My friends and I are realising the joy of midweek evenings. Of course we still see the weekend as the unmissable chance to see each other and let the working week slip away with the help of a cocktail and a dance floor, but now that is not enough. Five days is simply too long to trudge home after work, still holding the jumble of deadlines and delegations in your mind, while pondering if that dented tin of soup is still at the back of the cupboard. No, we need a pick-me-up in the middle of our working week to save hump day from being an excuse to dig out the takeaway menus. We need a real catch up to talk through the highs and tolls that life brings with each Monday, and we also need that Friday night of good food and chat before heading off to loud, distracting bars.
This is when we swoop upon the restaurants of Birmingham and have that initial conundrum of choosing our destination. I was offered an evening for two at Browns Brasserie and Bar, nestled warmly in Bullring's Spiceal Street; the central hub surrounded by the vibrant architecture of St. Martin's Church and the Selfridges silver domes. It was a case of knowing exactly where it was but never having had it pop into my mind as a destination to head to.
With a thrilled pal in tow, we were welcomed into the sophisticated space, warmly lit with cosy corners and an open view onto the vast church. Stylish and contemporary, this is a perfect date place. A spacious table plan, flattering lighting and a soft ambience ticks all of my date night boxes!
I was pleasantly surprised by the extensive menu. Alongside a dedicated limited edition tender beef menu that my friend appreciated, the options across the starters and sharers made way for light mains, mains and grills. And many will be happy to note this includes gluten free options such as lobster and fries, and vegan options such as courgette, mint & lemon tagliatelle, to name but a few. I had earlier surrendered to the temptation of looking at the menu online before arriving as my new favourite thing is to choose our dish during the day so you can look forward to it! I was day dreaming of the whole baked Somerset Camembert but the variety of the Fisherman's platter trumped all other dishes. Severn & Wye smoked salmon, salt & pepper squid, Devon crab on toast, British mussels, and warm toasted bread. The bread was indeed warm, the salmon was indeed smoked, and the platter was certainly worthy of any fisherman's prize offering. I think with seafood you either love it or you steer clear, and this starter is for the seafood appreciation society. We accompanied this with the light feta salad, with the variety of tomatoes being a colourful twist.
Onto the mains. Oh what a revelation this lobster was! I'm now a lobster fan and I'm willing to share this with the internet. I had never tried lobster before! I feel the opportunity had never crossed my path and that is rather tragic! Despite the Browns signature cheesy fish pie and the sea bass generously accompanied by a stew of prawns, mussels and squid, I feel lobster is having it's moment right now and I had to get on board, mind the pun. It was a fresh, light, delicious treat and the perfect portion with perfectly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside chips and a mayonnaise with an avocado twist. I'm a lobster convert!
My friend opted for the steak and gave it beyond full marks. Browns have their own British farms to rear their own cattle so you can trust in the source of your steak.
Could we fit in any more food? There's always room for dessert! The menu was a struggle. Sticky toffee pudding, salted caramel profiteroles, caramelised lemon tart, or my current favourite, creme brulee? Decisions, decisions! But something called me to the banoffee pie with caramelised banana and chocolate popping candy. That certainly gave a subtle tingle to the rich caramel sauce and sugary white icing of the pie. It was like the best birthday cake with a gooey banana side and it completely disappeared from this plate! My friend opted for the chocolate brownie with the huge dollop of honeycomb ice cream and toffee sauce and was equally pleased.
Put Browns on your agenda and prepare for a perfectly satisfying evening. It's going to stay on my list for date options and also as a great option for family visits or group outings! Not forgetting to thank our super helpful waiter Domas for looking after us too!
There's a new brand on my makeup radar and it's super kitsch, super cute and super cult. TONY MOLY is a beauty hit hailing from South Korea but now we can get our paws on these adorable products at Selfridges. It's ALL about the super food ingredients in the best packing ever. Quality and cuteness!
I've been trialling the Egg Pore silky smooth balm, Panda's Dream hand cream and Mini Berry lip balm and it's been a fun ride. The lip balm and hand cream have taken pride of place on my work desk and have achieved endless compliments for their adorable aesthetics. I feel like the punchy designs contribute to my office feng sui of feeling inspired yet chic. I love to add a little fun into my routine. The hand cream is whipped with a light honey fragrance so it hydrates my hands and wrists rather than greasing them up so I'm unable to type for five minutes, and gives them a nice healthy glow. The cherry lip balm has a flushing coral tint for a pretty flash of colour. The formula is also thicker than your average lip pot. I can't stand slippery lip products and this is much more soothing and impactful on parched lips.
