gaucho leeds
As The Manfriend wasn’t much of a foodie before dating me (I think we could safely categorise him as a Food Is Fuel connoisseur), it has always surprised me how much he has raved about Gaucho Leeds.

Though he last ate there for his twenty-first birthday (more than a few moons ago), the restaurant had made a lasting impression on him. Frankly, our trip for Sunday lunch was long overdue.

Lured in by their Late Spring Lunch Menu (two courses for £23 or three courses for £26), we descended their secret staircase into a dark and open miscellany of well-furnished rooms to take our seats.

We were presented with two wine lists; one Argentinian-packed plethora of wines (sparkling and still) as well as a charmingly handwritten selection of rare bottles. Knowing we weren’t going to leave without a steak in our systems, I elected a Malbec – a bottle of Domingo Molina Mortero 2010 – to share. This particular Malbec is clean and sharp (the way I prefer my reds) with very pure notes of dark cherry and blackberry, leading into a savoury finish.

It’s a freshly baked bread wine. A pea and mint soup wine. A bruschetta of tomato, basil, and goat’s cheese wine. (Thankfully, those were our starters.) The bruschetta was presented beautifully and was near perfect, barring a slightly overgrilled base. The pea and mint soup, however, was balanced tastefully and was as moreish as soup can get.

In hot anticipation of our mains (the Spring Menu selections of Spaghetti Provencale and Chicken Milanese had to chance of winning out over steak), our 180g medium-rare rib eyes arrived shortly thereafter. Though each was plated with chips and Béarnaise sauce, the ‘sides’ almost disappeared when I bit into the steak. I don’t often choose rib eye when cooking or ordering steak (it might be its American omnipresence in my childhood), but I would happily pay Gaucho the £26 for this course alone.

We slowly drained the Mortero between business talk, planning of our next (BIG!) visit to Gaucho for celebrations later in the month, and indulgent bites of dessert. The millefeuille with fresh strawberries and shortbread didn’t quite live up to the puff pastry versions I have tried in France, but the Manfriend’s ‘Gaucho Eton Mess‘ whipped up a smile so big it didn’t matter.

From maître d’ to our final farewells, service was impeccable and the food – despite a few niggles – was well worth its price. Go, Gaucho.

gaucho leeds
gaucho leeds
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fruyo
For all of its low-carb, high-protein, thick and creamy goodness, I adore greek yoghurt. My particular brand of choice has always been Fage (the makers of 0% Total Greek Yoghurt); all down to to their apparent omnipresence around the world and general healthful nomability. When I found out Fage were adding flavoured and fruity greek yoghurts to their line I could not get a spoon out fast enough.

Armed with Lemon, Strawberry, Peach, Vanilla, Cherry, and Blueberry versions of the new release – Fruyo – I dug in and was immediately rumbled by the strong taste of sugar.

Sugar?

I flipped the package to its side and searched for the ingredients: strained yogurt (Grade A Pasturized Skimmed milk), live active yoghurt cultures, sugar, water, rice and corn starch, natural vanilla flavour, ground vanilla beans, lemon juice concentrate.

A far departure from the brand’s 0% alternative, to say the least. While the flavours have received rave reviews from my friends and family, I just can’t wrap my head around the sugar content. Lemons are one of the most low-sugar fruits (only beaten by limes and avocados), yet the Lemon Fruyo pot has 29 grams of carbohydrates coming – mostly – from 27 grams of added sugar. Fage’s traditional health-conscious customer is completely alienated by such nutritionals.

On the flip side, while Fruyo isn’t an option for the clean eaters among us I do think it’s a fair swap for someone looking for a slightly healthier option at dessert time.

Plus, the Vanilla flavour tastes like creme brûlée. #cheatday

covent garden dental spa
I definitely have not spent a significant amount of time in a dentist’s chair. While I don’t have a phobia, a predominately clean diet and healthy dental regime means I have never had a pressing reason to pop in. It was something that didn’t phase me…until I booked in for a ‘Bright White Christmas Smile‘ at the Covent Garden Dental Spa. Though the package is a must-buy at only £67.50 (usually £135), I felt I was due for a little oral shaming when Google informed me the last time I entered ‘Dentist’ into my calendar was – seriously – over two years ago.

