Food, Travel

Weekend in London

So this weekend we took the bus up to London for a couple of days catching up with friends.

I started off Saturday morning feeling pretty smug that we’d got to Bristol Bus Station in good time, no stress. Then as we got to the front of the queue to board the National Express bus to London, we were politely informed that our booking was for the Megabus, which was departing from behind Debenhams in about 4 minutes.

The mad dash through the Bear Pit and to the bus, brought to my attention just how out of shape I am – I’m talking chest pains, shaking, and waves of ‘I’m going to throw up’. Definitely need to get back the gym, ASAP.

But, we made it on to the bus. And we coped with three hours of confinement surrounded by awkward conversations and people eating strange, funky smelling salads. Once we arrived at Victoria Coach Station we hot footed it over to the underground (with a quick stop at McDonald’s, don’t judge!) and off to South Kensington for the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Comptoir Libanais

Before we dived head first into our culture trip at the V&A, we went for ‘a feed’ at Comptoir Libanais.

I’ve seen a few of these around, with a vast menu of Lebanese dishes, but never tried them out before. It was very busy, but we were quickly seated outside under the heaters with the promise of inside spot when it opened up (we ended up deciding to stay out).

Despite the obvious mad rush of Saturday lunch time, the staff were lovely. However, I was pretty underwhelmed by the food.

My friend and I shared the Mezze platter for two. To be honest, it was probably a fair portion for one person – but a very light meal for two people to share. At the very least two of each thing on the plate- we had to split one falafel?!

But I would definitely recommend their homemade lemonade vodka drink – I had the Toufaha with apple, mint and ginger; it was so refreshing. Plus it helped take the edge off my already aching feet (breaking in new DMs is such a pain).

Victoria and Albert museum

After lunch, we went to the V&A, and we wondered round. We spent a good couple of hours looking at some impressively old statues, paintings, jewellery etc.

There’s currently a Dior exhibition on, which looks really good but it had sold out and the queues were long – so if you’re planning on seeing it then book ahead and get there early!

When we’d seen enough at the V&A we went for a few drinks before heading off to our Airbnb.

The Bite, Dalston

After checking into our Airbnb, a lovely little flat just minutes away from Dalston station, we had a quick power nap (we’re old now) and then went out to find some food.

We wanted comfort food, ie pizza, and somewhere chilled out and cosy to have dinner – The Bite checked all boxes. Read all about The Bite here.

Fix 126

A little morning stroll round Shoreditch brought us to Fix 126, for a coffee and a freshly made fruit smoothie. And a delightful doughnut!

Chick’n’Sours, Sevendials

We met up with more friends and went to one of the Chick’n’Sours, by Sevendials, bang on midday.

I was actually quite surprised at how many people were there, ready for some delicious fried chicken that early on a Sunday.

I had the chicken tenders, with their incredible hot sauce and a little pot of blue cheese as well – heaven.

After checking out the pelicans in St James Park, we headed back to Victoria and another bus journey home.

– Verity May

Jumpsuit – Marks & Spencer, Trainers – Converse, Leather Jacket – Marks & Spencer (10+ years ago!)

Food

The Bite, Dalston

Nestled on Kingsland Road, Dalston is a delightful little Italian restaurant, The Bite. We stumbled on it, late Saturday evening, tired and hungry for pizza; it didn’t disappoint.

The Bite has a casual, cosy feel, with friendly staff and a typical Italian menu: pizza, pasta, calzone.

Their pizzas are Neopoliatan style, with a thin base and lots of sauce.I went for the Capricciosa and to be honest, it was absolutely just as good as the ones I’ve had in Rome and Venice.

A lovely thin but doughy base, with a very generous helping of mozzarella, plus cooked ham, mushrooms, artichokes and green olives. For all those crazy pizza combinations out there, is there anything better than this classic?!

The Bite is a no frills kind of place, but cute and welcoming, with lots of delicious Italian comfort food.

The Bite, 533 Kingsland Road, Dalston, London E8 4AR

Fashion

Velvet dungarees

A few weeks ago, I wondered into Monsoon, and immediately spotted one of the sales assistants wearing the most perfect black velvet dungarees. I had to have them.