I've been applying the Egg Pore primer to my nose area to blur out those dreaded pores that foundation just will not mask. It's more of a waxy balm than a stiff, drying silicone and allows foundation to smooth over rather than stick. The hydration is much appreciated during these months of switching up baking office heating with freezing air when I walk to and from work. Do I need a car yet? Still not sure!
Don't miss the fun beauty cubes in the Selfridges beauty hall; they house some sweet wonders that will perk up your makeup bag and make a welcome difference to your routine. Makeup bag or fruit bowl? Why not both!
I haven't been giving my hair the attention it deserves recently. Sure it still needs the 40 minute blow dry every time I wash it, and my Mi ceramic brush is literally a dream for frizz-fighting, but that's been enough to pack away my hair tongs and let is do whatever it wants to once dry. Nowadays I leave 5 minutes to comb any flyaways before throwing on my Joni jeans and heading out.
It could be because recently I feel like I just have no time! I don't get home from work until around 7pm and sometimes I find myself thinking fondly of my University days (which began almost 10 years ago, ARGH) when I reserved myself three hours to get ready, which featured the curling, straightening and careful arrangement of my hair so it was picture perfect. Back then things were more glamorous and today I'm content with being slightly more laid back, but I am wanting to make the most my locks again and push the boat out.
In the summer I had the bright idea of dying my hair rose gold. I took a bunch of pictures to the salon and already had my balayage. It's grown out slightly now to more ombré level so before taking it higher again, I fancied a colour change. I ended up with a dark red that faded into peach instead of the all over pinky peach hue I wanted, so it was a few months before the dark red became a slightly lighter colour. The salon had used a toner on the ends and recommended the Bleach London Awkward Peach dye once it had washed out, and damn I love this stuff!
It's hard to pick out photos that show the exact tone but I hope these from my Ibiza holiday do it justice! The best thing about Awkward Peach is that is ISN'T an orange, its a neutral peach with a hint of cool pink. I added a 1/3 of a bottle of The Big Pink to give it even more of a pink tint. That dye goes really far so be careful! It also washes out without staining your hair which is key for me as other dyes I've tried recently have left a brassy shade (posts coming soon). The only drawback is that I use a whole bottle in one sitting and after around 4 washes there are no traces left.
To achieve rose gold it would need more of a metallic tint but hopefully I can find a nearby salon that stocks Guy Tang and I'll be on my way! Maybe dye is like hair cuts; it takes a while to 'break' them in but once you know what you have to work with, a routine will form!
It's January: the peak time for booking holidays. I already have one booked up for February as I really do work to travel at this point in my life/career/single status, and you may be pondering your 2017 destinations too. Ibiza could be a destination you hadn't considered (or you just like to read my super long holiday adventures?!) so I have a series of posts coming up this week of my trip to Ibiza in October!
Now my friends and I usually choose cheap, obscure cities for our holidays so we only need to use a few days annual leave and we can be assured we won't exclusively meet a) teenagers or b) British tourists, but also we look to party every night and sight see every day. Sleep is not part of the itinerary evidently! Ibiza came about because we wanted some late winter sun, wanted to stay in Europe and wanted some fuss-free nightlife. I've always been intrigued by Ibiza because I've always told myself I'm not enough of a beach babe to shine somewhere that a bikini is a dress code. Since the slightly disastrous trip to Dubai, I knew I never felt great with my hair bundled up to combat any sea water and the sand rubbing off my fake tan. I prefer cities to beaches and don't like sitting all day... or so I thought. Once October rolled around, all I wanted to do was sit in warm sunshine sipping cocktails! I didn't want to soak up culture or creativity; I just wanted to relax with a capital R. We spotted a super cheap deal and booked up!
I spent a few weeks shopping for cute bikinis in the sales and making an itinerary of secluded beaches. In Dubai we were super rushed to get ready each day and I felt almost scruffy compared to the luxe vibes there, but this time I had all of the pretty damn lovely holiday clothes I'd bought especially for that holiday and never got to wear, plus it all fitted neatly into a hand luggage-sized suitcase as jumpers, jeans and heels were not needed. I packed loads of headwraps, beachy jewellery and a head full of hair style ideas in order to feel happy on a beach. I didn't know how that would fare but read on to hear my revaluation.
