Sake No Hana – Perfect restaurant for girly catch up

There’s a restaurant that I’ve been meaning to try out for some time, Sake No Hana by Hakkasan. Have to say that what caught my attention was the £29 offer of four courses with a glass of prosecco at Opentable.

Perfect for a girly catch up dinner.

The restaurant itself has been decorated in a sleek, dit-lit modern style scented with Maroma Encens d’Auroville. The dining area is located upstairs, which you can access by a skinny lift. The staff welcome you with a big Japanese sounding cheer and seemed attentive throughout the whole meal. I was expecting for quite small portions for dinner, however, I was surprised how generous and beautifully presented the dishes were.

First up was the Koimo Shiro Misoshiru (also known as white miso soup with yam croquette). I am a big fan of croquettes, always have been, so it was a lovely addition to a miso soup.

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The prawn tempuras followed soon after, almost on the exact moment I’d had my last bite of the soup. The prawns were delicate and chewy and the tempura was just right, i.e. I didn’t feel like eating a cod in batter, just a nice fluffy prawn.

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The makis we had were so beautifully presented. The crunchy California maki with snow crab, avocado and cucumber was probably my favourite. Just because of the slight crunchy outside. The salmon maki looked as it they’d put a flower on top of it, sweet. Spicy maki perhaps could have even been more spicy to my liking. image

By this point we were pretty full. As you might know, rice also expands in your tummy. A little break between the courses and soon the mains arrived – tori sukiyaki toban (chicken sukiyaki with shiimeji mushrooms, sautéed onions and tofu) and salmon hola teriyaki. Both again beautifully presented and satisfying well prepared.

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Lucky for us that the dessert was on the lighter end – passionfruit pannacotta. Again florally decorated, but extremely tasty. Just to clean our palettes.

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We would have happily stayed longer to sip tea and chat, however a note from the waiter that they would be needing the table soon made us rush and some of the girly chat had to be kept for next time. I’d therefore suggest to go there slightly later, for a second seating, when you know that you wouldn’t be rushed to vacate the table for the next guests.

After passing by the bamboo themed ladies loo and treating our hands to some Aesop hand balm, the receptionist sent us off with a friendly smile and a little souvenir to take home with us (can’t tell you what!). I think I shall return.

Sake No Hana
23 St. James Street
London, SW1A 1HA

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March Favourite: Verso Retinol 8 Moisturiser

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Whow, talk about anti-ageing and luminous skin. This morning my skin was literally glowing (not in nuclear toxic kind of way) after I applied this cream. It has been an unexpected discovery this month, so had to give it a special note.

First of all, this cream is very pleasant to apply, it has a fresh smell and slightly gel-like consistency, which soaks nicely into skin. The effect is almost instant my skin looks more translucent and glowing.

I would rather not take on the responsibility of explaining what Retinol exactly is. However, my understanding of it is that it’s a form of vitamin A and instead of getting it through overdosing on carrots and kale, one can apply it directly on the skin for a more amplified effect. Here’s a link to Verso’s website for a more educated explanation.

Verso Retinol 8 also includes some vitamin B3 which further increases skin luminosity. The cream also contains sun filters (SPF 15).

Being a Swedish make, perhaps this cream is the secret to the Scandic beauties?

Can be bought at Cult Beauty and Selfridges. Price: £85 for 50 ml, most likely worth it if agrees with your skin. Only small quantity needed.

Cortina d’Ampezzo – Little Gem in the Dolomites for skiers and fur coat lovers

Our visit to Cortina d’Ampezzo, a little crown jewel of a skiing place, in the Dolomites was nothing but ordinary.

Starting with us arriving at Venice airport just as the last bus to Cortina had departed and finishing with me spending the last two days at the hospital.

