London Town, meet the Nokia Lumia 1020

nokia lumia 1020 london
Would you believe me if I told you all these photos were taken on the Nokia Lumia 1020?

You should, because it’s true.

Over London Fashion Week, The Manfriend and I went around lovely ol’ London Town with our new friend and photographer, Sylvain Deleu. Initially wanting to spend our few spare hours to make a stop motion video, the weather decided it wasn’t going to work in our favour (things the camera didn’t capture? Blue fingers). Thankfully, wandering through the streets of Mayfair, gushing through the beauties in Rous Iland‘s showroom, and stopping off for a macaron refuel at Ladurée made for some pretty lovely photos, nonetheless.

Bonus round! This is the first time our ‘couple tattoos’ have appeared on the blog. Puke if you must.

nokia lumia 1020 london
nokia lumia 1020 london
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In Review: Roast + Conch (Hotel Chocolat), Leeds

roast and conch
Hotel Chocolat’s Leeds restaurant Roast + Conch is, in fact, the best restaurant in Leeds.

When I first heard about the so-called ‘chocolate restaurant‘, I wasn’t convinced. I am a savoury-toothed individual and could not think of anything worse than a great dinner dish covered in unnessecary chocolate components. Thankfully, it was all a misconception (and one that most people have shared when I have mentioned the restaurant since).

Rather than chocolate as we think of it, Roast + Conch utilises the bare bones – the cacao bean – in every dish, one way or another.

As the restaurant name suggests, they roast and conch everything on site and in plain view.

On our way to the bar we noticed that they were currently working with cocoa beans from Trinidad and, though we had no frame of reference, we were excited to see what it would mean for our meal. Kicking things off with two fresh cocoa Bellinis (the roast’s tangy cocoa pulp mixed with their own Prosecco DOC Brut), we spent some time chatting with bar maestro Jonathan about the bar’s impressive selection of cocoa-based spirits, beers and wine. My personal highlight – and something I am desperately trying to get my hands on again – was their chocolate wine, Terra Do Zambujeiro. This red wine was above and beyond all expectations. Instead of being sweet or saccharine, the balance of dark chocolate, smoke, and berries created an incredibly smooth flavour that I imagine anyone could enjoy.

Alas, it was time to head upstairs before we spent our appetite at the bar.

Greeted by our faultless waitress and a few cacao nibs to tickle our tastebuds, we spent a good fifteen minutes perusing the menu before we could make a decision.

I warn you, this menu is empyrean to any foodie.

Settling on three starters for a tapas-style kickoff, we opted for Roast + Conch’s Beet Carpaccio, ‘Not So Scotch’ Egg, and Tuna Ceviche.

The Beet Carpaccio, as a gluten-free and veggie option, was impressive. By pickling heritage beets in cocoa balsamic and pairing it with Ticklemore goats cheese, watercress and roast beets, they created as flavourful a dish as their epic Tuna Ceviche. Having ‘cooked’ tuna loin in coconut milk, chilli and lime pickle, they sealed the plate-clearing deal by pairing it with a special cocoa nib crispbread.

Though I wouldn’t have expected it, this restaurant is truly ideal for vegetarians. My favourite dish of the entire evening – The ‘Not So Scotch’ Egg – used a simple hen’s egg and took it to another level by casing it in softened pearl barley, penny bun mushrooms, and a cocoa nib crumb crust. Elevated by the addition of roast leeks and garlic, there was so much ‘wow’ in this single plate that I would have been happy to bow out then.

Then, of course, I would have missed out on the 4-Hour Lamb Pepperpot and Chilli Hamburger.

Hamburger? Boring! Lamb? Boring! Just not at Roast + Conch. Chef Bentham’s burger is perfection; a chilli and cocoa-infused hand-chopped rump steak surrounded in confit of onion, Montgomery aged cheddar, crisp dry cure bacon, and a homemade ‘cocoa pod’ bread bun. It was presented on a plate far too long for its own good – with sweet potato ribbons and onion rings sitting bored at the other end – but that is only a photography problem, not an ‘oh my god this is not delicious!’ problem.

The Pepperpot, served with doughy beer stick bread, was an extremely filling celebration in itself. Though the recipe is an original from the indigenous cocoa-worshipping people of Central America and West Indies, the Amerindians, the spiced vegetables and tender lamb is filled with new-age flavour any chef would be happy to serve.