It was actually pretty funny to be going to a classic holiday destination in an Inbetweeners-style jaunt. It was somewhere we knew we didn't need to take too seriously. I had low expectations as October was officially out of season, and while some places were still open, most of the prestige super clubs and beach parties were well and truly over. A few cocktails at a cheesy bar and a few books on the beach suited me fine! And as the UK was heading straight into autumn, it was great to pack a bag bursting with colour, choose a fluorescent orange for my nails and bring out the sandals, sun cream and shorts. I didn't care about going to the gym or glamming up before we went as there was no prestige, no expectation and no drama with this trip. It was one of the first holidays I felt no pressure to be extremely prepared and make the absolute most of; I was more curious to see what vibes this island had to offer.
Our flight was during the day time so we leisurely headed to our very local airport and were treated to a World Duty Free experience before our flight. We first perused what was new at the counters and admired the insane Liptensity shades at MAC, taking some awesome tips from the MUA who had lived in Ibiza for a few seasons. For some reason my friend and I bought the most ridiculous shades as we were SO in the Ibiza spirit, and I pictured myself rocking purple lipstick with my space buns and bikini at a fabulous pool party. Oh yes!
We wandered over to the new Jo Malone area that felt a world away from the bustling airport departures and explored the different scents. I chose Oud and Bergamot for my complimentary hand massage, and just check out my tan! I'd gone a little wild in my holiday prep and made the rookie error of not scrubbing my hands straight after. The hand massage definitely took the edge off this and was an absolute dream before our flight. I'm not the easiest of flyers but I am a huge fan of holistic remedies and even a short massage with the delicious scents helped to set the tone for a smooth and easy flight.
Some trashy chic lit later and we were zipping through Ibiza at dusk to our hotel. I'm not sure what I expected but it was at first a series of long tarmaced roads boardered with brash billboards of the hottest parties of the season. It was quite peculiar to know these dates had all passed and we had arrived to somewhere that was winding down. The hotel had a lobby full of a few towel-wrapped holiday makers and laminated evening entertainment programmes, and our room was something out of the '70s. Pink tiles, wooden sliding doors and turquoise pattered curtains contained two wooden single beds. The TV was ancient and the balcony view was of air conditioners and Burger King, but the room was massive, airy and cool. We grabbed some drinks and snacks from the open shop across the street and welcomed the other half of our foursome who had flown in from London and had most definitely already started the cocktail party on the plane!
I'd spent a summer in jeans and crop tops so quickly showering and cracking out a strappy orange mini dress from Pretty Little Thing, diamante choker from Claire's and flat embellished sandals felt damn amazing. Sandals! There's something so freeing about going strictly casual but of course all-out at the same time and only taking 15 minutes to get ready. Somehow a little makeup goes a long way and I had nothing to prove. Unfortunately we hadn't realised the average age of the hotel guests was around 65 and we were told instantly by the knocking night porter that any sound would not be tolerated. We sipped and chatted and selfied as quietly as we could before grabbing out clutch bags and doing that satisfying here-come-the-girls strut out to the cabs.
We made the mistake of taking one across the island from San Antonio to Playa D'en Bossa but the advertised pool party was like a ghost town! Luckily two of the group stayed in the taxi while we crept through the entrance and onto a completely deserted beach, made ever so eerie by the dark crashing waves. Back in the cab, we sailed back to the West End and found there too almost everywhere was shut up. We followed the calls of music and stumbled across one bar with just enough of a small crowd meaning we were constantly served within ten seconds and could request almost all of the music.
And that's how our first night went! I don't have any photos to share because they are all candid shots of us piling onto the single beds and talking each other into wearing our most fabulous dresses, but you can be sure it was a perfect first night! Maybe beach holidays were better than I first thought? Tune back in later for more!
Hi guys! I'm finally back on my blog after a few weeks of turmoil and being locked firmly out, but I'm here again! I felt like I was back in a groove and now I've got so many things to share, starting with a sweet evening I spent at Jamie's Italian. I've been to the Bullring destination before, with it's huge wooden beams, yellow metal chairs and damn tasty dishes. While I'd sampled a summer menu of light bruschetta and elderflower cocktails then, this time I delved into the winter menu.
Now you know you are excited for a dinner when you check out the menu before you even arrive. That day I perused the fresh pasta and loaded pizzas online but actually chose a few antipasti and cortorni dishes. It's a classic vegetarian (or pescatarian in my case) option to choose a few starters and sides as a main, despite eyeing up a rare vegetarian bolognese, wild mushroom ravioli and truffle shuffle pizza. I absolutely love fried gnocchi but have never mastered the knack of creating it myself so these were absolutely addictive with lashings of Parmesan fonduta - a creamy, tangy sauce sprinkled with crispy sage.