Monsoon velvet dungarees
Dungarees – Monsoon, £30 (sale). Shoes – Dr Martens, £70 (sale). Tshirt – Zara, v old.

Being above average height, jumpsuits, playsuits, dungarees are always, always too short in the body (basically, they’re all up in my business). So I didn’t have high hopes when I tried them on, but they fitted like a dream.

They’ve got a slim ‘mom jeans’ style leg, with adjustable straps that come up the back.

On the front there are silver hoops, and some really lovely covered buttons on the side.

The velvet fabric makes them that little bit smarter, so that I can be team them up with a roll neck and brogues to be work appropriate. But I’m also loving chucking them on with a stripy tshirt and trainers at the weekend. Basically, I’m going to be living in these velvet dungarees for the rest of winter.

Fashion

Leopard print boots

Jeans and a jumper is a simple, easy outfit in the winter, but it quickly becomes a bit dull.

So this is where my beloved leopard print boots have come into play. Turns out, jeans and jumper combos were just missing the perfect pair of boots – something a bit different to jazz things up.

I’ve been leopard print obsessed for years so I have had to work very hard to control myself this season, now that leopard is back IN.

Leopard Print Boots: Marks & Spencer, £35
Boots: Marks & Spencer, £35

When I saw these leopard print boots in Marks and Spencer, it was of course, love at first sight though!

Boots: Marks & Spencer, £35

They have just the right height heel that’s totally suitable for day time but also great for a dressed up evening. And they’re just perfect with a pair of black skinny jeans.

Leopard print boots: Marks & Spencer, £35. Velvet jeggings: River Island dale, £25
Boots: Marks & Spencer, £35. Velvet jeggings: River Island, £25 (sale). Chenille jumper: Marks & Spencer, £35.

I especially love wearing them with these slightly cropped skinny velvet jeggings from River Island that I picked up on sale after Christmas.

I don’t often find anything in River Island, but these are so comfortable, and they hold their shape. They’ve been a great alternative to black skinny jeans, which always fade way too quickly.

Personal

New Year’s Resolutions

So the beginning of February is the perfect time to formalise my New Year’s resolutions, right?

I’ve had a month to think them over, test the waters and decide on some achievable goals for 2019. Nothing wild, just a few areas of minor improvement, and a little more effort all round.

1. Make plans

It sounds so cliched, but life is busy and so often I find myself saying ‘we should meet up’, ‘let’s go for a drink sometime’, ‘I need to come and visit’.

One of my main goals this year is to actually make those plans, pin down a time and place, and meet up with the friends I haven’t seen in far too long. I’ve started this by getting my diary filled in, working out when I’m free and making a plan.

2. Send the first message

This one ties in with the previous one, but I find it hard sometimes to actually just message someone and ask if they want to do something. I have a bad habit of assuming that people will be busy, or just won’t want to hang out with me. So this year I’m really going to try and get over those doubts, and just ask people. I need to keep in mind – what’s the worst that can happen?

3. Stop hoarding

I am a hoarder. I keep hold of the most ridiculous things; receipts, clothes tags, and pretty much every birthday/christmas card I’ve ever received. Slowly, very slowly, I am starting to clear out all the corners that I’ve stuffed with various crap but I also need to learn to throw stuff away in the first place!

4. Buy less

I’m really, really trying to buy less clothes. I’ve cleared out so many things that still had the tags in, or I wore once. And while I’ve managed to make a bit of money selling them on eBay, it is such a waste, and I’m not proud of it. My new rule is, will I wear it at least 15 times? If not, why am I buying it?

Miscellaneous goals

  • Put more effort into this blog and write more!
  • Set aside time for studying each week (also never sign up for part time studying again)
  • Read a book a month (that’s not a marketing text book!)
  • Be a little more active (maybe even go to the gym once a week?!)
  • Prepare lunches for work and stop eating noodles everyday!
  • Visit lots of new places and explore more of the world (the same goal every year)

 

None of these are groundbreaking, world changing goals. But hopefully if I can make a little bit of progress with them, I’ll make some positive changes.

