Posted in Food, London, Uncategorized

Relaunch of the B-Rex @ Byron

 

Last week I was invited by the lovely people at Byron to join them for the relaunch night of the B-Rex (and V-Rex for vegetarians or C-Rex if you prefer chicken over beef) at their Kensington High Street branch. I’m sure the restaurant is full of high spirits most of the time but it seemed an extra special affair on this particular occasion with their own in house DJ mixing some tunes, a photographer to document the shenanigans and a graffiti artist creating his own version of the B-Rex.

The restaurant itself is next to Holland park and a short walk from High street Kensington tube station, it is also not too far from the Design Museum if you were planning a day out in the area. With the Art Deco design and colourful décor we were soon comfortable in our seats and ready to get our hands on the much anticipated B-Rex.

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The big burger in question is made up of a beef patty with 100% British, grass-fed beef topped with cheese, onions, pickles and American cheese, the mayo and BBQ sauce gave it a little sweetness. I’m not usually a fan of anything hot but the jalapenos added a nice little kick while the bacon and onion ring added some crunch to the texture.

As burgers go it was probably one of the best I’ve had… and no of course nobody actually caught me smiling at it before taking my first bite!

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Okay, maybe they did.

I knew I would be full with the burger so chose a salad to accompany it but still couldn’t resist the idea of a Freakshake for dessert, especially with all the goodies that were laid out to accompany it.

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We left with our bellies full and a lovely gift to takeaway that included a bottle of Byron’s famous sauce so we can create our own specialities at home! We had a great evening and the team at Kensington were very welcoming and kind.

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With half term approaching I think I may treat my youngest to a Byron burger at our local branch in Clapham as he hasn’t forgiven me for not inviting him to the launch night (He is a bit of a foodie and would love the B-Rex) Also if you know me, you will know that whenever I look for somewhere to eat I will check whether it is on the Tastecard app first and delightedly Byron is so that’s a bonus!

If you want to find out where you can pick up your own B-Rex then visit the Byron Website.

*We were given a free meal for the purpose of this review, all opinions my own!

** I do usually take all my own photos but as there was a photographer to hand I just sat back and enjoyed my meal for a change! Photographs kindly supplied by Byron.

Posted in Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Currently reading

This is my latest reading pile and I cannot wait to get stuck in!

I have been on a bit of a spree on Amazon and have loads of books waiting for me so I hope to get through this lot, alongside my kindle downloads, within a few weeks at least. It shouldn’t be too hard as I am off on holiday for a week and plan to do nothing but read, sunbathe, eat, swim and sleep. I am definitely going to make the most of the relaxation as the new term and my new job start the day after we return.

Everything I Never Told You – As a favourite child, Lydia is expected to pursue all the dreams her parents were not able to but then her body is found in the local lake causing chaos and destroying the family. This book is described as a gripping page turner and a family portrait about love, lies and race. I haven’t really seen this book talked about even though it was released in 2014 and is a New York times bestseller, it sounds really interesting.

This Is Going To Hurt – 97 hour weeks, life and death decisions and a tsunami of bodily fluids. This book is the diary of Adam Kay, comedian and former Junior doctor revealing his experiences during the endless days and sleepless nights. I imagine this is going to be really enjoyable, particularly as it is written in diary form and comes from a personal perspective.

The Beach Wedding – Tessa has to face deadly ghosts from her past as she welcomes her daughter to the beach resort for her wedding where a previous experience had changed her life. I picked up a couple of these quick reads as they were only £1 and I am a great fan of Dorothy Koomson books, even though this seems a bit different from her usual reads.

How To Be Happy – After Annie has been sad for so long Polly has a hundred days to help her find happiness but is letting others in a risk worth taking? I know you should never judge a book by its cover but I have to admit that the fact it was so colourful and about being happy I couldn’t help myself but to buy it!

Keep You Safe – Kate and Madeline both have very different views on parenting but one of them makes a fateful decision that sees her being accused of being a terrible mother, should she be vilified or was she just trying to keep her children safe? The blurb on this book doesn’t give much away so I’m quite intrigued to see what actually happens!

 

I haven’t really got any psychological thrillers in my book pile so I have a couple on my phone and I also like self help books so thought I would try this classic to see if I can pick up some new productive habits.

I have so far read 23 out of 45 books for my yearly target which I think is pretty good even though I have to catch up a bit.