I accompanied these with my restaurant favourite, and again another dish I can't just whip up at home, the crispy squid. Unlike a usual chewy calamari, these melt-in-the-mouth bites of curly squid had a feather light texture and taste, perfectly complimented by chilli, garlic and parsley, and a creamy house aioli with a hint of paprika.
I rounded these off with spicy fries, perfectly slim and crisped up with a fiery kick, and treated myself to a wobbly vanilla yoghurt panna cotta, mixing up the texture with spiced crumble and a zingy orange zest. It was almost like an indulgent breakfast that completed a full-flavour meal that was so tasty, I am looking forward to sampling even more of these delicious delights again hopefully soon.
I don’t think I’m a ‘brow girl’ as I never feel like I have mine quite right. Not only are my brows two different shapes - I even feel like the two sides of my face are sisters rather than twins! Symmetry is not my best feature! I need help and guidance in this area but my brows have been looking more than groomed over this party season thanks to a trip to the Benito Brow Bar in Debenhams Bullring for their collaboration with High Definition (HD).
I lay back in the chair and my brows were threaded, plucked and tinted into a defined set that literally lifted my no-makeup face from sad to sculpted! Rather than a hop in-and-out of the chair experience from my local nail shop, there’s a tailored approach to totally transform your current brows. If you’re needing an overhaul like me, trust the experts and give your sisters a whole new look. Trust me, your eye makeup will never look better!
I also bumped into Ting and she kindly filmed the experience for my weekly vlog below. Thank you Ting! Enjoy with a cuppa (or a Christmas Baileys!).
When I find something I love, I want everyone to love it! There are so many beauty treats I hail but I feel like everyone should try a facial. The heaven of this practice is one of my favourite things!
I recently had a complimentary Professional Skin Treatment with Dermalogica at Selfridges Bullring, with skin expert, Helen. There is a secluded treatment room on the beauty floor and a host of Dermalogica products were waiting. The treatment began with a snuggly dressing gown, a soft bed made extra toasty by a warming blanket and plush quilt, and the delicate music that makes you question why you don’t listen to twinkly piano sounds all day, every day.
The best elements of the Dermalogica experience is that it is completely tailored to your own skin. There is no dry/combination/oily category to fall into; your own skin menu is created as a tailored process that is even customised to the different areas of your face. This is kicked off by a FaceMapping Skin Analysis, though you wouldn’t know it as you drift off into a blissful snooze.
Next will be stages of a deep double cleanse, tailored exfoliation, professional Galvanic current, a masque and hydrating finishing products, which sounds rather like a landscape gardener’s day job but is actually a therapeutic series of actual therapy for your skin, and even your mind and spirit. The reason I love facials is that you feel so relaxed and light after. It must be the combination of the way the techniques and massage affects your sinuses and releases toxins, and it’s a chance to completely zone out.
Compared with facials I've had in the past, this felt supremely balancing and restorative. Once you wake up slowly and head back into the real world, at Dermalogica you have the chance to see the results of your skin mapping and delve into just what your skin is asking for. You’re not sent on your way or pitched the newest brand release; you are educated on the way your skin behaves and Helen was so insightful, and especially warm and chatty with a real passion for the results of the brand. You get to take away the map of your skin types and a list of specially chosen products, and for example the ‘touch sensitivity’ areas numbered in mine were completely the areas that turn a bright pink after patting in my moisturiser or smoothing on a serum each day despite how gentle I am!
I couldn’t resist picking up two new cleansers; the Ultracalming Cleanser, a light gel that is perfect for a no-fuss morning cleanse, and the Daily Microfoliant that I’ve owned in the past, an enzyme based exfoliator that clears those dead skin cells in the gentlest way by turning from a powder into a thin milk when you add plenty of water.
The next time my skin feels off balance, congested and calling for some TLC, I’ll be following Dermalogica for their calendared weeks at the Selfridges treatment room. You can scope a live version of events in my weekly vlog below too!
Since visiting in February and subsequent trips for a prosecco dinners with girlfriends or light lunch between shopping, I’ve kept Chi Kitchen as a favourite hidden-gem dining experience. This calm haven is home to the tastiest Eastern-inspired dishes; my favourite to enjoy when I’m heading off to party or getting spendy at Bullring. Asian food can leave you satisfyingly full yet not sluggish or heavy, despite the menu at Chi Kitchen tempting you to order so many intriguing dishes. It’s the delicious flavours that I could never achieve in my own kitchen, plus the beautiful presentation that allows this corner restaurant to be a perfect day time or evening date hotspot. Each time I’ve visited it has been a mix of couples, families or friends, and each table will be heaving with the colourful offerings. Completely satisfying yet interesting, surprising and exciting!