With eyes much larger than our stomachs, our side orders were almost left behind. Then a scoop of the White Chocolate Mash turned into twenty scoops.

You must order the White Chocolate Mash (vegetarian and gluten-free, again. No excuses!).

At this point, we would have needed a stomach pump to accommodate the things we wanted to eat from the dessert menu. Promising to return on a desserts-only adventure, we called on The Tray of Temptation while rehydrating with a Fortified Coconut Water. The cocktail, though filled with smooth Saint Lucian golden rum, is a simple mix with pure coconut water that somehow feels as innocent as a cocktail possibly could.

When the Tray of Temptation arrived, we – once again – cursed our crowded stomachs. With sixteen of Hotel Chocolat’s chocolatier creations available at just £1 a piece, we managed to get through five between us before waving the white flag.

I’m coming back for you, Tray.

roast and conch
roast and conch
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In Review: Illamasqua Glamore Lipsticks and Nail Varnish

illamasqua glamore
You guys know I love Illamasqua. Each collection is like an aesthetic holiday for my brain, and the Glamore collection is no exception.

Having played around with four of the products for some time now, I am review ready.

The Nail Varnishes

I am not a ‘nail girl’ by any stretch of the imagination, but these chip-resistant micro glitters (meaning instead of just throwing some glitter in an existing varnish – something a lot of brands do – you are painting actual glitter onto your nails) are amazing. I have been wearing Trilliant (a very pale silver/pink) all week with Marquise (a gold-flecked coral) as an accent nail. Though they haven’t budged, they are really easy to remove if you soak the nail in remover for a few seconds.

The Lipsticks

My bread and butter. As the campaign imagery shows, they have released three colours that suit every skin tone you could imagine. Luster is a Barbie-looking pink and garish until you get it on the lips. Because of a rather blue undertone, it actually warms up the skin and stays on the wearable side of becoming too pink. Soaked – on the other hand – is a deliciously bright coral red. Behold, M’Orange wearers…this is the orange obsession you’ve been dreaming of.

I wouldn’t call the texture of the lipsticks moisturising but I am really pleased with how comfortable they are to wear. They also get brownie points for fading into a stain rather than peeling and smudging as so many other lippies do.

Thankfully, I’ve been given the heads up that Illamasqua plan to develop a full, non-limited edition collection of Glamore lipsticks for release later this year. Time for a make-up bag clearout to prepare.

Tip: I’ve been putting Luster on my top lip, Soaked on my bottom, and rubbing them together quickly to make a gorgeous burnt pink colour.

illamasqua glamore
illamasqua glamore
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Recipe: Gluten-free Banana Protein Squares

banana protein squares
In my eyes, banana bread is one of the most delicious things on the planet. As the world likes to make lols of me at times, it is also a food that makes my blood sugar skyrocket and my slightly-celiac body pretty angry.

NO MORE, banana bread! NO MORE!

I have whipped up the recipe below for ladies and gents who, like me, crave a healthy and gluten-free alternative to banana bread that doesn’t just taste like bananas and cardboard. Say hello to Gluten-Free Banana Protein Squares.

2 egg whites
2 generous tablespoons of vanilla greek yogurt
1 scoop of chocolate protein powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 ripe bananas, mashed to your liking (I didn’t want mine too smooth as I love the look of banana chunks in banana bread)
1 cup of gluten-free oats

1. Preheat your oven to 350/180 then mix your dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Follow with the rest of your ingredients – ‘wet’, though I hate the word – and mix well.
2. Grab a silicone baking tray (no cleanup, yay!) and pour the mixture in.
3. Throw it in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes. You can play it by sight and preference, but I waited the full 40 until my edges were browned.
4. Let it cool for five minutes and dive in. It is really that simple. And delicious.

banana protein squares
banana protein squares

The Launch of AR&L

Say hello to AR&L – the result of a month or so glued to my chair (short-term) and years of experience geeking out on the grand ol’ interwebs (long-term).

As you may have already seen from Twitter and Facebook, AR&L is a digital PR company specialising in social media, blogger relationships, content, and SEO. Taking the leap from freelancing to company directing may not be a natural step but – alongside my fantastic business manager/digital genius, Alexander – it is one that, one day in, has already paid off in spades.

Viva entrepreneurship!

(Heads up, brands. You’ll probably want to meander over to AR&L for the chance to win 1,000+ social media followers).