Win an Exceedingly Good Mr Kipling hamper

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mr Kipling hamper

Mr Kipling is celebrating the launch of its new Exceedingly Good Slices by giving away hamper filled with tasty Mr Kipling goodies to one lucky reader of my blog. 

Made up of wholesome ingredients such as cranberry, orange and coconut, the new Oaty Slices are a great alternative to your traditional morning snack. Exceedingly Good Slices are available in two, tasty flavours - Cranberry and Orange and Dark Chocolate and Coconut (which is my favourite). 

Individually wrapped to help avoid any additional temptation, the new Mr Kipling Exceedingly Good Slices come in packs of four with an RRP of £1.49.
Mr Kipling  

To enter the competition, simply favourite the featured tweet on my profile @charaimeeclarke and follow @mrkiplingcakes and myself. 

Good luck! Winner announced Tuesday 3rd May.  

German Gymnasium | Restaurant Review

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

German Gymnasium

The renovation of the German Gymnasium, situated right outside Kings Cross Station, took some time, so once it opened the whole family were excited to visit.

The historic building has turned into a modern, all day Grand Café and bar serving Mittel-European cuisine. We eagerly booked a table last month to celebrate Russell's birthday expecting bold flavours in their restaurant, which is situated on the first floor.
Before you read on, and in case you don't make it to the end, I need to warn you the experience was thoroughly disappointing.    

German Gymnasium  
German Gymnasium German Gymnasium
We arrived for drinks on the sunny terrace and admired the old brick building which was previously London’s first purpose-built gym and hosted indoor competitions in the 19th century. Inside the view from the first floor is stunning - from the dark-wood rafters to the large sunlight windows, I cannot faulty the venue at all. 

German Gymnasium review
German Gymnasium reviewGerman Gymnasium review

The disappointment, unfortunately, came from the food. 
To start Russell and I ordered the truffled beef broth with liver dumplings and white truffle oil. We saw a picture of the dish online before we booked showing the bowl decorated with fresh shaved truffle. However, when we received our order there wasn't a slither in sight and not a hint of truffle could be smelt of tasted. We found something reminiscent on miso soup seaweed at the bottom of our bowl, and sent the dishes back as they were inedible. 
The staff took both dishes off our bill immediately without hesitation, which made us question whether the service was good or if they frequently receive complaints... Russell's parents ordered the goulash and soup, which was pleasant but nothing to write home about.

German Gymnasium review

German Gymnasium reviewGerman Gymnasium review

We thought we played it safe by ordering the rib eye steak for our main course served with crispy onions and Spatzel (soft egg noodle). We were wrong. The meat was flavourless and very overcooked and the Spatzle was cold, hard and tasteless. 

Russell's mum enjoyed the salmon, which she said was cooked well, whilst Russell's Dad has made the mistake of ordering those awful dumplings, this time jazzed up as a main in a different sauce. I couldn't help but think the menu either wasn't very German at all, or had been designed with the cheapest ingredients possible to squeeze the biggest mark-up out of surprised diners.

German Gymnasium review
German Gymnasium reviewGerman Gymnasium review

Dessert was the best part of the meal, although I had to reorder twice as they accidentally given me an old menu with dishes they no longer served. If I were to return I'd order a coffee and pastry. 

German Gymnasium reviewGerman Gymnasium review

As far as birthday meals go, this was a rather expensive disappointment. The building itself is lovely and the location is extremely convenient, but I wouldn't recommend the venue for food, and judging by other recent reviews neither would a lot of other diners.

Photo Diary: Past and Present

Monday, April 25, 2016

aloe vera blog 
I often have lots of little goings-on which I want to mention on the blog but don't have enough to say to dedicate a post to. 

So over the next few week's I'll be posting a series of photo diaries including pictures old and new to ensure these little snippets aren't lost forever. 

