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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Traditional Italian food in London - Briciole

Sometimes I yearn for the type of hearty Italian fayre that only ample-bosomed Sicilian women make in their rural sun-soaked villas for their noisy, hand-gesturing families.

Luckily, I recently stumbled across a quaint Italian deli and restaurant by the name of Briciole, which serves exactly this kind of food, in a homely, non-pretentious atmosphere. 

I took a fellow food-lover who used to refuse to dine in Italian restaurants, believing he could make the generic pasta dishes better himself, so I knew he would be the strictest critic.

We arrived disappointingly full at the bustling restaurant, having previously devoured an epic kebab-laden feast for lunch earlier that day (hey, we're Persians, its how we roll), yet we were impressed with the pleasant summer scene of Mediterranean-style outdoor and indoor tables heaving with tanned diners and adorned with charming pot plants.

As I scanned Briciole's enormous menu - a combination of traditional italian dishes and copious varieties of fine cheeses, I began to slowly regain my appetite (this is also how I roll).

To start, we indulged in a delightful cheese-fest...

There was a walnut, gorgonzola and fig salad that disappeared within minutes and a mesmerising menarche of moreish morsels on a plate - consisting of cured Italian meats, sweet potato bread, truffles on toasted ciabatta and the most exciting grilled slabs of cheese I have ever tried in my cheese-obsessed life. It was a smoked cows milk cheese called Scamorza Affumicata. Order this when you visit and thank me via an abundance of complementary Tweets. 

Such cheesy splendour...

By the time the mains arrived by our slightly protruding bellies, we were slightly fearful of further gorging, yet in the name of honourable food blogging, we ploughed on remarkably.

A whole roasted sea bass with red peppers and olives appeared, which was outstanding and made eating on a dangerously full stomach an effortless affair.

The sides of dark wilted spinach and cheese-drenched (ok, I have a cheese addiction) baked asparagus were also rather splendid in nature.

I'm not usually partial to pasta when I dine out, yet I found the tagliolini with red Sicilian prawns and sweet cherry tomatoes to be a fetching flourish of flavours that reminded me of balmy Sardinian summers consisting of long evenings feasting in candlelit trattorias that would never seem to close.

Luckily, my dining companion also found that the wares presented to us met his refined Italian dining tastes, leaving me basking in a pool of merry smugness at being the one to have discovered such a foodie gem.


We finished our feast off with an ample portion of sublime coffee panna cotta and a satisfyingly golden-topped creme brûlée infused with aromatic bergamot. 

"Sorry, I don't have room for pudding", said me, NEVER

Overall, our evening at Briciole was an exquisite eating experience, which I would thoroughly recommend to those who seek home cooked Italian food minus the pomp...and ample bosoms. 

Friday, 22 August 2014

Review - Hotpod Yoga

I've always believed that yoga needs to be a blissful, somewhat unworldly experience. A much-needed break from the mundane, a welcome moment of escapism - a rejuvenating end (or start) to hectic urban days.

This is why I was intrigued by the chance to practice my wobbly warrior pose at Hotpod Yoga's brand-spanking new 'Pod' nestled high above the city on a quirky East London rooftop. 

For me yoga needs to feel special. And gazing at pink-hued clouds floating around the hazy London skyline was a truly enlightening yogic experience indeed...

I became a fan of Hotpod yoga a few months ago when I tried one of their famed heated classes in Notting Hill after work one day.

I was invited to join a gaggle of lithe-limbed girls in an enticing inflatable studio, which was comfortably heated to a pleasing 37C - to aid flexibility, warm the muscles and boost circulation. 

As soon as I stepped foot in this warm (slightly womb-like) sanctuary I started to feel at ease. 

Soothing spiritual music cooed seductively from mini speakers, miniature candles twinkled mesmerisingly on the floor and the evocative waft of sandalwood from burning incense sticks washed over me in a delirious haze, coaxing me to release my tangled maze of negative thoughts and let go of the day.

With the wonderful Charlie Morgan

Like all of Hotpod Yoga's classes, this one taught invigorating vinyasa flow, which focuses on breathing, toning and correcting body alignment. The hour-long session was everything I craved - energetic, reviving and seriously stress-releaving.

Bali-trained Charlie Morgan led the class with expert instruction and a warm heart - the perfect combination for a yoga instructor in my opinion.

The heat enhanced the whole experience for me and was not at all uncomfortable like Bikram Yoga (i'm just saying...).

Back to the rooftop pod....

With pleasant memories of my last Hotpod experience still in my mind, I yelped with joy when I was invited to try out the company's brand spanking new rooftop pod, joyously nestled high above Netil House. 

This sky-skimming setting is a stone's throw away from London Fields - the leafy hangout of ridiculously tight jean-wearing hipsters who act like they are 'proppa East Landan', when really they hail from somewhere hearty and middle class like Norfolk. 

I took my fellow yoga blogging buddy Katie Poole, who writes an entertaining blog which goes by the merry name of Bending and Booze - a fabulously frivolous celebration of all things yogic...and boozy.

We arrived rather naughtily, frazzled and ten minutes late but were (thankfully) not met with judgemental stares or any form of mocking from the lovely teacher, Catherine Weston - who was instructing the class with a laid-back tone of voice that instantly calmed our flustered selves.

The class was perfect. Strenuous enough to feel the burn in a satisfying way (oh yeeeah) yet sublimely relaxing due to the striking view of the glorious urban landscape in front of us - shrouded in the subdued rays of the evening sun.

I will definitely return.

Nobody touch meh!

At Hotpod Yoga's swanky rooftop launch party

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

My ultimate top three natural facial oils

As the warmer weather plays havoc with my complexion, I choose to lavishly slather on a deeply-nourishing facial oil at night to infuse my skin with age-defying, natural goodness. After long days basking in the sun (I’m a bit of a sun basker me), I also massage in a night cream on top to lock in moisture for an extra skin-quenching boost.
After sampling a ridiculous number of facial oils from a variety of well-known (and not so well-known) brands, I’ve finally decided on my top three…

With an ingredients list that reads like a who’s who of skin-perfecting organic oils, including jojoba, almond and avocado, this product certainly means business. Certified 100% natural and 99.7% organic by ECOCERT, this skin-reviving facial oil smells like a thousand rose petals and sinks in effortlessly, without a greasy residue.  Containing one of the world’s most precious essential oils – rose otto - known for its superb anti-ageing properties, this wonder product effectively revitalises sorry skins traumatised from the drying effects of the sun. My skin looked smooth, glowing and clear when I woke from my blissfully aromatic slumber.
£31.50 for 30ml 

Ethical skincare brand Liz Earle are not only creators of incredibly effective natural skincare products, they are also certified cruelty-free by the BUAV (the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection).  It only takes a few clicks on Google and a read of all the rave reviews to see that their award-winning Superskin Concentrate truly is a cult product that delivers serious results. Best massaged in at night, this skin-plumping, evocatively-scented oil contains an anti-ageing  powerhouse of active natural ingredients including organic rosehip oil, Moroccan argan oil, neroli and natural vitamin E.
£40.50 for 28ml 

I have shamelessly bleated on about this skin-transforming bad boy of the facial oil world many times on this blog. The truth is, this silky-smooth, 100% organic argan oil makes my skin glow with the kind of healthy plumpness one usually only experiences after a hearty holistic facial at a ludicrously wholesome spa. Ethically sourced from a women’s co-operative in Morocco, this luxurious skincare product is naturally rich in vitamin E and antioxidants - essential for fighting free radical damage. I love using it under my SPF for an extra anti-ageing boost.
£25 for 50ml