the pig new forest
The Pig (in the Forest) was the highlight of my yesterweek. Known also for its rave-reviewed and shabby chic hotel, the real magic lies in its cuisine; The Pig is a self-identified ‘restaurant with rooms‘.

What first appears to be a contemporary country escape hidden in Victorian clothing is, in fact, much more. At the helm you will find Head Chef James Golding (Soho House New York, Mark Hix, et al) setting the tone and calling the uncomplicated shots of a restaurant that boasts an incredible British menu based on the micro seasons of the forest. In the truest sense of the phrase ‘home-grown’, everything on the menu comes from The Pig’s walled gardens, surrounding grounds, or suppliers within a 15 mile radius.

Starting our day with a tour of the gardens, it was impossible to be unaffected by Golding’s infectious love for his work. While my house in London would be lucky to sprout a mushroom, James’ extensive fruit and vegetable beds feature unusual and impressive ingredients – from sea beet to lemon chilli – which we were encouraged to touch, smell, and build a Pig-sized appetite for. With the culinary experience being so dependent on the gardens, in fact, the menu can often be changed by the hour.

Obviously, our menu was saturated with fresh, fine food. Settling into the gorgeously vine-clad conservatory dining area, we were welcomed with a selection of ‘Piggy Bits‘ (£3.50 each); Saddleback crackling & apple sauce (the lightest I have ever eaten), crispy lardo & smoked chilli sauce, and Brock eggs & Colman’s dressing.

Insider tip: When you feel you could eat a lunch of £3.50 dishes alone, you are guaranteed a phenomenal dining experience.

The menu did not disappoint one foodie at the table. As a starter I opted for home-made black pudding & a poached hen egg with garden apple, red watercress, and Perry dressing (£7). The texture, flavour and simple warmth of the dish was exactly what a starter should be; the foreplay. The exciting build-up – with a handful of twists and turns – that you would happily enjoy on its own.

By the time the mains arrived, our table of seven was titillated. One brave companion ordered the Whole Roasted Bath Chap (on a board) with Nasturtium mash and homemade apple sauce (£14.50) – a dish so fresh the teeth were left in. Others opted for plates erring on traditional; a 24oz Double Romsey Pork Chop (£20) which arrived with onion rings, sprout tops, and a creamy mustard sauce and ‘The Pie @ The Pig‘ (£15.50) with Hampshire lamb, minted potatoes and garden chard. Plates stacked with love and technical genius.

My own main, hand-dived Lyme Bay scallops & crispy bacon with creamy mashed potato and monk’s beard (£19.50), has become an all-time hero dish. My tongue is rather judgemental when it comes to the individual ingredients in this dish, so I was eager to see how everything would tie together (and, critically, what would let the dish down). Nothing let the dish down. Savoury and fresh, the scallops came out at a perfect consistency and – alongside the creamy potatoes – offered a delicious taste between strong flavours.

After our meal, we took an ever-so-slightly merry trip to the new baby of The Pig Family, Southampton’s ‘The Pig in The Wall‘ – a boutique hotel with the same kitschy luxury of The Pig In The Forest. Quite literally a stone’s throw from your next ferry to the Isle of Wight, the bed and breakfast has everything you would need for a short stay, including a complimentary shuttle to ‘The Pig in The Forest’ for your dietary delights.

Who knew I could ever feel such affection for a Pig? (Barring micro pigs. Hello.)

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b soho
It’s not often that I spend my evenings in Soho basements, but things may change with the arrival of B-Soho to the ‘hood.

The cocktail bar and pizzeria mash-up opened it’s doors at 21 Poland Street just this week and they already boast a reputation that packs Londoners to the walls each evening. With a loft-like aesthetic and a runway of lights leading you from the windows to the bar on the top floor (restaurant is underground), they have knowingly created a picture-perfect venue in one of the most foodie-littered areas of London.

It is not all lights and hype, either. With a menu based around thirteen 12″ pizzas, the restauranteurs have flown Neapolitan-born chef Raffaele Medaglia in to lead the talented team’s use of their hand-built fine Italian Forno Tradizionale Napolitano brick oven. By cooking their pizzas at 450c for just 90 seconds, their quality recipes and ingredients create a thin crust pizza that has the – and I don’t use this word lightly – perfect dichotomy of crunchy and chewy. As a woman who typically eats the toppings off of the pizza base, I found B-Soho’s version impossible to leave behind.

At the table, we had mixed orders of the Don Piccante (spicy salami, mozzarella, and tomato, £9) and Don Alberto (pesto, ham, mozzarella, and tomato, £8) while all indulging in Tagliere Misto (a mixed slection of cured meats and cheeses, £8) as a starter. My personal choice was the Don Rocca pizza (buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomato, rocket, and prosciutto crudo, £11) which – alongside a few glasses of Trebbiano Rubicone – was the cherry on top of a light, moreish, and perfectly composed meal.

Big praise for B-Soho: the best pizza I have tried in London to date.

