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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Restaurant review - Latium Italian Fine Dining

As my blog title suggests, I am an addict of all things beauty-related and reside in the splendid city of London.

I feel that I must also confess to being an addict of fine foods of a hearty nature, which is why I decided to sample the gastronomic delights of Latium, a chic fine dining establishment in the west end, famed for its immaculately presented dishes, exceptional selection of fine wines and delightfully overzealous obsession with ravioli.

I arrived ravenous and slightly flustered - having just been screwed over by Google Maps yet again (damn you Google Maps!) by being directed to a drab 1970's-esque office block.

All was good yet again once I found the place (close to The Sanderson Hotel) and nestled into the chair opposite my dining companion, excited about the frivolous feasting that was due to commence.

An enticing selection of antipasti was swiftly laid out in front of us - cured Italian meats, freshly baked bread, a shiny selection of olives, creamy Burrata cheese from Puglia and vibrantly green olive oil that smelt of a thousand Sardinian olive groves.

We had to fight the temptation to keep snacking on these heavenly offerings in order to preserve our appetites for the filling fayres to come. I kept silently repeating my 'bread is evil' mantra over and over again to prevent me from devouring the soft, fragrant ciabatta chunks and seductive slivers of Italian flatbread.

Our starters were a truly extravagant affair. A refreshing cold soup of potato cream, mushroom risotto tuille and summer black truffle, garnished with half a quail's egg was so good it nearly made me laugh out loud like a deranged convict upon being presented with a final meal on death row.

A colourful assortment of flavoursome fish-filled ravioli was also eagerly devoured, whereas the artistically-presented chard and ricotta ravioli lay shamelessly uneaten for some time due to the copious number of Instagram-worthy photos that were enthusiastically taken prior to its consumption.

The tuna tartare with broad beans, salmon caviar and pea shoots was slightly bland for my eccentric ethnic palate, yet I do have a rather unrefined habit of having to drown any raw fish in copious amounts of soy sauce (sushi fanatic that I am) before I can attempt to eat it.

Gah! To eat or mount on the wall?

Purely for the avoidance of dreaded steak envy, my dining chum and I both opted for the grilled fillet of beef served with fresh herbs, roast new potatoes and wild rocket salad - lavishly adorned with pungent Parmiggiano Reggiano shavings, which pleased my cheese-loving self.

The meat was cooked to a perfect medium-rare, which made me happy (overcooked steak makes me want to weep profusely into my napkin before calling over the waiter and blurting out, 'You call this a steak? More like a MIS-steak!)

Such meaty succulence...
Just when we thought we couldn't possibly nom any more, along plodded the puddings...

I'm still not quite sure how it happened. Everything was a sugar-fulled blur. I just remember being served a pleasing plethora of various Italian desserts until I felt my tummy yelping desperate pleas, such as 'make it stop,' and 'why isn't anybody stopping this?'

I don't usually consume sugar. Along with bread,  I believe it is the tooth-eroding, skin-aging, cancer-causing (yeah I said cancer) devil, yet on this rare balmy summer night in London, in this wonderful little Italian restaurant with the pretty artwork on the mosaic walls, I let go of such anal thoughts and merrily gorged on the divinely sweet offerings laid out in front of me for my eating pleasure.

The eye-catching selection of sweet ravioli, with fillings such as apple, raisin, coconut, mint and candied fruits were slightly too 'experimental' for our savoury pasta-loving tastebuds, yet the creamy white chocolate mouse with strawberry puree, caramelized popcorn, licorice and mint was extremely well received - although we felt the mint was slightly overpowering. Still, it made the plate look rather pretty so we grew to accept its unusual puddingy presence.

We were then presented with a bowl of (incredibly indulgent) tiramisu each, which was the creamiest version we had ever tasted. I actually felt rather sad that the protruding presence of my food baby prevented me from finishing it. But hey ho, so is life...

Just when we thought it was all over, the sugar-barrage continued as we were served a plate of handmade chocolate truffles and petit fours with our extremely strong double espresso (hey, eating makes you sleepy and when in Rome...).