Hope you enjoy.
brighton gin 

Last month I attended an event hosted by Tabl, the iconic supper club website, where I enjoyed a rather amazing G&T from Brighton Gin. Distilled by the seaside and served with a stick of rock that slowly turned the drink a deep ocean blue, expect fresh orange and classic juniper notes from this small batch spirit. 

riley beau dawson

Monday 18th marked the 97th birthday of my nephew's Great Great Grandma Rose. Armed with a bouquet of red and white roses (obviously) we visited her to wish a very happy birthday along with copious bars of fancy soap and tubs of jellied eels. 

small wine aerator

This little gadget was delivered to my home on Friday, and what good timing it was! This hand blow glass bauble is a wine aerator; it blasts oxygen into your wine meaning there's no need to decant it - genius! Full review to follow soon.

succulent planter  

I have to admit, I'm not a massive Tesco fan, but lately they've been selling some killer plants! The Aloe Vera in the header picture and above succulent planter were both purchased during the last week in their Epping store at really reasonable prices. M&S and Ikea, watch out!
rhubarb allotment

It's that time of the year where we receive the occasional bright spell to start enjoying the garden, or allotment, again. We've been hard at work with the in-laws to get our plot up to scratch again, and although it's been a cold start to the year I've managed to harvest the first of the rhubarb - many crumbles and cordials to come. 

grand national baby betting 

A few weeks ago we treated our nephew Riley to a spot of breakfast whilst we picked our Grand National horses in order to place our only bet of the year. Riley seemed pretty interested in the paper and kept pointing to a jockey with a star on his jersey. We decided to place a small bet on his behalf and you'll never believe it... he only went and won with Rule the World! Looks like the little chap will be enjoying another term of swimming lessons with his winnings.

Chrysalis London 

Earlier this month I attended the studio showcase of RISE by Chrysalis London and was totally memorised by the sheer talent the dancers. You can read my review article on Unmissable here.

dada cafe epping  

It's always hard finding a good cup of Chai, but local independent coffee shop Dada in Epping has got the formula down to a T. If you can manage to get a table in the tiny premises their drinks come complete with a drink of pretty pink dried raspberries - delicious.

Visiting Jaywick, Clacton, Walton and Frinton

Sunday, April 24, 2016

  jaywick beachjaywick sands

There's nothing I enjoy more than a weekend beside the seaside, so I'm very lucky my Grandma owns a small bungalow on the North East coast of Essex. 

The area has SO much to offer, and being only 60 miles from London it's a shame more people aren't hopping on the train to enjoy the glorious beaches and simply magnificent food. Don't listen to the media, this strip of Essex coastline is simply stunning!

jaywick beachjaywick

Did you know Jaywick's golden beach has been voted one of the cleanest in the country? It's incredibly fine sand was recently pumped from deep out at sea in order to reconstructed the beach, making it perfect for sand-castle building.

We visited whilst storm Kate hit but still enjoyed a paddle in the freezing North Sea. Unlike Clacton, this beach isn't filled with tourists, meaning there's less competition when crabbing on the rocks. 

tiptree tea
blackbeer and raisin wine tiptree pineapple

My Grandma and Great Grandma split their time between London and their seaside holiday home, meaning over the years they've discovered lots of hidden gems. 

Whenever Russell and I visit we always have a cream tea at Frinton Garden Centre, which also serves amazing lunchtime treats such as home-made soup and jacket potatoes piled high with prawns. Their plant nursery has a wonderful collection of flowers, trees and vegetable plants, whilst their shop stocks the biggest range of Tiptree and Lyme Bay goods I have ever seen. 

walton pie and mash 

Walton is home to THE best pie and mash shop, fact. They also stew up eels, much to my Great Grandmother's delight, meaning their liquor is made to the original and 'propa' recipe. Walton has the second longest pier in Great Britain, and although not officially confirmed, it's rumoured to have the fastest waltzers known to any amusement arcade. 

walton on the naze tower 

walton on the naze towerwalton on the naze tower

Walton-on-the-Naze is an unspoilt headland that is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. If you walk along the beach you can usually find a range of fossils from the neighbouring cliffs, and if the tide is out you can get up-close to the old pill boxes from World War II which once upon a time housed anti-aircraft machine guns (they have since fallen off of the top of cliff and onto the beach due to erosion). 

A highlight of our trip is visiting the tower at the top of the cliff, which rewards you with magnificent views once you make it to the top. The cafe at the tower sells the most delicious caramelised onion chutney (I always make sure I buy a few jars to see me through). 

