Afternoon tea at the Sanderson

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I must admit, I don’t usually go for afternoon tea- but when I do, I want it to be special and out of the ordinary. That’s why I decided to book the mad hatters tea party at the Sanderson for my family and I. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s set outdoors in the courtyard of the- you guessed it, Sanderson, providing each guest cosy blankets and presented with  pretty teapots embellished with kings and queens and sandwich plates decorated with zebras, birdcages and ticking clocks.  The food is all themed around Alice and Wonderland and is priced at £48.  The sugar is presented in a cute little music box and the menu wedged in between the pages of a vintage book. You can also choose to have a glass of champagne with it too for £58. As there were 6 of us – (well 5 and one child), we decided to go for a bottle as an extra treat!

Once you are seated, the waiter brings you samples of all the teas. I’ve only recently become more into tea and I will say the Alice inspired fusions smelled delicious. I liked the way they were all in little jars with labels and we got to do more than just simply read the descriptions before choosing which one we’d like to try first. I went for White rabbit, infused with white grapefruit, vanilla and almond white chrysanthemums. It was light and floral! Then, we eagerly awaited our food (we went around lunch time and I was starving).  In terms of first impressions, I loved the food presentation of the tea stand, especially the meringues and the marshmallow mushrooms.

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Going by each tier, the bottom had:

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  • Smoked salmon Scotch quails egg with caviar and cream cheese (Yum – however, a bit too fishy  and not enough egg to fish ratio if you ask me)
  • Stack of King of Hearts ham and parmesan croque-monsieur (Probably my favourite of the savoury options! Simple but always a treat)
  • Cornish crab bridge roll with dill, lemon, crème fraîche and avocado (This was OK, I did feel that there was not enough crab to properly enjoy it but from the little crab we had, it was tasty)
  • White Rabbit cucumber and cream cheese sandwich on pesto bread (A bit boring in my opinion)
  • Alice’s cinnamon, apple and peach “ Drink Me” potion (interesting! I liked how as you drank it you picked up different flavours of the dessert- it’s also quirky to include a drinkable dessert) 

These were the only savoury (minus the potion) options for the day. I know I would have liked to have more choices as all the little desserts became a bit sickly after a while- however, this may be due to my own personal preference and what you look for in an afternoon tea!

The next tier had:

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  • Queen of Hearts rose and strawberry Jammy Dodger (Yum! the biscuit was both crumbly and buttery)
  • Mocha chessboard gateau (Left this to last and was not my favourite- I’m not a huge fan of really chocolaty cakes though so that speaks for itself)
  • Tweedle Dee lemon curd financier (Again, delicious but way too rich to finish)
  • Mad March Hare vanilla pocket watch macaroon (Probably my favourite! I love a good vanilla macaroon)

And finally, the top tier:

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  • Wonderland marshmallow magic mushrooms (Nice in terms of decor, but too sweet otherwise)
  • Mad Hatters lost carrot and fennel meringue (Tasty- it was airy and light. These were placed in the grass served at the top of the tier)

In addition, the waiter then brought out warm scones served with Cornish clotted cream and fruit preserve. This is when I decided (for once and surprisingly) that I was done with desserts and desperately craved another ham and cheese sandwich. While I would go back for the experience, I’m not sure if I would go back for the food. There were, as mentioned, dishes I really enjoyed, but there were (in my opinion!) too many sweet treats in comparison to savoury. As many of them are so rich in flavour, it did feel a bit overwhelming.

Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a lovely place to have afternoon tea which is a little different to the norm, this could be the place for you!

A weekend away in Venice

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For my Birthday this year, Mark decided to pull out all the stops (cheers babe) and take me on a little weekend trip to the city of love. and carbs. and wine- Venice! This was a wonderful surprise and a great start to the month- aka the best month because I was born. Jokes. Sort of. Setting off on Saturday morning and smoothly arriving into Venice we were both excited for our lovely long weekend away from the hustle and bustle of London. Venice life is relaxing. Everyone drinks wine for breakfast, lunch and dinner and leisurely strolls around the city soaking in the culture -sometimes underrated here in London where life always feels so rapid.