– Verity May

Personal

Starting over

I’ve been doing this ‘blogging’ thing on and off for the last couple of years, but I think it’s well over due that I put a bit of focus, planning and consistent effort into it.

I read a lot of other peoples’ blogs; fashion, travel, lifestyle and the more personal stuff, and it’s all so great. And at the back of my head I’m always thinking – I could do this too. As a Content Marketer, I spend a lot of my working day writing, and I’ve always kind of thought that I don’t want to spend my spare time writing as well. But to be honest, I love writing; I need a vague idea, or a few facts and I can just start typing for hours.

So far everything on this blog has been food focused, which seemed like a good way to start – I love to eat, so why not share all the amazing food I’ve discovered? And I’ll definitely continue with the food posts, but I’m also going to start sharing some other bits and pieces.

I’m going to try my hand at writing about some of my other interests and experiences; fashion, music, lifestyle and some more personal bits. It’ll probably be quite a learning curve, but I guess what’s the worst that can happen?!

Anyways, if you do happen to read the occasional post, then I hope you’ll bare with me while I figure out the ‘blogging’ thing… again.

– Verity May

Food

Quick and easy dinner ideas

I haven’t done a recipe post in a very, very long time- but recently I’ve been really trying to cook from scratch more often, so I have control over the amount of salt, sugar etc that’s going into my meals. Here’s a few quick and easy recipes that I’ve been making over the last couple of months:

Mixed bean chilli soup with homemade guacamole

This is based on this BBC recipe for Mexican bean soup with guacamole.

Ingredients: 1 onion, 1 garlic clove, 1 red pepper, 1 red chilli, tin of chopped tomatoes, tin of Tesco’s taco mixed beans, veg stock, chilli powder, coriander and cumin. Avocado and lime to make the guacamole.

Method

  • Chop up the onion, garlic clove, red pepper and 1/2 the red chilli, fry in a drop of oil
  • Once they’re starting to soften up (about 3-5 minutes) add a bit of chilli powder, coriander and cumin
  • Then add the chopped tomatoes, the tin of taco mixed beans and 200-300ml of vegetable stock
  • Leave to simmer for about 10 minutes
  • To make the guacamole: One chopped avocado, with quarter of a chopped red onion, the other half of the red chilli, a sprinkle of coriander and the juice of a lime – mash it all up!

 

Pad Thai

Adapted from Miguel Barclay’s ‘One Pound Meals: Fast & Fresh’.

Ingredients: Flat rice noodles, sesame oil, garlic clove, chilli flakes, red onion, stir fry veg (or other chopped veg – carrots etc), 3-4 spring onions, cooked and frozen prawns, crunchy peanut butter, 1 egg and soy sauce.

Method

  • Cook the rice noodles according to the packet’s instructions
  • Heat some sesame oil up in a frying pan, add a couple of pinches of chilli flakes, the red onion, garlic and whatever veg you’re using
  • Stir fry for a few minutes, then add the prawns and 2-3 tbsp of peanut butter
  • I also added a dash of fish sauce at this point
  • Move the veg to one side in the pan, crack the egg in the other side. Let it start cooking, and then scramble it up as it starts to fry and mix it with the veg.
  • Add in the noodles, pour on some soy sauce and mix it all up.

 

Chorizo and butterbean stew

Ingredients: 220g chorizo sausage, garlic clove, 1 tin of butter beans, 1 red pepper, 1 green pepper, 1 red onion, tin of chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and paprika.

Method

  • Chop up the chorizo into slices and then half or quarter the slices. Stick in the frying pan with the chopped red pepper, green pepper, red onion and garlic.
  • Leave it fry and sweat for a good five minutes, adding some paprkia to taste as you go.
  • Add in the tomato puree and 2 tbsp of green pesto, cook for another couple of minutes
  • Add in the chopped tomatoe and the butter beans. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  • We ate it with skin on garlic mash on the side, which was delightful.