Nevermind, this gave us the opportunity to familiarise ourselves with the hospitality of the locals. Normally one would arrive to Cortina d’Ampezzo by a transfer bus from the airport via Cortina Express, however as we were told as it’s towards the end of the season already in March, they had cancelled the 8.15pm transfer. There are trains from Mestre station in Venice. Once on the train, all was going smoothly up to the point when the train just stopped and didn’t move for 20minutes. This meant that we missed our next following 2 connections and went through a slight panic moment. Luckily our little stop was Conegliano, literally the Capital of Prosecco, where we managed to get a four glasses and typical aperativo snacks for €10 only! The ticket office told us that Trenitalia had organised us a free taxi to get to where we wanted and sadly we had to move on from the prosecco-land. Not sure whether something like this would happen in the UK?

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Cortina d’Ampezzo itself, as we learnt before the trip, is a place where people go to show off their fur coats and quite a few of the people there would just promenade on the high street of Cortina and hardly go to the slopes. This is absolutely true. It’s a good place to play ‘Spot the fur coat’ and do a bit of Italian shopping. Food was equally as good and prosecco was equally as cheap as in the Capital of Prosecco – approximately €2-€4 per glass. People of Cortina also seem to enjoy making their own grappa, as even at our hotel, a blueberry grappa was brewing on the balcony in the sunshine. Unfortunately it takes 40 days to get ready, so we couldn’t try it for breakfast, but ended up trying both apricot and nut grappas in the evening.

In terms of eating, I would definitely recommend listening to the locals, we followed Tripadvisor and went to Il Vizietto di Cortina for the first evening, where we had a lovely fish meal. However, next night we visited Ra Stua, which was recommended by our hotel and it was outstanding. The menu di degustazione for €29 was a feast of meat carpaccio, game tagiatelle, steak and tiramisu and we were offered a discount by our hotel of 10%. For a simpler meal, Birreria Hacker Pschorr (Via Stazione 7) is perfect. Quite a few late night tourists seem to gather there and the staff create a very friendly atmosphere.

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So, not to forget the bit we actually went there for, the skiing. There’s a lift that takes people up to Faloria, from where you can ski on to Cristallo. People seem to prefer one or the other depending on from which direction the sun shines, or doesn’t. I would say that the slopes are challenging enough for intermediate skiers like me, but perhaps stretching a bit for advanced skiers, particularly as the variety is quite limited. The slopes are in excellent condition however, equipped with wonderful restaurants to refuel. As my last couple of days were spent at the hospital, I missed out on the slopes on the other side of the village, so could be that there’s a lot more choice for skiing than I saw.

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We also had a taste of luxury at Hotel Cristallo where for €25 each we were able to use their steam room, sauna and the pool for couple of hours. It’s a perfect way to relax before going out for dinner.

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Cortina d’Ampezzo in my opinion is a place relatively easy to reach, the people are very friendly, the food is fantastic, the slopes are not too busy and there are other activities if you get too tired of skiing. Definitely won my heart.

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My top 5 tips for future brides

Exactly at this time one year ago I was preparing our big day. The wedding invites had just arrived and they were not as ‘perfect’ as I wanted them to be. I had ordered the dress I wanted, but it got lost in international post via UPS. I had no idea who was going to sing at our wedding, all the hotels were full and the list goes on. However, fast forward a few months we had the most wonderful wedding just the way we wanted it to be. Here are some of my top tips for those who are currently in the same position, strictly from brides perspective.

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1. Get the dress you want. Some do say that it’s just a dress and you’ll only wear it once, but it is your wedding dress. You’ll look at it on the wedding photos for the rest of your life and you don’t want to keep repeating yourself that actually you had another dress you liked a lot more. It just won’t feel right.

2. Listen to yourself. There will be a lot of people giving you advice and coming up with various opinions, but the best response to that is just listen, but take a decision yourself. If you want Chinese lanterns, have Chinese lanterns. And if you want flashing rings, like we had (get some here even my granddad loved them) then have some. It’s your wedding, reflection of yourself and your husband, so make it just the way you want it. If you and your husband enjoy the party, everyone else will do so too.

