FOOD: Dinner at The Terrace on Piccadilly

One of the most amazing things about London is the amount of different restaurants available. So when I was tasked with finding a restaurant for a pre-theatre dinner I was more than happy I stumbled upon The Terrace at Piccadilly.

The restaurant

A tiny little London wilderness disguised in a hotel with an atrium feel. Even on a winter evening the restaurant itself is beautiful, cosy and intimate so I can only imagine just how stunning it is in the summer. The array of plants and seating make it a perfect spot for dinner or drinks. It’s also exceptionally instagrammable if that’s your flavour.

The food

Nibbles: freshly made flat bread with an avocado dip and home made hummus and an amuse-bouche of cherry tomatoes mozzarella and pesto.

Starters: Pan-fried scallop with pancetta and petite pois

Mains: Chloe – tiger prawn linguine, Tom – braised beef cheeks with a side of lobster mac and cheese.

Every single course was delicious. There were some definite stars of the show including the avocado dip for starters. The braised cheek was exactly as expected and I have to say it left me suffering with major food envy with the way it melted and fell apart. There were also some slight misses for us both. That’s not to say there was anything unpleasant about any dish but we both agreed that neither pasta dish blew us away. It didn’t taste that different from what a good home cook might make.

The price

To say it’s in the heart of Piccadilly the pricing was quite reasonable and typical of central London. As tastecard holders this restaurant is also one of their 2-4-1 venues meaning that both our starters and our mains were buy one get one free. This offer is available for 2 people Monday-Thursday but pre-booking is required. All in all it’s definitely a restaurant that’s staying firmly on my radar and no doubt somewhere I will return to again.

NG x

REVIEW: The Book of Mormon

I have a confession. I don’t like any animated comedy TV series. Family Guy, Simpsons, American Dad, Futurama and even South Park. I’m not just talking an “I don’t find them funny” kind of dislike; oh no. I’m talking full scale them actually being on in the background borderline angers me kind of dislike. So why on earth would I go to a musical created by the same people behind such TV shows I hear you cry. Well, it was the top of Tom’s list and recently his birthday so I decided to put my personal opinion aside and get him tickets. Also part of me was curious. I mean with nine Tony Awards and a Grammy I couldn’t possibly hate it could I?

The Theatre

The Prince of Wales Theatre in the heart of Leicester Square is the BoM’s home. A Mackintosh theatre it has multiple bars with a surprising amount of room as far as theatre’s go. I’m also a big fan of the fact that like many of the London theatres they serve Yorkshire crisps and popcorn #represent. We had dress circle tickets and I have to say the gradient of the rake was quite impressive. It certainly helps make the theatre feel intimate and you can pretty much guarantee a decent view right from the back. Added bonus that you don’t have to be concerned about someone tall sitting in front and as a shortie this is a regular concern for me.

The view from our ‘Row E’ seats

The Music

I don’t know where to start. I went in to this pretty much blind. I’d only ever heard the opening song “Hello” and that was from a video from Facebook a few weeks before my theatre visit. Needless to say that one video was enough for it to be on repeat in my head EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. But “Hello” is only one of the many incredible songs in this show. It has a remarkable way of taking some controversial subjects, putting a joke into and still making the music sound like an absolute broadway classic. Seriously impressive stuff. Though good luck picking a favourite song AND not having “Hello” in your head for daaaaays.

The Show

Whilst it’s certainly not “family friendly” though that does depend on the sense of humour of your family I guess. It sheds light on some very important themes and messages. Religion being the obvious one, Mormon culture and values another and not forgetting the oppression and violence facing the villagers in Uganda. Though you will be forgiven for laughing at what can sometimes feel like the most inappropriate times. You’ll come away laughing as if you’ve spent the last 2 hours at a stand up comedy gig. I guess that’s the brilliance of comedy writing. There’ll be moments that will touch your heart, make you spit out your drink and come away thinking “WTF”. Never in my life did I expect to see a scene in a musical that included Hitler, giant dancing coffee cups and skeletons with doughnuts but BoM more than delivered on that front. You’ll also never think of/look at a frog in the same way.