 

Red Thai prawn fried rice

This one makes a massive amount of food, and is great for another round of leftovers the next day. I followed this BBC recipe: Thai prawn fried rice.

Ingredients: 275g uncooked rice, 2 eggs, 300g frozen prawns (I use slightly less), 1 tin of cooked green beans, 1 lime, fish sauce, red Thai curry paste

Method

  • Cook the rice as normal and set aside
  • Pour two beaten eggs into a frying pan, move the pan to form a thin omelette and cook until it sets (about 1 minute).
  • Roll the omelette up and slice into thin strips
  • Heat 1-2 tbsp of red Thai curry paste in a big pan, with a drop of water and then mix in the rice to coat it.
  • Add the prawns and the green beans and heat through
  • Pour in 1 tbsp of fish sauce (I add a little more), and the juice of 1 lime, mix in the egg strips.
Food

Greens, Zetland Road, Bristol

Turn off the busy parade of Gloucester Road, and you find a handful of cute, independent restaurants along Zetland Road. One of my favourites for a special occasion is Greens; serving a small menu of traditional British dishes with influences from international cuisines, using high quality, local ingredients.

Greens is a ‘neighbourhood’ restaurant, taken over by Head Chef Martin Laurentowicz, and front of house Nick Wallace, in 2012, whose partnership began in fine dining restaurants in Scotland.

From the outside, Greens looks cute and cosy; very enticing when you walk past at night. And inside it’s decorated very simply, with a cool, intimate atmosphere. It’s the kind of place you can dress up for on date night, or pop in on the spur of the moment if there’s a spare table.

Last time we went was over the weekend between Christmas and New Year, the time when you have no real clue what day it is. There were a handful of other tables, a mix of families, friends and dates.

To start I had the wild mushroom and buffalo mozzarella arancini with aioli and truffle oil (£8.50). Mushroom and mozzarella are always a perfect combination, so these were fried delights.

This was followed traditional Cullen skink with smoked haddock, braised leeks and cripsy potatoes (£16.50). Cullen is a thick Scottish soup – the smoked haddock flavour was almost overwhelming, but the braised leeks added a little taste of sweetness. Overall, it was a little too salty for my taste, but I did enjoy it.

Finally we shared a sticky toffee pudding with ice cream and cream. It was rich, decadent and amazing.

Greens is a lovely little place for an evening meal, especially if you catch their evening set menu of two courses for £17.95 or three courses for £23.95, Monday to Thursday.

Greens Restaurant. 25 Zetland Road, Bristol BS6 7AH.

Travel

San Francisco to Los Angeles: Roadtrip

San Francisco to Los Angeles is such a classic road trip; completely incredible scenery along the coast, the cutest seaside towns to explore and, of course, delicious food to eat.

The road trip: Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, LA

We flew into San Francisco on a Friday afternoon, and jumped straight in our hire car.

I’d spent a long time researching and trying to find out the best places to stop off on this trip. So our first was Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz is a very cute seaside town, with an incredible boardwalk. We arrived at the beginning of October, so a bit out of season and on a Friday evening everything was very quiet and a lot of places weren’t open.

However, Saturday morning the boardwalk was teeming with families and people enjoying themselves on all the rides and arcade games.

After a bit of fun in the arcades we got back in the car and drove about an hour or so along the road to Monterey.

Monterey is possibly even cuter than Santa Cruz. It’s more of a fishing town, with hundreds of boats in the harbour. We did a whistle stop tour of the main Monterey sites: Fishermans Wharf, Cannery Row (of the Steinbeck novel), Pacific House and Custom House, and we even managed to see some sea lions sunning themselves.

We continued along Highway one for another half hour before turning off to drive through Carmel by the sea. Part of me wishes we had stopped off at Carmel instead, it’s idyllic Main Street is lined with shops down to a stunning beach.

After Carmel we carried on down the coast for another couple of hours, through Big Sur. The scenery is breathtaking along this way, big endless cliffs and miles of ocean before driving through the greenery of Big Sur.

