marcos new york italian
Somewhere between dining at Marco Pierre White’s Marco’s New York Italian and sitting down to write this review, my memory card got well and truly corrupted.

I spent more than a few days trying to repair the little square’s wrongs, to no avail, before I released my growing indignation wasn’t very, well, Marco of me. And everyone could stand to be a little more Marco.

Pierre White is, and will always be, the enfant terrible of celebrity chefs. I knew it the second my bored teenage curiosity sat me in front of a copy of White Heat, I knew it the fateful day I somehow shared a kitchen with the man, and I – unexpectedly – knew it when I left his new Milton Keynes restaurant impressed.

Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting much. The shiny-but-simple New York Italian is attached to the Holiday Inn Milton Keynes and, if experience has taught me anything, I know to keep most hotel-connected restaurant expectations to a minimum.

As the fact that I’m even blogging this might suggest, I had to surrender my caution almost as soon as I sat down. The staff were lovely. The food was lovely. The drinks were l- well, actually…the drinks deserve an adjective of their own.

Marco’s new menu is Pierre White done unobtrusively; classic American starters, mains and desserts dusted with Italian flavour and flair. Affordably. It fits the perfect hole that Bardolino, Mr. White’s, Wheeler’s of St James, Koffman and Mr White’s and his eponymous steakhouse had yet to fill in the chef’s portfolio.

We started with as-you’d-expect calamari fritto misto (with salsa-ed mayo) and buffalo wings before being blown away by the surf ‘n’ turf – a rare 10oz ribeye, New Orleans blackened shrimps in garlic and rosemary butter, with some subbed-in sweet potato fries.

The dish – and the bloody behemoth wine list – was incredible. We took our time with the Amarone della Valpolicella Classico throughout the meal – an incredibly elegant and rich Venetian made for red meat. Though it wasn’t a two-bottle sort of night, the Waipara Hills Sauvignon Blanc, – one of my favourite Kiwi wines – stood out as another unexpectedly fantastic option.

It’s not a restaurant I’m going to travel to Milton Keynes for, but it is absolutely a restaurant I’m going to want to visit when I’m in Milton Keynes. It’s an experience that sent my eyebrows up to the high heavens in an oblivious candid. And that counts for something.

* A decade later, it would be described as “the most influential recipe book of the last 20 years” by my equally-beloved Jay Rayner.

leopard coat
HAPPY NEW YEAR, TRIBE!

I’ve been having a bit of a ponder about New Year’s Resolutions; their importance (or lack thereof), their success rate (or lack thereof) and their true intentions (yep, same again). It is the latter, specifically, which sent my brain a-spiralling.

More people seem to berate those making resolutions than make ones for themselves these days and I’ve decided to avoid becoming that person. Instead, to get on board with the resolution makers. To support each desire spurred by the simplicity of a spinning planet. If there’s one thing we don’t need at the moment, it’s a world where people feel belittled for attempting to better things themselves and, increasingly more so, others.

I don’t need a real public declaration of the things I hope to achieve or people I hope to help in 2019 (not my jam), but I do promise to increase the frequency of your oft-request outfit posts. And I genuinely wish you the best with everything you’re setting up to achieve.

What I Wore:
Karolina embellished heels from Ruby Shoo
Leopard coat from ASOS (similar here)
Premium tights from New Look (best bargain everyday pair I’ve found!)


leopard coat
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toblerone christmas
Christmas quite literally crept up out of nowhere, didn’t it?

It’s been a little bit different to the traditional ‘sands through the hourglass’ surprises of yesteryears for 2018. I have been so genuinely bogged down in work, life and their inconsequential demands that the shops seemed to trade their bikinis for baubles in the blink of an eye.

Stress, naturally, set in. While I’m fortunate to spend Christmas with some of the most unbelievable people this universe has to spare me, I am an impossibly idealist gift giver. My partner needs perfection. My Secret Santa needs every sensation £50 can afford. The children in my life need Christmas magic.

They’re not unattainable ideals. But they’re not really Christmas, either.

Through most of my adolescence, Christmas was marked by transit. Being chaperoned to people across land and sky. Always hoping snow would be a halcyon. And always gazing longingly at duty free Toblerone bars.

It seems a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? That triangle-shaped blocks of chocolate could form memories that last decades. But they did.

Sadly, long security queues and no money to call my own worked against me. I would scuttle past the mass of mini-mountains year after year with just enough time to question how I might, one day, get my hands on the holy grail.

Somewhere between the airports and adulting, I forgot. I forgot how the smallest gift would have meant the world to me. A £9.99 mountain of milk chocolate and nougat. A super-value selection pack of milk, white, dark or fruit and nut chocolate (at £7.99). To this day, I still think of these simple Swiss chocolates as the perfect gift; for Secret Santa surprises, for stockings, et al.

A sweet gesture, at one time, would be more than enough for all of us. Whether you’re buying for one or one-hundred this Christmas, gift with that in mind.

(Just please don’t buy me any more Toblerone, friends and family, because this realisation has instigated something of a hoarders situation.)
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wine purifier
There is much ado about sulphites in the drinks industry. They breed contention; many aficionados say sulphites are essential to prevent oxidation and preserve freshness in wine. On the other hand, EU law tars sulphites as recognised allergens and insists their presence is acknowledged on bottle labels, even setting a maximum of 150mg per litre for red wines and 200mg per litre for white and rose.

The controversy piqued my interest and led me straight to a £70 ‘wine purifier’ I was sure I didn’t need.

