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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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.

You ask for it and you get it, guys and dolls: the bolognese recipe to beat all bolognese recipes. The rather impromptu Instagram Stories how-to I posted a few weeks ago received more comments than any other Story I have uploaded to date.

A lot of drool emojis. A lot of recipe requests. A lot of “why don’t you just use a packet sauce, Lela?”.

Because once you have the best you don’t mess with the rest, mi amigos.

Luckily, this bolognese looks (and tastes) far more complex than it is in practice. The recipe is all about layering flavours and textures, not any kind of culinary finesse. My favourite part of the recipe is actually its secret ingredient – a can of Nescafe Azera Nitro. I’ve only added it to the recipe within the last month and a few swigs of its super-smooth, nitrogen-infused coffee practically turns the moreish sauce into edible velvet.

(If that’s not selling point enough, it’s also worth noting that a caffeine and carb combo might be the undiscovered pick-me-up food hack of the century.)

Enjoy!

Ingredients:
– Your pasta of choice (I’m not going to be precious about it – the magic is in the sauce)
– A can of Nescafe Azera Nitro Americano (to taste)
– A glug of cheap red wine (scientific measurement)
– A box/tube/of high quality passata
– Three cloves of garlic
– One large carrot, finely chopped
– One onion, finely chopped
– An aubergine, some mushrooms, or whatever else you like the ‘squish’ of
– A 500g pack of beef mince (or a vegetarian substitute)
– One beef stock cube (again, so veggie if preferred)
– A large stalk of celery, finely chopped
– Two raw chillis
– One red pepper
– A lifetime supply or oregano (or about 10 tablespoons)
– Cacao nibs
– Two bay leaves
– High quality olive oil
– One tablespoon of truffle oil
– A sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano or grated cheddar
– Salt and pepper (to taste). A good salt, like Halen Mon (my favourite) or Maldon (more readily available), will make a huge difference.

How to make the best bolognese in the universe:
1. Chop all your veg to death. Microscopic style.
2. Throw your garlic, chillis and onion into a small pool of olive oil in a large frying pan. Cook at a medium-high heat for one to two minutes.
3. Add the rest of your chopped veg incrementally, based on weight. This translates to carrots first, celery last.
4. Season with salt and pepper once cooked and push to the side of the pan.
5. Next to the veg, pop your mince in and cover it in oregano. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Once one side is browned, flip the mince over neatly and oregano the bejesus out of the other side.
7. Break the mince down and combine with the veg. Add the truffle oil and sprinkle a beef stock cube over the mixture.
8. After a minute or so of cooking, cover everything in passata, sprinkle on some cacao nibs, and dust in as much dried chilli as you can handle.
9. While that cooks, prepare your pasta in a separate pan.
10. As the liquid begins to reduce, add glugs of wine and Azera Nitro Americano. The wine will add sweetness, if preferred, but I prefer to pour more coffee in. Taste as you go.
11. After ten or so minutes – when everything smells and tastes like you’ve died and gone to Italy – combine the sauce and pasta.
12. Dish out with some Parmigiano Reggiano and drink the rest of the wine you didn’t use. Bon appetit!

best bolognese recipe
best bolognese recipe
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