We also visit a lot of local farms, such as Pork Farm, which make their own pies and unpasteurised apple juice, so check back come summer for further details as these hidden local gems need to be fact checked, tried and tested.

The Mango Tree | Songkran Menu Review

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Mango Tree londonthai food london

In celebration of Songkran, Thai New Year, The Mango Tree is offering a range of special dishes and cocktails throughout April. Russell and I were kindly invited down to the restaurant to review the menu last week, and I have to admit it's one of the best meals we've had in a long time.

charlotte clarke russell dovey

The Mango Tree is a contemporary Thai restaurant in the heart of Belgravia, serving authentic Thai cuisine which is hard to find in the capital. The venue has a welcoming atmosphere with traditional Thai hospitality which made us feel like VIPs for the evening.

The spacious interior is beautifully lit, is feng-shui designed to enhance the dining experience and has a smell reminiscent of holidays... we were instantly at ease from the moment we sat down - which is a big achievement as outside the streets were bustling with commuters making their way home.

lychee martini

The Thai New Year dishes will all be available to order individually, or as part of a set menu for a very reasonable £40 per person (which includes a starter, main course and dessert each, as well as a cocktail, beer or Thai tea on arrival).

We started our meal with a couple of cocktails served in the bar area - I enjoyed a lychee and chilli Martini which was extremely refreshing whilst Russell opted for a Thai Majito.

deep fried morning glory

The Mango Tree london thai resturant london

We managed to try every dish on the menu, which by no means was an easy task! Starters include Yum Pak Bung Krop (deep fried morning glory with Thai prawn salad), Nuer Bai Chapru (minced beef with lemon grass, garlic, Thai parsley and chilli wrapped in deep fried betel leaf) and Lookchin Ping (a selection of grilled minced chicken and beef balls).

The deep fried morning glory was my favourite dish out of the three starters, although Russell disagreed and stated he enjoyed the minced beef wrapped in fried betel as it was more robust. Served with a Thai prawn salad, the morning glory was aromatic and bursting with flavour whilst remaining light.

thai food in london

Main courses choices include Kuay Tiew Nam (chicken noodle soup served with authentic seasonal Thai vegetables and herbs), Suer Rong Hai (rib-eye steak marinated with lime and Thai herbs served with som tam salad), Pla Krapong Samunpai (deep fried sea bass topped with lemon grass and fresh peppercorn sauce) and Hormok Talay (mixed seafood in mild curry sauce served in a traditional steamer).

We were presented with a table full of beautifully presented food, and have to say we were pretty blown away - both by the presentation and flavours. 
I can't fault any of the main dishes as they all offered something different but equally delicious. The chicken soup was impressively served deconstructed, giving diners the freedom to create a bespoke dish suited to their tastes. The steak was perfectly cooked medium rare and had a zingy, fresh and slightly hot aftertaste. The sea bass was a real show stopper of a dish and something both of us savoured - the fresh peppercorn sauce gave a new dimension to a dish I thought I had eaten every-which-way before, whilst the lemongrass offered a refreshing break.

Surprising, my favourite dish was the seafood curry, which I learnt had all the ingredients (including fish and prawns) blended together before being steamed. This gave the dish a truly unique texture and taste, and even though we had SO much food I think I could have eaten another portion with coconut rice as it was utterly delicious.

thai dessert

I wasn't looking forward to dessert as it was blandly described on the menu as 'mango ice cream served with pandan sticky rice and Thai toppings'. Boy, was I wrong to judge this dish on its name! It's probably one of the simplest but tastiest desserts I have ever eaten (and that's high praise indeed!). Served with a salted coconut milk, the textures and flavours of the sweet and savoury dessert left me memorised. I'd come back to The Mango Tree just for this dish! 

mango tree london

Thai New Year is officially on 13th April, and on the evening guests at the restaurant will enjoy the Thai New Year menu alongside complimentary entertainment including cooking demonstrations, Thai massage, a symbolic water ceremony, traditional dance, Muay Thai boxing performances and live DJ throughout the evening.

We had an absolutely amazing evening which we can't fault in any way (and you all know by now that we're pretty picky). I'd thoroughly recommend joining The Mango Tree this month to enjoy the limited edition menu, which I personally feel is excellent value for money, and we can't wait to go back to try more dishes of their main menu.