 Considering I’ve been lucky enough to see shows at £20 a ticket BoM is certainly on the slightly more expensive side of the scale but it’s also worth every penny. Like with all the shows week nights will always be cheaper and there are plenty of websites out there with flash sales and last minute “seat filling” offers. The run time is 2 hours 30 mins with a 15 minute interval. Bookings are currently available until mid May with group bookings running longer. There is also a daily lottery where 21 top-price tickets from each day are made available for £20 each. More information can be found on the theatre website:

https://www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk/tickets/the-book-of-mormon/

NG x

 

Where to mini golf in London

I’ve never been one for a “typical” date night. My dream date night is something different/exciting/active and mini golf is certainly up there with the best. My boyfriend actually plays golf so mini golf is the closest I can get to actually challenging him. So it’s fair to say we’ve been to a few so far in London. Here are our 3 faves:

Canary Wharf Mini Golf

Definitely one for the summer months this FREE mini golf has become a warm weather staple. Being so close to home, it’s the perfect excuse to get us out of the flat on a sunny day. It does open throughout the winter so if you can brave the cold you can get your mini golf fix and with a cafe right next door you can warm up with a coffee. It’s a great little course with tricky obstacles whilst still being perfect for families. There’s even some hole in one opportunities. Moreover, it is situated right next to the entrance to Canary Wharf tube station making it all the more accessible. Open 7 days a week until 4:30pm it’s certainly one way to get your mini golf fix.

Junkyard Mini Golf

If I had to pick a favourite it would be this one hands down. It is simply the most fun I’ve ever had playing mini golf. Located in the super cool Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch it’s within easy distance from Liverpool Street Station and Shoreditch High Street. The cocktail menu is something to behold where classic cocktails are given a hip and old school twist – AT THE SAME TIME. Be sure to check out the “Hotline Ting” for additional popping candy and party rings (and yes I do mean the old school biscuit). With 4 courses in total it’s impossible to get bored. Check out ‘Gary’ the 90’s rave course for a unique sliding experience… Booking is nearly always required so plan your visit in advance.

Hotline Ting (c) classic cocktails with an old school twist

Plonk Mini Golf

With 5 locations across London, Plonk is quickly establishing itself as the mini golfing hot spot. From putt in the park to puzzle putt, Plonk has variety. We recently paid a visit to Plonk Dalston with friends for a Saturday double date. After some difficulty finding it (it’s inside a bar and not very well sign posted) we got ourselves two rounds of mini golf for £12 each. At peak times these do have to be played consecutively but you can go for bar breaks in between. Efes bar itself was nothing to write home about but actually the golf was very good. The capitalisation on space is extremely impressive and nearly every hole had various ways to play it of varying degrees of difficulty. If all the others are this good then I’m excited to continue to explore all that Plonk has to offer.

Pizza, a DJ and Dalston

This weekend I payed a visit to the fantastic Pizza Union in Dalston with Tom and some friends. It’s the only pizza place I’ve ever visited with a resident DJ and where you can get 2 pizzas and a bottle of wine for under £30 (in London). Here’s how my experience went down.

The location

I have to admit Dalston isn’t an area of London I’m particularly familiar with and it wasn’t an area we actually intended to find ourselves in. We were aiming to visit Draughts, the board game cafe up the road in Haggerston but with a 2 hour wait for a table we quickly decided to source a new plan. So we ended up in Dalston. We actually dropped by Pizza Union after a couple of rounds of mini golf at Plonk. It’s within easy walking distance from both Dalston Junction and Dalston and Kingsland – both on the London Overground. A small venue, seating is adequate with larger benches and smaller, intimate tables. The pizza making and HUGE pizza oven all take place in front of you and the eclectic neon makes it feel like a cool venue. Not to mention the fact it has a resident DJ. It was such an incredibly unique and exciting place to spend a Saturday evening eating pizza and listening to the tunes and I could see it being an excellent warm up venue for a night out.

The menu

Pizzas start from as little as £3.95 for a margherita with options to add toppings or make your pizza gluten free for £1 extra. For such a small venue the pizza menu is impressive with many pizzas and ingredients completely new to me and different to anything I’d ever seen before. They have a variety of drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic with the option to purchase full bottles of red, white and sparkling wine. They offer sides of olives, sauces and dips to add to your order. Not content with just pizza they offer salads and one desert option. A dough ring filled with Nutella and mascarpone. As a pizza bar it sits in between a self-service/table service venue. Once ordered you collect the pizza yourself but the plate/tray is cleared for you.