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sketch london afternoon tea

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

If you’re looking for an experiential afternoon tea in London, Sketchis your best bet. Though the downward dog who marks the restaurant on Conduit Street may be quirky, he (she?) is no match for the Wonderland inside.

Though there is an impeccable Gallery that hosts dinner service, the afternoon tea experience is set in a gothic indoor garden at the side. As someone who delights in aesthetic detail, the room was bewitching. Dramatically tall curtains separate the room from the rest of the venue, where the attention to detail drew me in: Victorian wall friezes, a chandelier of twisted branches, rotating mirrors that dance lights around the room….all this, and we haven’t even touched the food yet.

The Manfriend and I took our seats at a quaint corner table which faced a mirror. The ‘hidden’ concept worked fabulously for a date, as you could face the angled mirror and get a perfect view of your dining partner while sitting by their side. Intimate and – like everything, down to the menu being filled with illustrations from the 1902 Sears Roebuck catalogue – fantastically romantic.

After receiving two pots of flowering osmanthus tea, the main attraction made its entrance: three tiers of sweet and savoury culinary delights. The customary English scones were placed on a separate plate alongside a small pot of violet and bubblegum-flavoured marshmallows. Both ‘extras’ were indeed delicious, but only a small victory in a feast consisting of gold leaf-topped salted chocolate caramels, chill-sauced goat’s cheese, an incredible egg/quail egg/caviar sandwich, yuzu and macadamia tartlets, earl grey macarons, and much more. You could see my tummy smiling.

As a full experience, I would do it again in a heartbeat. The Manfriend, who has an aversion to seafood, would be apprehensive due to the lack of more neutral sandwich options. That is, of course, personal taste.

Oddly enough, I have to mention the bathroom before wrapping up the review. Trying to find it, I thought I was lost in what initially looks like a set from Space Odyssey. In actuality, a unisex room filled with egg-shaped pods and rainbow-hued stained glass is Sketch’s version of a powder room. If anything, it certainly gets points for originality. Much like the entire afternoon.

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make fragrance london
Because I am a little bored of the discounted blow dries and ‘sexy photo shoot’ offers mailed to me by daily deal sites, the offer of creating my own fragrance (plus afternoon tea) on Buyagift really caught my attention.

Though I work as a beauty editor in part, the last time I experienced anything comparable to designing my own fragrance was a behind the scenes trip I took to the Fragonard factory with my father. I was eleven.

This was a world apart and an experience that even my testosterone-filled Manfriend enjoyed. The course took place yesterday morning in the Hilton Hyde Park Hotel, where a group of 20-25 strangers of all ages were welcomed with champagne. The company which hosts the event, The Perfume Studio, are professional, friendly, and deliver everything you need to know to create your fragrance in an enjoyable and accessible way. Over two hours, everyone gets to sample eighteen blends of (mostly) beautiful scents to blend together an individual perfume or cologne.

You are encouraged to create three piles: blotters that you dislike on the left, blotters that you may want to include in the middle, and blotters you love on the right. I was surprised that I enjoyed a few of the floral blends because I usually find florals to be very – what’s the word – aged.

After smelling lots of coffee beans (to clear the nose) and switching my blotters back and forth, I settled on a blend of:
Base notes – balsamic (a sweet – not sugary/vinegaresque – blend, in a double dose)
Middle notes – gentle floral and heady floral
Top notes – green, citrus (double dosed), and fruity

Sealed in a white bottle with a scented feather, “Spritz, Rattle and Roll” (the champagne wit wasn’t exactly working for me) was born.

After the session we walked up to the Hilton’s gorgeous bar area and indulged in an unusual – but delicious – afternoon tea of finger sandwiches, a scone, a cake, an eclair, and green tea. Far different than my typical experience of afternoon tea in the UK and not a bad excursion on the hottest day of the year.

make fragrance london afternoon tea

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skinny margarita
Hold on to your Louboutins, mon cheres! Did you know the average Margarita contains 550 calories? That is more than a Big Mac! Thank the lucky stars that I’m not a big drinker…I already have enough junk in my trunk. I can’t imagine how the average partygirl maintains a good body…

I mean 4 oz. tequila, 4 oz. margarita/sour mix, 2 oz. triple sec, lime juice, and 1 tsp. sugar doesn’t seem that calorific if you’re looking at the big picture, but this mix can top out at over 700 calories in the hands of a friendly bartender.

There are alternatives out there – Bethenny Frankel’s Skinnygirl Margarita mix being the most popular – but few of them are available for international purchase. Time for a tasty British-bought DIY Skinny Margarita, methinks…

Bottle Green Lime and Coconut Cordial – one capful.
Jose Cuervo Especial (or your preferred tequila) – one shot.
Schweppes Diet Lemonade – fill to top.
Mix well.
Total: roughly 120 calories.

Unlike a traditional Margarita, it will sparkle (a pro for some!). With 4 times less calories and 4 times more flavour, this is the best cocktail experiment I have ever done.

skinny margarita ingredients
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