3. Delegate. I got my sister and my parents to do the food tasting, my mother also helped me with arranging accommodation for the guests and went picking wild flowers with my sisters godmother the day before. My dad arranged the boat we rowed along the river and my granddad generously provided us his honey. Oh and my mother made her ceramics as wedding favor for all the guests. We even delegated a few roles to our wedding guests at the party, who went along and enjoyed it way too much.

4. Smile and enjoy yourself. A lot of thing will go wrong and it all won’t go according to the plan. The wedding means so much to you as a bride, but it won’t mean as much to others. The day before it turned out that my hairdresser was not going to make it, some of the people couldn’t make it last minute and on the day, my photographer had forgotten that he had to come to take photos of our wedding. It was disheartening, but for some reason it didn’t matter and it didn’t have any impact on how much we enjoyed the day. The people who want to be there and whom you want to be there, will be there. And when you smile and enjoy yourself, so will everyone else. Many people told me before the wedding, and I didn’t believe them, that the day will go by so quickly, and it did. More reason to know that you have to enjoy yourself!

5. Choose and take care of your bridesmaids. My bridesmaids were a great help during the wedding. First of all they organised a fantastic girls night the night before we had our official registration (I was still tipsy!) and did all the mingling with the guests, handing out crosswords and all the bits you definitely have no time to think of during the wedding. They are also someone to be there for honest opinion on shoes, hair style and The Dress and to take off any stress from your shoulders.

So, I thought I’d share these little tips with those who may find them useful. This is what I learnt from my experience, just relax, breathe in and you’ll be fine.

My top three brunch spots in Notting Hill, London

Going for brunch is probably one of my favourite things to do over the weekend. Whether it’s to go and relax with my hubster, cure a hangover or catch up with friends. Below are three of my favourites I like, each for a very different reason.

1. Raoul’s (105 – 107 Talbot Road, London W11 2AT) is most definitely my top choice. I also tend to order the same things each time I go there. I know what I like, right? That would be the potato cakes with poached egg, acai smoothie and blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, normally to share, of course. Unpretentious, relatively easy to get a table at, friendly service and consistently good food.

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2. Cépages (69 Westbourne Park Rd, London W2 5QH) is a relatively new spot in the area. It has a lovely Frenchy atmosphere, excellent music and most amazing wines. Apart from brunch menu, you could also branch out to explore their tapas options that also include oysters. Their eggs royal and eggs benedict are definitely top notch and perfectly filling. It will be very difficult though not to try any of their wines, so be prepared to drink some.

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3. Granger and Co (175 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2SB) is a very trendy place on Westbourne Grove. You will recognise it by a long queue outside. If there wasn’t such a queue outside, I would go more often to have their sweetcorn fritters and I would probably share their ricotta hotcakes. If you dislike waiting in the line, either go early or after 2pm.
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So then, what are your favourite spots or have you been to any of the above?

YOUBEAUTY discovery box March 2015

Hello my beauty box for March, it has been a real pleasure to have received you today by mail.

Considering I made my selection on Sunday morning and received you by Thursday afternoon, that is pretty efficient I’d say. The theme of this box is ‘Best of British’ and I couldn’t be more pleased. Out of the six options to choose from, I had my eye on the Illamasqua Sangers lipstick, which otherwise costs £18.50. The colour is excellent and leaves a matte finish, a type of lipstick I didn’t have before.

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I was also in need for curlers, simply because I I didn’t have any before, so the Vintage Cosmetic Company curlers are just what I needed. Normally can be bought for £8.50, so the value of my selected items is £27.00, which is not a bad deal for £6.95.

The little add ons of Dove travel size Youthful Vitaly shampoo and conditioner and a Nakd Berry Delight bar are pretty good too.

Since I last check this morning, all the options are still available, so if you’re looking for a little treat, I recommend getting one too.