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On arrival, we walked the quick distance to our bed and breakfast. In a perfect location, just across the main bridge from the bus station and nestled in one of the alleyways of the city, (il Giardino di Giulia- translating literally into Giulia’s garden) was a true gem. Owned by a lovely man named Marco who prides himself in everything his b&b upholds, we had a lovely quaint room on the ground floor, decorated with old-fashioned furniture juxtaposed with modern art touches. It only has three rooms in total, making it lovely, cosy and intimate. For breakfast, which was served on the top floor, decorated with Marco’s vintage furniture, we were served Italian cakes, coffee, tea, toast as well as a list of other organic items made to order, whipped up by Marco himself as smooth jazz played in the background. He made delicious scrambled eggs with chives and porcini mushrooms, as well as fresh pancakes with tasty berries. By having 3 rooms, the breakfast table is essentially shared by all the guests, which means there’s always a chance to talk to Marco, as well as everyone else, discussing restaurants, where they’ve been around Venice, as well as getting to know people. If you don’t really like the idea of socialising- Breakfast is the only likely time you’ll ever see someone, as people spend most of the day out and about exploring.

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On our first day, we decided to do the whole of Venice. WHOLE? – I know what you’re thinking. Damn girl, that’s a bit ambitious. While that may sound like the case, if you look at the map, you can actually go from north to south of the islands in around 50 minutes. Our idea was to get all the main sights done as well as take the famous gondola down the tiny canals. We went to the Rialto Bridge, Piazza San Marco and let ourselves be guided by the city, constantly wandering down little pathways. Note- this doesn’t always work because you end up walking down a path and hitting a dead end, or several in our case. Also- I’d just like to point out gondola ride is 80 euros for 30 minutes. A bit PRICEY IF YA ASK ME, but, nonetheless, I’d definitely recommend it- you truly see the beauty of Venice as you calmly float through the city.

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SATURDAY:

On our first night, we frustratedly walked around looking for a restaurant which would satisfy us and live up to our expectations. I am, the most– pickiest person when it comes to going to a restaurant when I’m on holiday. Especially in a city which attracts more tourists than locals- it is especially important to know you’re eating somewhere that isn’t a tourist trap. Actually, maybe that is just me and Mark, but we love to know that we’re in for a treat. Thankfully, this is exactly what we were in for when we stumbled upon Osteria Enoteca al Artisti. The wine was gorgeous, the food prepared with the freshest ingredients and the tiramisu was THE BOMB.

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Orchiette with Duck Ragu

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Stewed Lamb and Fried Corn Polenta with Veggies

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Tiramisu

 Sunday:

On Sunday, we were knackered having walked all over Venice. Marco suggested we head to Osteria Alba Nova Dalla Maria, tucked away on a small street, away from the main touristy spots. It was also a five-minute walk from the hotel and as I was feeling particularly lazy, this was great news. It is a family run restaurant that is cosy and authentic. If you’re looking for a small, quaint restaurant that serves traditional Venetian recipes then this is your place to go. Just be careful of an old grumpy Italian man that knows the owner, attending regularly for dinner and who ends up getting drunk and hurling abuse at people. I wish I was joking – he must have been about 85 pissed on half a bottle of red, telling mark how only women should wear shorts- bitch, please.

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Selections of meats

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Spaghetti al Vongole (clam spaghetti – MY FAV)

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Dark Chocolate Pasta – (sounds strange, but apparently an ancient recipe and definetly tasty) with cuttlefish

Monday:

DSC03571On Monday, we decided we would head off to the other surrounding Islands of Venice. If you haven’t been, there are no cars so everything is done by boat- imagine moving house and shifting ya furniture down small canals- nightmare! We decided to take the water boat to the north of the island, where you can access further water buses to Burano, Murano and other little islands. I will say, If you don’t want to spend 80 euros on a gondola then this is a cheap way to float through the city- you essentially get an inexpensive tour and can pay for a day pass for 20 euros and take it all around Venice. Burano is a cute little island, famous for knitting intricate lace and is dominated by pretty colourful houses that are fit for an Instagram account’s dream. For lunch, we decided to try Trattoria Da Romano.  As Burano is small and touristy, all the nice restaurants quickly get filled up. We were being consistently turned away or being told to “try our luck in 30 minutes”. Getting hungry and impatient, we were lucky to finally get a table as I had read good things. I’m glad this was the case because the food was worth it! Burano has lots of fresh seafood and I knew we had to take advantage of this.