Get in mah belleh...

As if by magic, our appetites returned slightly, so we readily hoovered these down graciously, marveling in particular at the dark chocolate and cardamon truffles, which tasted as if they had been lovingly made by golden-haired, culinary-minded cherubs in foodie heaven.

With Latium's very attentive general manager, Alex

Shameless posing in Latium's kitchen with head chef Maurizio Morelli and team

If you seek exquisite fine dining with a modern twist and warm Italian hospitality in unpretentious surroundings, visiting Latium is a must.

Just be prepared for a food coma of a truly epic nature...

A meal for two at Latium including wine costs approximately £120

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

How I cleared my hormonal acne without chemicals

Ever since my early teens I have been plagued by the confidence-eradicating plight of hormonal acne and have sampled a ridiculous number of creams and potions, ointments and tablets - all in a desperate attempt to put an end to my pimply conundrum.

I wrote a post on this blog a year ago, where I gleefully regaled you all with the smug tale of how I 'cured' my acne with natural remedies after coming off the hardcore androgen-busting birth control pill - Dianette.

Oh how wrong I was...

After around 5 blissful months of blemish-free skin post Dianette, my previously repressed acne came back to haunt me with a mighty spotty vengeance.

As my roguish hormones returned to their usual mischievous selves, my skin erupted with painful, unsightly cysts all along my jawline, chin and neck - indicative of an underlying estrogen imbalance.

During my 8 years on the pill, I had grown accustomed to my flawless, tiny-pored face, so was not used to such an angry breakout.

After many days spent moping about the house in a mournfully reclusive manner eating copious amounts of pudding, I decided to indulge in a bit of meaty internet research and came across masses of information about a naturally-derived acne-banisher called DIM.

I enquired about this supposed wonder ingredient with my incredibly knowledgeable nutritionist Mel Turkerman, who explained that it is derived from broccoli and has been documented to clear stubborn hormonal acne by channeling estrogen in the correct pathways.

Just by chance, one of my favourite PRs randomly sent me a press release about this DIM supplement called Skin Accumax from an internal skincare range called Advanced Nutrition Programme, asking if I was interested in a free trial. I was also offered the chance to visit the Skin3 salon in Swiss Cottage for a skin analysis session followed by a deeply nourishing facial by their talented therapist (and my now personal skin guru) Lizzy Elsey.

I agreed, yet was skeptical. The before and after photos showing the results of Skin Accumax on the Advanced Nutrition Programme website were impressive - and the price tag slightly eye watering (£39.95 for 60 capsules), yet I was intrigued...and slightly desperate.

My skin analysis at the salon revealed slight dehydration and troublesome oily areas - a result of my hormone imbalance, I was told.

Skin3's facial analysis center

Lizzy explained that Skin3 was owned by the International Institute for Anti-Ageing (iiaa) and that their skin-perfecting philosophy was to feed, fortify and finish. I was told that my acne would be treated internally by 'feeding' my skin with Skin Accumax and 'fortifying' it topically with a facial oil enriched with skin-nourishing vitamin A - which also has notable anti-ageing properties.

If I wished, to ' finish' I could apply the fantastic range of Jane Iredale mineral make up sold at the salon, but lets save that for another post...

The deep cleaning and intensely moisturizing facial that followed began with a thorough cleanse to remove deep-seated dirt and dead skin cells, before a hydrating serum was applied to boost the water content of my parched skin. A thick algae mask was then poured over my face to act as a conductor for the soundwaves and gentle pulses that were then used to help the active ingredients in the serum penetrate further into the skin.

Skin3 -  where skin magic happens...

Upon leaving Skin3, feeling blissfully relaxed and with a noticeably brighter complexion, I was handed a bag brimming full of Environ skincare to pre-cleanse, cleanse, tone and moisturize my skin.

I had also indulged in one of Lizzy's famous gel manicures, which left my hands looking and feeling rather splendid...