Just after it got dark we arrived in San Luis Obispo for the night. Originally we had intended on driving all the way down to Santa Barbara that first night, but we definitely started off too late and there was too much to explore on the way.

San Luis Obispo seemed to be a fairly quiet town, a good stopping place for the night.

Sunday morning we got up, went for an amazing breakfast and headed off again.

It took us just over two hours to get to Santa Barbara, driving past Pismo Beach and then away from the coast through Lompoc. The landscape was very different for this part, lots of farm land, green and mountains.

Santa Barbara is definitely somewhere worth stopping. We parked up in the Funk Zone, just off of State Street. This area is full of bars, places to eat and some cool shops.

Along State Street you can find your way to the pier, and then up towards lots more shops and restaurants.

We spent a good couple of hours in Santa Barbara, though we thought we would just stop off for half an hour! From Santa Barbara to Los Angeles the route is fairly simple, we went along the 101 instead of the 1, they’re fairly similar but we wanted to save some time.

We eventually found our way to our AirBnB in Los Angeles’s arts district at about 8pm.

San Francisco to Los Angeles Road trip tips

  • Driving along Highway 1 is definitely the way to go, but it does go along some high, twisty cliffs and some narrow bridges. It’s completely safe, but a little nerve wracking if you’re not a fan of heights, plus you can’t really do it in a hurry.
  • Book places to stay in advance, especially if you’re travelling in the summer. Places will book up and get expensive.
  • That being said, you probably won’t drive as far as you think you would each day – don’t stretch yourself by booking a motel further away.
  • Also, there are some great stops, but it doesn’t really matter where you sleep – you’ll probably be pretty tired anyway and can just get up and drive to the next interesting place. I spent way too much time trying to figure out the best places to spend our nights, and we were really just there to crash for a few hours.
  • Most of the towns will have signposts for the landmarks/ sites you want to see right from the highway. It’s very easy to find them.
  • Also parking centrally was simple in all of these places – Santa Cruz you can park along the seafront on meters, and there’s a car park next to the harbour in Monterey. Just make sure you have some dollar coins (there was a change machine in Santa Cruz so we changed $20).
  • Big Sur looked like it would have been an amazing place to spend the night. There were lots of cabins and camp grounds. We didn’t realise as we’d mainly used Airbnb and booking.com etc to search for accommodation. At the very least, leave a couple of hours to get out and explore Big Sur.
Food

Quay St. Diner, Bristol

If you’re looking for a new brunch, lunch, dinner, all day dining spot in Bristol city centre, Quay St. Diner is the place to go. The California inspired restaurant is located in the former premises of Roll for the Soul, and has hit the spot with it’s laidback atmosphere, colourful interior and delicious menu.

Pride of place in their open kitchen is their custom charcoal grill, which has enabled them to build the menu around cooking over an open fire; ‘live fire cooking’.

We ventured in there on a rainy Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago, for breakfast (maybe brunch is more accurate, it was nearly midday!) and were absolutely delighted with it.

First off, the coffee – I ordered a latte (£2.80), while Tom had a flat white. I’m not really much of a coffee expert, but I loved the giant teal coffee cup, and thoroughly enjoyed the coffee!

The brunch menu, served 9am-12pm Mon-Fri and 9am-2pm on the weekend, is full of tasty, California influenced choices, from Pancakes and Fruit to Brunch Tacos topped with grilled tomato and ancho chilli salsa, smashed avocado, pumpkin seeds, fruit salsa and pomegranate!

We both went for the Huevos Rancheros (£7) – baked Mexican eggs in a tomato salsa with crumbled feta on top and sourdough dippers, and added bacon (£2). It was incredible. The salsa was a little on the hot and spicy side, but full of flavour, and the contrast with the feta was just right. Oh, and the thick chunks of bacon were amazing.

The all day menu also looks exciting; small plates, tacos, and a selection of burgers, steak, salad etc. We’ll definitely be back to try it out.

Quay St. Diner is a great, friendly and welcoming place, with full flavour, smokey, delicious food – go now!

Quay St. Diner, 2, Quay Street, Bristol, BS1 2JL.