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Vongole saltate in padella. Clams quickly tossed in a pan in a white wine sauce, with garlic and parsley. You may tell, I like clams. No, I LOVE CLAMS. In Italy, they are a must try dish- especially with a bit of lemon.

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Calamari with white polenta and deep fried vegetables – again, fresh and tender seafood- crucial for a good calamari dish.

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Gnochetti ala Grancevola (crab and tomato sauce)

Later, for dinner, we went to a lovely Venetian place called La Bitta. A restaurant choosing to focus solely on meats, we went for steak, chicken with red peppers, tomatoes and olives as well as a moreish plate of beef carpaccio. I must admit the pictures look a bit blurry and I think this was because I was slightly tipsy.- As Always. But, I did save you a picture of my favourite part of that meal – the dessert. The Panna Cotta was amazing. It had a perfect consistency and jiggled like me on a club night out- haha, seriously though, it was epic.

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TUESDAY:

Finally, our last food stop of the trip consisted of trying Chichetti (Venetian tapas) traditionally eaten standing up.  You can’t go to Venice and not experience it like a local and Chichetti is no exception! You essentially head to the bar and the food is all on display, as you select which different dishes you’d like. It’s all back to basics here- usually served on paper plates and plastic cups. This is even more enjoyable on a sunny day as revellers sit outside in the sun sipping on crisp, cold white wine. We tried Chichetti in both Cantinone Gia Schiavi and Osteria Al Squero, which are both down the road from each other. You must try the latter as it is always popular no matter what day you walk past and has become synonymous with eating like a venetian.

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I can’t honestly tell you everything we got because we asked for house favourites – I’d recommend doing this so you can try an array of different items rather than go for flavours you’re automatically drawn to

Venice was a lovely trip. I got to forget about work for a few days, eat yummy ice cream every day and justify it because we were “walking around”, practice my Italian and spend time with Mark as we basked in the sun.

A personal shout out to him for organising everything, you really are the best.

Italian Tapas at Gastrovino, Chelsea

Situated over 2 floors, Gastrovino is a cute Italian restaurant nestled in the heart of kings road. Surrounded by Italians, (and being asked if I am ACTUALLY Italian – half mate, half) I knew that the food had to be yummy.

IMG_5246Andrea, Katrina and I attended last Wednesday for their aperitivo night! For just £10 pounds per person, every guest is given a welcome drink, as well as an unlimited access to a selection of different small dishes, which are continuously brought out by the chefs as the night unfolds. In terms of price, their Wednesday night deals are such a bargain, as each dish usually ranges between £5-8. I will say we arrived pretty late and so it was rather difficult finding a table and setting up- if you don’t want the hassle of standing around praying someone gets up, definitely go earlier than 8:30 pm! It is also more dimly lit downstairs than up, but this is because the lower deck is a great place for a cocktail, serving as the bar area rather than the main restaurant itself. However, once we did find a seat it was a cosy evening! There was some live music going on in the background and an array of tasty drinks on offer, which really added to the atmosphere. In terms of food, (my favourite part of any situation) we were in control of what dishes we wanted (and in our case, re wanted teehee)- helping ourselves to the various tasty dishes that were on order. As previously mentioned, because the chefs constantly bought out variations of traditional and authentic Italian dishes throughout the night, there was always something new to try. I must admit I kept helping myself to more… it was for the whole table Ok. My favourite dish had to be the aubergine parmigiana. If I have to explain what that is then you know nothing. Jokes.  It is deep fried aubergine in tomato sauce covered with mozzarella cheese mmmmm. We also had the classic bruschetta, pizzette, seafood risotto, pasta with a creamy tomato sauce and meatballs! A pretty good selection if you ask me… and that wasn’t even the half of it!

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All the food was what I’d expect (and want!) from a typical Italian restaurant: tasty carbs, cheese and lots of deep fried goodies.