The food

I have to say it’s beyond good. I’d always like to hope that my local pub offers the best pizzas in London but I think I’ve now found a pretty close rival. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a pizza that’s quite so crisp. It’s a perfect 12 inch, thin and crispy pizza that I simply couldn’t fault. I almost feel guilty for not doing Pizza Union justice and only ordering a Margherita pizza. I’m not one to return to food places in London – since there are just so many – but if I was back in Dalston/Aldgate/Kings Cross/Spitalfields and I fancied a pizza, this is where I’d be heading.

You can find more information about Pizza Union through their website or by visiting them on social media.

https://www.pizzaunion.com/

@pizzaunion

 

6 places to get in the Christmas spirit in London

The first snowflake has officially fallen and the advent calendar windows are starting to be opened but if after all of that you’re still missing some Christmas magic, here are some of my favourite FREE places in London to help get you in the Christmas spirit:

Regent Street

Once again Regent Street have their beautiful angel Christmas lights that sparkle and glow magnificently. Nothing makes me feel more in the Christmas spirit. For true Christmas magic  follow the angels all the way to Hamleys and tap into your inner child (it is Christmas after all).

Carnaby Street

Just tucked behind Regent Street is the magnificent Carnaby Street where you can experience a different kind of Christmas. This year they have opted for a Christmas carnival theme. With birds of paradise and all the bright colours you could imagine. Pay the spectacular Choccy Woccy Doo-Dah a visit and get some Christmas chocolate inspiration. Or if beauty is your thing, get lost in the likes of Benefit, Urban Decay, Mac and Too Faced for all your Christmas wish-list dreams.

 

Liberty London

Also just off Carnaby street is Liberty London. Founded over 142 years ago it is one of the oldest and most spectacular department stores in the country. With its mock-Tudor exterior and dramatic window display it’s enough to get that warm fuzzy feeling and that’s before you’ve even visited the 4th floor. Take the lift to their Christmas shop for unique Liberty gifts and stunning tree decorations. They have everything. Think personalised baubles for your pet to stunning peacock tree decorations. It’s near impossible to resist them all.

Leicester Square Christmas Market

Whilst it may not be the largest Christmas market in London, year on year it becomes one of my favourites. At any time of year there is something special about Leicester square, so add some Christmas magic and you have a truly beautiful mix. Be sure to check out the craft stalls and the mini pancakes to feel truly Christmassy.

 

 

WinterVille – Clapham junction

Think of it as almost a mini winter wonderland. Whilst not as spectacular, it’s certainly cheaper and far less crowded. With a bouncing beer tent, ice skating and alcoholic hot chocolate on offer it is certainly not one to be missed.

And finally…

Oxford Street

For me, it’s the epitome of Christmas in London. There is no greater feeling than stepping off the tube at Bond street station and seeing beautiful lights wherever you look. Year on year the window displays set it apart from your normal London shopping street. Be sure to check out “Moz” in John Lewis and the neon “with love” at Selfridges for a true feeling of Christmas.

10 Things I’ve learnt after a year in London

  1. Cheesy chips and gravy? Not a thing. *GASP* I know. Chips and gravy can be a struggle and cheesy chips are still a novelty in some places. Save this for home/returning to the North – especially if you’re aware of The Pie Shop.
  2. That bag you’re seeing EVERYWHERE? It’s a Longchamp tote.
  3. There will never be a good time to shop on Oxford Street so don’t try it. Try one of the Westfield centres instead or even better, the shopping centre at Canary Wharf – bliss.
  4. Build up your alcohol tolerance as you’ll need it. Get used to weekend day drinking starting with boozy brunches, weekend evening drinking, mid-week drinks, Prosecco Thursdays. That no drinking on a school night idea? Gone by week 2.