The Ullo wine purifier seemed too stylish to be scientific, yet promised to remove sulphites with ‘Selective Sulfite Capture technology’, separate sediment, aerate and – wait for it – improve the taste of wine.

While I’m fortunate not to suffer from any sulphite allergies or sensitivities, I’m not fortunate to willfully ignore something telling me it will make something I love even better.

I ordered a few terrible bottles of wine and waited for my Ullo to arrive.

When it did, I found myself both impressed and bewildered. The luxe UFO masquerading as a purifier didn’t actually purify a thing. Without the accompanying filters, the Ullo is well-designed rubber and plastic.

I considered swapping the contraption for a bottle neck-friendly funnel, but persisted. And I’m glad I did. A night spent taste-testing mocked my scepticism. Each drop of wine that passed through Ullo’s tea bag-shaped filters came out the way, I’m sure, its winemakers wished it would. Each was increasingly pure, smooth and dangerously drinkable.

The Ullo did not, of course, make cheap vino more than mediocre. You can’t remove sulphites from something bad and call it good in the same way you can’t remove Harry Styles from One Direction and make them tolerable. Nothing can. But it will work wonders on wine you would actually drink.

The more I’ve used it since that pivotal trial, the more I’ve come to appreciate it. Friends with sulphite sensitivities have got on with every wine I’ve sat in front of them. I’ve felt a noticeable difference the morning after aerating Syrahs with the Ullo, compared to other aerators. I’ve wasted a filter on a glass of champagne (the filter, naturally, removes carbonation). And I’ve had a curiously crowd-pleasing device blow persnickety plonk lovers’ minds.

The Ullo has been far more useful than anticipated; particularly, its drip-proof display base that captures filter-caught droplets and stores the whole thing away neatly.

It is, annoyingly, as valuable as it is stylish. While a DIY filter and funnel system could do a similar job, the Ullo – and the wines you’re treating it to – deserves to be championed.

Science aside, it’s also a phenomenal way to trick your friends into thinking you’ve bought a bottle ten times more expensive than the one you got on offer. Ahem.

There’s simply no better way to remove sulphites, sediment and second thoughts.

wine purifier

hearts in hair
The Pevonia Jumeirah Sensory Wellness Journey Treatment at The Peak, Knightsbridge

Don’t worry, babe – I didn’t have a bloody clue what a ‘wellness journey’ was either. All I knew was that it was a 75-minute spa treatment at one of my favourite hotel clubs from one of my favourite brands. And that’s promising enough to be awarded an afternoon.

The massage-focused ‘journey’ ended up being a wildly indulgent combination of meditation, kneading, body wrapping, and facials. It was my indecisive dream.

To start, you pick a scent (coconut & pineapple, jasmine & lavender, or peach & vanilla) to be used across all the treatments. Then, in my case, you kind of fall into a dream and wake up completely restored.

Though I’m a glutton for a massage, this club-exclusive treatment of scrubs and rubs takes it to the next level. Every part of my body felt like it had been anti-aged, restored, and pampered.

It also didn’t hurt that a finishing slather of Pineapple & Coconut Body Moisturizer was as soothing (thanks, Calendula flower and aloe leaf extract) as it was tantalising – four strangers asked where they could buy the ‘fragrance’ I was wearing later in the day.

When you book in, make sure to schedule in a little extra time for the club’s 20 metre indoor heated swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam rooms. You won’t regret it.

Milk and Blush Hair Extensions

I am beyond non- committal when it comes to hair extensions. I’ve trialled a number of different brands as a journalist but nothing has ever really wow-ed me on the consumer side. Even the high-end, celebrity-endorsed options.

Milk and Blush, however, make phenomenal hair extensions under £100. I have been using a 16-18″ Deluxe set to jazz things up every now and then (be it as a bridesmaid or just for a night out with the girls) and the super-soft hair blends perfectly. Not only that, but the 160g “seamless” set feel like nothing more than a few clips in the hair. So much so I accidentally slept in them one Old Fashion-fuelled night.

The ‘Luxurious’ 200g set would, undoubtedly, offer more volume with its quad wefts but I don’t think I need anything more for my little pea head.

(For reference, my shade is Sweet Like Chocolate and I’ll definitely be purchasing longer lengths as my lob continues to grow out.)

Etmore

Etmore’s range of cruelty-free and natural extract-infused beauty products just launched in the UK and they’re some of the best I’ve got my hands on in months. Discovering Etmore was like discovering a pot of gold…en dupes.

My hero product is the argan oil-packed Liquid Illuminator (RRP £11.99). You genuinely need less than a pea-sized amount for a fully strobed or nontoured face, so I’ve started rubbing the excess on my legs to give them a much-needed winter glow.

Next up is the Forever Fibre Brows set (RRP £8.99) – again, with argan oil. The little brush picks up 100% cellulose fibres to fill and define brows in a single swoop. Each coat adds a little extra drama and you can build to smudge-proof, sweat-proof Delevigne brows in no time. It even has a little vanilla flower extract included which feels crazy luxe for the price point.

Last but certainly not least, the Mineral Complexion powder (RRP £7.99). It only seems to be available in one caucasian shade, but has colour-correcting infusions built into the base in small circles. The brand claim it can be used as a foundation or a finishing powder thanks to buildable – but sweat-proof – micronised minerals, but I assume it’s more of the latter as it matches my own skin so perfectly. Nonetheless, it is a fantastic little powder to balance and brighten the complexion and offers a flawless photo finish when used on top of anything heavier than a tinted moisturiser.