#SmallChanges with Optiwell!

Last month, I was delighted to attend an adorable event hosted by new healthy yogurt drink brand, Optiwell. Having just launched in the UK (you may have come across their Holly Willoughby-fronted campaigns already), the brand invited a small group of health-conscious bloggers to participate in an evening of Optiwell-doused fun.

After learning more about the products’ highlights (no added sugar and 64 calorie servings were a huge selling point for me!), we took time out for smoothie making, Cowshed massages, and manicures (sat in front of a wall of Sex & The City-screening retro televisions).

As part of their #SmallChanges campaign (visit their website for your chance to win a trip to New York!), we also sat down with dietician and sports nutritionist Laura Clarke to discuss the personal changes we could adopt to contribute to a healthy 2016.

Want to know what changes I’ll be making? Watch the video below!

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In Review: Chinese New Year at Hakkasan Mayfair, London

hakkasan chinese new year london
Brace yourselves, my previous foodie followers. We have a near-ideal tasting menu to discuss today.

As we are in the festive midst of Chinese New Year celebrations, I decided to spend a mammoth evening in the belly of Hakkasan Mayfair in celebratory anticipation of 2016’s luck, joy and prosperity.

Worldwide, Hakkasan’s esteemed international outposts are honouring the Chinese wishing tree tradition (inspired by the Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees in Hong Kong) and inviting guests to share their hopes for the coming year by writing wishes on ribbons, hanging them in the restaurants, and feasting on some truly inspired dishes.

As my dinner date and I toasted our wishes over two 9 Hóus (El Dorado 3 Year Old rum, Amontillado sherry, banana, guava, lime, agave syrup and walnut), the sheer size of the set menu that lay ahead started to sink in.

To begin, we enjoyed golden-cupped Japanese Wagyu beef with pine nuts and a faultless dim sum platter (har gau, scallop shu mai, Chinese chive dumplings, and duck & yam bean dumplings), before spooning through an unnecessary but flavourful double-boiled fresh ginseng and chicken soup (with bamboo pith and wolfberry).

Yes. Just to begin.

The real show-stoppers arrived shortly thereafter; wok-fried lobster in spicy truffle sauce (cooked to perfection) and a plate of grilled Chilean sea bass in honey that was so unbelievably perfect it verged on sexual.

That’s not to say the Pipa duck, dried scallop & crab rice, or stir-fried Hericium mushrooms (with lotus root, asparagus, and lily bulb in black pepper) weren’t wonders of their own merit. I would simply be less inclined to eat them every day for the rest of my life as I would the aforementioned duo.

Ending with their ‘Golden Halo‘ (a beautiful sequence of soy caramel, banana delice, chocolate, and peanut) as we watched the last few wishes of the evening get tied into the walls around us, I couldn’t help but feel like 2016 was already off to an enchanted start.

(Hakkasan’s Signature Chinese New Year menu will run from now until February 22nd and costs £88.88 per person.)

hakkasan chinese new year london
hakkasan chinese new year london
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In Review: Tagine, London

tagine balham
I have a love/love relationship with Morocco. Having travelled around the country twice, I am as fascinated by the culture as I was the day I landed and still count Fes as one of my favourite destinations in the world.

Authentic Moroccan food, however, called for a love affair of its very own.

Since feasting on a number of tagines and mezze on my first visit (blog research, natch) I have struggled to find a Moroccan restaurant in London with genuine culinary prowess. Especially for diners who aren’t willing to spend the cost of a return flight on dinner.

If only I had been so smart as to search eponymously.

Tagine – in Balham – is a roaring example of Moroccan custom and cuisine. Though noticeably popular with the locals, the mood-lit room felt unusually humble from the second I passed through the entrance curtains. Especially endearing for a restaurant that serves = to my knowledge – the best Moroccan food in London.

After cracking open our BYOB bottle (tip: oak-aged Spanish and Lebanese reds pair really well with traditional Moroccan dishes), my dinner date and I embarked on a hopeful feast.

To start, we shared a bountiful mezze of houmous (with ouzania olive oil), pita, slata barda (sliced beetroot with honey, cinnanon, olive oil & balsamic vinegar), zaalouk (a aubergine, tomato sauce, parsley, coriander & olive oil compote), kefta mashwiya (grilled lamb kefta with mechouia dip & coriander), and carrot salad (with garlic, coriander & Moroccan spices) with a side order of almond and cinnamon-spiced chicken pastillas.

With the official seal of approval resting on the success of their tagines, we ordered the lamb barkouk and fish options, respectively, and spent the next thirty minutes making Meg Ryan in Katz Deli noises over our dishes.

While my own slow-cooked lamb shank (with prunes, almonds, poached pear & sesame seeds) ticked every conceivable box, my date’s tender, tomato and spice-covered sea bass achieved “best meal I’ve ever had in London” status by his estimations.

Bar a spontaneous flight binge, this is the closest you’ll get to Morocco in the foreseeable. Don’t miss out.

tagine balham
tagine balham
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EatAbout: Private Meals in the home of a Chef

eatabout london
There are a finite number of e-mails one can receive from digital start-ups before you start to throw them all into an instinctive pile of “I’ll look at that later” negligence.

Though I champion platforms like Airbnb in the mien of a founding investor, it has been a number of years since a start-up has captured my attention (or finances) like the unlikely Californian accommodation innovation of 2008.

Only recently, like the Airbnb of foodie dreams, did EatAbout pique my fandom.

The babyfaced culinary hub soft-launched this month with the wonderfully simple intention of offering Londoners affordable private meals in the homes of professional chefs and skilled enthusiasts.

Using the EatAbout website, you are able to search a number of creative and varied menus (everything from ‘vegan feasts’ to ‘sexy Swedish supper clubs’) and book meals for two to sixteen friends or loved ones at your convenience. No stressful menu planning, no washing up, all dinner party-style fun and frivolity.

To trial the the platform, I joined an incredible group of blogger and journalist friends in the home of MasterChef finalist Emma Spitzer for what turned out to be an undeniably perfect meal.

Over four hours of fairy light-covered hilarity, we watched Emma cook up an enviable storm. Starting with ‘a celebration’ of beetroot, hazelnuts, and the most beautiful burrata I’ve ever laid tongue on (from the fellas at Pulia), we plate-licked our way straight into a generous display of pan-seared sea bass with chermoula over spiced chickpeas before wrapping things up on a rich salted caramel chocolate pot with crème fraiche that quite literally melted our hearts.

Even when our BYOB resources were well and truly drained, we sipped fresh mint tea and nibbled on a gluttonous handfuls of handmade truffles while plaguing Emma with praise.

A night to remember (if ever an embarrassing colloquialism was required).

EatAbout is ideal for special occasions, unique date nights, home chef hobbyists, and general foodie wanderlust. Go forth, friend. Food porn awaits.

eatabout london
eatabout london
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