    Less than a week living in LDN and already exploring bars

  5. Tiger is the greatest shop on earth.
  6. Become a RTC (reduced to clear) ninja so you can pounce at the supermarket. Get to know the RTC staff if you have to so you know when the good stuff goes out or you’ll be left with a single yoghurt and some flavoured cottage cheese.
  7. Learn to pronounce stations. There’s nothing worse than a Londoner looking down on you ’cause you say Hol-Born.
  8. The number of Prets outweigh Greggs 2:1 so savour your sausage rolls when you do find them.
  9. You’ll flock to fellow northerners like a homing beacon – getting exceptionally excited when you hear another northern accent.
  10. As much as The North seems miles away, you wouldn’t trade living in The City.

        A beautiful view from Greenwich Hill

NG x

Northern Girl on… The Barbican Conservatory

One of London’s more secret attractions, not many people know that The Barbican centre has a conservatory that is open to the public and free to visit. Located on the third floor, the conservatory is home to some of the most amazing plants, fish and even turtles.

The plants wind through the conservatory past the fish ponds where you can take in all the varieties from pepper trees to banana plants and even the papaya plant. It then takes you up the stairs for beautiful views of the whole conservatory where you get to see the two varieties of turtles en route to the cactus room. 

If you get chance afternoon tea is a must. The food looked absolutely amazing and you’ll be hard pressed to find afternoon tea in a more picturesque and unique environment. 

Or if you’re on a budget, pack your own sandwiches and take them out to the stunning ground floor courtyard where you can sit by the water and soak up the sunshine.

The conservatory is open every Sunday 12pm-5pm (last entry 4:30) until the end of September with the exception of the 20th August and 10th September where it is closed for private events. Full information and afternoon tea booking can be found at www.barbican.org/visitor-information/conservatory

NG x

 

Northern Girl reviews… Skinny Living

On Wednesday me and Tom had managed to secure ourselves tickets to see Skinny Living live at an event – we would eventually discover – put on by Sony music. The gig was held in an intimate, basement venue in town just off Tottenham Court Road and with free drinks and canapes we were set for a dream evening out. The venue honestly couldn’t have been more perfect with sporadic glass tables and candles and the stage protruding into the audience it felt like it was made for such an event and I hope I get to return! 

Free drinks and sliders!

So I’ll swiftly move on to the band. If you haven’t heard of them already then shame on you. If you were at #BSTHydePark when Bieber was there then they may sound familiar (they were a support act after all) but if not they’ve featured more recently on BBC Radio 1 as well as being featured in Spotify’s viral top 50. I’ll hold my hands up and admit apart from hearing “Why” on Spotify and their beautiful acoustic video from their time in Hyde park, I was relatively new to their work but I know a lot of people back home who are huge fans and I trusted their judgement entirely.

So onto the music itself. I was already pretty familiar with why so it was no surprise this was their opener but I was blown away actually seeing it performed live and the lyrics resonate around the room so much more. 

Their next was a funky, acoustic vibe and then we got into fade. The band worked the crowd and got us to sing along. By this point in the gig I hadn’t stopped dancing and I was grinning from ear to ear. I don’t know if it’s the Irish lilt of the lead singer but fade almost reminded me of The Script in their early days. It’s perfect, bounce-along pop with amazing instruments thrown in and my inner indie girl from my teens fell in love with the band. 

The next song was an emotional one and I enjoyed it just as much. Messiah is a truly beautiful song with the most beautiful lyrics and story and the perfect balance to fade.

There is literally nothing not to love about Skinny Loving. You only have to spend 5 minutes listening to the lead singer talk about the band to know how much it truly means to them and yet there’s almost that air of disbelief that all of this is happening to them (they quite clearly deserve every inch of success). They have an insane amount of talent and yet seem like this band is where they are meant to be.

So what’s next from the band?

Well from what I can gather from speaking to the band, they have a string of festivals in the summer, an EP imminent and an album on its way which I quite simply can’t wait for. There wasn’t a single fault I could pick with any of the songs I heard and I have no doubt that their album will become one of those where you literally listen to it from start to finish – no skipping required, the sign of a truly good album. I’ve been to a string of gigs recently but it has been so long since I last saw something where I literally couldn’t stop grinning like a Cheshire cat all the way through. The music is refreshing whilst familiar all at the same time and it is something the charts are so desperate for right now.

You can find the band on FacebookTwitterYouTube and Spotify.

NG x 

10 reasons why you should visit the para athletics world championships 

For the first time ever World Para Atheltics Championships are being held in London. Here are 10 reasons why you should go!

