nordic cuisine with martyn meid and miele

when one receives an invite from miele to eat at the chef's table at their fancy mayfair showroom, one doesn't say no. especially when the chef in question is ink's own chef martyn meid and the food on offer is none other than his very speciality; nordic cuisine. while laura and i mused over what exactly the menu might consist of (having just been to norway recently, i could only assume it was overpriced starbucks...), we took our seat at the table with katy and the other laura, and waited in hungry anticipation.

with a brief introduction from the man of the hour, we learned that we would be treated to a seven (seven!) course taster menu, and seven (seven!) perfectly-paired drinks. seven drinks, and we were assured that not one of them was going to be water. gooooood.

the thing i missed during chef martyn's spiel was that a variety of the courses were going to be served... raw. i guess there's not a lot of technical 'cooking' involved in nordic cuisine then, because the majority of the courses we were going to be served, were in  fact served uncooked. now, i love sushi as much as the next girl, but... i also quite like my fish cooked as a preference. what was explained was that we should imagine each of the courses as if they would be plated up together; each element would be served separately.

up first was an oyster, drizzled in lime juice, and served with a glass of bubbles. salty, and tangy, and... not my favourite. the bubbles were lovely though! next up was turbot cured in apple vinegar and served with burnt onions. with the naturally-occurring sugars in the onions, the crisp edges were a lot sweeter than your normal bbq-burned onions, and (even though i can't eat onions!), were pretty tasty! the fish was... not cooked, as we've discussed, and i was beginning to wonder why miele - purveyors of ovens and cooking equipment, would want to host a chef who - by definition, was not cooking a thing, to host a dinner in their kitchen. pisco sours accompanied this course, and as i'd given laura my onions, i only felt it fair that she give me her drink. all's fair 'n that!

third course was herring in rapeseed oil, with a 'salsa' of cucumbers i various stages of death (some raw, some pickles, some cooked), salmon roe (gulp), and quails  eggs - that we were instructed to eat with the shells on (double gulp). we did as we were told as to allow ourselves the chance to take in his culinary masterpiece the way it was intended, but... no. i very much went off-brief on the second egg. i found the crunch of the shell all too... weird, in my mouth (and was crunching on that shell for hours to come!); when you're used to not eating something, then told to eat that same thing, your brain does funny things. want to know what helped wash this down? a sparkling gin, infused with orange peel. ohhhh yes.

next up was something i initially thought was just a plate of beets, but soon discovered underneath lay some cured goose meat, cured in a caraway-infused vodka. the beet and sea salt salad atop was part cooked, part raw, but mostly delish. i found this course oddly satisfying - the only thing that put me off was the glass of red that accompanied. not a red fan, me. pink, all day. red? never, please.

the fifth course was the game change; melt in your mouth pork belly, perfectly mashed potatoes and a crisp, chinese cabbage leaf served (again) with another red. couldn't tell you the difference in the reds, as they all just tasted of ick to me. the pork though, was perfectly cooked - 17 hours, i'm assured, and fell apart as soon as you put your fork to it. there was no need for a knife, as it was like picking through a slab of ice cream - and the flavours? sensational. in hindsight - not sure how the pork would have fit into the 'imagine each element as one plate of food', when (almost) everything else was seafood based...

the final of the main courses was a hunk of sea-salted cod, served with leeks and an avocado purée. the fish was super salty, for sure. i tend to think seafood doesn't need extra seasoning; the sea water brine is usually enough flavour for me, but with the avocado purée, it was totally balanced out. each element of this course was odd on its own, but together, just delicious. another red was met with disapproving looks from the proper foodies around the table (who drinks red with fish! uncouth!), until our sommelier assured us this was a 'fish appropriate' red. no idea why, makes no sense to me.

last, but not least, was an incredibly cooked goat's milk crème brulée, paired with a subtly-sweet moscato. aaah, love a dessert wine! so fizzy and sweet! reminds me of the fake wine mum used to get me when i was a kid so i could drink with the adults at christmas and special occasions. too funny. the dessert was the perfect thing to end the meal, and acted as a complete palette-cleanser. we left the showroom (after attempting - and failing, to finish all of the glasses of wine we had left), with oddly-empty bellies but with definitely fuzzy heads. i could have eaten five portions of the pork, and had just that and the dessert, if i'm completely honest. i'm a simple girl, with simple needs. i need to know how to slow cook a pig, because that will be my greatest challenge in life now; trying to recreate that one course.

