Cooking Time: 10mins
  • 200g desiccated coconut
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 50g butter, melted
Make it!
  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Leave the mix in the fridge for about half an hour, to firm up (it can be left for a few days).
  3. When you're ready to bake, heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4.
  4. Shape the mixture into little balls, a bit smaller than a golf ball (don't make them too neat). 
  5. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. 

Design Porn: Scarves of Joy

"Ooh, that geometric scarf is quite pretty."

That was a little snippet of conversation that I had in my head over Easter. Joy have absolutely outdone themselves with this scarf range. I really do like the idea of being wrapped up in a secret unicorn. Look, he comes in blue as well.

Even before you realise it's got a unicorn on it, that's a damn pretty scarf. I love a scarf in spring. They're ideal for this 'the sun is out yet I'm still freezing my tits off' weather.

It's a long-established fact that unicorns make even brilliant things better. Geometric patterns are also fab. Lovely bright blues are quite brilliant indeed. I've run out of boxes to tick.

If unicorns aren't really your bag then you've probably stumbled across this site by mistake maybe I can tempt you with this blue animal print scarf.

It's a giraffe! With a bird perched on his head!

I think I prefer him in red. He looks like he's going for a nap around your neck while you're stood waiting for the 472 bus.

Each wonderful scarf is £18 from Joy. I love them all and can't see them sticking around for long so if you want one, move quickly. I'll be running to my local Joy at the speed of a giraffe - that's around 35mph. Unicorns don't run very fast, they're too busy pissing about with rainbows and joy.

Baking for Beginners: Every-Flavour Chocolate Cupcakes

Anyone who read (or watched) Harry Potter will remember Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans... well, these cupcakes are a bit like that. Except there aren't any nasty surprises lurking, just a variety of delicious chocolate bursts.

Here at DSHQ we're well known for creating unholy cake combinations, like these ever-popular Creme Egg Surprises. Everyone knows that once the Easter egg chocolate is long-finished, there are all the extras hanging around, those chocolate bars that you can't quite face on their own. Here's a way to combine them into a surprise round of cupcakes (perfect if there's any you don't like much). Kids will love to help make these, too.

Every Flavour Chocolate Cupcakes (Makes 8 large or 12 small)
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
You will need:
  • A selection of chocolate bars, cut into pieces, or sweets, 8-12. (I used pieces of Snickers, Dairy Milk Caramel and a couple of random chocolates...)
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • A few squares of chocolate, to decorate
Make it!
  1. Cut your chocolate bars into 1 inch pieces (if using), then put your chocolates in a ziplock bag or similar and place in the freezer for at least half an hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a muffin or cupcake tray with cupcake cases.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. 
  4. Add in the eggs once at a time, with a spoonful of flour to stop the mixture from splitting. Beat well in between. 
  5. Sift together the remaining flour and cocoa powder, and carefully fold in using a metal spoon. 
  6. Gently stir in the milk and vanilla essence. 
  7. Fill the cupcakes cases a quarter full, then take one of your frozen chocolate pieces and press gently into the middle of the batter. Cover the chocolate with more batter. Repeat with the others.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until firm and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. 
  9. Remove from the tin and leave to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack. 
  10. Melt a few squares of chocolate and drizzle it over the top of the cakes to decorate. Eat warm, whilst the surprise centres are still lovely and gooey...
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