I was invited to try their new Christmas menu, offering a taster of the best of South East Asia, from crispy spring rolls to light gyoza to a fragrant curry. I sampled each dish (well, the pescetarian ones!) and found the best Chilli Prawns I’ve ever had, not only coated in a crispy batter but encased in a sweet and sticking sauce.
The Vegetable Nyonya Curry put any takeaway offering to shame as I loved the opportunity to slather the Egg Fried Rice and Snow Peas in plenty of thick, creamy sauce as generous as this, still keeping the vegetables fresh and crunchy. I always appreciate a range of veggies too rather than a boring selection. The sticky, rich Salmon Teriyaki offered the option of the hearty main I’d want if I was looking to feel extra warmed and full this season. And I'll definitely be sprinkling fries with fresh red chilli from now on for a fiery twist.
Rounding off was one of my typical favourite choices of gyoza with a sweet apple twist, and the perfect walnut chocolate brownie drizzled in a blood orange custard. Not forgetting the perfect Mixed Berry Bellini cocktail to set off any evening at Chi Kitchen a treat.
I can’t wait to work my way through this menu in the new year and continue to try new dishes that I already know are right up my street!
Hey guys! Did you know I have been posting weekly vlogs recently? How did you not! I’ve been picking up my camera a little more recently, as inspired by a host of weekly vloggers who are paving the way for a more natural style of content. You will have seen in a most recent vlog that I popped over to my mom’s house to talk everything Christmas, and her house is absolute Pinterest goals.
I’m apparently notorious to buy for as I’m one of those people who will just buy everything they want themselves; I don’t like to wait! I’m really not afraid to treat myself either, but here is my list of the things that are just too indulgent for my usual weekly shop.
My mom helped me to recreate the Bailey’s Eggnog recipe from thebar.com to enjoy as we nattered. It's one of their Christmas cocktails and it was darn delicious! Christmas is the time to indulge in everything rich and warming, and this recipe incorporates classic Baileys with spicy cinnamon. Heavenly!
Happy Halloween ghouls and gals! Last week I hurried along to a frightfully fabulous beauty event held at Debenhams Bullring and it seriously got me in the spooky spirit. OK I'll quit the puns there, but it got me oh so inspired for Halloween and you can see my look here!
Debenhams hosted an extravaganza of Halloween beauty and we bloggers were treated to a masterclass from different counters. I don't always head to Debenhams first for my makeup buys but with the likes of Illamasqua and Make Up For Ever on my doorstep now, my product wishlist just got a whole lot longer.
First we followed a contoured skeleton look at Make Up For Ever, home of the HD foundation that was possibly my first ever Kardashian-inspired purchase circa 2011. I love the concession area they have now and these are the light-up mirrors of my dreams! MUFE have so many pro and niche products, from skin moulding putty to a very blood-like red liquid. I'm keen to try their base and finishing products as the quality is so high and they can ugrade your FOTD to flawless finish levels. Their HD powder is the one! We had a sample to take home with us and it's like applying fairy dust each morning - it's so light yet so good!
With a glass of fizz in hand, we popped across to Illamasqua and all adored Chetna's cryptic clown look. I loved chatting to her about all of the different looks she was trying each day for Magikmasqua. HOW cute is this one! I've recently bought a palette, lipstick and contour duo after having a makeover there and I'm firmly an Illamasqua convert. They have some Christmas gift sets of all different sorts of products and we also tried the latest collect in aid of the charity S.O.P.H.I.E., which Illamasqua has a long standing partnership with.
Next we took a seat the glitteringly gothic Urban Decay counter and watched the classic costume tutorial of 'I'm a mouse, duh!'. Genius! The unicorn tears are so sweet too. Absolute glitter goals! We cooed over the palettes and admired their adorable pumpkin. I've been waiting literally years for my perfect Urban Decay palette and as soon as they bring out a warm, peachy set, I'll be straight there. I haven't given UD enough focus in recent years as I feel they are all about the colour, and nowadays I'm not sure if brights really suit me! That is nothing makeover can't sort out though - I must book in soon and find my perfect UD shades!
Thank you Debenhams for a hugely inspirational evening and a peek at some gorgeous products. I also included the evening in my weekly vlog below! Did you know I have started weekly vlogging again? Indeed I have!