From my last reading post I loved Into the Darkest corner which jumped between Catherine’s past and present as she endured an abusive relationship and how she learnt to cope with the consequences. I also really enjoyed The Lost Swimmer which was a bit of a mystery even though it was a slow burner and The Queen and I was an amusing book, although hard to imagine the royal family actually living on a council estate. I wasn’t much of a fan of The Chocolate lovers diet, it started off well, getting to know each of the characters but turned into a bit of a diabetes inducing cheese fest with the amount of chocolate references and the way everything seemed to be predictable.

What do you currently have on your reading list?

Posted in London, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

A visit to Parliament

I had never thought of visiting parliament before, in fact I wasn’t aware that it was open to the public so when I was invited to take a tour I was quite intrigued.

I’m not really much of a fan of politics and was a bit worried that I would find it boring if I didn’t know what they were talking about but there was actually so much more to it than just politics. For a start the actual building is amazing, from floor to ceiling it is full of intricate details, ornate decoration and historical paintings.

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I never normally opt to join in with tours as I like to just explore by myself but our tour guide Daniella was full of information, facts and amusing anecdotes. She really brought the subjects to life so as you are walking through you could imagine the queen in her robing room sitting on a sofa by the window rather than on the throne that has been sun damaged over many years.

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The Royal family play a big role in Parliament and since watching The Crown and Victoria on Netflix I have become much more interested in the history so found it all really interesting.

It felt very strange going into the house of commons after seeing it on TV for so long, it looks so much smaller in real life! I was really impressed with how much you get to see on the tour – not so impressed that I wasn’t able to photograph it all though! (you can only use a camera in the main hall and St Stephens hall) I mean have you even visited somewhere if you don’t have photographic evidence? I was going to request images of parts of the building that I wasn’t allowed to photograph but I think it is nice to leave it to you all to visit yourself as it is so much better in real life!

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Westminster hall is the oldest of the parliamentary estate and has played a central role in British history. There seems to be a lot of work going on so we couldn’t really appreciate its magnificence and many smaller details were covered up.

I would definitely recommend a visit to anyone interested in architecture, art, history or politics and you can finish off the tour with a trip to Voice and Vote: Women’s place in Parliament exhibition which features unseen historic objects, pictures and archives from the parliamentary collections, this will be on until 6th October.

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For quite a small exhibition tucked away in the corner of Westminster hall, there is loads to see about such an important subject. Although the tour of Parliament has a fee, this exhibition is free entry so great to take the kids over summer, especially all those budding politicians!

Have you ever visited Parliament before?


 

Posted in Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Currently reading

We are now halfway through the year and I am a bit behind with my reading target. So far I have read 17 books and need to get to 45! I am free at the moment as I have finished university and am not getting much response from my job applications (I do have an interview on 10th July so fingers crossed) so as the weather is so nice I have been in the garden reading and hope to get a few more days where I can relax and enjoy the summer.

I have a mix of books in my pile and on my kindle this month, some light-hearted, a couple of thrillers and a self help book.

The queen and I – This is a bit of a satire where the queen and the rest of her fam are banished from their royal residence and sent to live on a housing estate in the Midlands when the republicans come into power. I am a fan of the Royals and love the idea of them living amongst us normal people so looking forward to seeing how they cope without the luxuries they are used to.

The lost swimmer – Rebecca is accused of a crime and suspects her husband Steven of having an affair so in an attempt to put their lives back together they go travelling. When Steven goes missing after taking a swim off the Amalfi coast, fresh allegations are made against Rebecca but will she be able to uncover the deceit that has followed her? I find thrillers the easiest to read because I am always so eager to see what happens, I like the sound of this one!

The House of Elliot – Two very different sisters fight to assert themselves in the fashion industry by setting up their own fashion house to rival those in Paris. This story follows the strengths and anguishes that accompany the rise of the House of Elliot. Not my usual type of book but I got it when I bought a set of summer reads and it has been on my shelf for a few years so thought it was time I got round to reading it.

The chocolate lovers diet – The chocolate lovers club is a group of women all going through problems in the love lives and who better to turn to than each other? I imagine this will be a typical summer romance novel which you have to read a couple of over the summer holidays, only problem is I suspect I will want to eat chocolate every time I pick it up!