As instructed, I used the Environ products morning and night and took two Skin Accumax capsules twice a day with meals. For the first month, I also took one tablet daily of the Advance Nutrition Programme's Skin Vitality 1 for an extra skin-beautifying boost of vitamin A, selenium and zinc.

My skin saving kit

As I knew that the Skin Accumax would take a few months to work, I decided to give my acne-blasting regime a kick start by also using a fabulously futuristic acne-clearing device called Lustre Pro, (£299) which uses proven blue light therapy to kill the bacteria in the skin.

I 'wore' this glorious gadget for 20 minutes a day, for the first 3 months of my treatment journey. I loved how I could attach the blue light-emitting pads to my face whilst watching TV, chatting on the phone, cooking and even partaking in gentle yoga, whilst feeling soothed by its warm, 'healing' sensation.

Let meh heal your naughty face

I have previously tried blue light therapy before in a clinic to help with my troubled complexion - with pleasing results, so when I noticed an improvement in the areas being treated (you have to apply the pads on the same area every day), I was not surprised.

I would recommend this product to everyone who has stubborn acne on certain areas of their face. As I wanted to treat my whole face, I combined this with the Skin Accumax and Environ products.

Within about two months my skin started to improve. Another four months went by and my face was completely clear. I was flabbergasted - and I don't use the word flabbergasted lightly.

I remember being so tempted to go back on the (highly toxic) pill to clear up my pitiful skin, as I believed it was my only savior, but after trialing Skin Accumax I am so thankful that I didn't.

I know I sound like an advert and I really don't care. These white nuggets of vitamin-rich goodness really do work and have zero side effects. I can honestly say I have never been happier with the condition of my skin.

Such innocent beauty...

For the past three months, I haven't had ONE spot (hell yeah I'm writing in capitals). Not even around my period - which would ALWAYS happen.

Damnit, I'm so excited about this complexion-perfecting discovery that I feel it is my duty to let everyone suffering from the troublesome plight of acne know - especially those on birth control pills or immune system-destroying antibiotics.

I find it so sad how doctors fail to warn us of the detrimental effects of these harmful chemical medications and how readily they are prescribed to young people who are suffering from a condition that disastrously diminishes their confidence.

Being plied with various antibiotics severely depletes the good bacteria in the gut - leading to a permanently weakened immune system. The pill (especially Dianette) has been lined to an abundance of health problems, including a higher risk of DVT, liver damage, weight gain, cellulite and depression - but many of us deal with these menacing effects as we feel we have no choice in our quest for a zit-free self.

This is why I have so much praise for Skin Accumax - which also contains the skin-rejuvenating vitamins A, C and E in addition to its patented wonder ingredient, DIM.

I now take a maintenance dose of two capsules a day (as I don't believe acne is ever really cured), but I will probably start taking one a day in the near future.

As you can probably tell from my collection of shamelessly posy photos on this blog, I am a rather vain blogger (there. I said it), yet my passion for this product is so profound that I feel I need to show you an actual filterless iPhone photo of my spotty, makeup-free face, before my magnificent skin transformation.

Yes, my chemical-free acne regime may have been an expensive option compared to free birth control pills and thriftily priced NHS medications, but for gorgeous, clear skin without the risk of detrimental health effects, it really is a small price to pay in my opinion.

Before my chemical-free acne regime (noooooo!)

After three months using Skin Accumax, Environ products and Lustre Pro

Another five more months (Just Skin Accumax and  sporadic use of Environ)

Yay for being able to take makeup-free selfies!

8 months since the beginning of my chemical-free acne regime (with makeup!)

I don't usually ask this, but I would really appreciate it if you could share this post on Twitter and Facebook so that other acne sufferers can discover what I did. Adult acne is so upsetting and still sadly such a taboo, so I feel that it is important to help others who are plagued by this awful condition as much as possible.

Thank you xxx

Read my one year update here and discover the other beauty supplements I now take with Skin Accumax to keep my skin clear and prevent ageing in an article I wrote for my new magazine 7 Star Life