a massive thanks to miele and chef martyn for having us down, and for being such gracious hosts. it was fun to be able to dine in the kitchen that's usually reserved for the cooking courses they hold on-site, but equally incredible to have been spoiled rotten by a world-renowned chef, and only a short-stroll from work no less!

what's your take on raw/uncooked fish - a sushi darling, or prefer a battered cod?

wanderlust | crying out for a cruise

i was musing to the girls while we were away in germany over the weekend that i've never had a summer holiday. i mean, i'm from a perma-hot country, so like, beach holidays were kinda... just normal weekends for me as a teenager, so they're not really novelty for me, or what i really find desirable about holidays. normally. having just come back from my umpteenth wintery, european holiday, i've decided i want something a little bit different from my holidays next year.

but... what? as i said, i'm not reeeeally the beach-dwelling type, and you'll never catch me in a pool (i just don't like being submerged, ok?), and i need a break from the city breaks, so.. what does that leave me with? as i was binge facebooking on the tarmac on sunday (naughty), a friend's most recent holiday snaps caught my eye, and i wondered... what about a cruise?

i'm ok on water; i've travelled to tasmania on the spirit a couple of times, and that's an overnight journey, plus i've been on smaller ferries, in choppy seas, and i've been ok. i know i don't get sea sick, and i grew up around fishers and boaters, so i'm a terrific swimmer - promise that me not liking water is not because i'm shit at being in it, i just... don't like it!

because i'm a sucker for punishment, i googled cruises from the uk to see what my options were, and foolishly even subscribed to the fred olsen newsletter just to be entered into the drawer to win a free holiday. i'm pure desperate (cheap), and you gotta be in it to win it, right? well anyway, while hanging about on site i noted one cruise in particular that services the med coast, and this was also something we talked about while away this weekend; i've never done the mediterranean, and the others had only done a few islands each.

with ports of call including alanya, alicante, sardinia and crete (all new places for me!), i'd say this is a pretty awesome holiday idea, and with activities on board not limited to being poolside, i reckon there's also something there for everyone, don't you? whether you're a cabaret kid like me, prefer to be sprawled by one of many crystal-clear pools, love the idea of travelling luxuriously between market bazaars, or are just there for the fruity drinks, i reckon i've talked myself into this as a legit option for next summer. or, pre-summer, because at the end of the day, i'm still a cheapskate and refuse to do anything during peak season.

have you been on a cruise? tell me things you liked or didn't like about it below!

*post written in collaboration with brand*

#georgechristmas | the shard, southwark

when i moved to london, i mentally started a 'london bucket list'; a list of things that were so typically 'london', and that i had to do 'before i died' (or, retired back to the motherland). such things included things like go on an open bus tour (done), ride a bike through the parks (still not done), afternoon tea in a swanky hotel (totally done), included regrettable things like 'get that stupid cable car across the river' (done, sadly), 'hit oxford street on xmas eve (also done, and really quickly and efficiently), and - when it finally opened, 'see the view from the shard'. 

because i'm tight and won't pay to go up, nor have i ever been approached by anyone tall and handsome to escort them to the bar for a drink, it's remained firmly atop this stupid list for about a year. well, last week, i made history happen. and when i say 'i made history happen', i mean that in the most un-literal of senses. in fact, i did nothing to make this happen, but be in the right place, at the very right time.

some of you know that earlier this year i made the move into "digital marketing". the reason i use quotation marks, is because somehow, what i do as part of my job, is read blogs all day. read blogs, talk to bloggers, and all in the name of good communication and mutual benefit. i mean, that's kinda of cool, huh? so, when one of my colleagues was charged with planning and hosting a christmas dinner at the shard for our client george at asda, and told to invite a handful of london's loveliest bloggers, well... i had to get involved... somehow!