1. Be a part of history – the number of tickets sold to this games is thought to have outsold the previous 5 world championships proving that following the 2012 Olympics, London really does do it best 

2. You get to see one of countries newest football stadiums – granted if you went to a West ham game you’d get to do this anyway but if football isn’t your thing it’s still a magnificent stadium to visit and so hugely important to London’s Olympic legacy.

3. It’s easy to get to. Stratford is on both the jubilee and central lines as well as the DLR meaning it’s super easy to get to and quick it also has great bus links and is even connected to TFL rail.

4. You’ll get to see some super star athletes – team GB are absolutely smashing these championships and we’re currently second in the medal table  (go cheer them on, we might get first)! With so many great athletes you’re guaranteed to see some GB medals no matter which session you attend.

5. Tickets are cheap. And I mean really cheap. For over 3 hours worth of action tickets start at £10 and just in case you’re worried that that means being up in the rafters here’s the view from our  £10 seats

6. See world records be broken – who doesn’t want to be able to say “I was there when xxx broke the world record” it’s so astounding to see what these athletes are achieving and how close some are to even beating their able-bodied counterparts. It’s also really heartwarming to see how many athletes are smashing PBs at these championships.

7. You’ll learn a lot. Before each event they have a little infographic explaining what the disability category means so you’ll be able to tell your T11s from your F34s in no time.

8. It’ll make you really appreciative of your life – I said it on Twitter recently but nothing humbles me more than para sport. To even begin to imagine what these people have been through and to be going out there and achieving what they are, channel 4 (the official Para sport broadcaster) really do say it best when they say they’re superhumans.

9. You’ll have fun – there’s loads of great food outlets all around the Olympic stadium and the atmosphere inside is incredible they even play upbeat songs between events to keep you bouncing so get ready to sing along to some of your favourite hits.

10. You’ll get to explore the Olympic park – get there early enough and there is so much more to see. The Olympic park itself is magnificent, take a peek in the aquatics centre, stroll along the canae or be a big kid on the various climbing frames. It is such a fantastic ode to London 2012. See if you can beat Greg Rutherford’s gold-winning long jump distance or remind yourself just what was achieved on Super Saturday. As if that wasn’t enough you could even take in the views from the top of the Orbit before sliding all the way down in the giant helter-skelter-esque slide.

Tickets are currently available for all remaining sessions right up until the final sessions on Sunday 23rd July. Purchase by visiting http://www.london2017athletics.com/worldparaathleticschampionships

NG x

Northern Girl on… Fitness and sport

I decide to seize moving to London as an
opportunity to get my fitness in slightly better shape. I have danced for as long as I can remember and took up skiing about a year ago but my actual fitness was far from great and I decided now was time to change that. 2017 has been my first real year of ‘fitness goals’ there’s the typical weight loss (15lb in total following a far from perfect diet) but this year having taken up running – more on that later – my goal is also to run my first official 10K.

If you’d have told me 6 months ago I was going to catch ‘the bug’ I’d have laughed at you. I have never been the runner or the fitness fanatic, I’ve always admired those people who get up at the crack of dawn and run through wind and rain but extra sleep/warmth has always been my preference. I’m still not sure if it’s London that’s done this to me or the fact that I used to live between two huge hills, maybe both, but my evenings are now filled with lycra, Nike free runs and the Thames path. As a Northern girl it perhaps helps that running is free! So here are some of my top tips for keeping fit in The Capital without expensive gym membership fees.

Running Tips:

New to running? – Try free apps such as Couch to 5k / 10k (available in the App
Store/Google Play)

love these apps! I’m currently using couch to 10K, it aims to get you 10K ready in 14 weeks based on 3 work outs a week using proven interval techniques to increase your fitness. The app tells you when to alternate between walking and running for optimal results. I also like to pair this with GPS tracking apps so I can see the map of my route; my favourite is Under Armour’s Map my Run.

Get the right gear – A money saving blog telling you to spend money seems somewhat counterintuitive, but there is nothing more motivating than new clothes or feeling comfortable in your work out gear. The best thing is you don’t even need to spend a lot of money. Sports Direct have some amazing sales on their Karrimor range at the minute, I’ve just picked up a neon pink long sleeve running T-shirt for £5.25 and the high street is going crazy for fitness gear with the likes of Primark, M&S and even Boohoo.com releasing fitness ranges there is something for everyone. I am lusting after the Oasis x Pineapple Dance Studio collection.