On my Kindle I have The Note which has been on there a while. An unforgettable romance based on the authors true story of how a little note can change everything…sounds intriguing! I am already half way through Into the darkest corner and have found it really gripping, I actually look forward to having a spare 10 minutes so I can get a few pages in. It jumps between Catherine’s chilling past and how she is coping with it in the present. Think Small is a simple and accessible plan for success based on seven scientifically tested steps. I will let you know if it works when I reach those big goals after reading it.

From my last reading pile I recommend In a cottage in a wood, it is quite creepy but I feel that the main character is relatable and you feel endeared to her. The storyline is interesting and you feel like you want to really analyse all the characters to see what they’re hiding. The Secret child was also a good read. Although a true story of a 1950s Dublin child, it reads like a novel and occasionally jumps between the past and present as the author takes a trip back to his childhood home.

What will you be reading over the summer?

Posted in Food, London, Travel, Uncategorized

The Royal Oak – Orpington

The Royal Oak is a typical country pub set on the outskirts of London in Orpington, still accessible with the Oyster card but definitely a feeling of being away from the big smoke.

The pub is described as ‘oozing rural charm and rustic character’ and I have to agree. We visited on a weekday evening and the restaurant was really busy with a relaxed cosy atmosphere. The mix of wooden and leather furniture and range of wall hangings all add to the traditional character and give it a very homely feeling. Although the restaurant is really large, the space is divided into different sections so it feels like you are in a smaller, more intimate setting.

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On arrival we were shown to a small table for two in the window which was nice, although it only overlooked the entrance to the carpark so not much of a view. The staff were really friendly and chatty and we didn’t have to wait very long for our order to be taken.

The menu has a wide range of dishes. Starters include duo of pate, chargrilled lamb koftas and the soup of the day. The mains range from pizzas, steaks and burgers to seafood risotto and seared sea bass. There are lots of desserts including classics like Eton mess and sticky toffee pudding. Many of the dishes are also included in the set price menu where you can choose two dishes for £14.95 or three dishes for £18.95.

For starters we thought we would go back to the 70’s with the prawn cocktail, although it sounded a bit more upmarket as it was called a prawn and lobster cocktail served with a lobster mayonnaise and rustic bread!

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For the mains, I went for Hunters chicken which is a large chargrilled chicken breast topped with smoked cheddar and streaky bacon, served with triple cooked chips and barbeque sauce. This dish also has a tasty accompaniment of Portobello mushrooms in a smoky tomato sauce which I didn’t think the dish actually needed as it had salad but was an added bonus.

The Mr went for the big 8oz steak which is expertly aged for a firm texture and rich flavour. Served with triple cooked chips, homemade onion rings and a thyme-roasted tomato, you can also choose whichever sauce you would like and he went for the peppercorn. I don’t think the picture actually does the steak justice, it was huge and the man was very impressed, he is even still gushing about it now and he is usually quite critical when it comes to food! If you do order a dish with chips you are asked if you would like them thick or thin cut which is a nice touch as many people do have a preference.

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After the meal we were both pretty full but there is an option on the dessert menu to get a smaller size dessert with a hot drink so I thought I would go for this. I chose the chocolate brownie and ice cream which was really delicious, unfortunately it was still too much for me to finish but I gave it a good try.

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When we arrived at The Royal oak on a sunny day it was bustling with people, particularly outside, but by the time we were leaving it was fairly quiet with most of the customers in the bar area. We thoroughly enjoyed the meal and would definitely return if we happen to be passing.

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It seems like the perfect place to while away a summers afternoon, indulging in a Sunday roast or even just grabbing a cold one to sit in the beer garden. We did ask if there were any cocktails available but they are more of a cask ale, craft beer and G+T supplier. They have a large offering of all sorts of Gin and Tonic in different flavours and even have an event at the end of the month ‘Come GIN with me’ where you can see what new gins have joined the menu. Other special days include a Fizz Friday and a Pie Wednesday.

If The Royal Oak looks like your type of hangout then check the website for menus, openings and to book a table.

*we were invited to The Royal Oak to try out the menu, all thoughts and opinions are my own

 

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

Crowne Plaza Hotel – Amsterdam

During our recent trip to Amsterdam, we chose to stay in the Crowne Plaza hotel which is situated quite close to Schiphol airport. We took advantage of the free shuttle bus service to the hotel rather than try to walk as the roads were really busy.