oh, how i do love when my two worlds collide! rather than come along in an entirely bloggery capacity, i was on hand to "work the room", mingle with my bloggery friends - old and new, and make sure that everyone was happy. i reckon i did a pretty good job of that - certainly once my insane shard-gasm wore off! the view when we arrived on the 35th floor was so indescribable, and these pictures certainly serve it no justice either...

from the champagne reception in the foyer through to the three-course christmas dinner in one of the private rooms of the shangri la hotel, the event was absolutely flawless. with christmas gifts from the brand to the bloggers taking everyone by surprise, and the never-ending flow of delicious wine, my job was mostly done for me. with no hard-sell in sight, and nothing but the twinkling lights of old london town to keep us entertained, we drank, laughed and mingled into the night.

thank you so so so much to george for letting me tag along on the night, and enable me to tick something pretty major off my bucket list - and all in the name of work, no less!

la maison | rémy martin pop-up

we all know i am a simple girl, with simple tastes, so when ben somehow scored a +1 invite to the la maison rémy martin members club that popped up in soho recently and thought i'd be the best person to go with, i was... shocked. but, because cocktails and a gracious person, of course i went along.

we walked up a down greek street a couple of times, looking for the number of the house the club was supposed to be in, but knowing it was members only, we figured it wasn't going to be easy to find. it wasn't, but the burly bouncer outside a random door should have been the giveaway. yet.. it wasn't. there were no secret handshakes or code words, sadly, which is how i had imagined all the soho members only clubs operated...

inside, we were met by three very lovely ladies - the concierge, and two hosts. they took our coats, and explained how the evening would work: we had a table booked from 8-10pm, plus we were booked into a 'masterclass of opulence' at 8:15pm. we were then to the first-floor bar for a drink, because we were a little early (no thanks to el pink chihuahua!). cognac cocktails? oh, go on then! we started at the top, and worked our way down the list until it was time for us to head into the masterclass on the next floor.

there, in the cognatéque (cognac library), we met a representative of rémy martin, who spoke with such passion and knowledge about the history and pride of the family-run business, and why the brand had decided to join forces with a members club in the heart of london. we were taught how to appreciate the brandy, to taste it, and what ingredients are used to create the incredibly luxurious anhd long-lasting flavours you can taste for hours after, on the tongue and back of the throat.

i will admit... i'm not a brandy girl, at all, and found the taste raaaather strong and overpowering. i did not know that brandy is essentially what happens when you continue to ferment grapes past the stage it becomes wine, so based on that information alone, i feel like i should give brandy another chance!

in the centre of the room was a giant spread of ingredients and flavours that are used in the fermenting process, and as we were there on the last night of the event, we were encouraged to eat it all (we did not. i did have a few macarons, won't lie). it was interesting to try different types of food after each sip and discover new palette cleansers (parmesan cheese, raw tuna, who knew!) that completely wiped the taste and heat of the brandy from your mouth. incredible!

i did feel a bit out of my depth, being in such a refined and classy establishment after i'd had maybe a few too many tequilas, but it was definitely worth heading along to - even if just because i know i will never get an invite to a place like that myself. me, a member? of a club? please! unless it's a 'terrible taste in music' or 'eating chocolate in bed almost nightly' club, i don't think they'll want me on the guest list.

are you a brandy fan? what are your fun brandy palette cleanser facts?
(if any?)

god's own junkyard at the lights of soho

chris bracey's "god's own junkyard" is back at lights of soho for a limited time in the run up to christmas. ben and i stumbled upon it last saturday as we were headed to el camion on brewer street. i've wanted to check out the junkyard in walthamstow for such a long time after seeing the pop up in berwick street a few years back - again, randomly, so when i saw that it was back in central, i was pretty excited.

chris bracey had been the neon man for almost 40 years before his untimely passing early last month, and had been renowned for creating neon artwork originally for the soho sex shop industry, and later moving into cinema; the junkyard features retired and reworked pieces of neon art, set props and treasured signs. if you love a random wander in the heart of london, check out the pop up in the 'lights of soho' while you can. aim for later in the day when the sun's set and the artwork is in its full glory.

the pieces are mesmerising, and will honestly leave you smiling.