My new £5 bargain top featuring my £25 trainers

Shoe size smaller than a 6? – Try out the junior ranges

If you’re a keen runner already and training for marathons, this one probably isn’t for you but if you’re new to the sport and not ready to commit to expensive, custom fit shoes always try the junior sections for your running trainers. In the looks department they are virtually like for like, spec they are perhaps slightly lower but I’ve been buying my trainers in the junior section for years and I have found them to always be perfect and there are huge savings to be had! I got my first pair of Nike trainers for £25, the adult equivalent were £90!!!!

Struggle to motivate yourself? – See what’s going on in your neighbourhood

My local community are really active and have a dedicated Facebook group for fitness activities including HIIT classes, yoga, SUP yoga etc.  It’s also a great way to meet like-minded people and find running buddies. See if your local area offers something similar or start your own! Goodgym.org are also great to give you a little more motivation on your run, they are organised runs throughout different London Boroughs that combine exercise with giving back and helping the local community – get fit and do good! London is great for water sports and the docklands sailing centre near Canary Wharf regularly offer discounted taster sessions for sailing, kayaking and paddle boarding. Check them out on Facebook for more info.

Giving yoga a try at a local yoga class

Or if running isn’t for you…

  • Shop around for classes – Seriously. It’s no secret that this City is crazy expensive and if like me you get a kick out of dance classes; shop around. When I first moved here I was being quoted £90 for an hour dance class, £22 for a weekly group class but with various research I was able to find somewhere offering Ballroom dance classes at £7 per week – the exact same price I was paying back up North.

  • Home workouts – My boss swears by a home kettle bell work out and zumba and YouTube is full of them and others. Simply stream then straight into your living room (or preferred work out location) and away you go. 

  • Groupon – THEY HAVE EVERYTHING – From monthly gym passes, to spin classes, aerial hoop aerobics sessions, yoga, Pilates, martial arts and rock climbing. You name it, Groupon probably have it (and if they don’t it obviously isn’t worth having)the offers are incredible (5 spin classes for £15 being a personal fave) andit’s an amazing opportunity to try out new and exciting things without a hugefinancial commitment. You never know, you might find out that all that energywasted on a treadmill was a lot better suited for an aerial hoop!

  • Team sports – Look out for local tennis clubs, netball teams, touch rugby teams. Whatever you’re into you’d be surprised at just what you can find on offer. The LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) have a great website that shows you all of their accredited centres and some even have a book a court feature. The ‘This Girl Can’ campaign by Sport England also has loads of information about what’s going on and is available to you.

  • Check you’re not missing out on exclusive Gym offers – Residents of Southwark can get access to gyms for free within that Borough or failing that, see if your work can offer discounted schemes to access gyms in the way of salary sacrifices/corporate discounts etc. If your work are signed up to ‘Gym Flex’ there are savings of up to 40% per month to be made and you don’t pay NI on your monthly salary sacrifice scheme. Look if your local gym offers a free ‘trial’ month, just be certain to read the T’s and C’s. Most may offer your first month free but only after they have tied you into a contract, totally the opposite of productive if Virgin have already tied you into a £250 a month membership (not exaggerated.) 

  • Love Cycling? – Santander Cycles – I love Boris bikes. I think the concept is genius, they are cheap, easy to use and they are everywhere. Download the app, register your card and get access to a code instantly. I also love the way you can see where around you has bikes available/docking stations free. A lot of London’s parks do allow cyclists such as Hyde Park and Victoria Park so you can avoid the hellish roads. One of our favourite routes is to pick up a bike at Limehouse, take the canal path up to Victoria Park then up to the Olympic Park and on a Sunday – with good timings – it will only cost you £2.

  • Take up golf – London has so many great driving ranges which makes golf a much more social event. From top golf out in Chigwell where you turn your driving range experience into various different target hitting games to the range at the o2 in North Greenwich they’re a great place to hit with friends for some light sport and alcohol! 

What are your favourite ways to work out? NG x