On arrival we had a bit of a wait in the lobby as there were a few people in front of us and although we had already paid before arrival we were asked to pay a city tax charge which came to around €8.00.

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The hotel room had the usual layout of a bedroom and bathroom, neutral décor in a brown and red colour palette and all the amenities we needed, including a comfy chair complete with some tourist magazines and a foot rest and a desk which I had no intention of sitting at. Although there were big windows, there wasn’t much of a view. We overlooked the car park and were mostly surrounded by roads but being five floors up it was probably better than some.

I do like when they leave something a little personal and on top of the huge bed (which we were most impressed with) was a little bottle of lavender sleep spray. There was also a huge dressing gown, but only one which was weird as there was two of us booked in the room!

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The TV showed all the channels so we didn’t miss any of the soaps when we got back after a day of exploring, and tea, coffee and hot chocolate was available, although I’m not really a fan of those tiny milk pots and tend to use them all in one cup.

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The bathroom was pretty basic with a bath rather than a walk in shower but had everything we needed and was clean and fresh.

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There was a restaurant situated just off the lobby and room service available 24 hours but we found it to be quite expensive. On the first night after a busy day visiting Keukenhof gardens we were too tired to go out looking for food so chose to order a takeaway, which the hotel didn’t seem to have a problem with.

The following morning we went to the Royalflora auction in Aalsmeer and the staff were really helpful in giving us directions, although during our stay there were some bus strikes going on so we chose to book an Uber so we didn’t end up stranded in an unfamiliar city.

We didn’t actually spend much time in the hotel but there is a fitness and wellness centre and a shop to pick up all those souvenirs you forgot on your travels.

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It was a comfortable stay, nothing quirky or particularly special but all that we would expect from a large hotel group.

 

 

Posted in Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

Aalsmeer flower auction – Holland

 

I recently took a trip to Holland (the hub of the flower industry) to work on my photography project, looking into the production and importation of flowers, and was pointed in the direction of Aalsmeer by the lovely Catie who lives not too far away.

Aalsmeer (also known as Royal Flora Holland) is the largest trade centre for flowers in the world, described as a portal to a world full of scent and bloom, it is open to the public on certain days so they can take a look at the amount of work that goes into ensuring fresh flowers are available in your local supermarket whenever you feel like purchasing them.

A statement from Royal Flora…

FloraHolland is a cooperative venture belonging to the growers of flowers and plants. They bring their supply together to perform a single international trade platform, the largest of its kind anywhere in the world. The members/growers are the owners of this company. We are also a ‘Royal’ firm and have been ever since our centenary in 2011 when FloraHolland was presented with the royal title.

On arriving at FloraHolland we were met with coach loads of tourists queueing at the door which I was quite surprised about because compared to other flower attractions in Holland, particularly Keukenhof, this was not advertised anywhere. As you enter the reception area you can purchase tickets priced at 7.50 euros and receive a map, although this isn’t really needed as the route is very straight forward.

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You are basically on a viewing platform above the market floor in the form of a bridge which you walk the length of the building and back again on the opposite side. It is quite a surreal experience to just be watching normal people go about their daily work and you do wonder if they are aware, or care, that people are watching and taking photos of them. At the same time, for the sheer size of the place, I did feel like I was at one of the wonders of the world and really intrigued by the whole process.

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Along the journey we came across a room that is used for research purposes and was filled with flowers. A guy saw us taking photos outside and asked if we would like to have a look around inside, which we were privileged to do so as it is not open to the public. He explained that they are sent new crops of flowers that haven’t as yet been grown for sale and they test them to see how they react to certain lights and temperatures and give them a value depending on their life span and quality.

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As you reach the other end of the bridge you can see the auctions taking place through the windows, unfortunately they were not in full swing when we arrived but there were still a few people bidding on flowers so we got to observe the process.

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After we had watched the bidding and had a bite to eat in the small café we made our way back down the other side of the bridge. As we reached the end of the viewing platform, there was a room that looked like a museum that gave out some information about the history of FloraHolland through videos and photographs and some statistics on the industry via posters.

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If you are a fan of flowers then this is a great place to visit, it is different to other attractions as all the behind the scenes action is the actual show. There is nothing fancy or put on about it and it is a bit dated but I found it to be a real spectacle and so glad I visited. I also purchased some tulip bulbs from the gift shop so I can think of my trip when they grow in the garden.

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