Regardless, I made my way down Neal Street and through the Dental Spa’s nondescript black door. Greeted by a sweetly smiling receptionist, I admitted my sins by form and was quickly ushered through to Lana’s capable gloved hands. The experience kicks off with a Deluxe Diamond Sparkle Polish hygiene clean (including a ticklish but effective special airflow treatment) to get down and non-dirty, removing all surface stains to reveal a much brighter and healthier smile. In addition, the spa offers a complimentary ‘dental survival kit’ packed with a with travel-sized toothbrush, mini toothpaste, dental floss, chewing gum and a personalised ‘festive fresh breath’ regime.

With my only real tooth offense highlighted as infrequent flossing (I know I can’t be the only one who thought brushing their teeth 2-3x a day was doing the brunt of the work? It’s not.), I left feeling super knowledgable and supafresh.

covent garden dental spa

bo lang
When a fellow food critic alluded to new dim sum hot spot Bo Lang becoming a baby Hakkasan, the restaurant shot straight to the top of my to-do list.

Homegirl loves her some dim sum.

Moonlighting as a Chinese tea house, Bo Lang is as stylish and intimate as a dumpling fanatic would hope. Though I imagine the thin slice of South Kensington could feel slightly claustrophobic for large parties, its wooden screens and charcoal chairs create intimate spaces for dates and one-on-ones.

Committed to trying as many new things as possible (dim sum law), we opted for a bottle of their sparkling peach sake, Aragoshi Momo-Shu, which was a tad cloying. Though not unpleasant, it did no favours for our first plates of dim sum and would be better suited for dessert.

After learning that three of the mains we wanted to order were unavailable, we put the pressure on some sharing plates. Thankfully, the dim sum rocked our world. Sharing threesomes of saffron cod dumplings and chicken shu mai with black truffle (the mahatma), each bite and a half was bulked up with crowd-pleasing pieces of crispy Sichuan pepper squid. Mouthgasms abounded.

Forking our way through two salads – crispy aromatic duck salad being the bare-boned preference – we couldn’t help but develop a wanton appetite for more dim sum. With such moreish and avant garde choices on offer, your money is going to feel wasted diverting from the strength of Bo Lang’s (and Master Kai Wang’s) 10 years of dim sum expertise.

When it came time for dessert, the offer of black sesame ice cream under the ‘ice cream and sorbet selection’ was reason enough. Going at it like wolves, we were surprised and enchanted by the luscious pairing of smooth sesame with pistachio and rose sorbet.

Any Londoner would be crazy to give Bo Lang a miss, but my advice will serve you well:
Stuff yourself with dim sum alone, save the sparkling sake ’til the end of your meal, and be sure to save space for a little slice of sorbet heaven.

bo lang
bo lang
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toni and guy infusion straighteners
Though I try to avoid using heated tools on my hair, there is no easier way to take my hair to Sleekstown than using a pair of hair straighteners. Thankfully, Toni & Guy recently introduced me to their Infusion Straightener which has ticked every metaphorical box. Though you are still heating the hair, the Infusion Straightener has a small reservoir in their ceramic and tourmaline-coated floating plates which distributes their heat protectant throughout the hair shaft via steam. Because you can dial your way up to a 230˚C heat, this variant on your average straightener means you can nourish and protect your hair as you go.

To really test the product reservoir out, I mixed one part of my favourite hair oil (Marula Oil) to three-parts water and poured it into the reservoir after shaking thoroughly. Knowing that using solely oil could easily weigh the hair down, the ‘one-to-three’ mixture steamed effortlessly to protect my hair, resulting in super-sleek and healthy straight hair.

toni and guy infusion straighteners
toni and guy infusion straighteners